How Joey B has transformed from azonto to become the leader of the cool kid scene in Ghana

How Joey B has transformed from azonto to become the leader of the cool kid scene in Ghana

Darryl Paa Kwesi Bannerman-Martin, better known in the showbiz circles as Joey B can only be described as one of the fresh puffs of breath the Ghanaian music industry so desperately yearns for.

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A few years ago, I wouldn’t have described the 27-year-old rapper with such heavy-coated praise, but the artiste has evidently grown into becoming a phenomenon.

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The new Joey B is a far cry for the artiste outdoored by Desmond Blackmore (DBLACK) under his Black Avenue Muzik record label.

Joey B has transformed from Tonga to become the leader of the cool kid scene in Ghana
Joey B has transformed from Tonga to become the leader of the cool kid scene in Ghana

Even during his days at B.A.M., many Ghanaians were of the view that Joey B was the most solid act on the label, often seen as the “Irish Cream” in most of the label’s successful songs.

From hit singles like “Alhaji”, “Oh Vera” and “Strawberry Ginger”, it was clear that Joey B was indeed the consistent defining factor in the songs in which he featured the B.A.M. CEO and lead musician, DBlack.

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But all the above were songs that bore an eerily striking semblance — they were all songs of the “Azonto” era — based on fast-paced beats and repetitive lyrics to which listeners are always compelled to break into a dance upon hearing.

However, more often than not, whenever Joey B would release music on his own without featuring DBlack, he sounded way different — almost like a new and different artist.

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Save his 2013 release, “Benedicta”, most singles by the artiste on which he featured no other musician had an artsy and deeper feel about them.

Take his song “Cigarette”; this was a deviation from the usual safe paths of musician and his record label at the time.

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B.A.M. and its lineup of musical acts had enjoyed massive success off the “azonto music” trend, producing hit single after hit single consistently.

However, Cigarette, though produced by popular azonto-beatmaker, Nshona Musick, steered far from the norm for Joey B.

The artiste tapped into a popular trendy message inspired by Ghanaian legendary high-life act, Gyedu Blay Ambolley — drawing inspiration from a older act is often the quintessential mark of a classic song.

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And though the lyrics of the song did not live up to my personal expectations, Cigarette heralded a new era in Joey B’s musical career.

Eventually, Joey B split ways with D Black and the Black Avenue family in 2016 in, what was rather, a public and somehow messy breakup.

But the artiste quickly his found footing.

Teaming up with Pappy Kojo, the duo carved a niche market for themselves that virtually didn’t exist.

Joey B (R) and Pappy Kojo
Joey B (R) and Pappy Kojo

With back to back releases, the duo became the face of the “cool kid squad” in Ghanaian music, a rebellious duo who gained great popularity and resonance among the younger music loving generation of Ghana.

The duo’s “Wave” and “Realer No” songs quickly became household names, not only because of the melody but also because of the vivid imagery (and fashion) that accompanied them.

It didn’t take long for young Ghanaians to start emulating Joey B and Pappy Kojo’s “vintage-inspired” dressing and quips.

“Realer No” became a cool trend and the cool Ghanaian kids wanted to be “wavy”.

Joey B went on and experimented with different ways to make his music.

It clearly became evident that the artiste listing Drake, Kanye West and Kid Cudi as his influences was not just a backhanded comment.

In FOH ft Medikal, Joey B channeled Drake to provide a soothing yet rebellious and ganging chorus.

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Though it is one the least widespread songs the artiste has ever released, it was new grounds for him and he was evidently comfortable in the new direction his music was going.

And it has been all visuals for the artiste.

His personal style and sense of fashion caught the idea of second largest international sportswear brand, adidas.

Joey B was signed as the first celebrity ambassador of the brand in Africa and that surely transformed his Instagram to almost monochromatic feed of black and white images.

In May 2016, he released “U x Me”, which had a high-life feel about it and became an instant hit across all ages, being one of Joey B’s few songs to have breach the generational gap he created for himself.

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Yet his experiment with music continued — he released Far in August 2016; a song with a repetitive yet psychedelic feel about it.

His rather short visuals for “Fiend” showed influences from the US’s Joey Bada$$, an artiste Joey B had been channeling all along without mentioning it.

And as we await the rapper’s 89 album, he has graced us with the #DarrylEP in an attempt to show that he is ready to wow fans.

The redefinition of the artiste takes an acute turn on the EP, introducing us to different sides of the artiste.

And with a closer looks at his recent releases like 89 ft. MutomboDaPoet and “My Baby” ft Magnom, Joey B has surely come a far way from the “Tonga” artiste signed onto DBlack’s B.A.M.

And from all indications, Joey B has indeed come a long way in the right direction.

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