Album Cover of Kojo Cue’s ‘For my Brothers’

KOJO CUE’S ‘FOR MY BROTHERS’ — The Progressive Album of the Year

In November 2019, Kojo Cue released his debut album, ‘For My Brothers’. But as typical of deeply reflective albums, this album does not have too many street bangers to generate viral airplay and attention. Yet, on many levels, it will go down and be recognized years from now as a real gem.
 
In fifteen tracks, Kojo Cue plays on almost all the notes of everyday life in 21st Century Ghana. From economics to religion, mental health to abuse, employment to entrepreneurship, parenting to gender relations, the relationship between opportunity and success, unscrupulous bosses, the weight of unrealized dreams and the burdens of being the survivor—having personal success in the midst of despair and the trauma of not having enough to help the others out. It is clear from the lyrics that Cue intends the album as a reality check, perhaps, as telling of his own evolution as a person and as an artist.
 

It is at once confessional, revolutionary, political and conciliatory, revealing Cue as a sophisticated act who is brave and unapologetic in taking on tough questions in Ghanaian society, but also capable of bringing deep understanding to the nuances on issues. Cue waxes both philosophical and poetic on the album. On the philosophical note, Cue intends to use popular music to get society started properly on the various themes in the album. Cue raps about the silent crises of mental health in Ghana and cultural attitudes towards therapy, opening up and speaking out about deeply troubling issues and abuse that create mental health issues. 

In ‘Never Mind’, Cue reveals how the superficiality of daily dialogue veils the struggles of people in a way that such struggles become inaccessible to outside help. In ‘Dua’ and ‘Rich Dad Poor Dad’, Cue describes how culture and access to wealth makes and breaks young people in their quest to make something of themselves. ‘Dua’ is a dialectic of an oppressive father prone to cursing his son as contrasted with an encouraging mum who gives tough love to her son in preparing him for life. In ‘Rich Dad Poor Dad’, Cue advances his own philosophy that “sika yɛ ade nyinaa nanso sika nnyɛ ade nyinaa but don’t go acting like sika nnyɛ ade biaa”. To wit, money may not do everything but it is folly to think that money does not make a difference. Cue here reminisces about his own life and the nature of opportunities he had, and plays with the thought that if his father had been more successful; had he attended a posh private school and not an uninspiring public school, he would have been in a much better place. 

 

‘From My Sisters’, featuring Raphaela, Anae, Ms Fu and Dzyadzorm is a blistering attack on the status quo of gender relations in Ghana and of patriarchy in particular. It is arguably, the harshest critique and the bravest confrontation by a Ghanaian rapper on this topic. The song contains a monologue that pushes the frontiers of the dialogue on gender relations by making claims like “the mother you hail for her sacrifice says there is nothing holy about burning alive for her entitled sons”. They also ask the question “if I’m not a mother, sister or a lover, is who I am not enough?” Cue himself finally addresses his ‘brothers’ in this song, saying they need to be better than their fathers who did not teach them any better and also raise the next generation to be better men; to listen to the cries of the sisters.

 

The album has other great songs, too: Cue’s verses about an insatiable woman in ‘Dzo’, featuring the wickedly talented Worlasi is such. J. Derobie brings a dancehall vibe into the largely rap album on Best Paddy featuring ‘Kojo Cue’. A.I has a powerful chorus in ‘Wo nsa bɛ ka’—a song that embodies the beautiful fusion between highlife and rap. In ‘Agorɔ’, Cue talks about the difficulties in making ends meet in spite of the hard work and Reggie Rockstone’s advice to him to “keep your eyes on the road”.

 

When Krobea Asante and I wrote about Obrafour’s ‘pae mu ka’ to commemorate the 20th anniversary of that album, we argued that it defined an era and the acts that came up subsequently followed Obrafour’s lead. In many ways, Cue is like Obrafour in cutting out the fluff and staying true to connecting their music to society in a more meaningful way. However, it is not clear that the progressive ideology that distinguishes ‘For My Brothers’, will become the new normal for our mainstream music scene. But twenty years after ‘Pae Mu Ka’, ‘For my Brothers’ is a great contribution to its legacy — the place of Kasahare (rap music) as a genre to be taken seriously. It is also an album that will age very well and years from now, will be viewed as music ahead of the curve in a slowly changing cultural ethos.

 
 

by Victor Azure

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