During the pandemic-ravaged 2020, there was undoubtedly nothing more exciting in music than the rise of the late Pop Smoke and his haunting interpretation of the Chicago-born drill music.
Originally starting as an offshoot of trap in the early 2010s, drill music underwent a rapid transformation when UK producers such as 808 Melo, AXL Beats and others fused heavy grime undertones with the genre’s hard-hitting dark basslines. When American rappers such as Pop Smoke, Fivio Foreign, Sheff G and more tapped up UK producers, it was a perfect alliance and this led to the globalisation of the genre with the now-deceased Pop Smoke leading the vanguard of the new drill artists.
Meanwhile, in Ghana, rappers from the capital of Ghana’s Ashanti region, Kumasi, offered their own spin on the genre’s brooding instrumentals and ominous themes. The collective is locally known as Asaaka boys and it features young rappers expressing their survivalist themes and thirst for a better life in English and a mixture of local languages, Twi and Saka. ““The drill -Asakaa – movement is the best thing to have happened to Ghanaian music in a while. These lads represent the streets. With their blend of Twi and fabricated street language – Saka, they are telling authentic stories that paint vivid pictures of their lifestyle, pain and struggle. These elements make audiences connect more with their music” says Maxwell, a culture architect at renowned pan-African pop-culture platform based in Ghana, IMullar.
However, it was not until the September 2020 viral explosion of Yaw Tog’s Sore that the collective attained widespread recognition. With the Stormzy & Kwesi Arthur-assisted remix of Yaw Tog’s viral hit, Sore, the collective is imprinting itself as a staple of Ghana’s pop culture, and are on the verge of a possible crossover after earning co-signs from Virgil Abloh and Headie One.
Catch up with seven fast-rising artists from Asakaa.
Arguably the poster boy of Ghana’s drill movement; Yawtog has established himself as an artist to reckon with at just seventeen years of age, with his gritty flow and melodious rap style. Nicknamed Young Bull, it was Yawtog’s viral hit, “Sore”, that drew global attention to Ghana’s burgeoning scene. The song rose to the number one spot on Apple music in Ghana, earmarking the presence of Ghana’s drill community. With the Stormzy & Kwesi Arthur-assisted remix of “Sore” grossing a million views on Youtube within twenty-four hours of release, and Yawtog gracing playlist covers on digital streaming platforms, Young Bull’s international breakthrough might just be around the corner.
O’Kenneth’s range is almost unparalleled within Asakaa. Signed to Life Living Records, the self-proclaimed trapper’s gruff vocals offer a diversity to the sound that separates him from his peers. His latest effort is a collaboration with Smallgod, titled “Sinner”. The song also enlists assistance from fellow Asakaa native, Kwaku DMC and UK rappers, Headie One & LP2Loose.
Kofi Jamar’s Ekorso is one of the most infectious songs out of Ghana’s buzzing drill community. The song, which features frequent collaborators, Yawtog and Ypee, sees the Kumasi-born artist bare his ambitions unabashedly. The song represents the core of the drill community with lines such as “We just want to get it, we don’t want no trouble”. Kofi Jamar was also recently nominated in three categories including EP of the Year at the just concluded Ghanaian 3awards.
Reggie’s rise to stardom was almost unprecedented. After his stellar performance on Kawabanga’s “Akatafo”, Reggie established himself as a staple within Ghana’s burgeoning scene. His collaborative EP with O’Kenneth titled Straight Outta Kumerica represents a cornerstone moment for Reggie and the movement as a whole.
Sean Lifer is the leader of the community. His Santasi-originated label, Life Living Records, houses artists from Asakaa. After initially starting out as a hip-hop rapper with a few of his friends, Sean Lifer switched to becoming a drill artist after the viral acclaim of the deceased Pop Smoke’s “Dior”. Sean Lifer can be credited for his foresight, and the deep sense of community he has instilled amongst these rising artists.
Just before Sore rose to the top of the local Apple music charts in Ghana, Kawabanga’s “Akatafo” which features O’Kenneth, Reggie and Jay Bahd held the number spot on the charts for weeks. The song, which loosely translates to the Akata people, is an essential element of the Ghanaian drill movement as it steered the path for the indisputable explosion of YawTog’s “Sore”. Although Kawabanga took a hiatus from music before returning with “Akatafo”, he has established himself as an important figure in Asakaa.
The self-proclaimed Prince of Kumasi. Much of City Boy’s music is an ode to Kumasi. After earlier experimentations with different forms of rap music during the formative years of his career, City Boy joined Life Living Records in 2018. Off this affiliation, he accrued reputation. City boy is known for his signature dreadlocks and guttery flow.
Be Sure to check out our selection of the hardest European Drillers right here.