Eno Barony. That's the name. The first lady to win Rapper of the Year or its equivalent at any meaningful Music Awards event anywhere on the continent.
On the night it happened, Eno had a hunch. She had gone down with a mysterious illness minutes prior to the event, the 4th annual 3Music Awards. To her it was bad timing, good omen!
Eno had to settle with watching it all on her phone just a few metres away from the event venue, where she was also in the middle of shooting a music video. The title of the Music Video? God is a Woman!
Still unwell, she sat in a reclined seat in a vehicle as her PA held a phone broadcasting the event. The whole set crew watched along on the phone.
Eno remembers herself wearing a pink suit. Pink is the colour for feminine. A suit is to say you really mean business. That night at the 3Music Awards, Eno Barony would announce that women had arrived to the big time and this time they really meant business!
Barony was born to Missionary parents. Her mom always sang in church. Her father, a preacher, was an amateur song writer who used to write songs for his wife. Their daughter, who taught herself to play the drumset, also occasionally sang for her dad to usher in his evangelistic crusades. It was she who would become the star.
"I never really listened to secular music as a child. My parents wouldn't let me. It was only until High School that I came across rap music while attending compulsory Entertainment programs. It was love at first sight. I knew I wanted it. I wanted to do rap music then and I had a strange feeling I could. That's how it started." Eno Barony recalls.
The rapper had no real rap heroes growing up. She had heard of Lauren Hill, Queen Latifah and Missy Elliot- whom she also bore a marked resemblance- but she never really listened to any.
A decade ago, the star chanced on a radio show where emerging rappers used to battle it out for credibility. A certain Sarkodie was one of the battlers that night. The show also boasted several talents, including Criss Waddle, Yaa Pono and DCryme who would all go on to become award-winning household names in music.
"That's when I decided to make a career out of music" Eno states, "For me, doing music or rap was not the difficult part. The hard part was telling my parents."
That meeting is what makes this victory sweeter. Mama Barony had that gaze of woe and contempt all over her face. Papa stared at her with the look the PTA chairman gave his child who won no prizes at the Speech and Prize Giving Day. No female rapper had ever succeeded in this profession in this part of the world, they tried to remind and warn her. Why not take the safe option?
It was too late. Her parents knew they were fighting a losing battle that fateful day, as most people do when they come up against this rapper. Theirs was a daughter of few words, and big statements.
The preacher had raised Eno Barony to watch him on stage preaching about the messiah. Not in his wildest dreams did he imagine his own daughter mounting a stage and being hailed as the messiah.
“I foresaw this. I have never doubted my own abilities- ever. A decade ago while breaking through I said I was gonna become the first female Best Rapper in a freestyle with Dr. Pounds. That video is still on YouTube. I always back myself.” Eno crows. “My only regret is my mother did not live long to see this day.” The ferocious bar-heavy rapper rues.
This day is a reference to her win at the 3Music Awards ‘21- the mother of all feminine achievements in music. She knows that women in music are at a big disadvantage.
“We (women) have huge handicaps in music, especially in this part of the world. Nearly everything in the industry counts against us. The history, the culture, the demands, and the sacrifices required. You would really have to be resolute, relentless, and want it 100% to survive here as a woman. Unfortunately, not many of us have the minerals required. We still really have a long way to go.” She laments.
Eno knows her stuff. A recent survey across Africa by the 3Media Networks reveals that a lowly 19% quota for awards consideration goes to females in secular music. The space is traditionally male-dominated, perceptibly scandalous, and demanding. “Most of us are too pampered, too unready to suffer long, and too easily swayed. We can’t wait for it.” She concurs.
For many years Eno backed her skills and faced the music. Her talent was never in doubt. Instead, it was the fear that she will either not be accepted by the industry or master the endurance required. There were few investors in music, and even fewer record labels, and most were not ready to risk that bet.
In 2019 Eno signed to a new record label, Magic Mindx Music Group, after years of subtle latency. It was the spark to music’s biggest revolution; the hope for women in the arts. An exploit which future generations of female creatives would aspire to emulate.
Eno remembers the pacesetters to the notable invasion of women in the space today. “I think of pioneers like Abrewanana. Then there was a time when MzBel carried us on her back alone. She was very consistent in an era where there were no ladies in the game. We owe her a lot for her efforts and sacrifice. Also, there was the late Ebony...”
“…Now there’s more of us here [at the biggest events]. Wendy Shay, Adina, and Gyakie are all doing admirably well. The Late Ebony, Diana Hamilton and I have all chalked significant successes for women over the past few years. We are on the right path. Maybe someday we will have an equal representation of women in the space. But I can guarantee this: we will rule soon!”
That’s the promise of the messiah that was promised. Africa’s first female to win rapper of the year anticipates better things for her and her compatriots.
She declines to discuss the 'season of beef' between some of the industry’s top females of which she was most prominent. It’s not in her DNA to fixate on negatives. She is still busy learning to carry women on her backs with every dose of success. It’s been quite a journey.
Eno Barony is reminded of how she let slip her original 3Music 21 Rapper of the Year gold plaque the first time she picked it up.
“To be honest I am not used to lifting an award so weighty and valuable. This is the very first major award I have won. A combination of how weighty the award truly is and the nostalgia overwhelmed me. Memories flooded my head that very moment. All the questions that were asked. All the fears and doubts. The hard work has been rewarded and the naysayers have all been silenced. This is huge for women everywhere.”
It’s been a truly remarkable journey. It really has. For years they have been asking in music circles who the first female to win Rapper of the Year in Africa is. Not even Google could help. Until now. That woman, that name is…Eno Barony!
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