Black Sherif – The Villain I Never Was



Artist: Black Sherif

Album: The Villain I Never Was

Label: EMPIRE & Blacko Management

Release Date: October 6th, 2022

Location: Konongo, Ghana

Afrobeat is a genre that was always on my radar but ever since CDM partnered with Afrobeats In Da City its something that I’ve been getting more and more into. I have to thank Ezema Patrick and his excellent writing for helping me form a better understanding of both the genre and the African music scene as a whole. Since this time I’ve been slowly discovering artists that I love and of these my favourite discovery so far (by a large margin) has been Ghanan artist Black Sherif and his new album The Villain I Never Was. This shouldn’t surprise me though given that his album dropped on EMPIRE, which is quickly becoming one of my new favourite record labels.

Black Sherif‘s (real name Mohammed Ismail Sherif Kwaku Frimpong) music is a perfectly balanced blend of afrobeat, hip hop and reggae that results in some of the catchiest music I’ve heard in recent memory. It isn’t just its catchiness that makes it special though, its Sherif’s song writing ability, diversity as an artist, raw lyricism and ability to craft engaging and immersive atmospheres in his music. You’ll hear the more standard hip hop beats throughout the album, but these are interwoven with complex and varied instrumental and atmosphere focused electronic elements as well as more traditional afrobeat influences.

For me what keeps me coming back to the album time and time again is the amount of variety on display on the album. Each track feels cohesive as part of the album as a whole; however each is very different to the last in theme, sound and atmosphere. Some songs are upbeat and lighthearted and could easily play on the radio here in the US, while others are darker, more introspective and rawer. Some tracks have a reggae heavy sound while others are far more hip hop driven. There’s literally a little something for everyone and for every mood.

The album opens with one of my favourite tracks The Homeless Song, which immediately hits the listener with a harsh and very real topic of homelessness and the struggles to escape this situation. Sherif uses some amazing vocal effects on this track alongside his more natural vocals which I’m sure any fan of this genre will appreciate. I also can’t get enough of the flow on this track, it adds a sense of despair and struggle to the music which is further developed by the moody music on the track. The lyrics on the song really seal the deal too, hitting us with a realness that I always appreciate:

I’m at my down-est in life (yeah)

And I’ll be homeless for a while

I know it’s unbelievable

‘Cause I had a home few days ago (few days ago, go)

It’s been hell

For me and the boys but I pray

It don’t lead me to do what I don’t have to

For me the next real standout is Soja, which has a very different theme, style and energy to The Homeless Song. This is far more of a slow, moving introspective piece. There’s a soothing element and a softness to the track that I could listen to for hours. While the music itself feels somewhat calming the lyrics are very much about Sherif’s own personal struggles with insecurity and anxiety and how the struggle has been internalised. With lyrics such as:

My own anxiety

My inferiority, what-what dey kill me

Dem all dey kill me, (dem all dey kill me)

Dem all dey kill me

And, I don’t feel okay (okay, okay-yy)

My heart is beatin’ so fast (so)

So fast oh (so)

So fast (okay, okay-yy)

The song also features one of the catchiest and most memorable choruses on the album:

Oh, Soja, Soja, Soja, Soja

Stand and beat your chest

Dem dey come, dem dey come, dem dey come

No make them catch you off-guard

Don’t let them touch your skin oh

Another track that I keep coming back to is Prey Da Youngsta which takes a little more of a reggae approach to it. It still maintains that soothing, smooth element found on the previous track build builds a subtle reggae influence into the mix. The song has huge replay value and for some reason I never seem to get tired of listening to it. There’s one verse in particular that I keep finding flowing through my head:

Them no know the story

So I hit the roof when they talkin’

Different truth to the mandem

But people like me don’t worry

‘Cause them man are borin’

Rather burn da zoot than care ’bout

jigga dem wallahi I’m sorry

They see we on the move, teleportin’

Oh, boy, are you scared? are you stalkin’?

or you are slowly dyin’?

The chorus is also another super catchy one on this track that you’ll find yourself singing along to every time:

Prey am (prey am), prey am (prey am)

Prey the youngster put him on radar

Prayer (prayer), prayer (prayer)

Holy Father holdin’ me right now

The next track I keep getting stuck on is Wasteman. This is a short but memorable track with an infectious beat and some fantastic vocal work and flow. Sherif really plays it on thick with this one and it keeps me coming back for more. Given how short the song is it’s an easy listen too. The song also happens to deal with some very real issues regarding debt, poverty and corruption, with a punchy and memorable chorus:

Now my bredda is a wasteman (them dey throw am away)

He’s a waste man in a wasteland (them dey watch make he dey go o)

Where money holders make the rules and regulations, my jigga (ahh, ahh)

Only Jah Jah, He dey guide man (ahh, ahh)

Lastly, we have Kwaku the Traveller, the flagship single for the album and the track that introduced me to Black Sherif’s music. Given this fact I have a soft spot for this song, I mean it’s a killer track anyway, but it is special to me. The song features some of the most unique rhythms and flows on the album and carries a lot of emotion to it both vocally and musically. The song discusses leaving behind friends and family to pursue success and fame. Sherif opens up about what he gave up and what he misses back home and justifies for both himself, those back home and all listening why this was what he needed to do. The track’s chorus in particular makes this very clear:

Remember you know a traveler

The name is Kwaku the Hustler

He’s been far away chasing guallala

I’ll be back again bro, meka menan

I swear on my life

I can’t wait to be back

I know you miss me, I know

Overall, this is one hell of an album and one that I’ve listened to an almost ridiculous number of times since discovering. If you’re already a hip hop or afrobeat fan, then I’m sure that you’ll find plenty to love about this release. If you aren’t then this album is a great place to start and may help you develop a love and appreciation for music of this nature. Black Sherif is just one of so many amazing African artists that deserve global attention and support, so check him out today and fall down rabbit hole of African afrobeat and hip hop music.

Listen to the album:

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