Awesome Totally Awesome - Berhana

Dope Artist Alert: Berhana, Why Catchy Tunes Aren’t Always a Bad Thing

In a recent article, I talked about the problems Kanye West conjured in his music video, I Love It. What I didn’t address, and what I want to get at in this article, is why I can’t get that garbage song out of my head.

In my early years I gravitated towards music with high lyricism because, as a writer, I appreciated the penmanship and it inspired me to write. Although I have a couple verses memorized from some of my favorite tracks, now I find that nothing sticks in my head more consistently than an irresistible beat/hook. Why is it that “Call me on my cell phone, late night when you need my love,” constantly gets repeated in my noggin more than a five finger death cypher, off the top, of an exceptional rapper? I spent hours, no, years trying to figure out the answer to why this phenomenon occurs but I just couldn’t put my finger on it.

That is until I came across an artist that I had glanced over about a year ago. This artist, at first listen, was just an up-and-comer with some catchy hooks and decent production. Recently I stumbled upon one of his new releases which were accompanied by a music video. My mind was blown to pieces by a man named Berhana and I think many of the answers I’ve been searching for can be found amongst the remains.

Berhana Berhana Muthafuck you to be exact. At least according to the Caribbean announcer voiced by Berhana himself spilling over the microphone in the song Grey Luh.

To give this man the credit he discovers and truly highlight my experience with his music I’ll start from the beginning of last year when I first stumbled on his music. I found myself deep in a YouTube music binge one night, following the musical recommendations based on the previous song. I eventually got to Berhana’s Janet. It is a song that I scrolled through without giving it a proper listen. I later realized that was exactly the point of the track.

I decided to subscribe to Berhana’s channel, however, because I saw potential and I couldn’t stop singing the hook of Janet for months afterward. Eventually, I forgot all about him and heard nothing from the many music critics I follow or devote fans of his on Twitter until 2 months ago when he dropped Wildin‘. I had a similar reaction to Wildin’ as I did Janet but this time the hook did more than stick with me, it resonated, Lit a fire in my chest, and had me in my feelings faster than any Drake song.

“I’m wildin’ cuz that’s all I know. I’m hopin’ I don’t waste this…Plus mama says she thinks I’m chosen. I’m hopin’ I don’t waste it.”

Now you can probably guess the relationship between me and my mom from how hard this hit me. We have our differences but at the end of the day, the fear of taking her love for granted and disappointing her is one of my biggest motivators to be successful in life and I think that’s true for a lot of people. This chorus alone, a couple lines of text, had me hitting replay over and over again and even when I wasn’t spamming the song, I was a broken record humming that last line on the street. Like I Love It by Kanye West the lyrics were pretty simple and catchy as hell but they meant so much more to me than just words. This song taught me that music is powerful but when it taps into a memory or a repression emotion it can truly explode your mind.

After listening to Wildin’ for the hundredth time I decided to go back to the song that should have started my obsession, Janet.

Before I get into that, another thing that needs to be said is Berhana’s immaculate storytelling ability that appears in his lyrics but also his music videos. Wildin’s music video begins with a bruised and bloodied Berhana getting his haircut by a Japanese man who mutters something in Japanese. I thank the youtube comment section for the translation which is, “You’re an adult so stop acting childish.” This is the main message of the entire song summed up in the first 5 seconds of the video and really captures the grim and untold aspects that come with fame from the famous person’s perspective.

All Berhana wants to do is provide for his mother and not disappoint her, showing complete disinterest in all of the activities rappers typically showcase in their music videos like clubs, money, and strippers. He eventually gets robbed and beaten up due to his flexing and the video loops back to the beginning. He lacks maturity and self-respect, dooming himself to repeat the cycle of roller coaster highs and lows because he’s too concerned with making everyone else happy and not worrying about himself. Without the visuals, the foreshadowing in the intro and the twist at the end, the song has an entirely different meaning, highlighting the importance of experiencing music through different mediums.

Lastly, I want to get back to Janet because honestly, I think this was my biggest mistake. Again Berhana’s chorus stuck with me but I couldn’t quite put my finger on why. The reason was that I misheard him and further examination of the lyrics had me slapping myself. The funny part is I think Berhana anticipated this. “Wonder if you’ll dismiss me, Maybe light skinned Aunt Viv me.” This line makes the song and because It went over my head completely so too did the song.

In the fourth season of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, the actress who played Aunt Viv, Janet Hubert, was replaced by a lighter skinned actress with nowhere near the talent of her predecessor. Berhana voices his concerns with this change by basically stating that it doesn’t matter what he does as an artist because a decadent executive could have him replaced at any moment. This is further emphasized by the video where he is dressed in white nondescript clothes in a white nondescript location holding a bright red gallon of Kool-Aid. Eventually, he takes a sip and gets the contents all over his white hoodie symbolizing that one slip up or a display of his true colors could ruin his entire career dominated by a white majority.

I am not defending Kanye West’s shitty song. What I am trying to say here is that catchy music sticks in the brain for a reason. Sometimes that reason isn’t just because of an ingeniously crafted brainwashing technique. Sometimes it’s because you missed a stick or two of dynamite on your first listen of an artist that is just waiting to Michael Bay your mind out of the water on round 2.

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