By Gabriel Myers Hansen
It is important for rappers to mount their flag and “mark their territory”. After all, it is the very culture of rap music –to be able to brag or significantly hyperbolise the circumstances surrounding their rise to grace –even lie about it minus remorse — just for shegey reasons. It appears to be part of the whole artistic process. Indeed it could be proven, at least elsewhere, that these abrasive legends of fame and success can be effective in getting misguided youth to discover ambition, or even to hold on to hope.
At the same time, it is important for rappers to tell the truth. True, it is the duty of anyone who breathes to be honest (else we won’t make heaven), but it is especially crucial about rappers for instance, too –because, in the end, their fundamental calling is to be honest. Just like Anas and the neighbourhood drunkard, rappers have to be society’s mirror. Take what Nina Simone says about artistry for instance; “An artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times”, right before she goes ahead to stress that is something that artists have to “choose” to do.
And so while it is basic for rappers to be flamboyant about their version of events, it should also be their creed to be truthful — to confess how they knelt before God (unsure and in tears) when they were at their lowest… to admit that regardless of everything, at the very core, and right through it all, Oluwa is involved:
“so if you dey wonder how I do my thing, e bi my God oh
namɔ ni haa mi hewalɛ nɛkɛ, ebi my God oh
so when you see me rolling on your block, e bi my God oh
lɛ ekɛ sikli woɔ [m]i koko mli koko, e my God oh”
Second point: artists have to (really have to) engage in mentorship, which might be the most effective evidence of legacy. Artists have some of the most loyal followership you would ever witness, and its remarkable. And so for the teenager who constantly dreams of being a rapper because they’ve idolised one for so long, they deserve true mentorship, even if it is from a distance. They need more than to merely memorise rap lyrics of the one they adore. They should be guided realistically, of the way they should go.They should know, for instance, that rap (good rap) goes beyond the ability to rhyme and brag, for all true rap should come from an emotion. They deserve to know the opinion of their idols on various questions of life and living it — love, politics, fame, et cetera… even a sensitive matter as faith. In that way, Koko is needed.
“Wetin no be koko for my God oh
Your wahala be koko for my God oh”
Mentoring means you the artist “ descending” to become human, and showing the mentee that you too have been through exactly what they are battling and have thrived, and so they can too — for the truth –even if everyone else accepts it, is only true to us if it is spoken by someone we trust.
Even on such an uplifting song on which he hands all credit to God, he would mention clothes and girls…because it’s what rappers do. But this time, we can tolerate it…it’s even normal, because this time, it’s more a testimony than anything else:
“ When I’m shopping, ,there’s notin [nothing] wey I no go fit afford oh
See me rocking my balenciaga for my God oh
And by his grace, there’s no girlie I no fit ron oh”
Also, EL is mentoring well, through songs like “Hallelujah”…also through his B.A.R mixtapes. The B.A.R II is especially emotional and practical in how it contains nuggets for the young and restless. “10 Rap Commandments” and “We No dey Hear” are the best example for the aspiring rapper. If an artist is mentoring, then they are doing their job well, they are influencing, so they are extending the span of their relevance and legacy. Else, how would you feel, as an artist, if you meet a die –hard fan of yours who could have been so much better had a word of encouragement been spoken to them, or an act of mentorship performed toward them, particularly from you…because, you are fully aware they place you higher than Jehovah himself. That’s your responsibility too.
“Koko” is local porridge; what most of us often have for breakfast, sometimes for dinner. It could also refer to something done without effort, in Ghanaian pidgin. For instance, ‘ the work be koko’ –the work is very easy. Like it’s rhythm, it has become a hit in a steady, gentle manner.
It is not unusual for Elorm Adabla, or EL, or Elom, or Lomi…to have a song titled ‘Koko’ –he’s always possessed wit, especially in pidgin –in punchlines and song titles: Pour Put Inside, On A Long Tin, One Ghana ( for your pocket), Obuu mɔ [ you have no respect], Kaalu [don’t misbehave].
El is a remarkable rapper, one of the best we have –he’s also a respectable singer, and it’s another thing we’ve come to recognise him for. He sings entirely in this song …in pidgin, which has proven to be one of his most effective tools with us. The things he’s been able to do with pidgin, no other artist has matched yet. Of course it will be unfair not to acknowledge the efforts of his label mate, Shaker (our very own Captain Hook) with the language, so there… Now let’s proceed.
It is important to rap in Ga, and Ewe and Twi (and all other indigenous tongues), but it is just as important to perform in pidgin too. Pidgin is easily the lingua franca for the young at heart in this town, and is a part of the history of its people. Because of how unpretentious EL articulates himself in pidgin, it guarantees him reach and relevance, I’m certain…because when he (specifically) renders a song in pidgin, it feels like deep conversation with a stranger.
And so in a language which is ours, and has been popularised by Nigeria, and on a rhythm which is ours, and has been made commercially viable by Nigeria, EL has come into new emotion –a steady confidence in God. If I feel like starting trouble, I might even argue that the reason EL chose Agbadza on this occasion, is the reality that Nigeria is either effectively reminding us of what indigenous rhythm can achieve, or decidedly rubbing it in our face…but it’s 3 AM, and I’m neither an evil spirit nor belong to the small church with the long name in my neighborhood, so…
We know EL to often be the one to experiment, and so it’s unsurprising…normal even, that he’s explored Agbadza. There’s another song, titled ‘Agbadza’, where EL confronts the rhythm…except, on that occasion, there’s a hip-hop sleight of hand. It’s mighty bold and impressive, if you haven’t heard it.
The rhythm invokes dance. Even I can dance to it…well, at least in my mind. I’ve seen my little sister, Kate , dance to it…specifically at the point where he sings:
“ I go dey shoki for my God oh
Azonto for my God oh
I go shokoto for my God oh…”
…and It’s pleasant, the way she does a choreography of the various dances fluidly. One dance fuses into the other, and when it finally meets an observer’s eye, it’s just lovely.
I hear sounds I have not heard in a while, in ways I have rarely heard, on this number. I hear an accordion of all instruments (I know it’s an organ, but it invokes those spirits), and konga so subtle that its role could easily be overlooked, and snares, and synthetic clapping, and bass which is looked forward to. Koko is such a nice song.
Rhyme comes to EL easily –all music comes to EL easily, it seems –he’s done all sorts of music, and succeeded. He’s ‘sold out’ hip-hop and returned to it several times. He’s done highlife, and hiplife, and azonto, and RnB…everything. Indeed, one of the earliest songs I heard from EL is titled ‘Why’…or something like that, and comes as swing music…or something like that.
Years ago, I caught an interview of EL on radio. Like all distant memory, I cannot remember physical peculiarities which validate fact, for those aspects of the memory trickle to me in few unbearably scattered shards, and all I am left with, is the substance and feel of the interview…which is a truth too, if you ask me, and which is why I’m recounting this memory. For instance, I don’t remember the particular radio station I had tuned in to, that afternoon… though the fact that the interview was conducted entirely in English narrows down the plausible answers to two or three. Also, I do not remember the interviewer….but I’m inclined to think it was a woman because of the temperature of the interview; a hearty and tender orderliness which only a woman would invoke. The voice which comes to me, when I invoke the incident, tastes feminine.
Anyway, there was a question about EL’s ‘Aunty Martha’, which we all enjoyed deeply and now remember fondly. The interviewer wanted to know what informed the lyrics as well as his choice of genre. And while we ( the presenter included) might have expected emotional philosophy for an answer, EL’s answer was both deep and “underwhelming” at the same time –that there wasn’t any special story behind it… just that he wanted to try something new. The song is very good…a classic, so it it unbelievable, unacceptable, for it not to have come from some powerful love experience. If as experiment, he made such a beautiful song, then he was really made for this.Surely, something…more importantly, someone, must be responsible for such genius:
“so if you dey wonder how I do my thing, e bi my God oh”
…and whoever it is has been very good:
“I feel his goodness and his mercy/ from New York to New Jersey
No matter what i dey want I dey geti [get] from my God oh”
Koko is as much for reflection as it is to be sang in a herd. It’s such a timely song for various moments in our lives; in the club and in church, when we need a blessing and then when we have a blessing.
Let me end by saying this: when the sex has been splendid and you have felt things, you put on EL’s Koko… when all through the night hands flared and body parts breathed in skin joys, when good things have happened and a fresh smile forms upon a well-fed face, because you just know that only a beautiful baby girl can be made from such intensity in touch , you sing the following:
“ I go dey shoki for my God oh
Azonto for my God oh
I go shokoto for my God oh…”
Koko is an official single off EL’s sophomore album, ELOM ( Everybody Loves Original Music), and was produced by PeeGH.
The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, @myershansen on twitter, and myershansen.wordpress.com.