The most important record in Suriname Hiphop to me is No Dat A No Ala by Papa Touwtji. Picking any one track out of Touwtji’s rich body of work is tricky. Santo Boma exploded on the scene like molotov cocktail. Gangster was and still is bigger than any other rap record, local or not, that the Nation ever heard. But to me, no other track has had the impact, the power and the value that No Dat A No Ala has.
Papa Touwtji is Suriname’s 2pac for several reasons. His militant mindedness and role as a voice of the ghetto youth, combined with the agressive way in which he carried out his message, while destroying anyone who even thought of testing him, along with his stints in jail and his many run ins with authority made him a controversial and notorious public figure. Much like Bob Marley, he was a folk hero, a true musician and a practicing Rastafarian.
From the moment that the strings introduce the surprisingly melodic track and the beat drops, Touwtji’s energy can be felt as he laces the intro:
Mi na wan test man a tru mi no sabi.
The hook follows and is remarkable in its sing songy catchiness, reminiscent of the style invented by A Tribe Called Quest, perfected by Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and later popularized for the mass market by Nelly.
Touwtji effortlessly switches from hook to verse as he kicks the most memorable flow in Surihop history, using both rhythm and melody to produce a smooth and addictive rhyme:
‘Hee dibi dibI DJ fawaka/ jow jere tak a bad wan fut man doro baka/ skoifi pkin boi ef I no wan ie baka panja/ ma mama no ben bari fi no prei nanga faja/ gangster na master ala san no abi fu plata/ snuitjes uit un mofen in in wan saka/bar eng gi den Touwtji papa kon baka, mow verhoisi deng ala mala pot na in mi saka.’
He abandons the same rhyme pattern, only to later pick it up and add: ‘fu sen den ala kon a mek mi trap ondro mi patta/um sji eng lek wan rasta shi fa deng e feti den brada/ nofo respeki di mi seni gi almighty jahjah/ na eng e krin mi pasi en e jep mi dat hoor mi baka’.
Touwtji switches from braggadiccio to word play, to religion, all the while referencing hinting and involving. It works on many levels. The deceptive aspect is that his voice and delivery sound playful, while he lays out dangerous and potent threats to competitors, keeping contenders at arms length and professing his religious beliefs. His genius is evident, if not fully understood, even before he launches into a historic narrative by relaying his personal experiences as one Suriname’s hiphop icon involved with the discovery and cultivation of another.
Basja Rankin is a legend in his own right. His smash hit ‘Laf Grap (siki tap a bedi)’ and his involvement with several Suriname artists such as Danitsja Sahadewsingh are well known. Basja is a skilled MC, but more so, a charismatic entertainment with broad appeal. Basja and Touwtji were close, but legend has it that on a trip to Holland, the two had a falling out of sorts, resulting in a beef that lasted several years and was dragged out through live performances and mixtape tracks. Touwtji could have used his street buzz coming off hits like Gangster to strike at Basja hard. Instead, he took the opportunity to relay his version of history and offer to burry the hatchet.
Touwtji tells of their first meeting, his subsequent mentoring of a young Basja, their shared religious beliefs and hints at the animosity between them. Then, he proceeds to lay out the invitation to Basja Rankin to praise Selassie together.
Touwtji, like all great MC’s has fired off some contradictory calls to unification and war, revolution and peace. This record isn’t short of either. Touwtji both invites and threatens challengers while invoking a call to peace. But the story and genius behind it all amplify the tracks status as a historical treasure of Suriname’s hip hop history.