Sierra Leonean hip-hop superstar Kao Denero otherwise known as the “King of Freetown” truly embodied his name in his 2020 hit song African King. Throughout the song, Denero chronicles his rise from “the bottom” to international fame as he brings “real rap back” to the hip-hop scene (Denero 1:11). It is clear that Denero seeks to spread a positive and inspirational message to the people of Sierra Leone and the world at large, in detailing how hard work and authentic artistry brought him to where he is now. The music video for African King features Denero rapping in several locations all adorned with graffiti, demonstrating his dedication to the core principles of hip-hop culture. Graffiti culture in Freetown, Sierra Leone, where Denero was born and raised, has long been intertwined with youth outreach and social justice movements in the area. Denero’s strategic choice to include graffiti in the video likely references the history and significance of street art and hip hop in Africa. Many of Denero’s songs pay homage to where he is from and what Sierra Leone represents about himself and who he has become and African King is no exception.
In wrapping up one of his final verses in the song, Denero proclaims that no matter what he will continue to tell the world his story, explicitly honoring the purpose of the emcee as a storyteller. Kao Denero’s music never strays from who he is and what he has been through, and he often raps about his own success and progress as a Sierra Leonean emcee who is now recognized globally for his talents and was recently nominated for African rapper of the year. Denero’s primary fan base spans the African continent and admires his music and his message of staying true to his heritage and culture regardless of where his music career takes him. In consistently honoring his homeland and history Kao Denero has tapped into the core of what hip hop is all about; realness and pride in the place and people an emcee represents.
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