Tag Archives: M3nsa

Event: Living the Hiplife

ImageLet’s get this show on the road… and what better way to do so than with a party. Of sorts.

  • What: The launch of the book, Living the Hiplife – Celebrity & Enterpreneuship in Ghanaian Popular Music
  • Where: Grandpappaz (next to Rockstone’s Office)
  • When: Thursday, 11th April at 6pm
  • How (Much): Zero Ghana Cedis for your pocket
  • Why? Well… read on:

I completely missed the boat on early hiplife. I simply wasn’t around when it happened. I remember coming to Ghana on holiday sometime in the ’90s and hearing Reggie Rockstone for the first time. I think the song was called ‘Plan B’ (the one where he impersonates a car horn…) Loved it, but as a DJ, I have this huge gaping hole when it comes to old school hiplife.

*Enter Jesse Shipley from stage left*

So, it turns out that instead of simply listening and dancing to the music, ONE person set about documenting it. I heard of the documentary, ‘Living the Hiplife’ almost as soon as I moved back to Ghana (wow. Almost a decade now).

I was lucky enough to meet the man behind the documentary – Jesse Weaver Shipley – the other day. Quite an honour: when Dr. Esi Ansah suggested to me a few years ago that I switch over to academia (as it was the only thing that would allow me to do all the different things I wanted to do… and make a living), she used Jesse as an example. An Associate Professor at Haverford College in the US, Jesse is also a filmmaker, writer, and ethnographer.

He recently turned the documentary into a book: ‘Living the Hiplife – Celebrity & Enterpreneuship in Ghanaian Popular Music’. The good news is he’s launching it this Thursday (11th April; 6pm) – where else but at the house that Rockstone built: Grandpappaz, next to Rockstone’s Office.

It’s basically an historical and social account of hiplife, from the 1990s until today, featuring an all-star cast that includes Gyedu Blay Ambolley, Reggie Rockstone, Panji, Hammer, Obrafour, VIP, Tic Tac, Sidney, Buk Bak, Okyeame Kwame, Tinny, and Abrewa Nana as well as newer stars like D Black, R2Bees, Samini, M3nsa, Wanlov, M.anifest, Efya, Edem, Mzbel, Sarkodie, and Kwaw Kese.

I’m a popular culture fiend, so I’ll definitely be there. I hear he’ll have a few exclusive signed copies and besides showing the documentary, there will be DVDs too. All that and some of the aforementioned GHelebrities will be there. Plus my old office-mate from Joy FM, Bra DJ Black (naturally, on the wheels of steel).

Hope you can make it too.

Music: M&M (m.anifest & M3nsa)

Four of my favourite Ghanaian musicians are making moves at the minute. I’ve already waxed lyrical today about the Blitz the Ambassador concert with Les Nubians & VIP at Alliance Francaise this weekend. One day, God will grant me my wish of seeing Blitz , M3nsa, Wanlov the Kubolor and m.anifest on one stage, right here in Ghana. Meanwhile, I will settle for performances, new albums and new videos.

M.anifest

Gangstarr’s Guru (RIP) once famously rapped that “It’s mostly the voice that lifts you up / It’s mostly the voice that makes you buck / A lot of rappers got flavour and some got skill / But if your voice ain’t dope, then you need to chill…

M Dot Dot Dot Ti Dot has one of the most distinctive voices in Ghanaian music. It’s not his accent but rather his voice itself. Or maybe his flow. It has a dash of baritone about it. Whatever it is, it’s certainly smooth on the ear.

Fest has dropped a new album… and it’s a good one. Just ask Kojo Baffoe. In a similar vein to Wanlov’s ‘Green Card‘ and Blitz the Ambassador’s ‘Native Sun‘, the new album hinges primarily on the experiences of the Ghanaian forced to live abroad… he who can only come home for short amounts of time. Though it deals with similar themes though, m.anifest’s new album is all his own.

What sets Coming to America apart for me is that there is something on there for everyone. Want some afrobeat? Try ‘Motherland’. Something for the club? ‘One Night Only’ (featuring Eldee Da Don) will get any club popping. Prefer your beats reggae-influenced? ‘Fest has that ‘Fiyah’ for you. Something mellow? ‘Blue’ is music to chill to. ‘Asa’ is a little more experimental in terms of how it takes a traditional beat arrangement and modernizes it. It’s a very nice track, although I feel like Efya (though good) didn’t quite knock this one out of the park the way she usually does.

My personal favourite track is ‘Sunsum Praye’ on which m.anifest spits almost entirely in Twi over a moody, syncopated broken beat courtesy of Kweku Ananse. It comes right at the end of the album and it sounds quite unlike any other Ghanaian song I have ever heard. The drum beat sounds like something traditional that has been sped up and yet it sounds very futuristic. The keys mellow me out. The horns speak of ancestry and reverence. I would love to hear more Ghanaian music in this vein.

First and foremost though, m.anifest is a hiphop MC. Straight no chaser and when it comes to straight hiphop, there is loads to bop your head to here, especially when m.anifest rhymes over beats by his regular partners in musical crime, Budo of Rhymesayers and G-Mo.

‘Immigrant Chronicles: Coming to America’ is a solid collection of songs from a solid MC.

M3nsa

I’m beefing with M3nsa. He has a track called ‘When It Rains It Pours’. It was the first song I heard him sing on. My problem? It’s too short. Pound for pound, there are few Ghanaian artists who can step to M3nsa. He is a chameleon of a producer. The M3nsa who produced, rapped and sang ‘Laurian’ seems a different MC to the one who is now one-half of the FOKN Bois (with Wanlov). Yet, the two are one and the same. A fool  may make the mistake of thinking that the FOKN Bois’ humour is plain bufoonery, but – like all the best comedy – there are hidden meanings to be pondered and thought through, and at least half of that comes from M3nsa.

I love his new single, ‘Fanti Love Song’ (taken from his album, No. 1 Mango Street). Have done since I first heard the track on Ms. Naa’s ‘Ryse & Shine’ show. It’s underscored by the same chords as Deniece Williams’ ‘Free‘ and is at least as breezy as that song, partly because of the all guitar work going on in the background, but also the lightness of M3nsa’s singing voice. It’s at least loosely-based on ‘Tsena Me Nkyen‘ by Paapa Yankson, although M3nsa’s take on it is very, very stripped down. I have a feeling that fans of the original might scream ‘sacrilege’ but I think it’s cool to hear anyone from this generation taking cues from the one before it, especially over instrumentation this nice.

Mr. Hagan has posted the new video. Check it out here.

You may also want to visit This is Africa for my review of Wanlov the Kubolor‘s Brown Card: African Gypsy.

What I’m Feeling – July

Been a little busy recently but nothing keeps me away from the blog for too long these days. June was a little slow for me musically speaking… but the beginning of July has seen lots of good music flow in. I’ve tried to attach as many links to free downloads as possible but hurry: these things don’t tend to stay free for long!

Blitz the Ambassador & the Embassy – Ye Da Mo Ase
The World Cup ended for me when the Stars got kicked out, but our boys did us proud and one of our brightest stars on the underground scene – Blitz the Ambassador – has done us proud too, cooking up this scorcher of a thank-you song. The Embassy blow the horns while Blitz rhymes in Twi. This is awesome stuff. It’s amazing to hear a Twi rhyme against a backdrop of highlife horns straight out of ’70s Ghana. I wish more Ghanaian music juxtaposed past and present as magnificently as this. Love the ’70s feeling video too.

Bilal – Free (download)
Bilal was one of the early victims of the ‘neo-soul’ tag that his Soulquarian peers have tried to break away from since the mid-90s. Since then, he followed one cool (leaked) album with guest spots for artists from a host of genres but nothing defined the man himself… until now. ‘Free’ is a very apt title for this track, which shows Bilal breaking free of any tags and making a song as genre-defying as himself. The kick and the snare, the horns and that 60s-sounding organ are all rounded out by some memorable lyrics from the man himself. With elements from past and present, it’s classic soul without jumping on any Winehouse-esque bandwagons.

Cee Lo – I’ll Kill Her feat. ME & LOnan the Destroyer
Hilarious track. I crack up every time I hear it. Cee-Lo spends the entire song attempting to placate a French admirer intent on murdering the woman he chose over her. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned by Sweet Sugar Lo. Taken from his mixtape, Stray Bullets.

Anjolee – Water
So beautiful. Anjolee sings about a simple but important topic – water – against a backdrop of African strings and a dope beat. I heard this on my boy Kweku Anansi’s Libation mixtape, which you really should download if you haven’t already.

The FOKN Bois vs. Kweku Ananse – Coz Ov Moni: the Remix EP
Speaking of Ananse, this came through just yesterday. Nice & fresh. If you read the blog last month, you’ll already know how strongly I feel about the classic that is Wanlov or M3nsa’s Coz Ov Moni. Now it’s been remixed by my partner-in-DJ-crime Ananse… and it’s a banger. Ananse was the perfect person to remix this. He’s worked with both artists and has the same musical sensibilities, especially a love of classic highlife, hip hop beats and all things Fela, all very evident here. There are actually a few of the tracks here which are improvements on the originals beatwise (I think this one leans slightly towards hip hop, which has tighter beats than highlife, which is more melody driven) but I can imagine myself fluctuating between the originals and their remixes a lot in the coming months and years. I LOVE the link he made between Sometimes by Bilal and the song by the same title on the album: genius!

I’ll post the link to the whole album as soon as I get it, but meanwhile make sure to check out Rodney Quarcoo’s cool blog R&D (store it) who I’m sure will be one of the first to post it. Meanwhile, I need to go grab Anansi and start putting pressure on him for a sequel to Libation. It’s bad enough waiting for D’Angelo to release a new album: I don’t need any more stress.

The Roots – The Fire feat. John Legend
There was no way my favorite group was going to release an album without it making this list. The Roots are one of the few remaining acts whose albums I would buy on principle without a precautionary listen. Haven’t been able to download the whole album yet, but this track – featuring John Legend – has been holding me down. I can’t wait to hear their work on Legend’s upcoming album, The Wake Up Sessions, which they apparently produced.

Dilla – Shine feat. Robert Glasper & Zynzelay (download)
Soulquarian goodness from beyond the grave as my favourite jazz musician jumps on a slinky track by my favourite producer. It’s all about the keys for me. Glasper is so effortless with it.

Estelle & DJ Trauma – #ialmostmadeamixtape (download)

Estelle is an old acquaintance from London and is just as fun, creative and free spirited in real-life as she sounds on record. This record (previewing her upcoming album, All of Me) captures a lot of that. The hashtag is not just a nice little marketing stroke, but is very apt for someone who is one of the most profilic twitterers I know, gotdamnit.

Raphael Saadiq – It’s a Shame (download)
A great remake of the song famously sampled by Monie Love for her tune of the same title. I’d never heard the original actually but if it’s anything like this, then I really should. Raphael has really nailed this soul renaissance thing down to a tee.

Aloe Blacc & the Grand Scheme – Billie Jean
Aloe Blacc takes MJ’s classic and slows it right DOWN. Hearing a song in a different genre (in this case, the blues) always brings out the lyrics, which I felt I was hearing for the first time here. Deeply soulful stuff. See it for yourself…

SPECIAL MENTION
Muhsinah – Dear __ __ Sampler
If you don’t like hearing unfamiliar music, then this won’t be your cup of tea. I however do and this excited the hell out of me. It’s as though she’s trying to come up with a new genre of music altogether. Love it, and I cannot wait for the finished product.

The Awesomeness of Richy Pitch (according to my sister & I)

My sister and I were sitting next to each other – laptops on laps – when I stumbled across the new Richy Pitch/m.anifest single, Black Star, on Soulbounce. Cut to the next scene and both of us were engaged in a mad electronic dash towards our respective blogs to be first-in- household to share the video’s brilliance with everyone. In the end though, we decided to compromise and do our first joint blog.

This is how it went…

First off, here’s the video:

Kukuwah: OK… so Kobby  claims I used to play this game called…

Kobby: It wasn’t a game. It was a computer called the Commodore 64 on which you played all sorts of games. Like Streetfighter II.

Kukuwah: yeah…whatever. I still don’t remember. Anyway he showed me the video and I wanted to do too known on my blog because I know most people haven’t seen it. I think it is very interesting because of the computer animation. There was a point that I was wondering why the song was moving so fast.

Kobby: … actually in the beginning, you were asking why it was so slow…

Kukuwah: Clear off… so like I was saying, I was wondering why it was so fast and it clicked: video games have levels, so as the song went on they were advancing in levels.

Kobby: yes, my dear sister *pats her on the head.* That is what games were like in my day: we loaded them from cassettes, they took ten minutes to load and anything with actual human voices or faces were hi-tech… even though they were so badly pixelated. Besides being clever & authentic, the video holds so much nostalgia for me. What did you get from it?

Kukuwah: The fact that it was different gave me some liiiiiiiiight goosebumps. I didn’t get why he didn’t die when he passed over the pothole.

Kobby: have you ever seen anyone die from a pothole?

Kukuwah: oooooooooooooooooooh aaah…its a video game. You die when random things happen.

Kobby: good point. Hold on, listen to this…

Kobby: another banger from Richy Pitch, this time with Sway & M3nsa. I love how Richy put this whole thing together using real sounds you’d hear at a football game. Sounds so much better than the stack of rubbish Black Star tribute songs that I keep seeing on Ghana telly.

Kukuwah: pi pi pipipipipi….(whistle blowing) *Some small asokpo dancing.* In as much as this song is a jama song, it’s quite sensible. Giving good instructions to the team and chief supporters.

Kobby: abi? I think it’s the best Ghanaian football song I’ve ever heard frankly. Way better than Talal Fattal’s bloody, ‘Come on Black Stars Ghana… GHAAAAAANAAAAA’ (Going/Shooting/Whatever Straight to the Top)…

Kukuwah: meeeehn…you don’t even know the words…hahahahahaha..Talal n team you shaaaaaaaaaa!!! Chale, there are more ‘horridible’ support songs. I like the band at the end of the song. NICE!

Kobby: looks like we agree on this one, Richy…

Kukuwah: … you force you force…

Kobby: … waaa. Oh, and in case you’re literary-inclined, check out Nii Ayikwei Parkes’ football related short story, Sock’s Ball, which just came online in time for the World Cup.

Kukuwah: I enjoyed doing this with you, Kobina

Kobby: And I with you, sis. Very proud of that brain you’ve started flexing small small of late. As for before…

Kukuwah: mtcheeeeeeew…

… and that’s how it went.

Oh, by the way, my sister’s blog is Kasapoley and it’s all sorts of nice.

What I’m Feeling – June

I had this thing I did on my old blog where I would post ten tunes that I was really feeling (almost) every month. I figure now is as good a time as ever to start over… perhaps even more so because – although I am on radio – I really don’t get the chance to play what I want on-air: I think my bosses would spontaneously combust if I did. You should see them flinch whenever I even think the words ‘underground’ and ‘music’ in combination. That won’t matter after today. Right after this post, I’m drafting my resignation letter.

Sayonara, b*****s.

Anyway… here goes (in no particular order).

1. Unthinkable – Alicia Keys

I’m so glad this song made it to the top of the US charts. It’s such a beautifully composed track and it’s been ringing in my head now for months. Personally, The Element of Freedom is the album I’ve waited for from Alicia for years. There’s so much more attention to percussion on it and Unthinkable (and Try Sleeping with a Broken Heart) showcase this to devastating effect. If this is the result of her relationship with Swizz Beats, then it will help me get over my broken heart (which is still healing after hearing about their relationship).

I don’t understand all the people who hate on Drake, especially considering his work on this (he co-wrote it and provided backing vocals).  As though that wasn’t enough, it has a thought-provoking video that adds a whole new level to the lyrics.

2. Back Again (feat. Res) / Got Work / My Life – Reflection Eternal

As a huge Soulquarian fan, the reuniting of Talib Kweli and DJ Hi-Tek is a big deal for me. Their new album Revolutions Per Minute is still growing on me. While I don’t think it’s anywhere near as repeat-listenable as their first collaboration, Train of Thought, Back Again (featuring Talib’s brilliant Idle Warship partner-in-crime, Res), Got Work and My Life have had me wearing out the rewind button on my car stereo.

3. Assassins – John Mayer

Yep. I heard all the furore and how he lost his hood pass. I think he got caught out there trying to be too clever and ended up saying something fantastically stupid that made him sound like a complete ass. Yes. But that’s as far as I’m going to take it. If people can forgive R. Kelly for all of his dumbassery, then I can give Mr. Mayer the side-eye and appreciate the music… and Assassins is a great piece of music. I’m sorry, but it just is.

4. Faster – Slum Village feat. Colin Munroe (download)

Wow. Remove the vocals and even the instrumentation in the background does it for me. Something about the chord arrangements. Reminds me of what I liked about TI’s ‘What You Know About That?’ but it has something of the 80s about it too. I think it’s the drum snap. Sorry… I’m geeking out. All that said, Slum Village are one of my favourite hip hop groups. In spite of the fact that they’ve lost two key members to heaven (including Dilla – one of the best producers of all time), they consistently churn out great hip-hop.

5. Closer – Corinne Bailey Rae

I melted the first time I heard this. And the second time. And the third… it’s amazing that there is anything left of me. Corinne’s voice kills me in a way that only Sade, Norah, Amel and Aya have ever been able to do and this track is the best of example of that. Everytime she says “I wanna get closer to you… baby” part of my soul wants to just move to wherever the hell she is on earth and grant her that wish.

Only I don’t think she’d appreciate a stalker.

6. My Sweetie – Wale

I love Wale for this: his gift to all his fellow Africans. It was about time someone did something with one of the biggest and most-recognizable-to-anyone-from-any-part-of-Africa tunes – Bunny Mack‘s ‘Let Me Love You‘ and Wale delivers, complete with shoutouts to Ghana and Nigeria, references to West African parties, spraying and the line ‘You are not hard. You’re fufu soft’. Makes me proud to be African. The video’s cool too.

Love it.

7. Power – Kanye West (download)

See this? It’s me jumping unashamedly onto the media bandwagon. As you probably guessed from No. 3, I can forgive a lot of assholery and when Kanye serves up a track this anthemic, my patience wears very thick. This reminds me of the Rocky theme tune. Or Eminem’s ‘Lose Yourself’. Kanye hasn’t done this kind of track since ‘Jesus Walks’. I like the Nina-esque handclaps too. And the rock sample (King Crimson, I’m told: reminds me of Led Zep, who… well… rock). The whole thing is like a musical middle finger to anyone who has anything to say to him. I was a little disappointed by the lyrics though. I thought he was supposed to be stepping up his rap game on the new album but this sounds a little simplified, if earnest. I liked the line ‘I just needed time alone with my own thoughts / Got treasures in my mind but couldn’t open up my own vault‘ though. Nice.

8. Coz Ov Moni (the whole album) – The FOKN Bois (Wanlov & M3nsa)

Man. Where do I begin? Okay, saw the movie. Too short and the narrative was too sprawling for me but it was TOO FUNNY. I was at the premiere and people only stopped clutching their sides long enough to give standing ovations. At the end of every scene.

Every. Single. Scene.

In their kindness, Wanlov & M3nsa are selling both the DVD and its soundtrack for only GHc5. I bought it a fortnight ago and, after the umpteenth rewind, I realize that the music even works without the visuals.

If you want to listen to something that will give you an idea of what it is like to live in Ghana, acquire Coz Ov Moni (film and/or soundtrack) and prepare for a lesson.Unlike other Ghanaian rappers who boast or try painfully hard to be imitaition-American, Wanlov and M3nsa talk about real situations Ghanaians are familiar with – going to the beach (something we do every holiday), chop bars, sakawa (internet fraud), going to the club, African history, childhood games, la boro (borrowing), getting attacked by thieves… every song is based around a real theme Ghanaians go through or hear about everyday. And as if that is not enough, they use cool highlife-based beats and rattle off the whole thing in pidgin English (the real lingua franca of Ghana). It’s hilarious too: the sheer drama of the second verse of Beach Dey Jom and the whole of Mr Kwashay in particular. To quote Wanlov, “Mek I laugh in capital letters – HA HA HA”.

Like listening to American hip-hop and not getting all the references, you may not get everything if you’re not Ghanaian… and I think that’s the point. The whole project seems based around the notion of pride in being Ghanaian… even the mundanities of Ghanaian life. If there was such a thing as Ghanaian rap school, this is it: so many musicians here could stand to learn from this. Seriously: people need to study this. They should teach it in universities.

This is the only Ghanaian entry on my list this month: I’m not really feeling anything else I’ve heard this month. Nothing comes (barely) close.

A Ghanaian classic.

9. Pass Out – Tinie Tempah

I know: I’m betraying my British side. Whatever. The more I hear this song, the more I like it. It’s just fun. And I like the rock-out, drum-and-bass bit at the end. While this is definitely something straight out of Britain, I can actually imagine this having an international (ie. American…) appeal. Apparently, he’s Ghanaian too (not to be mistaken with Tinny, who really needs to stop with this ‘It’s a Bard Man Ting’. Please. I got over the spelling of your name but Bard? ) Oh. Just checked: he’s Nigerian. Anyway, between Lethal B, Sway, Dizzee (well, half of him), Donae’o, Tinchy Stryder and now Tinie (oh, and my brother too), it seems West Africans are cornering the UK rap charts.

10. Tightrope – Janelle Monae

I love everything Monae does. Art, energy and awesomeness on two legs. She appeared on Late Night with David Letterman recently. Letterman gave her his usual introduction but after her funkier-than-a-mosquito’s-tweeter performance, the man practically bounced out of his seat to remind everyone who she was, what her album is called and who she is being promoted by (“My buddy Sean”. That’s Diddy to lesser mortals).

If you haven’t done so already, bless your life by watching her video for Many Moons too. And if you don’t like it (or don’t at least find it entertaining), please don’t tell me.

Because I will probably lose respect for you.

Seriously.