During the days of antiquity, alchemy was believed to be an art that could endow its practitioners with a special ability to turn ordinary metals into gold and, achieve the elixir of life. In the world of hip hop also, a few of its practitioners could be said to be practicing a form of alchemy—lyrical alchemy, that is. They have a special ability to concoct ordinary words into verses laden with metaphors, similes, and double entendres that explode with lyrical creativity, and then combine that with a masterful delivery, transforming their flow into a rhythmic elixir.
In the US, names like Rakim, Nas, Jay Z, Notorious B.I.G., Tupac Shakur, to name a few, come to mind when you think of rappers who have exhibited this special ability. In Africa, one rapper too has been rising to the fore with a deadly combination of lyrical creativity and masterful delivery, who may well deserve just such a distinction.
His name is Scientific.
And, his lyrical prowess and vicious flow have been raising a proverbial lyrical storm that seems to be leaving other rappers on the continent coughing up dust. So, the question begs to be asked: Is Scientific Africa’s Best Hip Hop Lyricist? Well, in all fairness, the jury is probably still out on this one, but Scientific has issued what he calls a PSA (public service announcement) to any African rapper who thinks he is undeserving of the crown, to step to the plate.
“If you ever slept on me, you’re fictional, Red Riding Hood / Think this rapper’s better? Y’all been eating a lot of bitter fruit / Get off it, it’s bars over jokes / Can’t judge a book by its cover, some stars are overlooked / My pen game is vicious, talent is a gift / Compare me to the rest, your time is a waste,” spits Scientific in Da Ultimatum, in which he describes himself as “in a class of my own, a true king.”
The Evolution of Africa’s Hip Hop Lyrical Scientist
Born Sonny Jamaal Tayshaun Tubman in Bong County, Liberia, he fled his nation, along with his family, when it became engulfed in a 14-year civil war that left over 200,000 dead. Stopping first in Ivory Coast, young Sonny and his family later moved to Ghana, where he grew up and attended school.
But, even before leaving Liberia, the seed of music had already been implanted in young Sonny’s soul, waiting for the appropriate aligning of cosmic forces to germinate.
“Music is in my family. And even with all that my dad was doing, he loved jazz and played it a lot. And I also grew up listening to LL Cool J and other rappers, and back
I’m in a class of my own, a true king. A rapper step to this throne, it’s probably my cloneScientific, Liberian rapper
then, I used to try to mimic what they were doing but I couldn’t really flow. And then, when we fled Liberia because of the war and got to Ghana, it was really only one shot I had. When I got to high school, my friends used to tell me that I could flow and so once there was a talent show in my class and everybody was like: ‘You have to do it,’” said Scientific.
Unsure of his rap skills, Scientific wondered if he really had what it took for the talent show, but his friends egged him on and so, he threw his hat in. This would end up being one of the most serendipitous peer pressuring he would ever gave in to.
“So, I went home and picked up a pen and pad and just started crafting something. And, after performing it before the class, everybody was impressed and screaming and I was like: ‘Wow, so I can actually do this!’ And, I just took it from there,” reminisced Scientific about his foray into the rap game.
To paraphrase a passage from Paulo Coelho’s novel, The Alchemist, all the universe had conspired at that very moment to open a door into the world of hip hop for the boy who would become Scientific. But, the door was only ajar, and aware that he needed to nurture his talent for the door to open fully, Scientific decided to put in the work.
Studying science courses in high school to become a doctor, he applied the diligence of a technician in a lab to dissect the nuances of his newfound subject of interest.
“Then, I started nurturing myself by listening to other artists. And every time after school let out, I would lock myself indoors for hours just trying to perfect my flow. I’ll put my tape on and a beat will be playing and I’ll be trying to freestyle and write stuff. I also studied the best of the best – Nas, Jay Z, Biggie, Big L, and others. And so I learned from the best. I did that for a long time and I noticed that my flow was getting better and when I would go out there and spit, people used to be like: ‘Damn, you nice bro,’” added Scientific.
Though still a novice, Scientific was a natural hip hop pugilist, who enjoyed the adrenaline rush that came from the lyrical TKOs he was giving opponents in his high school rap ciphers. And, even before he got to the 12th grade, he was knocking out the best rappers. Before long, word got around about the kid who was dropping opponents with deadly lyrical hooks called Sammy T, as he was known back then.
“Once I knew I was ready for the streets, I started going out there testing dudes’ skills and also going to other high schools and I was killing a lot of dudes everywhere. So my name started getting around and everyone wanted to know who this Sammy T dude was. And then I started being featured on the radio and I even did a rap battle on air where I was kicking out the best out of the competition,” said Scientific.
And, it would be at one such radio invitation, where he was crowned a lyrical scientist by Ghana’s own rap music legend, Reggie Rockstone, the godfather
“Once, I was invited to the radio station by DJ Black and while there, I met Reggie Rockstone. He didn’t know who I was at the time and he was like: ‘I’m gonna battle this kid and kill him.’ And, we did a little thing and I murdered it so he was like: ‘You’re too scientific for me, as a matter of fact, I’m gonna call you Scientific,’” recalled Scientific.
A legend had recognized the undeniable luminosity of a star on the rise, but that wouldn’t be the last time that would happen.
‘Above All Odds’: Scientific Rises To The Apex Of Africa’s Hip Hop Pinnacle
While in Ghana to record a track with Reggie Rockstone, Wyclef Jean, Grammy Award winner and multiplatinum rapper, wanted to know who the best rapper in Ghana was. And, as the story goes, Jayso, the producer of the track Wyclef was featuring on, told him about Scientific and played some of his records. Impressed, Wyclef said he wanted to meet him.
“So Jayso called me up and told me that Wyclef was feeling my music and he wanted to meet up with me. So I called up Cheddar, the CEO of Wonda World Entertainment, where I’m signed and we went to Reggie Rockstone’s studio to meet Clef and after spitting a few bars for him, he asked me to wait until he was done recording so that we could talk more,” said Scientific.
While waiting outside the studio, Scientific said Wyclef took a break from recording and when he came outside, he announced that he was ready to battle anyone. There were other rap artists around, but Scientific said no one dared step to the plate and, instead, they all turned to him.
“So I stepped up to the plate and off the top of my head, I did what I did. I felt like I didn’t come out with my best but everyone said it was good,” said Scientific of his impromptu cipher with Wyclef. While Scientific didn’t think his flow was top notch, in the video clip of the encounter, you can hear Wyclef, who was obviously impressed, saying: “Scientific came hard man!”
Yet again, another legend had acknowledged the undeniable glow of Scientific’s star.
And, as Scientific’s star continues to shine brighter buoyed by the sheer brilliance of his lyrical prowess and vicious flow, his place among Africa’s elite hip hop artists is incontestable. Like a modern day sage, he uses his music to address the issues affecting the lives of his generation, ranging from bad governance, corruption, injustice, and poverty to love and relationship. That notwithstanding, one has to wonder why his name doesn’t come up when African artists are nominated for continental awards by the likes of MTV, BET or Channel O, to name a few. As a matter of fact, Liberian artists, in general, don’t even make the nomination shortlists.
Might Scientific simply be from the wrong African country? That is probably a question you don’t even want to broach with him. Because, though aware that Liberia may have fallen off Africa’s musical radar because of the civil war, his
It is therefore no surprise then that Scientific is planning to release his next album titled “Above All Odds” in Liberia.
“My new album is gonna be crazy. And, I’ll be dropping it in Liberia sometime in December. The way I look at my album launching is that it’s not just about me, but more so for the entire Liberian music industry and all the artists out there to make people believe that we do have the talent to actually make a mark in the music game,” said Scientific.
What a noble ambition to carry Liberia on his shoulders as he rises to the top of his game. And, like Jay Z quipped in Moment of Clarity: “I’m strong enough to carry Biggie Smalls on my back / And the whole BK nigga holla back,” Scientific is certainly strong enough to carry Liberia on his shoulders!
“Now I’m kicking for goals like in a game of sport / Y’all haters and critics can’t kill my credentials / What I’m giving these fans is essential / Think you can stop my progress, it’s senseless / The skill is top notch, the flow is endless,” spits Scientific in his song No Pain, No Gain Pt.2.
Need I say more? U REE???!!!
You can listen to more of Scientific’s music below and make sure to follow him on Facebook.