This month we’re featuring a conversation with Ghanaian artist Wanlov the Kubolor. In the interview we talk about Wanlov the Kubolor’s experiences, his music, the controversies, and his evolution into Wanlov the Kubolor, the African Gypsy.
Wanlov the Kubolor is a smart, introspective artist who is very much aware of the social relevance of his music. He often makes social commentary, whether via his music or social media, and infuses that social commentary with humor. Wanlov’s humor (and he’s genuinely funny) often has fans laughing before realizing that there is a message in the madness. Wanlov has detractors, people who take issue with his music or behavior. But, agree or disagree with his views, Wanlov the Kubolor is not afraid of expressing himself in unconventional ways.
Wanlov’ the Kubolor’s music reflects his diverse background and experiences. It is difficult to put Wanlov the Kubolor into one category of music. He is an MC, but he also blends several different sounds and styles in his music. He’s a versatile artists who has crafted a career as a successful, internationally known artist.
His solo albums are Green Card, Yellow Card, Brown Card: African Gypsy, and Orange Card: Fruitopian Raps
Wanlov is also one half of the group Fokn Bois (his partner is M3nsa), which has released two films film Coz ov Moni and Coz ov Moni 2. They also released the soundtracks to Coz ov Moni and Coz ov Moni 2. The groups also released FOKN Wit Ewe and FOKN Ode to Ghana. Wanlov has also released several EPs.
This episode features the music of several MCs from across Africa. We depart from the interview format and bring you music from some of our favorite (women) MCs. This is essentially a mixtape of diverse female voices in African hip hop. These MCs live in different countries, seek different languages, and speak on diverse topics. In each of these songs, the artists performing deliver strong, hard hitting lyrics that are both classic hip hop and representative of African styles of hip hop. See the artists’ social media pages for more information. Additionally, some of the artists have their work on iTunes. Those links are provided.
M. anifest is an award winning Ghanian rapper singer songwriter. M.anifest’s song “Coming to America” really speaks to the experience of an African people coming to America. He begins by discussing the beginning of the diaspora and more specifically colonization when he says “ever since they came in the name of King James, my people been crippled and maimed”. M. anifest talks about how immigrants come by boats and planes, and while some come legally with passports and visa, others, that don’t have those resources, take the chance of stowing away to come to America, never knowing what will happen to them. The biggest concern that M. anifest iterates in this song is the need to send money home to support his family. This is big reason that people outside of the country come to America, for the economic opportunity.Another point that is brought up by M. anifest is the fear of police and police brutality. He mentions often that there is a constant danger of being arrested and going to jail in America. This, to me, speaks on how the mass incarceration system is an institution that oppresses and lingers over the head of all black people in America, no matter where they came from.
M.anifest in this video represents most obviously his home’s culture in the way he dresses. The video talks about the experience of black people in America, and there is nothing American about the outfits M. anifest wears. We can see the intricate textile patterns and bright vivid colors along with the symbols that are commonly found in this style of clothing. He accents the clothing with carved wooden jewelry, which is also traditionally African, and one of the necklace I saw had the Gye Nyame symbol, which is a famous African symbol that means “fear nothing except God.”
Bearing a upbeat boom-bap style Make you No Forget starts with an infectious, head-bopping beat and a hard hitting rhythm. Shortly after the song begins Blitz brings us in with the chorus, “Police Corruption, they steal the election, brutality my brothers don’t get no option, thats why you don’t forget where you come from.” The verse then expands on the concepts of police corruption and how the kids of Ghana back in the 1990’s were worried if they were going to grow up or not. Also, what made it hard to forget where you’re from were the myriad of 90’s references to tv shows, and consequently ended up referring to Roger Milla, famous Cameroonian soccer player, bringing where he was from to the 1990 World cup with his signature celebratory dance, or better yet referring to Ivory Coast goalkeeper Alain Gouaméné stopping Ghana from winning the 1992 African cup of Nations with an amazing save, which Ghanaians attributed to the use of JuJu. Starting the next part of the chorus Blitz says that “As the weather gets hot, and the cops get hungry for busting people, we still harbor resentment towards them, whether they like it or not. Next verse brings you in with the kids from the first verse all grown up. They reminisce about the Motown, where they went to school, Gari and Shito, which was a snack spread that was popular in the 90s that got them through, Night clubs for Osu, where they went to party with the wrong attire and subsequently wasted time going back home to change to get in, only to realize that they should have just stayed home because of the rich kids hanging around getting the attention of the party’s female populous. In short, the song won’t let you forget where your from because neither will the world, and in the song he is nostalgically reminiscing over the days of his youth.
Blitz the Ambassador. Just from the name you can get the feeling that this man is a well travelled, well versed rapper. Coming from Accra, Ghana he has been in the game since 2000 and has only grown deeper into his craft. Blitz the Ambassador’s videos are some of the most visual creative I’ve seen. I love them because they tend to tell a story. In his music video “Running” Blitz uses his video to speak on the topic of spirituality. The concept of the video is that you can run from spirituality but you can’t hide from it. The video reflect this message in the story it tells
“Tonight” by African American and Ghanaian artist Prince Kofi is the perfect club bop. As the song came on and the beat dropped, I could not fight the urge to want to dance. The beat rose and fell in all the right places to make your hips move with it, and the way Kofi’s melodic voice danced over the track only made me want to dance more. The song describes an amusing, eventful night that is centered around a tale of cat and mouse. Kofi asserts that he is in need of a particular someone, a need he plans to satisfy by the end of the night. While listening to this song I couldn’t help but picture a man and a woman in a club, both distantly lusting over each other while seemingly having the time of their lives. It made me feel like I was in the club, staring my lover in the eye, daintily asking him to save me from whoever it is I’m “enjoying” at the moment. The song is fun, lively, and describes the perfect weekend experience. It is the song you turn on when it’s Friday and your finally off work or out of school and are ready for for the surprises the night will bring. “Tonight” is not a “woke,” conscious song that speaks about social injustices, which is not outside the norm for Ghanaian artist. But, one thing I could not help but notice was the similarity to U.S. artist, which probably can be attributed to the fact that Prince Kofi is African American. Kofi’s song sounded like an everyday tune, something you hear playing on the radio or as you are browsing through department stores. It’s that feel good, get out of the slumps, and sing to the top of you lungs type of song.
The two videos I selected for my fourth blog was Kisses by Fifi Cooper and Skwod by Nadia Rose. Fifi Cooper was born in South Africa and Nadia Rose was born in London, England. I selected these two artists for very specific reasons. They were chosen as the focus of my post because of the ways differences in the ways in which they express their womanhood. Fifi Cooper upholds the roles of what many would expect from women throughout the world. Cooper constantly sings about love. However, Nadia Rose, on the other hand, in the song Skwod displays a very hardened and masculine image, often frowned upon in many societies. In the videography, Rose wears a jump suit, as she raps about her crew. In her lyrics she states that she has the capacity to kill anyone with her flows, and that her rap verses are like punch lines. Rose was not afraid to tell people that she was their worst nightmare.
Society often forces people into particular boxes. Those who do not agree with or are unable to fit within these categories can become ostracized and judged for their decisions. Women all around the globe often find themselves considering the impact of their decisions on their friends, family, and society. This same pressure is often not placed on men, who are frequently encouraged to act on their impulses and enjoy the wonders of life. Rose strays very far from traditional ideologies of womanhood, but comfortable in her aggression and independence. The artist, Cooper, differed entirely from Nadia. as deemed for women. Even her style differs from Rose, she spends time to ensure she appears beautiful and even wears clothing to show her body; this differed significantly from Rose who style of choice was loose clothing and sneakers. Even in Rose’s musical lyrics she discusses hanging with her crew and getting into fights, this is behavior Cooper would never agree with. On the alternative, Cooper discusses love and kisses, throughout her entire song.. In the opening seen of Cooper song Kisses, she is applying lip stick and constantly looking at herself in the mirror. They even emphasize her vanity by showing her with a telephone shapes as a pair of lips. When comparing the two women, Cooper seems to comply to societies typical gender norms, which describe women as being emotional creatures, unable to separate their emotions from their normal day to day activities. These two videos were both very interesting to compare, as they showed differences in gender roles within society.
Diaspora is the dispersion of any people from their original homeland.
When coming to America, and being treated as an outsider it is to want to assimilate to America culture. So many people and artist are willing to sacrifice their culture to ensure they “make it” in the music industry. It takes a very strong artist and a very proud artist to remain true to him/her self through the adversity. M.anifest is one of those rappers! He came to America to get an education and was faced with much adversity, from the way he spoke to the way he dress. M.anifest stayed trued to himself and respected his homeland through his entire career and time at the university. His music stays true to his heritage, while at the same time describes his experiences with American culture yet relates it back to his home culture.
In his song, “Coming to America”, Manifest uses his lyrics to paint a picture of his hometown in a way that makes you feels like you are there. He talks about the way his mother used to cook and smile at him. The customs in his community and the ideals he is used. M.anifest even describes the way he grew up and how happy, human, and free he felt in Ghana.
Next, his song “Cupid Crooked”, describes the Ghana ideals and perspective on social issues. In order to honor his homeland and his origins, he dresses traditionally in all of his music videos. Secondly, he stays true to culture with his dances and innuendos. No matter what song you are listening to, you can feel and see that he is a Ghana man to the core.
M.anifest shows the next generation of Ghana rappers to be proud of where they come from. He teaches Americans that there is so much more to Africa than the disparity posted on our screen. Most importantly he teaches everyone that you can remain to true to yourself and still prosper.
There’s two types of people in this world: those who conform to the rules set by society and those who rebel against it. In their collaborative hp hop song “Gentleman”, rappers M.anifest and Wanlov the Kubolor come together to tell you that they’re the ladder and not ashamed of where they’ve come from. For today’s blog, we will look at the African diaspora and how this common African experience has translated over to the music of these two artists. Just to give you a bit of a background on each, M.anifest is a Ghanian rapper who is known to many as the king of Ghana hip hop. He migrated to Saint Paul, Minnesota back in 2001 to attend college. He even resides in Minnesota as well as Ghana currently.
Wanlov the Kubolor is a Ghanaian-Romanian musician who moved to the US for college back in 2000. Both of these artist are very proud of their Ghanian roots and let their experiences as immigrants influence their sound.
In their collaborative song Gentleman, both rappers immediately start the song off saying the chorus immediately saying “I won’t be gentleman at all, I’ll be African man original. I wont be gentleman, won’t be gentleman at all”. They immediately set the tone for the song with their straight forward acclamation to stick to their roots despite living in a country that has a different culture. Within the song they mention a number of aspects that are associated with the men of western culture and then rejects them with their own versions that they’ve grown to live with in Ghana. Both M.anifest and Wanlov the Kubolor have experienced first hand what it feels like to migrate to not just a different country but an entirely different continent like many Africans for the sake of their futures. the African immigrant population between the year 2000 and 2010 increased from 800,000 to 1.6 million and of those people these artist were part of that. There’s such a big population of African Immigrants that can relate to this song and are able to not feel alone in their fight to not keep who they are while surrounded by Americans. Gentleman is a great song that compares the two cultures and also speaks to what they mean to the Ghanian rappers. It’s fun, it’s unique, and it will always be African.