Rappers across Africa, under the influence of Brooklyn and UK Drill, have been lacing YouTube beats with explosive bars that have sparked collaborations with hip-hop kingpins. In Ghana’s Ashanti Region, young Kumasi rappers have branded their Drill offshoot; Asakaa.
In September 2020, 19-year-old rapper Yaw Tog unleashed his viral debut “Sore (Rise)” quickly earning a remix with Stormzy and positioning him on the frontlines of Asakaa. “Growing up on the streets of Kumasi, Ghana you see it all,” explains Yaw Tog, “Everything from the pain to the happiness but it’s often like war sometimes you win. And sometimes you lose.” In their passion, it’s obvious, these drill rappers use music to give life to the world around them.
Throughout history, the Ashanti Region has resisted several attempts by European colonizers. As Britain annexed neighbouring land, during the Anglo-Ashanti wars, the Ashanti were described as fierce organized soldiers who were “not cowed by sniper rifles and 7-pounder guns.”.
These days, young knockabouts draped in bandanas sing in Akan, while rapping in one of their local dialects, Twi mixed with English. Survivalism is the lyrical bedrock of Drill culture’s global democratization. Though, in the city of Kumasi, the rappers have crowned their lifestyle Kumerican; a melting pot of Ghanaian and African-American culture.
This week, Yaw Tog dropped his hard-hitting Drill anthem “Y33gye”. So we interviewed him about Asakaa, his influences and his international collabs.
Paint a picture for us about life for young people out there.
As a young person in Ghana, you don’t have 100% control – your parents will push you to go to school and make education a priority. You have to independently decide on what you want to do alongside school. It’s important to start everything early so you can gain something in the long run.
What is Asakaa and what does it mean to be Kumerican?
Asakaa is a new genre created by the young artists in Kumerica and it explains their lifestyles and culture. Asakaa was a name that was shouted out during a studio session by one of the Kumerican artists and it really means a lot to them since they created it. Asakaa means a lot to the Kumericans, it’s a goal to the Kumerican people too so we don’t play with it, you feel me?
How would you describe your life to someone who has never met you?
I’m a normal person. I would say I’m humble, quiet and free to everyone and I pray I meet up with everybody one day.
When did you first hear rap music, who were you listening to and how did they make you feel?
Kwesi and Sarkodie, who are two major artists in Ghana. Also overseas artists such as Drake and Jay-Z. Sometimes it gives me goosebumps when listening to their music. I don’t know where it comes from but I get it by force.
When did you start rapping and what were you rapping about?
It was three years ago and I started rapping about things around me, my life, what I do, what my friends do, where I go.
What are some of your favourite bars you have written and why?
I have plenty of words that mean a lot to me. But my favourite is “we telling the people that no matter what, we are not giving up”. I’ve always believed in us and I knew that people should watch out for us too and my vision came true so it really means a lot to me.
What does drill music represent to you?
Drill music is golden, it’s a big thing to me. The genre is popular around the globe, in some countries more than others. Here in Ghana, it is taking over. I believe that all drill artists are kings because they are taking over the world.
How did the collaboration with Stormzy happen?
I just woke up to it, it wasn’t planned. When I woke up to find out Stormzy wanted to jump on and I said let’s go! It wasn’t like me going to get Stormzy and paying him to jump on the song – it definitely wasn’t like that.
Did you show him around Ghana – where did you take him and why?
I took him to Manhyia palace. As a Ghanain, he already knew a lot about the culture but it was good to show him some more and he was very happy to do so. Pure Kumasi energies.
Follow Yaw Tog here for more, and check out the video for his new single ‘Y33gye’ below.