On June 5th 2018, the Black Entertainment Television (BET) network released the nomination list for the Viewer’s Choice Award for Best New International Act for this year’s 2018 edition of the BET Awards, to be held on June 26th 2018 at the Microsoft Centre in Los Angeles, California. On the list were several buzzing up and coming acts from around the world, including Niniola (Nigeria), Sjava (South Africa), Not3s (UK), IamDDB (UK), Take A Mic (France), Prince Wally (France), Sik-K (South Korea), MC Soffia (Brazil), and Nailah Blackman (Trinidad and Tobago).
However, the inclusion of a certain individual on that nominee list, a young rapper from Ghana named Kwesi Arthur, was a pleasant surprise that gave rise to a unique, emotional, and very inspiring story. Kwesi’s nomination in the category sparked a range of emotions from shock to joy in his fans and listeners alike, and even in the artist himself, who took to Twitter and posted just a single line, “The whole word me I conf” (which is Ghanaian pidgin English for “I’m the most confused person in the world”). A few days after, he posted an emotional video of his mother and grandmother singing praises to God, with Kwesi in tears, taken at the young rapper’s family home.
Kwesi Arthur, a rapper we’ve profiled makes every move onward to further cement the rapper’s position as the new fan favorite as far as hip-hop music in Ghana is concerned. In April 2018, he also went on to win the award for “Hip-Hop Song of the Year” at the 2018 Ghana Music Awards, for the remix of his single Grind Day, featuring A-list Ghanaian rappers Sarkodie and Medikal.
When the mix of shock and euphoria from the good news wore off, something beautiful began to happen. The nation of Ghana began to rally and band together in a widespread show of support for their young superstar, the likes of which have never been seen in the country before. Countless musicians, media personalities, actors and actresses, bloggers, and DJs, all manner of prominent Ghanaians across industries, male and female, took to Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to lend their voices in support and solicit votes from Ghanaians for the young rapper. Even his peers and predecessors in the music industry, the likes of Sarkodie, M.anifest, Efya, E.L, Joey B, and many many more made supporting posts and even recorded videos endearing Ghanaians to rise up to the clarion call. Even the Second Lady of the Republic of Ghana, Samira Bawumia, was spotted BET Africa’s Instagram page, rendering her own vote.
And it didn’t end there. The efforts made by Ghana’s music and media personalities, though very significant, were trumped by the sheer dedication of Kwesi’s fans, a few of which went as far as keeping track of the total number of votes for each leading candidate on BET’s website and Instagram pages, and urging fans to vote. They made sure to do this on a periodic basis, daily, and even multiple times a day. They stuck to it tirelessly, soliciting for votes, tagging and mentioning their friends, and rendering their own votes until the voting period for the award was over. They weren’t going to leave anything to chance. As long as they could help it, their hero must bring home the award.
On the day of the awards show, the winner of the Best New International Act Award was announced as Sjava, a 29-year R&B/Soul singer from South Africa. This was disappointing to the highly expectant fans of the young rapper, as expected, however, events took another turn. What happened next could be likened to a unanimous round of applause, or in fact a standing ovation from Kwesi’s fans and supporters around the world. Rather than expressing their disappointment, the majority of Ghanaians began to express how proud they are of the rapper, rendering their moral support and gratitude that he was able to represent them. They congratulated him anyway, with a couple of individuals even attempting to make a #CongratulationsKwesiArthur hashtag trend. Regardless of who got to take home the award, he was their winner still.
At this moment, it was obvious that for them, the real win was in Kwesi getting that far, in him being able to represent their beloved country with his amazing talent in such a short time. This was an artist that they had witnessed his rise from the grassroots just a number of months before, and to see him achieve such a significant entertainment accolade was a great source of pride and joy. There’s great significance in his story which goes beyond just him being nominated for an award, and everyone could see it. It broke a number of preconceptions. The first, that you have to toil for years and years before being successful in your field. The second, that young Africans don’t make art worthy of worldwide recognition. The third, that your dreams are not valid. All these preconceived notions were invalidated the very instant the news of Kwesi’s nomination broke, and people began to realize that “Yeah, maybe our dreams are not as far out of our reach as we think they are”.
The light of that realization, the enthusiastic fandom of his listeners, the fact that he was the only Ghanaian artist nominated for this year’s edition of the awards (every year Ghanaian musicians are typically present in the Best International Act category), or maybe just sheer patriotism were likely the combination of things that resulted in that amazing and uncommon show of support. Whatever the motives were, it’s more than a joy to see when people unite on a common ground regarding someone or something they all believe in and give it their undying love, loyalty, and support. A whole country openly and unashamedly carried a young boy from Tema on their backs for all the world to see. Their talent, their pride, their ambassador. It was a blessing to witness and made the young rapper’s already special story even more awe-inspiring. No one was demoralized by the loss. In fact, the opposite is the situation. The support for the rapper is currently at an all-time high, and one can only think of what he can achieve next with that behind him. Kwesi Arthur’s story is inspiring, and even if he didn’t get to take the BET Award home, I don’t think anyone from Ghana could be more proud of him.
Written By Nnamdi Okirike