Exposing Ghana’s Hip Hop Ninja: Datz

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Photo courtesy the artist

Issa Sadat Richmond, who goes undercover as hip-hop dab hand Datz, has been circling Ghana’s music scene like a clandestine bird-of-prey, waiting for his moment to come into the light. Now, it would seem, is his time.

Rolling up to a rooftop (foreshadowing, mayhaps?) patio for an interview on a fiery afternoon, Datz comes flanked with his manager, Nana Asare, and musical crony, DJ Too Cool. The trio plop down for a little chit-chat.

The rap artist is somewhat reserved, void of those often frenzied nerves of a musician who’s trying to ‘break in’. Datz is cool, calm. He’s in stealth mode. “I’m mostly serious,” he admits. “That’s the information I get from people… I frown, but I don’t really mean to frown. Okay, I think that’s a dry joke, right?” And a smile cracks the phrase.

Joke or not, the rapper’s ruminative air is mirrored in his latest music video release, Foto. “I was trying to put a message out there that people shouldn’t be deceiving us,” Datz explains of the concept behind the song, which is sung in the Hausa, Twi, and Pidgin languages. “When you go on Facebook you see people’s pictures with big cars and they do not really have them. So I was just hating on people who are trying to be something that they’re not.”

Although Foto is only his second music video since the track Sheikh was released two years ago, the rapper is gaining momentum. Just the day before, he shot two music videos in a suburb of Jamestown, one of Accra’s oldest and impoverished neighbourhoods, and the Ga and Muslim communities were there to show their support. “The turn out was very massive. We had the streets filled up,” Nana Asare, Datz’s friend and manager, offers. “All of them wanted to be part of the music video. It was amazing.”

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Photo courtesy the artist

This isn’t the only weapon in the rapper’s arsenal, however. He’s been steadily throwing out singles, building a network of supporters, with an album release being more of a musical time bomb set to explode within a couple years. There will be no shortage of action from Datz though, who’s moniker was given him by his mother as a little boy. The rapper performed the second show in his Exposure Tour earlier this month with a huge turnout. Some technical issues made for a late start – even for Ghana time – but the crowd was not swayed. Los Angeles Pub in La was bursting with people until Datz shut down the show at 2:30am.

“We are trying to expose the brand to everybody to let them know what they are in for.” The Exposure Tour will see Datz perform at several venues throughout Accra, with the next one coming to Purple Pub in Osu, date to be confirmed. That being his main focus, he’s also got feelers out to perform at Chale Wote Festival in August, as well as Salla Fest, which takes place just after Ramadan.

But Datz, who comes from Obuasi in the Ashanti Region, is no fresh-faced pup when it comes to experience. He started rapping ten years ago before making the move to the city three years later to work and continue his music. It wasn’t until 2013, however, that Issa started taking his art seriously and considering it as a career.

“In Africa you can’t just rap and break through, although some people did,” he considers. “You need to be versatile. People do like it, but it’s not as huge as the Afro beats. So it’s kind of hard to break through with a hip hop track and be relevant. You have to blend it with the Afro beats.”

DJ Too Cool (left) and Datz. Photo: Dayna Mahannah

It’s this Afro-hip-pop mix that he attributes to his relatability for not just die-hard rap fans, but the more prevalent Afro beat lovers as well. It would seem that it’s taking effect. During the Easter weekend celebration in Sunyani this past April, Datz mounted the same stage as Stonebwoy, Ghana’s award-winning and mega-popular dancehall artist.

Still, Nana Asare insists they intend to “hit GH unannounced.” But don’t expect the music to be all about social media shaming. Datz covers all the bases. “I have a song I wrote about a kid who grew up without parents. It’s not like he was an orphan – you know that kind of thing, Ghanaians who like to travel. They will give birth to a child and travel outside.”

As for the classic love song? “Plenty of them,” he nods. “Also, the hardship in Ghana. And I have a hardcore rap song just trying to tell people that I’m the best.” Both his nonchalance and the latter statement come unexpected, but the artist is committed to his pragmatism.

He also commits steadfastly to his arbitrary method of song-writing: winging it. “I don’t really wait for inspiration. I just sit down and whatever topic hits me I just jump on that. I could plan it but I wouldn’t like the song after.” Those insta-songs go to the microphone unpolished also, as the artist is not much for revisions. “I don’t like editing my stuff. It’s a feeling. I don’t know how it comes, but I just put it down and if I like it, fine. If I don’t, I just move on to the next one.” He reasons that these unfiltered lyrics are more relatable for the audience, eliciting a side of him that is more real than if his songs employed a firm plan or structure.

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With some more of these raw musings set to be released in the near future, Datz is laying a solid foundation for himself – and a versatile one at that. Love, social media roasts, abandonment. Ghana will soon get a glimpse of his tough side, too. The video for Yass3 was shot “in the ghetto with graffiti”, featuring “hard-core” people and stunt bikers. With all this on his hip-hop CV, Datz’s manager has his sights set high. “Next year we are going for awards, that’s what we are eyeing,” Nana Asare says. “We wanna come in unannounced in the Ghanaian music industry, so that’s how come we are working every day, making sure the streets of Ghana get to hear of the good music he represents.”

Nana exposes for a moment that chip on the proverbial shoulder of the hip-hop attitude in regards to Datz. “Yass3 we shot in Jamestown because yass3 is a Ga phrase. It means ‘move back’. So he’s trying to tell people, ‘move back, I’m here.'”
Follow Datz on social media to get updates on his music and performances.
:Facebook – Datz Gh :Twitter – @datzgh :Instagram – @datzgh


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