Africa & the DiasporaNEW MUSICReviews

ALBUM REVIEW: Kwesi Arthur, ‘Son of Jacob’

On Son of Jacob, Kwesi takes the listener through the sun-drenched streets of Tema, along the rocky coast of the spectacular Bay of Benin, soaking us in the embracive sound of the city.

When Emmanuel Kwesi Danso Arthur Junior had to turn down his place at the Ghana Institute of Journalism – due to unaffordable school fees – that world’s loss became music’s gain. Throughout his debut album, Son of Jacob, Kwesi Arthur changes gears among Afropop, amapiano, gospel, highlife, dancehall and hip hop with a well-oiled slickness that astonishes the listener. 

For those in the Ghanaian scene, they won’t be surprised that the fast-rising Ghana superstar has been honing his craft. In 2017, he released ‘Grind Day’, which proved a smash hit, accompanied with a remix featuring the Ghanaian rap veterans Sarkodie and Medikal. His 2019 EP, Live from Nkrumah Krom, Vol.2 garnered more than 2 million streams within a week of its release and with his presence on one of the most viral global remixes of last year, Yaw Tog’s ‘Sore’ ft. Stormzy, he dropped his UK calling card, expanding his borders. Amidst his run of EPs and features, he performed at COLORS, was endorsed by Cardi B, and shot a fashion collaboration with the Vogue featured Ghanian label Atto Tetteh. 

On Son of Jacob, spitting in English and Twi (a dialect of the Akan language spoken in Ghana), Kwesi takes the listener through the sun-drenched streets of Tema, along the rocky coast of the spectacular Bay of Benin, soaking us in the embracive sound of the city. On ‘Freak’, the street-singers on the hot street corner come alive, surrounded by the buzz of the chop bars, telling us “Those who wait on the Lord to have their strength renewed.”  It is a superb track, illustrating Kwesi’s sense of his past and how it influences his art. Similarly, the songs ‘Mind over body’ and ‘Animal’ fantastically channel asopiano, a combination of Ghanian asokpor dance music and amapiano. While ‘Baajo’ recalls Kwesi’s childhood in Tema; elysian days spent in his mother’s kiosk with the radio blasting, surrounded by family.

However, this is Ghana’s new wave, and bolstered with an international cast that includes – M Huncho, NSG, Joeboy, Team Salut, Teni, Adekunle Gold and Vic Mensa –  Kwesi, far from being restricted by place, also embraces and excels in genres traditionally associated with Nigeria, the UK and America. ‘Drama’, the album opener, calls out to the world its mantra: “ten toes, ten toes, never flinch, never fold” and by the time the gospel song ‘Adom’ closes the record, you have travelled around the globe on the heels of Kwesi Arthur, threading his sonic and borderless patchwork. Son of Jacob is a remarkable album by a remarkable artist. 

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐

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