Accomplished singer-songwriter, composer and rapper Denning Edem Hotor, mononymously known as Edem sits among the first rank of leading Ghanaian sonic pathfinders and the country’s most prized musical exports. Over an impactful career, the musician, who also responds to the alias ‘Ayigbe Edem’, has also grown into a distinct model for creative leadership and initiative, artistic originality, and constant evolution. It is not for nothing. Behind an authentic and historic run of releases, Edem is the recipient of multiple honours both locally and internationally. He has also mounted some of the most illustrious platforms across the world and shared stages with global heavyweights.
A genre-fluid creative, Edem beautifully straddles a trifecta of influences: while he’s an emphatic name among rap circles, he also enjoys a continual, distinguished presence in reggae-dancehall, as well as Afropop/ Afrobeats pulses. Presenting primarily in his native Ewe, a minority language in the country, his craft has consistently earned him repute as a trailblazer.
Hailing from Dzogadze, a small town in Abor (V/R), the artist, one of two kids to a lawyer-dad and an educationist–mum, is a native of the Amazing Love International Schools, Bishop Herman College, the Radio Broadcasting Development Foundation (RABODEF), and Meridian University. He is the author of three critically acclaimed, increasingly innovative albums and an EP - all of which have gone on to serve as ready references for both his contemporaries and the emerging generation of artists.
Thematically, Edem caters to a plethora of relevant social themes, his offering habitually serving as backdrop for navigating the Ghanaian experience.
Professionally, Edem has practised since 2009, his mainstream break arriving with his debut collection, The Volta Regime. Executive produced by venerated producer, Hammer, whose Last Two Music Group has been responsible for the careers of other elite rappers including Obrafour, Tinny and Kwaw Kesse, the album instantly established Edem’s position as the foremost act from his region, a sonic pathfinder, and a perpetual place among the contemporary roster of Ghanaian musical talents. Since their release, Mass Production and Books & Rhymes, the albums that followed his debut, have only reiterated the man’s place within a single stratosphere. The former captured his transition from a “Volta” forbear into becoming a national name, whereas the latter saw him apply himself more to Afropop pulses, thus positioning him as a consummate African brand.
In 2020, Edem announced the Mood Swings EP. The VRMG honcho describes the six-track audio-visual project as “a full display of my confidence in my understanding of art, while shedding the orthodox concept of being a rapper or singer.” Though it speaks to a multiplicity of themes, the project is, at its core, homage to his mum, who passed when he was only thirteen.
Edem’s technique, an aural synthesis founded on clever lexical architecture, exceptional storytelling, and galvanising melodies, has earned him both nationwide appeal and continental respect. Among his notable collaborators are Sarkodie, Reekado Banks, Coptic, Davido, MI Abaga, Stonebwoy, Seyi Shay, Ice Prince Zamani, Cassper Nyovest, and Sway Dasafo.
Edem is the recipient of a plethora of honours in Ghan and beyond. Notable among them are a City People Award for Best Male personality, Hiplife Song of the Year trophy at the Black Canadian Awards, 4Syte Music Video Awards for Most Outstanding Video and Best Special Effects, a Bass Award for Reggae song of the Year, and a VGMA gong for Afropop Song of the Year.
Over the years, a sterling career has also secured him deals with reputable brands including Absloute Vodka Brand ambassador, telecoms giant Glo among others. He has also lent his star power and social influence to causes like the Trevor Martin Campaigns for BET Africa, Voices for Glaucoma (Yvonne Neslon Foundation) and the Meridian University as the Face of Education.
Constantly evolving, Edem has also shone as an entrepreneur. Taking up cues from notable examples from the west, Edem has set up a chain of businesses, and distinguished himself as a leading example, proving that it is possible for the Ghanaian entertainer to thrive in other fields too.
More than being an artist, Edem is keen on imbuing a sense of community among his followers. The rapper says this “brother’s keeper” philosophy stems from his modest upbringing, which taught him that a concerted effort is a winning formula.
“We’ve been raised to believe that you have to go alone but I think that narrative has to change. You have to be your brother’s keeper no matter how little it is.”
Edem’s philanthropic efforts span decades and the spectrum of the Ghanaian society. Victims of the Keta tidal wave, inmates of the Weija Leprosarium and the Momobi Children’s Clinic have all benefited from the musician’s charity efforts over the years.
Having done it all in his native Ghana, this next phase of Edem’s career assume a more pan-African outlook. For followers of the musician, this comes as no surprise. “I think on the Ghana level, I have always been a firm believer in being proud of your roots. And so I think, that technically feeds into the fact that I’m a proud Ghanaian and a proud African and I want to be able to show my Africanness on a global scale, because I have been able to figure out how to do the regional one on a national scale,” Edem explains. “I believe that Ghana and how diverse we are has a different presentation that we bring to the table. We sort of have a different fibre that we offer to the global community.”