Kwabena Okyere Darko aka Obrafour, who hails from Kwawu in the eastern region was born in 1978. His spent his early childhood at Kwawu and when he was 5 years old, he left for Accra to live with his parents.
Obrafuor who attended New Star Preparatory and then proceeded to Abetifi Secondary and St. Peter's Secondary School was born in real life as Michael Elliot Kwabena Okyere Darko in 1976 to Mr. Kwaku Okyere Darko and Mrs. Gladys Agyapomaa in Kwahu-Obo.
At the age of 8, Obrafuor sang with his late mum at church. "Sometimes I sang along with my mum whilst she was working and to tell you I partially music was part of me at a tender age. I never dreamt of becoming a musician rather it was my dream to become a lawyer since my grand dad was a lawyer" he said.
Obrafour had his secondary school education at Abetifi. After one term at St. Peters where he was being trained for his A Level, he dropped out in 1995 when his mother died.
Obrafour believes that he was born with music. His mum was a chorister. At the age of 4, he watched her mum sing at church with keen interest. It got to a time that she would invite him to church to sing with her.
When he was in secondary school, he formed a quartet and they were doing Gospel songs until his mum passed away.
“I want to have the most decent lyrics of all-time”. In a time where musicians join the hiplife trade almost weekly, it has a tough act to stay different and ahead of the game. Kwabena Okyere Darko, popularly known as Obrafour (Twi for executioner), has carved a niche for himself as one of the hiplife legends and a mainstay in Ghanaian music. Obrafour, the Rap SofoO (Rap Priest) has transcended the boundaries of music by producing fellow artistes and appealing to all and sundry with the breadth of his lyrics and messages and songs.
Obrafour was born to Mr. Kwaku Okyere Darko and Mrs. Gladys Agyapomaa in Kwahu-Obo in 1978. He grew up in Kwawu and settled in Accra later. For his education, he went to New Star Preparatory, continued at Abeitifi Secondary School and pursued his A-level education at St. Peters’ Secondary at Nkwatia. His mother’s death in 1995 caused him to drop out. He had been nursing a dream of becoming a lawyer (after his grandfather). Unable to continue his education, he took up another interest of his, music.
Obrafour grew up with music. He was influenced by his mother, who sang in the local church choir. He then got the chance to sing at church at his mother’s invitation and as fate would have it, he formed a quartet during his secondary school which performed Gospel songs. His mum’s death caused him to stop singing.
Through some encouragement by some friends, he decided to take up music more seriously. At that time, Reggie Rockstone, the Godfather of hiplife, had released his successful “Maka a maka” album and Obrafour was inspired. He had also realized the emergence of artistes like Ex Doe, Chicago, Akyeame, and Lord Kenya, etc. He decided to be different from these pioneers and create his own style. As he began attending various auditions and performances, he met a few bumps and setbacks until he met Edward Nana Poku Osei aka Hammer. Hammer was an amateur beat maker and did not take the music business seriously until he met Obrafour. From Hammer’s own words, they ‘clicked’. For Obrafour and Hammer (the Last 2) fans, the rest is history.
But the common Joe needs to know. Hammer helped Obrafour secure a deal with Abraham Ohene Djan (OM Studios) and in late 1999, Obrafour’s first album, ‘Pae mu ka’ was produced and distributed. The album was an acclaimed success and a breadth of fresh air on the music scene. One of the songs, ‘Kwame Nkrumah’ paid a resounding tribute to the Osagyefo and encouraged Ghanaians to unite and work for the best of the country. ‘Pae mu ka’ covered various aspects of entertainment of society with songs like the title track, ‘Yaanom (announcing his presence), ‘Aden’ (talked about life’s struggles), ‘Agoro no aso’ (party song), and ‘Kokonsa’ (gossip). The album enjoyed a lot of airplay that to this day, the “intro and outro” tracks are still played during radio programmes.
As if to indicate the importance of Obrafour’s entry into the music scene, he was adjudged the rapper of the year, new artiste of the year and best hiplife song for ‘Pae mu ka’ at the 2000 Ghana Music Awards. “Pae mu ka” is widely acclaimed as the best hiplife album ever produced. Obrafour’s success paved the way for Hammer to become one of Ghana’s premier beat makers as well.
In 2001, Obrafour released his second album, ‘Asem sebe’. Recognising his love for gospel music, he had as part of this album, the first ever rap gospel song (EnyE Nyame a) in Ghana. His premier effort caused a lot of deejays headaches, not sure whether to play the song during gospel or hiplife (or even highlife) shows. In keeping to his decency and love for socially conscious songs, ‘Obibini (black man) implored Africans to stand up for their motherland and work to develop it. ‘Okwantuni’ asked sojourners in foreign countries to stay in touch with their roots and come home if they were struggling since their home would always be ‘home’. ‘Who born you by mistake’, ‘Asem sebe’ and ‘Twe wo ho’ enjoyed massive airplay, and the album had other songs like ‘Odo’, ‘Bra be hwe’ and ‘Okukuseku’. Obrafour sought the assistance of other beat makers than Hammer and had a few songs with the highlife vein. Even though his sophomore effort could not outclass ‘Pae mu ka’, it sold many more copies.
Kwabena Okyere Darko did not forget the hand that fed him and made him what he was then. In another first, he came out with a maxi single album, that remembered the love and influence of his mother while praising and underlying the importance of mothers all over. Featuring Tic Tac and Yoggi Doggi on a remix, he released his ‘Maame’ single in 2002. To this day, ‘Maame’ is a Ghanaian music favourite that rules the airwaves each Mother’s day. The album also had a song he did jointly with Tic Tac for Ashfoam which was very successful.
Obrafour does not consider Maame a ‘full’ album, and his third LP was released in early 2003 under the name ‘Time Out for Adhesion (TOFA)’. In this album, Obrafour’s love for singing is heavily noticed. He had a song duet with longtime backup singer, Adjoa, called ‘Dee dee ko’. Songs like ‘Nyamekye’ and ‘Sete’ are favourites of many highlife music lovers. He did not disappoint his hiplife fan base, as ‘Oye Ohene’ (He is a king), ‘Adefoode’, ‘Ebehyehyew’ (It will burn you) were chart busters. Other songs on the album were ‘Mensesa da’ (I will never change), ‘AkokOnini’, ‘Hini me’, and ‘OyonkoO’ (friend). ‘TOFA’ had very good sales following the success of his other LPs.
As if Obrafour could not fall short of pacesetting, he decided to release another album in the same calendar year. His ‘fourth’ LP, ‘NteteE Pa’, came out in late 2003 with a number of remixes from the ‘TOFA’ album. The lead single, however, was ‘Nya NteteE Pa’ (Be disciplined) which coincided with his effort to join Ghana’s vice president to fight indiscipline in the country. ‘Nya NteteE Pa’ is the writer’s favourite song and the most lyrically involving song to ever come from hiplife’s ranks. It was voted by the song of the 2003 by Joy FM listeners and Obrafour’s legendary was magnified. It also won the best original song (lyrics) at the 2003 Ghana Music Awards. ‘Ntetee Pa’ won the album of the year at the Ghana Music Awards UK for 2004. Other songs on the album were ‘Oye Ohene Remix’ featuring Tinny (one of the best remixes ever), ‘Who Jah Bless’, ‘Sete remix’, ‘Monfa nsa’ (Dance with it), and ‘Obaa bi’ (a certain girl).
He started his own indiscipline campaign which targeted the youth mostly even though he had advice for everyone (from ministers and musicians to taxi drivers and pastors). His Platinum Project on indiscipline was divided into two main segments; the Lecture/Counselling Workshop and the H.E.L.P (Hiplife Education and Literacy Project) Ghana initiative. The Lecture/Counselling Workshop had three principal objectives which were drugs combat, promoting disciplined habits in schools and raising a hundred million cedis for charity (H.E.L.P.). The project involved television series, concerts to raise funds for H.E.L.P. which offered free tutorials and scholarships to children and was to support needy but brilliant students to help them further their education. His project was supported by the vice president himself, the Greater Accra regional minister and other musicians.
In 2004, Obrafour decided to use his record label, Execution Entertainment (which had been responsible for his last three albums) to expose new talents on Ghana’s music scene. He produced ‘Execution Diary’ with the help of Hammer which was the first major compilation album involving hiplife artistes by another hiplife artiste. The LP had songs which introduced relatively new ‘hiplife foot soldiers’ like ‘Oye nonsense’ by Kwaw Kese, ‘Ntakaa’ by Hot Core, ‘Susu dwen me ho’ by Dogo and further enhanced the careers of Tinny with ‘Heko Ejorko’ (I believe I can fly), Okyeame Quame with ‘Opabeni’, 4x4 with ‘Kpekpele’ and Yoggi Doggi with ‘Ye ne saa ma me’. ‘Oye Nonsense’,’Heko ejorko’, ‘Opabeni’ and ‘Kpekpele’ all enjoyed massive airplay and were on Ghana’s 20 biggest hits at one point in time.
Obrafour has since taken a break behind the scenes, working on producing more artistes with his Execution Entertainment label and working on another album due out soon. He plans to retire from hiplife soon to concentrate on more production and yearns to produce a Ghanaian ‘country music’ album. His label is in the process of distributing Digital Video Disks (DVD) and Video Compact Disk (VCD) music videos from the compilation (‘Execution Diary’). Obrafour is also planning to launch his clothing line, ‘OB4’.
Obrafour’s fame transcends the borders of Ghana, as he has performed in Europe as well as the US. His concerts and performances are ones to behold. He has also featured on a number of artistes’ tracks, including Tic Tac’s ‘Philomina’, Daasebre Dwamena’s ‘Kokooko’ remix and Nana Quame’s ‘Alimatu’. He has also helped bring into the limelight Tinny, Dogo, Yaw Labito and KGPM.
He is interested in going to sound production and engineering in the future and loves country music and playing video games. The rap priest has been quite for awhile but expect him to come back with a bang and give you more bangs for your bucks.
Obrafour has featured on quite a number of tracks, including TicTac's ‘Philomena', Nana Kwame’s Adowa rhythm, Dasebre Dzamina’s remix of his Kokoko track. He has also worked with KgPM, Okra and Dogo.
Obrafour now has 3 albums to his credit; Paemonka, Asemsebe and Tofa.
In 2000, Obrafour received an award for Rap song of the year for ‘Paemonka'.
Obrafour likes listening to country music and his hobbies are playing video games. He aims are becoming a sound engineer in the near future.
Later on, a friend by name Quincy who could rap approached him and due to his encouragements, he gave it a try. "Reggie Rockstone is an artiste I looked up to. He is my role model and the funny thing is that I hanged his picture on my wall with the notion that he was always physically present in my room" he added.
Inspired by Snoop Dogg, Kwabena Darko wanted to carve his own being and rap in Twi. His first outside performance was at a programme held at Secaps Hotel which he was invited by a friend of his by name Afia to come over and show the world what he had inside him. B.B Menson now of Radio Gold was by then the master of ceremony and as B.B saw him perform, he was carried away by his style and thus wanted to help him out but due to one or more reasons, the efforts to help him out proved futile.
Through the help of a friend, Obrafuor came into contact with one of Ghana's best engineers if not the best by name Hammer. "Hammer told me to do a little bit of my style and wow a deal was in the cooking," he said beaming with smiles. With the help of Hammer, he secured a deal with Abraham Ohene Djan (CEO of OM Studios) as Abraham saw the best in him.
The real hiplife general who has set the pace for most artistes then came on the hiplife scene in 1999 with the hit album 'Pae Mu Ka' which had 7 tracks such as 'Yaanom' and 'Agoro Na Aso' after releasing some singles with Cy Lover which were tried on radio in 1998. In that same year, he featured on Tic Tac's 'Philomina' track as they were on the same label and did an advertisement together for Ashfoam which really shot him more into fame.
As evidenced by the platinum 'Pae Mu Ka' which won an award in the year 2000 and his tours to Sunyani, Takoradi, Tamale, Kumasi, Techiman, Koforidua, Bolgatanga and the likes, Obrafuor's been more successful and enduring than most of the 'cats' who call themselves career MCs.
In 2001, the hiplife warrior released another hit album titled 'Asemsebe' which saw him in London, Holland, Belgium and Germany. Obrafuor who is considered as a power player in hiplife came out with 'Tofa' in 2003 which won an award in Canada and won the album of the year award in London at the Ghana Music Awards UK 2004.
He has now come to a halt after releasing the wall breaking album 'Nteteepa' in 2003 which had lovely tracks like 'Oye Ohene remix' featuring Tinny and 'Nteteepa'. Lest I forget, he won the songwriter of the year at the Ghana Music Awards 2003 with the 'Nteteepa' album and performed in Canada and USA. In fact, the shows were something else.
Asked why he has come to a halt, he smiled and said "I want to produce more young artistes for some time". In the year 2004, Obrafuor's first produced album titled the 'Execution Diary' with artistes like Tinny, Okra, Kwaw Kesse, Yoggi Doggy, Okyeame Quame, Dogo, Hot Core on board and his record label were born. Who doesn't know this album has tore Ghana apart?
Recently, he performed in Holland with Togolese star Meiway and other Ghanaian artistes like Kwaadee, Sidney on a show which was put together by Sankofa TV in Amsterdam. Pumped to frenzy by him, fans and faithful couldn't help it but move their feet for a night of non-stop dancing.
Now pay attention! Obrafuor will be touring America with the likes of Obuor, Buk Bak, Nana Quame, Kwaadee in March 2005 and will also be performing at Miss Ghana New York next year and sssshhh! he will be out with his new album in June 2005 after producing Joe Frazier who will be out next year.
Beyond rhyming, Obrafuor has managed to penetrate the public consciousness to the point where his videos rank among the most memorable ever made. Fresh from performing in Canada, Obrafuor will never disappoint. Everywhere you go, his songs still hover in the air. Heads have really been listening to the hiplife mentor who has been to where other hiplife artistes have not.
His songs keep cars 'bumping' and heads nodding. The charismatic dude has enjoyed tremendous local and international popularity with his hit albums. To end it all, the 'supa dupa' lyricist is back.
Execution Entertainment’s birth commemorated a new vision of pursing projects, based on unselfish reasons. Its first task was to sensitize the Ghanaian public on indiscipline; hence it supported the Vice President’s campaign against Indiscipline, where Obrafour did a sound track ‘Ntetie Pa’, which subsequently enjoyed more than massive airplay.