Jay Bahd (born Jackson Kwadwo Bawuah) is a fierce leader in the Ghanaian drill scene. He’s been in the game for 4 years, putting Ghanaian drill into the global spotlight when he was featured on Yaw Tog’s song ‘Sore’. But what is Ghanaian drill?
The original drill style was born in Chicago in 2010 and popularized by icons like Chief Keef and Lil Durk. It boomed in New York soon after, headlined by artist Pop Smoke. From the U.S., it hit the U.K., from which the current Ghanaian drill style is most derivative from. Ghanaian drill is called ‘Asakaa’, the name comes from the reverse form of Twi Street Lingo, a popular Twi slang trend. It is a backward play on the word for ‘talk’ in Twi; ‘kasa’. Like Bahd, the title for the genre was born in Kumasi, the capital of Ghana’s Ashanti region. Bahd and other icons in the Ghanaian drill scene were in a car listening to drill beats when Bahd started rapping and DJ/producer Rabby Jones of Life Living Records shouted ‘Asakaa!’ “It just came up like that,” the DJ told the BBC. “We started running with it.”
Kumasi is the home of the Ashanti Kingdom/Empire, which dates back to 1670. The city of Kumasi holds some of Ghana’s oldest and most brilliant culture. It’s understandable how in this vibrant cultural cradle one of the most popular and game-changing styles of African hip hop was created. The youth of Kumasi are very inspired by the U.S., which is evident in their slang and culture. The city is often informally called ‘Kumerica’, the ‘country within a country’. It is a trend on social media to refer to different suburbs as American states – the Rolling Stone notes how “Manhyia became Washington DC, Kejetia became New York and Abrepo became Giorgia”.
One video that encompasses the spirit of Asakaa is Bahd’s 2021 song Y3 Y3 DOM, featuring Skyface SDW, Reggie, Kwaku DMC, City Boy, Kawabanga, and O’Kenneth – all artists who are also from Kumasi. What we see in Y3 Y3 DOM video – and the Asakaa genre as a whole – is that the leaders of this music movement are not forgoing their culture from adopting American-made styles of music. Rather, artists like Jay Bahd are taking these American styles to new heights, making drill something completely their own. Bahd’s music video show him and the other rappers in traditional dress, waving spears and participating in rituals. Overall, the Asakaa Boyz see similarities between American and Kumerican lifestyles but ultimately have a distinct take on the American things they’re inspired by.
Jay Bahd’s career story is similar to the Asakaa rappers. Like his brothers, Bahd started with humble beginnings. In a mini-documentary with Audiomack, he remembers starting out rapping on the streets in 2016 at Asafo and looking for labels all while still in school. Many of the people he raps with today were his childhood friends.
Jay Bahd and the Asakaa Boyz are leading the music revolution in Ghana with their creative music and unapologetic artistry. Asakaa is thriving, both in and outside of Ghana, and we can thank Bahd and his crew for its international success. Bahd’s Spotify profile says we can expect new music this year. Though critics of drill music might have a lot to say about its lyrics, style, and message, Asakaa’s cultural significance in the African Hip Hop world is too powerful to ignore. As Jay Bahd told Complex, Asakaa is “soul music because it comes from the soul.” Asakaa is truly the soul of Kumerica, Ghana’s most vibrant and culturally rich city, and the Asakaa Boyz keep that soul alive.