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Opinions of Saturday, 12 November 2016

Columnist: Kwarteng, Francis

This Is How Sarkodie Fooled Ghanaians With His Atheism 2

“It's being here now that's important. There's no past and there's no future. Time is a very misleading thing. All there is ever, is the now. We can gain experience from the past, but we can't relive it; and we can hope for the future, but we don't know if there is one” (George Harrison).

"DEAR RAP" MAY MEAN DIFFERENT THINGS TO DIFFERENT PEOPLE

There are interesting moments of high-spirited attempts at erudition coursing through the netherworld’s blood capillaries of “Dear Rap,” very much unlike Tupac’s “Dear Mama.”

“Dear Mama” is a fitting eulogy Sarkodie’s children, if he had had any with his widow, would have sung or dedicated to their mother.

What is more, seeing the name Emily brings back memories of Emily Brontë and her classic novel “Wuthering Heights,” with its murderous Byronic hero Heathcliff. Heathcliff sort of symbolizes evil or demon in this great work of a haunting novel.

Thus, the “mind” of this netherworld of Sarkodie’s “Dear Rap” takes after “Wuthering Heights” in some important respects—love, vindictiveness, betrayal, melancholy, wealth and privation, jealousy, raw hatred, death, materialism, and family. Human nature in its overt and covert rawness is what we are basically referring to.

The dog that injured Catherine Earnshaw—supposedly Heathcliff’s first love—could have looked as the panting, cavorting bulldog in the music video of “Dear Rap,” although the concept for this music video is as trite as watching a music video of rapper DMX or L.L. Cool J’s 4, 3, 2, 1 (featuring DMX, Redman, Method Man, Master P, and Canibus), with the vindictive fingerprints of Heathcliff’s hypermasculinity all over the music video! “Dear Rap” is indeed what James Brown alternatively called “It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World.”

This troubled “mind” of “Dear Rap,” this immanent turmoil is trapped in the Head of Medusa, a paranormal headship imbued with agathocacological qualities.

These agathocacological qualities eventually translate into an apotropaic instrument for Sarkodie:

“Fortune…

“Meda w’ase Rap, ahaa!

“You push me from the ghetto up to the pinnacle, I will never ever stop

“Bought me a house got me a car…

“Started from the bottom and I got my boys with me…

“We started from zero; you don’t know what we know…

“First no na me hustle, now I am a winner…

“Big ups to Kwame Sefa, KKD ne Bola…

Regardless, the aporopic deity Rap appeared and before long Sarkodie’s “zero” had been transformed into cars and houses, valleys into mountains, depressions into bumps.

But KKD was alleged to be a pedophile rapist!

Perhaps he happened upon KKD having carnal knowledge of his wife and chainsaw-massacred her, ending the colorful career of KKD.

In this regard the swashbuckling swagger, Sarkodie’s acknowledgement of KKD on the netherworld of “Dear Rap” may be a schadenfreude eulogy.

But, in the final analysis, if our working hypothesis is even remotely correct, then why would Sarkodie kill himself rather than his wife, a character we also suspect to be a juggernaut of a Byronic heroine?

Her eloquent silence in the face of Sarkodie’s narrative monologue is deeply troubling to say the least.

On the other hand there is not enough internal evidence in “Dear Rap” for us to conclude that she could have been his doppelganger, clone, or alter ego. The flowing tears of widowhood continue unabated.

“Meda w’ase Rap,” the phallocentric Sarkodie rapped on “Dear Rap,” ignoring his wife’s contributions to his musical success story.

God appears to be entirely out of the picture of this success story, because some hardcore critics among a diverse corps of devil’s advocates claimed “Rap” assumes the controversial identity of a new deity in Sarkodie’s newfound life—Sarkology—a rapper who is alleged to be a member of the illusive illuminati, incidentally a titular track on Sarkology. And we all know “Sarkodie” is merely his stage name, which also means there is the real Sarkodie, another layer of mystery, somewhere behind that stage name.

The fact is that Sarkodie may have merely if loosely conceived of “God” as “Rap” in terms of anthropomorphism, of anthropopathism. If that were the case, then we might as well as replace “Rap” in “Meda w’ase Rap” with “God.” Some may however find this offensive, as confusing adnation with connation.

To support their interpretation, they had claim Sarkodie rapped the following words:

“No sin; No God; No Heaven.”

The afore-cited line clearly submits God to a Nietzschean chainsaw-massacre—God is dead, Thus Spake Zarathustra! Yet we also see the atheistic line approximating the philosophical subtext of John Lennon’s classic song “Imagine”:

“Imagine there's no heaven…No hell below us…Above us only sky…And no religion, too…”

Even so could “no” be “know” as they sound nearly alike? Here we are specifically referring to “no” and “know” as homophones.

We are not too sure if our observation is correct. However if this theory were the case, then would expect the following lines instead:

“Know sin; Know God; Know Heaven.”

The line above comes close to the philosophical subtext of Mob Marley’s “One Love”:

“Is there a place for the hopeless sinner..?...So when the Man comes there will be no, no doom…Have pity on those whose chances grows t'inner; there ain't no hiding place from the Father of Creation…”

Without any complications which the notions of enclitic/clitic and of double negative may have on the musical hermeneutics of the preceding lines, we dare add that Lennon’s “Imagine” is atheistic while Marley’s “One Love” is theistic (Note: Enclitic/clitic should not be confused with polarity item). Significantly, though, both songs however share what the cultural theorist, analytic philosopher and writer Kwame Anthony Appiah appropriately calls “cosmopolitanism.”

Why then did Sarkodie not mention “hell” or “the Devil” of even Satan on “Dear Rap”?

He did or had, by subtle implication:

Leatherface, Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, the N-word, Masons (members of Freemasonry), the F-word, Head of Medusa, chainsaw massacre, the heightened turmoil in “Wuthering Heights”…are all tropes for “hell” and the “Devil”…Sarkodie also probably used some of these ominous concepts to describe his competitors and/or their mindsets.

Probably the white man’s world, as all these tropes are the figments of imagination of the white world.

The point is that Sarkodie may not actually have chainsaw-massacred God to death, in which case his critics, mostly a critical corps of devil’s advocates who may have killed God in his behalf on the altar of ignorance via an overdose of gross misunderstanding of the complex lyrical architecture upon which he raised “Dear Rap.”

Of course, we can say the same of the lyrical complexity of the repertoire of M.anifest, arguably one of Ghana’s and Africa’s greatest lyricists.

With that said, we are lost as to whether the personal references and referents are allusions to Sarkodie.

These personal references and referents and “Dear Rap” as a whole rather sound more like a lyrical biography of widowhood.

And then we are caught off guard with the Latin phrase—Cursum Perficio! This phrase, which appears only twice throughout the song “Dear Rap,” comes in as the third line and immediately follows the controversial “No Sin; No God; No Heaven” punch line, a phrase which we believe should probably have been placed at the end of the track.

“Cursum perficio, I’m bringing down my ego.”

Fact is, it is not clear if the two phrases share a complementarity of purpose. What is also not clear, however, is if Sarkodie was trying his hands at the technique called baskmasking.

Incidentally the enigmatic Irish musician, songwriter and singer Enya had a song of the same Latin phrase, “Cursum Perficio.”

The phrase sounds like “a perfect curse” in reverse. But that is not what it means, actually. It means:

“Your journey ends here” or “your journey comes to an end here.” Ask Marylyn Monroe!

How does a “journey that ends here” begin the meandering journey of “Dear Rap”?

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a step!”

“He who laughs last, laughs best!”

Backmasking, we dare say! We might as well call the phenomenon Sankofa!

But why “your” (and not “my”) as in “Your journey ends here”? This was why we theorized early on that those personal references and referents could have been diversionary lyrical-literary devices—call this rhetorical strategy ambage, if you will—used by the living Sarkodie to warn off his rap competitors, namely his wife, because their music careers were over as he was the “new kid on the block.”

Rather, he became New Kids on the Block. These include the likes of M.anifest, the other great lyricist. Sarkodie therefore did not murder God; he killed his wife, his rap competitors instead. Claiming he killed himself was merely a diversionary tactic meant to allay the gripping fears of his competitors that he was not alive to threaten their music careers, a tactical that proved almost helpful.

Basically, Sarkodie effectively turned the central message of Geto Boys’ “My Mind Is Playing Tricks On Me” into “Dear Rap” for his competitors’ consumption. “Dear Rap” was therefore written to scare away Sarkodie’s potential competitors as if, he, namely Sarkodie, took some great inspiration from Bob Marley’s classic “Rat Race”:

“This is rat race!...When the cat's away, the mice will play…”

Stated otherwise, “Dear Rap” symbolizes an ominous journey signaling the beginning of the end of the music careers of his competitors. Thus “Dear Rap” is a eulogy for, or an obituary, of the music careers of his competitors. Perhaps “Dead Rap” will have been more preferable for music critics and his teeming fandom. Sarkology is a clear definition of Sarkodie’s lyrical-rap empire. The track ends on a rather controversial note:

“Ewomu se wo feeli me but me hug wo dia meye gay—Now!” (It could be that you appreciate me, but in the event that I hug you I will be gay).

We would have settled on “happy” as a replacement or substitute for “gay” but the conjunction—“but”—possibly points to another meaning, possibly a subtle allusion to same-sex proclivities, if, whoever he was addressing in this song also happened to be a member of his teeming male fandom. That is if Sarkodie is a male on this track. On the other hand it is difficult drawing this controversial tentative conclusion, because we do not even know yet the sex or gender of whoever represented Sarkodie on this controversial track. Sarkodie could also be the wife.

This anonymous fandom could as well be a closet competitor who actually admired him. Yet, it could also be that hugging this anonymous person would have culminated in a possible moment of genuine happiness for him.

But why the cold distance and grudging ambivalence? Perhaps he did not want to hug any of his competitors on the spur of the moment, to signal a moment of moral weakness after having publicly threatened to allow his “beast” to consume them—“get them.” This scenario may explain the categorical “Now!” at the end of the statement. And perhaps also, he may not have wanted to release or transfer the devil (or the beast) in him to this anonymous person. That beast could be a consuming anger!

Remember, the 30th track on Sarkology is “Devil in Me.” Sarkodie is a lyrical genius indeed!

SARKODIE AND ADONAI

“Adonai” appears as the 17th track on the Sarkology album. Here are some of the lines (with their English translations):

“Nana Nyame nee w’aka no na ebeba mu…” (What God has said or promised will surely come to pass)

“Me ncurse wo; I don’t want to disobey God...” (I will not curse you; I don’t want to disobey God)

“Nyame na ebo me ho ban nti mo nye foko…” (God is my protector and my fortress, so my enemies can do nothing to harm me)

“God nyira ma w’ahyira me ma na ebu me so yi…” (God’s overflowing blessings are all over me)

Sarkodie and his collaborator (Castro) seek refuge in God’s protection and fortress then warn off their enemies:

“Ma enemies, you for dey guard…” (My enemies, be on your guard!)

References to the name “God” occur more than ten times on this morally, spiritually uplifting psalmist track alone. The name “God” appears eleven times, “Nana Nyame” five times, “Nyame” once, “Agya Nyame” once, and “Adonai” twice! This tune is a great inspirational song.

What is “Adonai” anyway? Some sources say it is a Semitic word for “Adon,” a Ugaritic word which in turn means “Lord” or “master.” “Adon” is the singular of “Adonai.” The latter will then mean “Lords” or “masters,” both of which are sometimes referred to as “the plural of majesty,” a subtle allusion to the concept of henotheism or Trinity. However, unlike ecclesiastical addresses that usually go with humans, “Adonai” is an appellative or titular address that is associated with a deity. “Adonai” means “God” for short, but the Jewish-Hebrew or Judeo-Christian God nonetheless.

Now we know Sarkodie does not claim God does not exist on every track. Once he suggests on this track that God does in fact exist then it also follows logically that “sin” and “heaven” could also exist. This extrapolation feeds into the large scheme of our working hypothesis, which is that “Dear Rap” does not stand alone. As a matter of fact, we suggested in Part 1 that “Dear Rap” should be understood or interpreted in the larger context of the entire album. Then also “Dear Rap” is a poignant autoethnography of sorts that offers great insights into the human condition!

To make a long story short, both "Adonai" and "Dear Rap" will make Sarkodie simultaneously atheistic and theistic.

CONCLUDING OBSERVATIONS

Even if Sarkodie said “No sin; No God; No Heaven” we still have no absolute right to bring our biases to bear on the musical hermeneutics of “Dear Rap.”

For all we know, that tripartite phraseology could be a cipher, a lyrical or rhetorical code for something else. We do not even know for sure if it is an illuminati cipher for that matter. Furthermore, what is “sin,” “God,” or “Heaven” may not mean the same thing for all.

For instance, American rappers GZA/Killah Priest prefer to spell Bible as B.I.B.L.E., an acronym for Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth (Listen to the track “B.I.B.L.E.”), of which the track implies some reference for the book. On the other hand, not everybody sees the Bible as a Holy Book or a sacred text.

So much for relativism!

In the final analysis, then, we chose not to use “darkness” and “midnight” as descriptors for “hell” and “the Devil” because no one knows their true colors.

We do not even know yet if we should accept Salman Rushdie’s use of “midnight” in the title of his classic book—“Midnight’s Children.” That was just an aside!

Let us just say that Mutabaruka’s “The People’s Court 2” dispenses with this notional infatuation with Eurocentric whiteness:

“It was you who went to the Americas and Africa

“With your doctrine of civilizing the savages

“You taught black people to pray with their eyes closed

“When they open them you had their land

“And they had the bible

“With bible and gun you robbed, raped, murdered our fore parents in the name of Jesus

“The first charge is for misleading black people into their color blind blindness

“You have black people worshiping everything white as good

“White Jesus white winged angels, white Christmas, even the songs talk about 'whiter than snow I long to be’

“The bible did say 'though your sins be like scarlet they shall be as white as snow'

“So you’re trying to tell me that if my sins are white instead of scarlet God will accept my sins…

“Everything in heaven is white

“Everything in hell is black…

End of two-part series!