Album review: Did it for Africa by Santana Karma

November 11, 2020

If the rap game was a high school, Santana would be the entertainment prefect. Since time immemorial, he has been urging us to get out of our thoughts, and have a good time.

However, if one listens carefully, embedded in the catchy lyrics, and seated on the groovy beats, is a thread of consciousness. A great example is his classic, “Byagezesa (Bad)”, in which he encourages people to “shoot their shot” in life. However, the way the song is delivered is intended to make you dance, and the message only hits you subliminally, not directly.

The graduate of law, from the prestigious Makerere Law School, has released an album on which he has the luxury of separately exploring all the things that matter to him.

“Did it for Africa” is a rich album because on it, Santana tackles a wide range of issues. The album opener, “Mr President”, featuring Gamit, is a bold letter to the President, in which Santana gives his take on key issues. It is a testament to Santana’s creativity, and possibly legal mind, that he is able to argue both sides. He mimics the president’s voice and delivers three quarters of a verse, as the president responding to Santana.

“Morning star” is a touching tribute to his daughter. It’s a letter from a father, first, telling his daughter how special she is to him, and then, imparting some of the wisdom he has acquired to her. He crowns it off by speaking to children in general, and sharing some key principles.

The album, as I might have mentioned earlier, is rich in content. On “Soo far”, he breaks into a powerful three- minute long spoken word performance. In it, he addresses black power, while highlighting some of the black icons that are setting the pace in the world.

However, Santana also knows what his listeners expect from him. He does not deprive them of the catchy, clever songs that he is so good at crafting. On the album are songs like “Boilo”, in which he admits that he would eat it [sadly, he doesn’t specify what] in its raw form.  On “Kulya, Kunywa”, he is very comfortable on the beat as he combines some of his best flows with storytelling, all on a groovy beat. Another song that combines his seamless flow with storytelling is “Omulembe gwa Ssebaana”.

One of Santana’s strengths is that he works well with others, and he has influence in the industry. This is displayed by the collaborations he has on the album, and how he brings out the best in his collaborators.

He has a song with Weasel and the late Radio (“Tovawo awo”), with Kent & Flosso (Kill it), with Nutty Neithan (“Ekili mu katale”), with A Pass (“Things I like”) in which A Pass showcases rap skills, with Kemishan (“Gyal dem again” with Prince Izo, Ratigan and Elsa Tawa”) amongst other collaborations with Gamit, Wicky, Vamiah Khalid, Alvin Kizz, Zonix, Bling Dizzo and Levi. He even features comedian Dolibondo on the memorable “Kalalankoma”.

If there is anything that we can learn from Santana after listening to the album, it’s that he will not allow anyone to put him in a box. He will rap and he will sing. He will preach and he will flirt. He will speak English, and he will speak Luganda, and sometimes even Lusoga. He will use hip hop beats and dancehall beats. He sets his own rules and the result is a 22 track album in which you see the different sides of Santana. You see him at his most introspective and at his most extroverted, and everything in between.