Desmond Kwesi Blackmore, aka D-Black is arguably the most hardworking artiste in Ghana – check, he is one of the most-internationally recognized Ghanaian artistes across the world – check, he is one of the best business-minded artistes in Ghana – check and he is one of the wackiest, the most boring stage performers in Ghana – check check hallelujah! (Apologies to Akosua Agyepong).
We first heard of D-Black in 2008 when he starred as a supporting cast to the then-popular Kwaku-T when the duo came out with the successful ‘Target Practice’ album which had hit singles like as ‘Breathe’ and ‘Move’. Four years down the line and D-Black is more popular than Kwaku-T and highly recognized across the world than many artistes in Ghana and Africa.
In a spate of four hard working years, the guy has produced a deluge of hit songs; he has bagged several awards, notched several nominations for international awards, produced a plethora of world-class music videos, mounted the stage with local and international artistes and he has collaborated with almost everybody, from Wale to Edem.
Apart from his brand of music, he’s known everywhere per his incessant collaborations with international artistes. On his up-coming second album, he has done songs with many international and local acts. His well-produced music videos are everywhere from Crsytal TV to MTVBase, BET, Channel O, SounCity and more, catapulting his international appeal to the roof.
His lazy, laid-back rap skills made him an average Joe, not counted as one of the best rappers in the same vein as Sarkodie, M.anifest, E.L. X.O., Mr. Max and of course, Rockstone, but in recent times, D-Black has improved tremendously with his ‘flow’ and lyricism. There’s confidence, fiery, hunger and so much determination in his rap delivery nowadays. Interestingly, when I heard that E.L has assembled a group of rappers including D-Black, M.anifest, Sarkodie and E.L himself for the single ‘The Chosen’, I knew there’s was no way D-Black could compete.
I held on to this conviction until I heard the track and boy, I was blown away by D-Black’s performance. Yes, I knew the lyrical strength of Sarkodie, EL and Manifest but D-Black’s presentation was awesome, miles away from the characteristic laid-back, sluggish rap skill.
There’s so much growth and maturity in D-Black wordplay.
Show business is all business now and D-Black has that business acumen that is required in this industry. Business in show business is about distribution, endorsement deals, sold-out concerts and merchandizing – forget record sales and this gentleman understand the business.
He has his own label, Black Avenue Muzik that presides over his works. He is prepping his own clothing line, Black Avenue Clothing which would do well in the right settings and when given the necessary succor. He just struck a distribution deal in Nigeria that will ensure that his music is sold in that country at the right quarters and he gets to acquire some royalties as well.
In this era of Ghanaian music, album sales are at an all-time low, the copyright system is puny, the royalty scheme is in a ramshackle state and endorsement deals do not come every day. The only sure avenue where an artiste is guaranteed to make dividends is on stage; where the artiste
gets to perform at events, concerts and all.
D-Black has everything going for him but his stage presence, which sucks big time. It’s a torture for any patron to watch him perform on stage and sometimes, one prays he quickly completes his set and vamoose from the stage. It is that bad.
There’s no energy, no exigency, no class, no poise, no self-belief, no control, everything is no – it is drab. With popular songs to his name, it should have been quite easier for D-Black to compliment that with good stage presence, but unfortunately, he has always been lethargic, moving around like an inebriated chicken. It’s such a waste of money to watch D-Black on stage, whether he’s miming or rapping live over a beat – the value is the same.
I have watched him severally on different stages and he has never impressed, never ever. At the 2011 Ghana Music Awards, he was out- of-whack; it took D-Cryme to help him out but a confused Ice Prince exposed his flaws even more. As the main man for his nationwide tour in 2011, he was so uninspiring, it had to take his supporting acts of fellow performers to save his blushes and during his year-ending ‘Yes Boss’ concert, another performer stole the show – Sarkodie. The least I talk about his performance at the just-ended Miss Malaika contest, the better.
Did I hear weight problem as the cause of his ineffectiveness on stage? Come on, rappers who are bigger and fatter do better on stage. Check out Rick Ross, E-40, Biggie, HHP and even Ghana’s own Rick Ross, The Biggie Boy Lover, OJ Black. These guys exhibit so much agility and oomph on stage.
The problem is that: D-Black never takes his stage craft seriously, and therefore, he comes up and feels the popular songs should do the trick. If we wanted to hear the song, we would buy the song and bump it in our air-conditioned cars over a drink, Goddamnit!
The same way D-Black has improved on his rhyming skills, so can he up his stage presence – he just needs to learn and practice.
It is on these occasions that rappers or MCs really have to understand what MC stands for - that’s Master of Ceremonies. You are the stage conductor and the showman, who is there to get the crowd hyped and to enjoy the music or event that you are at. To do this takes charisma.
Charisma sounds like a very intangible thing that cannot be learnt nor taught, but I beg to differ.
I think when you understand some of the things that make a person charismatic you find that it is something that anyone can learn. When you are performing to a crowd you cannot afford to get hung up on whether they like you or not. It sounds almost counter-intuitive but the less you care about what they think of you, the better you are going to do.
You get to focus more on expressing yourself honestly to the people in front of you. When you look for validation in any shape or form you often inhibit yourself and focus more on trying to make them like you rather than expressing yourself honestly and instead hold back through fear that they might not take to it.
Involving the crowd at your shows is beneficial to your stage presence, and the crowd itself. Encouraging the audience to simply clap along or sing a part of a song will demonstrate that you are: comfortable on stage, aware of the crowd and eager to feed off the energy of the crowd.
Thinking of unique ways to involve the crowd with your show will, in turn, improve your overall stage presence and stage banter.
Also, crowd participation creates a connection that people will forever remember, but never make requests or demands from an audience that is tired from waiting which is surely not interested in any discourse.
Lastly, don’t rush your set, take breaks in-between your songs and improvise and when you area lousy dancer, get professional or seductive dancers to take attention away from your galling dance moves.