Hi-Five: !!!

With the new 'As If' in the shops, the band's Nic Offer names gives props to West Africa's azonto sound.
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The Sacramento-born-and-bred, Brooklyn-based unit known to the world as !!!—or "chk chk chk," if you're verbally inclined—has just released their latest long-playing missive on Warp, As If. It's an album that might be perceived as a continuation the band's journey from turn-of-the-millennium punk-funk royalty to something more recognizable as a straight-up disco combo (which is fine by us, as we always hated the term punk-funk anyway). In truth, though, !!! was always a bit more disco, albeit disco with something of an alien, no-wavey edge, than most of their contemporaries—As If, the band's sixth LP, simply cements that point with its beefy four-to-the-floor grooves, maximalist arrangements, and majestic, glitter-ball choruses.

To mark As If's release, !!!'s Nic Offer (he's the fellow on the far right in the above photo) has kindly picked out a quintet of his favorite tracks from the West African style known as azonto—actually, he's so enthusiastic about this music that he gave us six selections, but this stuff is infectious enough that we'll let it slide. But first, a few words from Offer himself.

"I’ve talked about azonto online before, but I’m gonna do it again. I'm not Mr. Obscuro, so this is one of the things I know about that hopefully is fresh to you. I'm out of my element in describing this, but I explain it to people this way: Nigeria was to West Africa like what N.Y. was to hip-hop, and then Ghana came out like Atlanta and took over, so that even Nigerian artists began copying Ghana. It's a weird rhythm— somewhere between a jacked-up swingy house often featuring a slight skank to it, a basic kinda dancehall click on the snare, a lot of autotuned vox, and a flow that fluctuates between candy R&B and their own flow based on hip-hop and dancehall toasting. That's probably wrong but that's what I got. It's also a way of dancing that's pretty awesome. If you're good, you can find a lot of playful creative ground to work with, yet it's still easy to do if you're not a great dancer. I also like that everyone sings about azonto. Any style of music that sings about itself is cool to me. That's why there's so many songs that sing about "house" but no songs that sing about "indie." Just facts."

If you wanna hear more than the tracks here, you ca also check out a mix I did of it a few years ago.

Keche "Aluguntungi"
Any song that starts with "Life is tasty" is already off to a good start. I love the drawn out "seiiiiiiiii," the stuttered "gui, gui gui gui," and the autotune freestyle in the middle. So sick when he lets it get all fucked at 2:19 and then cackles mischievously. A lot of these songs set up a basic song with a couple verses and hooks and then free up a bit in the middle, kinda getting your pumped to keep dancing. The video is a good example of the basic dance moves. The song is produced by E.L. who's one of the premier producers of this genre.

E.L. "One Ghana (for your pocket)"

Here's one of his solo tracks. I kinda prefer his other track, "Obuu Mo," but that's already on my mix. This one is sick too. A lot of this stuff reminds me of Da Real World–era Missy and Timbaland (underrated era, IMHO). I met him once, and he was really cool. We were supposed to do a track together, but he never called me back. : (

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Sarkodie featuring Appietus & Kesse "Azonto Fiesta"

I don't know what to say, I just love this stuff. I've played this track a hundred times. Sarkodie is one of the biggest rappers in Ghana, and he also has another killer track with E.L., "U Go Kill Me."

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Mista Silva featuing Skob, Flava & Kwamz "Boom Boom Tah"

Frenetic drum-machine rhythms, and sweet autotuned harmonies on the chorus—everyone's flow is just spectacular on this.

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Donae'o featuring Sarkodie "Move To Da Gyal Dem"

A stone groove which I’ve DJed out, and it works out nicely into a house-ish set. Donae'o is Ghanaian but from London. I think this may have been a hit outside of West Africa. This one is cooled out, but you can just lose yourself into it while dancing. Perfect for the kinda casual, showy attitude that works well with azonto moves. Keep that look on your face like "ain't nobody's business".

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Olamide "First Of All"

This is from Nigeria but obviously indebted to Ghana. A lot of azonto songs kinda have a ska-like skank to them. This is actually the first song on my mix, and I've already said, buuuuuuuuut the bass line is too sick. The lyrics appear to be hilarious, from what I can get. "First of all," "in other news" "r u a learner," "do I look like Awilo Logomba?" (a Congolese musician. I have no idea what this could mean. is he making fun of himself? whatever, it sounds pretty funny.)

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As If is out now on Warp. Click here for info on !!!'s upcoming tour dates.