Audio

First Look Friday: Liberian-Italian MC/Beatmaker Karima's Fiery Brand Of Social & Political Commentary

Get to know Liberian-Italian rapper, singer, dancer and beatsmith Karima in Okayafrica's First Look Friday series.


Our first introduction to Liberian-Italian rapper, singer, dancer and beatsmith Karima (full name Karima Gehnyei aka Miss Annie) comes from her "Bunga Bunga" video lampooning Italy's former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Pulling double duty as the vocalist for indie afrohouse duo PepeSoup, Karima struck out to pursue her solo career after a trip to Liberia late last year propelled her to speak out against Italy's overtly racist attitudes towards immigrants, particularly those of African descent.

Her debut album 2G, which stands for "Second Generation," takes its name from the popular catchphrase used in the public discourse surrounding Italy's exclusionary immigration policy, otherwise known as jus sanguinis. The album can best be described as a no-holds-barred indictment of Italian racism as well as a call for Africans on the continent and throughout the diaspora to remain connected to their roots. Following in the vein of her satirical take on Berlusconi's sex party scandal, 2G's centerpiece track "Orangutan" is a synth-driven 8-bit tune which makes direct reference to Italian politician Roberto Calderoli's churlishly racist comparison of Italy’s first black minister Cécile Kyenge to an orangutan. Clocking in at just under 25 minutes, the ten-track LP also peppers vocal samples from Fela Kuti, The Last Poets and Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained.

Karima's fiery brand of social and political commentary delivered in Pidgin English is backed by beats that draw from a complex patchwork of musical elements, including electronica, reggae, hip-hop, bass, grime and afrobeat. This has led to the inevitable comparison between her and fellow artist/activist with a staunch anti-oppression stance, M.I.A.. It's comparison that Karima does not shy away from addressing in an interview with Vogue Italia:

"In my opinion, M.I.A is a great artist, she has been one of my sources of inspiration. It’s an honor for me to be compared to such a giant. Unlike Italy, there are many female producers and beatmakers abroad who have certainly served as inspiration during my artistic path. It is obviously natural to take inspiration from other artists, but I really care about my identity, and I try to do my best to express my uniqueness."

Karima's debut album 2G is out now via Soupu Music. Stream it in its entirety and watch the videos for "Bunga Bunga" and "Orangutan" below.

Interview

Sarkodie Is Not Feeling Any Pressure

The elite Ghanaian rapper affirms his king status with this seventh studio album, No Pressure.

Sarkodie is one of the most successful African rappers of all time. With over ten years of industry presence under his belt, there's no question about his prowess or skin in the game. Not only is he a pioneer of African hip-hop, he's also the most decorated African rapper, having received over 100 awards from close to 200 nominations over the span of his career.

What else does Sarkodie have to prove? For someone who has reached and stayed at the pinnacle of hip-hop for more than a decade, he's done it all. But despite that, he's still embracing new growth. One can tell just by listening to his latest album, No Pressure, Sarkodie's seventh studio album, and the follow-up to 2019's Black Love which brought us some of the Ghanaian star's best music so far. King Sark may be as big as it gets, but the scope of his music is still evolving.

Sonically, No Pressure is predominantly hip-hop, with the first ten tracks offering different blends of rap topped off with a handful of afrobeats and, finally, being crowned at the end with a gospel hip-hop cut featuring Ghanaian singer MOG. As far as the features go, Sark is known for collaborating mostly with his African peers but this time around he branches out further to feature a number of guests from around the world. Wale, Vic Mensa, and Giggs, the crème de la crème of rap in America and the UK respectively all make appearances, as well as Nigeria's Oxlade, South Africa's Cassper Nyovest, and his fellow Ghanaian artists Darkovibes and Kwesi Arthur.

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