Flowking Stone has been consistently rated one of Ghana’s best rappers. To fully understand why, we must take a step back and lay out a few words about the linguistic terrain he hails from: Flowking is heir to a lineage of deep twi speakers.
Twi is an Akan language which has become the lingua franca in most parts of Ghana. It’s also the language of Flowking Stone’s Ashanti people. Expertise in twi is often related to a speaker’s level of fluency with the countless proverbs that make up not only the linguistic fabric of the language, but also define the cultural and intellectual intricacies of its people.
Historically, the finest okyeame, speaker or linguist in twi, is the person speaking on behalf of the Ashanti king, the Asantehene. Nowadays, the language has democratized, carried by the talent of rappers, who compete in linguistic depth, dexterity and bravado. In this new context, Flowking Stone stands at the helm of his generation.
Rappers will emphasize differently on the three pillars that are depth, dexterity and bravado. The most famous rapper of Ghana, Sarkodie, is known for his extra fast delivery and razor sharp punchlines – for the sake of simplicity, this puts him in the dexterity and bravado box. Flowking Stone is known for his dexterity as well, and has even been known to challenge Sark on his speed. But as the previous paragraphs suggest, Flowking is also highly regarded for the depth of his twi.
Stone is an artist for whom connecting to Ghana’s deep musical roots is key, be it via his mastery of the twi language, but also via the music on which he raps: “I like to fuse tradition and culture. So even on a westernized hip hop beat, you will hear traditional patterns in my rap.”
Flowking has been known to experiment with his beats: Ghanaian hip hop heads regard his 2016 song Rapping Drums as an epic showcase of twi rap at its best. On Gifted II, he returns with a very wide range of rap experiments, finding a clever balance between hip hop and Ghanaian culture old and new: on the album you can hear traditional Ashanti rhythms such as adowa or kete, you can hear pure highlife, and you will definitely hear a good dose of the defining African genre of our time, afrobeats.
Flowking’s first major hit was One Gallon in 2005, with his brother as Bradez. I hold this song particularly close to my heart, because it was on rotation during my very first trip to Accra in 2007. In fact the enthusiasm I felt for this song, along with a handful of other hits of the time, is precisely what prompted me to create Akwaaba Music – One Gallon also featured on our very first compilation Akwaaba Wo Africa.
Since then, Flowking has had hits and awards, while GH rap has evolved. “The Ghanaian hip hop scene is more vibrant now, many new cats are rising. I’m among the top five rappers, but there’s more to be done. I feel I’m different, I put more of where I’m from in my music. Afrobeats is doing better than hip hop, so we tend to gravitate towards it, but I still do hip hop to keep the name alive.”
Today Flowking is aiming at the world. “In 2018 I played at the Haus Der Kulturen Der Welt in Berlin, to a very different audience, who doesn’t speak twi.” This show highlighted another one of Flowking’s characteristics: his extremely accurate rhythm. “My punchlines can’t be understood by non-native twi speakers, but I don’t only spit deep words, I add rhythm and style so I catch the attention of those who don’t understand my language.”
Flowking also raps in English, as well as in pidgin English, another lingua franca not only in Ghana but throughout the Gulf of Guinea coast, in particular in Nigeria and parts of Cameroon. “Twi is my primary language, but I aim at the world so I sprinkle English and pidgin to open things up.”
Gifted II defines Flowking Stone’s world today. The high caliber features on the album highlight his versatility and the bridges he has established: former Kumasi resident and king of afrobeats Mr Eazi, Akwaboah’s silkly highlife crooner voice, Kwesi Arthur’s youthful swag, Samini’s unchallengeable dancehall antics, along with other great talents such as Adina, Yaa Pono or Medikal.
“I am gifted with many flows and rhythms, I am gifted with the ability to make good music. I also feel every human being is gifted: this album is meant to help people look into themselves to find their gift. As we all do so, we can be one in love and peace.”
Tags: adina thembe, adowa, african hip hop, african rap, akwaboah, ashanti, Bradez, flowking stone, ghana hip hop, ghana rap, ghanaian hip hop, highlife, kete, kumasi, kwesi arthur, medikal, mr eazi, okyeame kwame, ponobiom, rapping drums, samini, tubhani muzik, twi rap, yaa pono