As far as the state of contemporary hip hop goes in Cameroon, K0-C has been a perfect embodiment of one side of the clash of philosophies that drove a serious conversation in the Cameroon rap community. Between the more puritanical philosophers of the genre and the Ko-Cs of today with Afropop leanings, there was a serious debate on whether or not there was legitimacy to the ‘rapper’ tag that Ko-C attached to himself.
Perhaps it would have been someone else, but it just happened that Ko-C’s proverbial star was shining the brightest on account of the string of hit songs he had put out that garnered him even wider fame and recognition in the market, putting his face on three different brand billboards in the process. And so he seemed like the perfect target for a group of rappers who needed a whipping boy.
Ko-C not only stood his ground about who he is and what he has done, but in what could be considered a diss track to the community in the song ‘Presidential Decree’, which he dropped in February, he embraced the fact that he had gone pop and was comfortable with it; even dropping advice to his peers in the industry, telling them to commercialize their raps”. Realism or defense mechanism?
What is clear is that months later, with the release of GENESIS, Ko-C leaned very much into his style and creative path, never flinching, and yet again reminding rappers in the outro song, titled ‘Respect’ that he had the biggest song of the year (Deux oeufs Spaghetti) and that, like Agent 47 in the movie Hitman, he was a hit-maker himself. On a boom-bap beat and with a flow that was a little removed from his Sarkodie-influenced style, Ko-C went on to make it known that there was nothing anyone could say to deter him from his blueprint to success.
And so the background was set for the 17-track album, which is a bright kaleidoscope of the many colorful shapes Ko-C can bend himself into. And Ko-C does that without bending out of shape. Ko-C shows on this album that he is a master and commander of his fate, and he can steer his ship masterfully into sonic waters teeming with waves of varying frequencies. The opening track says it all. In Winner, produced by Dj Chinjong, a braggadocious and confident Ko-C declares without flinching, “I’m at the pinnacle of my beginning.”
The rest of the album is about that: an artist who is sure of himself, his style, and his blueprint. It is not a pretentious album that thinks too highly of itself. Ko-C sticks to what he knows best but experiments just enough without straying too far from the path he has set for himself. The result is an exquisite journey of sounds that leaves you marveling at his versatility and how he can play around that, leaving the listener surprised at how good it is.
Songs like ‘Don’t Leave’ (which samples Angelique Kidjo’s ‘Agolo’), ‘One Day’, and ‘Man in the Mirror’ is where Ko-C took some measure of risks, and very well so. He skates smoothly over what could have been thin ice for him, which makes these three songs some of the best on the album.
Perhaps the close-knit production that he kept on the album, working with five principal producers and shuttling between Nigeria and Cameroon, gives the album a certain symmetry and consistency in sound, save for two songs: Deux Oeufs Spaghetti and Mama. The former is adrift—a little too up-tempo compared to the rest of the album. The latter feels redundant. Singing for their mothers seems to be a rite of passage. Cameroonian musicians indulge in a little too much. And every song regrettably fails. This one is no different. The song produced by Smash could not be saved, even with the sped-up soukous guitar sampled from Kotto Bass’ Edith.
What adds bonus points to the album is the quality of the features. From his full circle moment rapping with Sarkodie in ‘Aba’, to Victor AD in ‘Time’, Longue Longue in ‘Paolo’, Falz in ‘Family Problem’, Kameni and Awu in ‘Together’, Ko-C packs the album with enough star power to elevate it. Not that he needed to do it so much. His performance in every one of those songs in which he featured others is stellar.
In the theme, Ko-C again doesn’t try to be too pretentious. Just as he has always done, the songs in Genesis touch on many issues without making them sound heavy on a theme. Ko-C takes us on a ride where the conversation changes every 3 minutes. It is approached deep enough to leave a mark, but not so deep as to let bobbing heads suddenly hang stiff mid-air.
‘Don’t Leave’ talks about a man begging for love from a scorned lover with promises of material things. Aba, with Sarkodie, talks about reconciling with your realities within your means. Kidjo reminds us to slow down and let life run its course. “Why do you want to run faster than your shadow?” Ko-C asks Kidjo in the song. ‘One Day’ touches on the Anglophone problem and the destruction it has left in its wake; the song ‘Time’ with a stellar feature from Victor AD recounts a tumultuous relationship with a woman.
‘Man in the Mirror’ is a song about retrospection where the principal character is portrayed preening himself over hurdles he has overcome in a not-so-distant past life. Holy Mary, with a feature from Babyboy AV, skirts around alcoholism in the silent, celebratory depravity of popping bottles.
But it is with the songs ‘Paolo’ and ‘Family Problems’ that Ko-C gets the best out of featured artists. No one could have done better than Longue on Paolo, a song about not saving money for rainy days and not making it boring. This topic is overdone, but Cameroonians, a people perpetually living in the hope of divine retribution, love the topic!
Family Problem, produced by Philbill, is an Amapiano-infused song with beautiful strings in the background, accompanying the log drums and light percussive snare. Falz left a great storytelling verse on a song that deals with the pressure and demands of family. Genesis is nothing near a start. It is, in fact, a continuum. Ko-C continues what he has been doing and building on for the past years. Only this time, it is coordinated, symmetrical, very well-sounding, and a testament to his dexterity and duality as an Afropop artist and an emcee. This album is the bomb. And for us, it gets an A.
Author: Wandji Wilfred