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OBVDO Shows His Teeth

OBVDO Shows His Teeth
July 13
08:38 2018

By Kwaku Gyanteh

Okoth Asante Obado popularly known as OBVDO, has satisfied his fan’s craving for new music with two EPs back to back. The Jwaneng rapper of Botswana and Kenyan heritage has taken all the influences of popular African music, mixing it down in a size 40 potjie of mokwetjepe.

The first offering, the three track Life Goals EP, carries perspectives on breaking out in the industry, carving out a legacy and the trials and tribulations he has seen and continues to see in pursuit of his dreams. The titles “Born Broke,” “Die Rich” and “Guestlist” speak for themselves. The flagrant lyric “gake signe dibari, hake signe le bo bashi / had to leave the old record label cos ga ke skimi le dibari” on the closer “Guestlist” is a popular quotable on social media that can be inferred as a shot to his past affiliation to Faded Music Group which housed Faded Gang. To speak about OBVDO without mentioning the group would be a disservice to the legacy of the group and its enduring influence on Botswana youth culture.

Faded Gang, a Hip Hop group consisting of rapper/producers Ammo Ski Mask, Mane Dilla and OBVDO himself was arguably the most popular Trap group in Botswana becoming a sensation among the youth from the summer of 2015 until it disbanded in 2017 with no sign of future reconciliation. The group proved to be the most influential in recent years, sweeping fans from pre-teens to the middle-aged. Ammo Ski Mask enjoys the most commercial success and appearances on stages courtesy of his constant output and strategic collaborations. The other two members have maintained their creative output since. OBVDO’s 2017 offering #GONE fused elements of conga-based Bachatta, Dancehall and light Zouk with trademark Trap beats resulting in a unique blend of Western sounds teaming them with elements from a variety of African regions. Mane Dilla’s TRAFRIKA EP released that same year, was a collection of ghetto love songs chronicling long nights in smoky clubs, enduring love and lust for women, and tales of the street life.

In 2018, Dilla and OBADO continue to fly out of the group’s ashes and maintain civilities. It is said that love accentuates hate and this has never been more evident after the group’s breakup. With a friendship spanning more than a decade soured by industry politics, it was inevitable that music be the battleground once more for the two founding members of Faded. OBVDO and Ammo Ski Mask met in the mining town of Jwaneng in the early 90s where they attended Acacia Primary School. J-Mecca, as it’s affectionately known. It is the hub of Hip Hop talent in Botswana and the domain of veterans Orackle and Apollo D, The Uncanny Cessman, Cibil Nyte and many others who cut their teeth and solidified their MC credits through ciphers in the underground circuit. Then going by the name Oba Tek1, OBVDO was famously runner up to Cibil Nyte at Channel O’s MC Africa competition. While Ammo Ski Mask chooses to focus on his solo career and the #SupportYourOwn movement it remains to be seen if his call for unity will be extended to his former partners as fans have been calling for a reunion since the split.

In the interim, OBVDO continues to supply music that could catapult him higher than his most widely revered release “Skununu.” A multitalented creative excelling in music production as well as street art, OBVDO’s rapping skills have never been in question. A strong foundation in underground freestyle rap helped in that regard. His flow when rapping bounces in and out of a rhythmic pattern suggesting an inability to stay on beat. In his delivery he struggles to get the words out and attacks the song with an urgency to deliver the story, worrying less about vocal aesthetics. When he sings, the autotune assisted-muffled croons are more pleasing to the ear.

On the second EP, Squad Goals, production on all 5 songs is handled by the man himself having built a proficiency from years of supplying the scene with beats. Much like what had been presented in his previous EP #Gone, albeit in fragments, Squad Goals presents Afro Beat, Dance Hall mood music. As opposed to the combatant and more introspective Life Goals EP, on Squad Goals OBVDO plays chairman of the vibes focusing more on creating a serene atmosphere for celebration. A song like “Merci x3” which references Diana King’s 1994 chart topper “Shy Guy” suggests a basic knowledge of the Dancehall scene. The use of Pidgin English and African Pop music tropes is a sure-fire way to garner fans from around the continent. The two EPs represent implied dualities: the wrath of the scorned vs. the desire to live positively and the collision of lived experiences and multiple heritage and the expression of its assumed traits.

African musicians strive for validation outside of their shores when in truth their success lies with the love they get on the continent as nations overseas are only inclusive on paper and culturally value protectionism of their own brands. The Grammy board continues to fetishize African music, shelving it under the “World Music” banner and rewarding purely authentic African sounds – however skewed and self-serving that definition is – at the same time ignoring contemporary African artists that make popular music influenced by Western music. The power of the new age artist is creating whatever they deem fit without pandering to external tastemakers and standards.

 

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