In August 2019, celebrated comedian, Dave Chappelle hosted a solidarity concert in the city of Dayton, after a gunman shot and killed 9 people in the Oregon District and injured 27 others weeks prior.
The concert which was to foster empathy and compassion saw many hip-hop greats including Thundercat, Talib Kweli and Teyana Taylor contributing via performances among others.
One of the artistes to honour that invitation was Chance The Rapper who closed that show with Stevie Wonder. Since this heartfelt act, Dave promised to return Chance’s favour.
But he may have underestimated the magnitude of the potential payback until Chance reached out to him three years on about travelling with him to Ghana.
“And then he asked,” he told the audience at the University of Ghana who burst into laughter.
The university’s Cedi Conference Hall would see more honest but rib-cracking conversations between Dave and Chance The Rapper for the rest of Thursday evening.
I was immediately star-struck as the ace comedian who I had watched for years, finally sat within reach.
Despite his expressive demeanour, Dave sat mostly leg-crossed, with his trademark cigar in hand. Every puff was a story.
Quite blatantly, Dave joked that he didn’t think returning Chance The Rapper’s favour would mean flying all the way from the US to Ghana.
However, he has contemplated visiting the country and perhaps even moving into the motherland permanently.
The first time he made such a pronouncement publicly was on a podcast with Naomi Campbell where he pointed to his inspiration from Steve Wonder’s earlier pledge to do the same.
However, he revealed another instance where he had once gotten the idea of residing in Ghana.
He also recalled a certain show he was billed for where he performed for some Seminole Indian-dominated audience.
According to him, it went quite terribly for him as many of his jokes were not received by the crowd who did not seem to be in the mood for a laugh.
He said after the show, he was pulled aside by the late NBA Hall of Famer, Bill Russel. Bill, per Dave’s account, saw the pain in his eyes and advised him.
The counsel was simple. Mr Russle told Dave that as an NBA player during his time, he visited Ghana for about a month each year to clear his head and get some relief from stressful basketball season.
He also recounted another instance where he expressed to hip-hop mogul, Jay Z, his willingness to settle in the motherland.
To his surprise, the musician agreed and even pulled up images from his phone of property he owned in Ghana.
A clearly excited Chance The Rapper asked the controversial comedian’s feelings about the country since his arrival.
Dave couldn’t express how excited he felt being among this much love and warmth. He had been to South Africa a couple of times for very varied reasons.
But, he insists the smiles that beam from Ghanaians’ faces exude genuine happiness which Black Americans have longed for.
He cannot wait to go back to the US, to tell the people about his experience in Ghana and encourage them to follow suit.
The dominance of Chinese nationals in Ghana was also something that also pricked him quite a bit.
The night prior, he had been sighted at a local club in Accra having fun in the company of Vic, Chance and some other notable entertainers.
Videos circulating of that night show the comedian taking a moment to appreciate the reception received since his arrival and the commonality experienced in the country.
He brought this up during the conversation at the university which dovetailed into a quick chat about identity.
According to him, the feeling of having people recognize you as one of their own and treat you with the kind of respect you have always wished for is still surreal to him. He lauded the Beyond the Return initiative which has seen him getting embraced by all.
He also recounted seeing his wife tear up at the airport on seeing him dance with to the welcoming ‘Adowa’ ensemble earlier this week.
He could not help but recognize all the black people who visited the country over the past month and the non-stop parties to which he has fallen victim.
The 49-year-old urged them to be cognizant of the need to also invest in the country while they have fun.
During the question time, there was a host of Ghanaian comedians who seized the opportunity to talk about the inspiration from Dave that fuel their drive.
He told them about the importance of their craft. For him, Africa and especially Ghana has the potential to thrive in the comedy world adding that it is one of the best ways to tell truth to power.
According to him, the continent has the potential but just lacks the infrastructure and context needed to trigger change through the genre.
It is his dream to see the next greatest comedian come from Ghana.
To honour this pledge, he restated his commitment to building a comedy club to enable the aspirations of young people in the country.
Some budding local comedians who were joyful about the pronouncements invited him to one of their shows to which he reacted in the affirmative.
He also hinted at returning with a show in Ghana in the foreseeable which will see more of the big names in world comedy converge in the country.
Dave also lauded Vic Mensa and Chance The Rapper for putting together events that trigger conversations about Africanism.
Also at the event were stars like Talib Kweli, Tobe Nwigwe, Rocky Dawuni, Michael Blackson among others.
The event formed part of a line-up of activities ahead of the Black Star Line Festival at the Black Star Square in Accra on January 6.
The musical concert will see Vic Mensa and Chance The Rapper perform alongside T-Pain, Erykah Badu, T-Pain, Sarkodie, Tobie Nwigwe, Asakaa Boys, and M.anifest among others surprise cats.
The author, Kenneth Awotwe Darko is a journalist, music enthusiast and social media analyst.
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