If Strongman owns a diary he’d definitely write “December 5, 2018” in red ink. A well-received debut is satisfaction for every artiste. Strongman has been rapping longer than kids below 7 years have been breathing, but till this date the closest to a body of work he had was a YouTube playlist.
“STN” as the name implies is a project that the “Transformer” hitmaker uses to update his fans, followers and the music world at large that he hasn’t switched from being a microphone ally. The rap dude is back, and the progress is evident in the songs on the Extended Play (EP). For a project title like this, every habitual music consumer wouldn’t expect anything different from braggadocio rap and lyrical flex. However to pick up a project and listen to one man talk about how excellent he is as a rapper would be as boring as watching shy pupils recite poems. As smart as he is he chirps in two songs with strong subject matter – Vision and Paper.
Strongman had a lot to say, and he wouldn’t waste any second of the 21 minutes playtime. This is a young man who can spend half a year proving that he’s tremendous at what he does. His pen game is on steroids. He makes sure he gives every type of rap listener a dose of what they love to hear. The 2018 Ghana Music Awards – SA Best Rapper gives a bit of music education on Paid My Dues, delivers a package for the adventurous ear, and presents brilliant lines which are localized, hence making it quite relatable for the Ghanaian listener. It’s almost impossible to have a length of 7 songs without putting in some filler lines, but Strongman with conscious effort limited such lines.
If I ever have an interview with Strongman, my first question would be if he stayed with his grandmom while growing up. There are some statements the millennial makes that are expressly thought-provoking. I love Strongman for his quotables, and on this EP, I go home with a full basket. Lines like “Sɛdeɛ Kwaku dɔ Asante no, saa na Atea dɔ srem” and “Asɔre bɛn na yɛbɔ sikani bayifoɔ?” can only come from a well cultured individual. I’m not a fan of punchlines in 2018 rap so I wasn’t put in a frenzy with any of the lines majority would tag as punchlines, but “me rap ayɛ sɛ fufuo, woyɛ dɛn a wobɛte aba” is a good mention. “I dey on top, I be letter letterhead” and a few others are corny whilst others sit on the edge of thumbs up and down.
If there’s one thing Strongman has clearly improved on, it is his delivery. His ability to switch flows and make it a full-time job to predict his next style of flow deserves an applause. For him to have stayed on beat throughout the violin instrumentation on Vision demonstrates that he’s impeccable with it. Rap has existed for more than 20 years and it’s a bit pardonable that Strongman’s 2nd verse on My Vibe sounded like Omar Sterling’s verse on “Bayla Trap.” On My Vibe Strongman focused on delivering so much that he forgot to put maximum focus on the song’s concept.
Rhyming in rap has evolved to the point that perfect rhymes are only left for school children. Strongman makes is a point to embed multiple in-rhymes in his verses, whilst he bettered his slant rhymes. There are points where he rhymed a word with the same word, not just once, not just twice; and that’s a down for his pedigree.
Vision, being the intro song is a masterpiece, and not on the same level as all 6 other songs. I might end up printing and taping the lyrics in my room. Strongman didn’t waste a single bar on this. From production aspect, it’s either the beat was influenced by Nas’ “One Mic” or it’s a coincidence. The guitar fills bring out the human emotional side. On the flipside, it’d have been richer if a choir or a set of backup singers joined Akwaboah. The Kwesi Arthur-assisted My Vibe is trendy and for the new school, whilst Paper will fit a Corolla playlist. I see energetic boys jumping to Dose, and the concluding part of Paid My Dues gives it the right closure.
Sonically, Tubhani Muzik and KC Beatz explored their talent to give Strongman a matching quality sound. The post-production is great. The only downs one may point are vocal change during Sarkodie’s verse on Monster (Remix), and not bringing Strongman’s usual attitude on Still That Ni99a.
Strongman is confident, and you can hear it from the audibility of his voice. With constant practice, he’s on a path of registering his name among the greatest emcees to breathe the Ghanaian air. STN is the right body of work for a rap lover, and my ears cry out for more from Strongman.