Dialects of Hip-Hop

The song BRKN LNGWJZ by FOKN Bois is a song that really embodies the discussion revolving around the use of different languages in social settings. FOKN Bois is a Ghanaian rap group that consists of Wanlov the Kubolor and M3nsa. In this song, Wanlov and M3nsa talk about what makes them who they are and what things are important to their identity. Throughout the song they rap in english as well as simultaneously using a dialect of english, Twi (a dialect spoken in Ghana) words. The use of language in this song is to aid them in revealing their identities. Continue reading “Dialects of Hip-Hop”

Hip Hop International – My Journal

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Asa & M3NSA and Tupac’s songs, “No one knows” & “Keep ya head up” regard motivational reassurance to persevere through the difficult times that we face in every day life.

M3NSA, remixes an original song by Asa, exemplfiying through his lyrics that the next day isn’t guaranteed. The video content represents the things people do to help them try to discover when their life will come to an end. Like going to fortune tellers, reading news papers, watching news on television. M3NSA emphasizes that there are more important things in life. Instead of worrying about the next day, focus on the things in front of you, and to keep a positive outlook even on the negatives.

This video itself didn’t scream GHANA to me as far as culture. This was more of a modernized video as far as content. In most cases, the video can be related to American culture.

 

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As soon as I heard “No one knows” I was immediately reminded of Tupac’s hit, “Keep ya Head Up.” The wordplay and video content was too similar to not think of this song. Personally this song got me through a lot of struggles, even as a child. Growing up with divorced parents is not as easy as some make it out to be. Some would say that its less nagging from both sides. Although that may be true, financial support becomes a big issue, especially when its from one party with two children. Regardless, this song reminded me every day that even though my mom and dad didn’t always care for each other, I still had a family. My brother mainly kept my head up throughout this tough experience.

From the people in the street bumping to the music from the cars, to the white tank tops and baggy pants, I could feel the culture through this video. Not sure if I am coming from a biased stand point because I could relate to it, but I feel as if this depicted what people in the ghettos go through in every day life. Even though we are constantly oppressed and looked down upon, keeping our heads up is the only option to succeed.maxresdefault

Ghana & Senegal: Letters to the People

There are many types of hip hop songs: some sample old songs, some create their own back track, some tell a story and some send a message. In many African countries, the voice that hip hop artists have due to their popularity has been used to speak to it’s community of listeners (typically the youth) to send positive and political messages. Protest and Combat type hip hop songs have been ways of stressing an issue that is affecting the lives of many. An example of this is the Senegalese group named  Y’en a Marre  who took their talents and urged the large population of young people to vote against corrupt actions that were taking place by the government. Besides these common characteristics, there are also songs with a message to the people that are simply enlightening.

Ghanaian hip hop/ hiplife artist m3nsa has a song that speaks to his audience in a way to reassure them about life’s doubts called No One Knows. The video begins with a young girl in a yellow rain jacket and red boots lip-syncing to the song No One Knows by Asa about the uncertainties in life with a big smile on her face. M3nsa then enters with his positive verses. The big picture that the entire music video as well as his lyrics were trying to convey was that despite the constant fear of the unknown, it’s okay to not know what will happen, just trust in yourself and live each day one step at a time. This song’s message and visual imagery conveys positive energy and reassurance to it’s audience.

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There are many hip hop songs that are similar to M3nsa’s that bring comfort to a common fear that many have. On the other hand, there are times when an artist makes a song that comforts an audience who are experience a certain situation. The Senegalese hip hop group Wagëblë has the perfect example for that with their song titled Message of Hope. This song is not in English but there are many elements within it (and obviously the title) that are clear signs of a song with a message. The first thing the audience sees and hears  is a clip from a news report explaining how despite the great poverty in Senegal, there are young musicians who are developing a “unique brand of hip hop, sending a message of hope to the country’s younger generation”. This sets the mood and theme for the video. Wagëblë are those artists and they want to bring that message of hope. Throughout the music video you see them performing live which shows not only their connection with their fans but their influence. There isn’t much imagery or any theatrics in this video like in m3nsa’s but I believe it’s for the simple goal of the audience having their focus on the lyrics. This is also hinted during part of the video that only show their lips mouthing the lyrics.

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Both these songs come from different artists from different countries and yet despite their differences they both have a common goal of getting a message across. The message doesn’t always have to be about politics and it doesn’t always have to be about mundane anxieties but what does matter is that the audience can understand and relate. Hip hop will continue to change, warp, and evolve but one thing that keeps it alive is what makes us human: empathy.

Hip Hop for Social Change

Both Ghanaian and Senegalese forms of hip hop are used in order to present a message whether social or political in their countries. According to The Organic Globalizer: The Political Development of Hip-Hop and the Prospects for Global Transformation, “Music is a potent form of communication that crosses cultural and linguistic barriers through various information networks.” Music specifically Hip Hop came out of people’s struggle, originating in New York during the 1970’s.

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Senegal is a 99% Muslim country and majority of their hip hop content is about being conscience and bringing awareness. Y’en A Marre is french for we’ve had enough and it is also one of the social political movements that occurred in Senegal. The goal of the movement was NTS A new Type of Senegalese. The rappers and journalist came together to urge citizens to be more involved in the political system and to take responsibility for their impact in the community. The song i chose from Senegal was Awadi  The Roots . I enjoyed this song for one because it was in French and English and it’s always interesting to hear French rap since I am a minor. The message of this song came across very strong in French, English or just looking at the video. The first couple of seconds is video of Malcolm X and narration saying, “You cannot hate the roots and not hate the origin.” Then the part that the artist raps in English says, “I ain’t a black man I’m an African, you can’t separate the skin.” I appreciate this because so many time black americans forget our roots are in Africa. The video is a large group of people rocking back and forth to the music and overall I think the song and the video brings a message of togetherness and understanding your heritage fully not as a black American but African american and knowing the root in that difference.

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Ghana is a country that is mixed in religious makeup and the music is more influenced by the diaspora meaning less conscious than Senegalese rap. For my Ghanaian Hip Hop artist I chose M3NSA, “No One Knows’’ https://youtu.be/SC2Ra2_3do0. This song embodies having a positive outlook on life. The overall message through the lyrics is live for today because tomorrow isn’t promised and not to take life for granted. The video begins with a young girl singing as she walks through the rain this is a reinforced image to be thankful and happy about each day. The artists shows his daily routine from trials and tribulations but he still remembers that you can turn your storms into sunshine. He does discuss peace, equality and truth which is not overly political but it is important as things he wants for his world. I enjoyed both songs from the artists and the messages were both great although different.

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Boundaries are meant to be pushed. Boundaries are usually created out of false norms and restrictive rules. Hip Hop oftentimes finds itself stuck in a box that set the boundaries as grimy, hardcore, sexual content, when Hip Hop can be so much more. Hip Hop is a genre borne from rebels who set out to test and expand the existing limits, and I credit any emcee who lives up to these original doctrines. I decided to focus in on one Ghanaian emcee, M3nsa, who coupled with his American experience and love for his West African roots, is a perfect example of testing the limits of not only Hip Hop but individually as an emcee and music artist.

I listened to “Fanti Love Song” by M3nsa. I was shocked to hear the soft melody of piano accompanying a smooth, soulful voice that belonged to M3nsa. I was use to a conventional, rap style from  M3nsa, but was pleasantly surprised to hear a sort of sultry, talking singing that I absolutely love to hear from contemporary Hip Hop artists. M3nsa sings this love song in a native Ghanaian language. We learned in class about Hiplife, which is a popular music genre in Ghana, and most artists of this genre use Ghanaian pidgin language or speak in Ghanaian languages: Twi, Ga, or Ewe. I’m not sure what language is used in this song. The title of the song, “Fanti Love Story” possibly alludes to the language spoken in the song, because Fanti is both an Akan language and a group of people in Ghana. However, I believe the title is alluding to the message of the song which is a love song to a Fanti woman that M3nsa fell in love with, or he could be professing his love for the Fanti people as a whole and being reflectively amorous about his relationship with Fanti people. The style of this song was very neo-soul which is an indicator of M3nsa’s familiarity with America and its music. It put me in the mind of a Roots or Bilal or even Andre 3000 type of soulful, Hip Hop-y vibe.

M3nsa’s “Fanti Love Song” is definitely reminiscent of the type of music that I have downloaded on my phone right now. I fell in love with the visual, the sound, and the overall vibe. It expands the definition of what is normally considered Hip Hop. It is definitely a song to chill with a boyfriend or girlfriend or to put yourself in a relaxed and sensual mood.

“Help America”- FOKN Bois

The FOKN Bois, Wanlov and M3nsa, is a hip hop duo from the African country Ghana. The hip hop duo’s songs are made up of lyrics that address political issues and are usually extremely satirical. They are not afraid to express their, typically unpopular and disapproved of, opinions. Unlike many other rappers of their generation, Wanlov and M3nsa are authentic to their culture in more ways than one. They exhibit their cultural roots through the ways that they dress, live, and rap. Wanlov is popular in the country of Ghana and can be seen walking around the country wearing wraps around his waist and being barefoot. In their videos, they are often wearing clothes with traditional patterns and in urban areas of Ghana.

In their song “Help America,” the duo satirically address the issue of American people not having any cultural values and the collapsing economy. They use the popular American creations, for example McDonalds, Microsoft, Windows, and phone apps, to show that the country has no real cultural values. Although it may seem like America is ahead of many other countries in terms of materialistic values, the duo believes that America lacks true cultural values. In the chorus of the song, the FOKN Bois use the phrase “help America.” It seems as though they are twisting the commonly seen American commercials-advocating for people to donate money, clothes, and food to other countries “in need”- to suggest that those countries should donate their values to America.

Sources

http://people.peacefmonline.com/pages/musicians/wanlov/biography

Images from the African Hip Hop Film Series

858493_429889347089098_1633128979_oImages from the African Hip Hop Film Series at California State University Los Angeles from January to March 2013. The series featured films from Ghana, Kenya, Senegal, and Uganda; as well as guest speakers and emcees from the Ghana, Kenya, Senegal, Uganda, and the US.

The images are featured on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kibona/sets/72157632976822110/

A Chat With M3nsa

My interview with Ghanaian hip hop artist M3nsa on allAfrica.com: http://allafrica.com/stories/201304091499.html

by Msia Kibona Clark

The Ghanaian hip-hop scene is one of the most diverse in Africa. A look at Ghana’s top emcees reveals artists that vary greatly in style, lyricism, skill and demeanor.

M3nsa, aka Mensa Ansah, can be counted among that list of Ghana’s top emcees, and stands out for his unique style and brand of lyricism.

I sat down with M3nsa during his recent visit to Los Angeles, after the artist performed a special Valentine’s Day show at Zanzibar nightclub.

Continue reading “A Chat With M3nsa”

A Chat With M3nsa – allAfrica.com

The Ghanaian hip-hop scene is one of the most diverse in Africa. A look at Ghana’s top emcees reveals artists that vary greatly in style, lyricism, skill and demeanor.

A Chat With M3nsa – allAfrica.com

INTERVIEW | 9 APRIL 2013 | 

The Ghanaian hip-hop scene is one of the most diverse in Africa. A look at Ghana’s top emcees reveals artists that vary greatly in style, lyricism, skill and demeanor.

M3nsa, aka Mensa Ansah, can be counted among that list of Ghana’s top emcees, and stands out for his unique style and brand of lyricism.

I sat down with M3nsa during his recent visit to Los Angeles, after the artist performed a special Valentine’s Day show at Zanzibar nightclub.

Continue reading “A Chat With M3nsa – allAfrica.com”

FOKN Bois Preceed

Wanlov The Kubolor and Hip Hop mogul M3NSA make up FOKN Bois and with their line of work in the sort of combustible rhetoric that make the “P.C.-baiting of Das Racist or the teen-Fight Club nihilism of Odd Future”, however skillful, seem regional when comparing the two. FOKN Bois take things to a whole new level with encouragement. Method Man and Redman being copied, the FOKN bois are politically charged and they’re out to trash every cultural taboo possible, both African and Western.

The FOKN Bois have been vital to Ghana’s contemporary music revival, and are regarded as Ghana’s most creative aware rappers. As lone entertainers, they were extremely interested in Ghanaian traditional and popular music styles, with Wanlov’s cd’s representing Ghana—hardly controversial. Wanlov’s solo album Brown Card is an exploration of his half-Romanian roots with a part-Gypsy, part-Ghanaian band of traditional musicians. M3NSA dropped his solo debut in 2010, the heartfelt combination of soul, hip hop and Fante folk music that is No.1 Mango Street. Their 2010 debut as FOKN Bois was likewise a serious, ambitious effort for political change in both the west and in Ghana. The duo was to play at a venue, Le Poisson Rouge, and only one half of the group, Wanlov The Kubolor—whose 2007 visit to America stimulated his immigration solo debut album Green Card, had been deprived of a travel visa. In the end it’s not all that unexpected. Practically every move the duo makes together is projected to aggravate listeners, particularly in the West.