Motivated by an ambition to tell his own story – a Kumasi story to the world – KO-JO CUE is one of the few Ghanaian rappers who treats lyricism like a fine art. Three months after the release of his seventh mixtape – Before We Shine II [The Cremation of Care] – and we still have the MC on weekly replay. Kumasi isn’t known for being a rap haven but despite this Ko-jo Cue’s been able to win over both obsessive and occasional hip hop lovers. He just spits those fresh rhymes you can’t get enough of.
According to Ko-jo Cue, his songs are meant to impact listeners by enveloping them with hope and positivity. He reasons,
“I am the type of artist who always wants his listeners to walk away from every project with something that improves the quality of their lives, their level of reasoning and takes them a step closer to their goals.”
Before We Shine II is the follow up to Before We Shine [Jan 2011], an engrossing audio-scape that details the daily struggles of a young dude on the grind in Kumasi. The sequel combines profound flows and appealing hooks with an addictive wordplay that reveals the personality of Ko-jo Cue. The mixtape is actually a series of short stories that together tell a complete story about overcoming the growing pains of manhood.
When you listen to Ko-jo Cue you feel like he’s talking directly to you in parables. He tells stories in a way that anybody can relate to. Ko-jo Cue’s a great narrator and this resonates in how he fuses each song on the mixtape to tell a universal story about his reality. The tone of his voice is even and calm with every hook keeping you thinking about what he’s going to say next.
“Winning” is a fire track where Ko-jo Cue boasts a die-hard love for Ghana and for his identity as a Black man. He unleashes,
“I’m all about my red, gold, green/ Color blind to the rest/Original Black man, my color fine till the death/Eye red since birth, rep for my Brotherman/On the other hand, tryna win for the Motherland.”
Of course, every hip hop artist has a “you can hate me now” joint and “Aden Koraa” [“Why?” in Twi] is Ko-jo Cue’s. The track features Flow King Stone in a trippy back and forth over why people are always hating on them. In fact, Ko-jo Cue’s constructive, witty flows has earned him the title of “King of Punchlines” among fans. Even fellow rapper, Looney the TKR, acknowledges the MC as the “Punchline King” on his recent My Tunes EP.
“Success Story” tells the story of the artist’s difficulties at home and school. He compares how he grew up as a poor kid versus the rich classmates that attended school with him:
“Hello, they call Kojo/ I’m a Kumasi boy/Opoku Ware M/A is the school I attended/ The time you dey build with Lego/My mum did not have a penny/I was playing with empty tins as toy.”
The rapper shares how he endured growing up in poverty and how he made it out the trap. Ko-jo Cue continues,
“I’m a testimony/You go fit hate but in my hood I’m a success story.”
Before We Shine II is a magical combination of metaphors and profound wordplay. Listening to the entire mixtape, you hear how each of the story-tracks come together as one large harmony. Ko-jo Cue’s Kumasi story – all about life on the edge – is also somehow right on time.
Keep connected with the Kumasi King | @KOJO_Cue