Wednesday, October 2, 2019

"The Minstrel Cycle" by Wanlov the Kubolor

Today I began the daunting the task of conducting research on trending Ghana songs.  And the reason I call it "daunting" is because information on such tunes and artists tends to be scant, as is the case below.


The Minstrel Cycle is a song by a ragga/rapper named Wanlov the Kubolor (i.e. vagabond) which is currently trending on Ghana's iTunes charts.  It appears on Wanlov's album which itself is entitled Red Card - The Minstrel Cycle.  This is a project that he has been teasing since 2015 but only came out with this year, thus marking his fifth-solo project.

The cover art to Wanlov the Kubolor's Red Card - The Minstrel Cycle (2019).  The implication is that he is 'killing' politicians via his music.  The lady on the bike may be the depiction of another artist by the name of Sister Deborah, who is actually Wanlov's younger sibling.
This album is reportedly based on the theme of the Kubolor being discontent with the powers that be.  That is to say "the minstrel cycle" is actually a sarcastic allusion to prominent government officials who rotate every four or so years.  And such is also apparently the theme of this song.  So for instance Wanlov seems to touch on the subject of police corruption, which is actually a big issue in Ghana.  He also appears to bring up the topic of men being falsely accused of sexual assault.  But ultimately, it's hard to really dig into the lyrics considering they don't seem to be posted online.


Myself not being deeply immersed in the Ghana music scene, I never actually heard of Wanlov the Kubolor until today.  And once again his internet presence is relatively-sparse, even on Genius.  But he has been a professional musician for over a decade and is perhaps better known as member of a group called the FOKN Bois.  In fact the publisher of Red Card was likely a label called FOKN Inc.

Wanlov the Kubolor
Wanlov himself is of Ghanaian and Romanian descent and actually kinda looks like a member of the Marley clan.  But whereas he may look like a Rasta, in actuality it doesn't seem like he's a religious person at all.  And in terms of his claim to fame, if you were to google his name right now most of the articles that popup are apparently about dude having a bunch of kids.  So it remains to be seen how long he'll be able to stay at the top of the charts.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Gang Starr Finna Drop a New Album

I was never really a Gang Starr fan, but news of the crew being about to drop a new album really caught my attention, considering that the vocal half of the duo has been dead for a decade and all.


A picture of DJ Premiere (left) and Guru (right), collectively known as Gang Starr, taken in 2003.
Gang Starr is a rap crew hailing from New York City.  However neither of its members are actually from NY.  Guru (1961-2010) is from Boston, and DJ Premiere comes to us via Houston.  That might describe their unique sound despite once again being considered a NY group.  In fact despite having street credibility, it can be argued that Gang Starr was indeed an alternative-rap group, something along the lines of A Tribe Called Quest or Black Star.  In other words they were a more-conscious crew and didn't advocate street violence.  Indeed around the turn of the century Guru was spearheading the effort to infuse hip-hop with jazz.

A picture of Guru taken in 2006, four years before he passed away at the age of 48.
Gang Starr hit their peak around 1998 when they dropped their fifth album, Moment of Truth.  But since they have for the most part fallen off (as with all rap crews from the 1990s).  But to illustrate how much so, I wasn't even aware that Guru had passed away (via cancer) in 2010 until a couple of years after the fact.  And if you really want to get emotional about it, he even supposedly wrote a letter on his deathbed (though the validity of such has been disputed).


Recently DJ Premiere, alongside none other than Nas himself, has teased that Gang Starr will be dropping a new album soon.  To help put this news into perspective, keep in mind that the last one they dropped was back in 2003, a considerable amount of time even before Guru died.  And whereas no official announcement has yet been made, this rumor is to be taken seriously considering a lead single has already released featuring a current music superstar, J. Cole.  And the song, Family and Loyalty, actually features Jermaine returning to his Black nationalist roots, despite deviating onto more-mainstream topics (money, women) in some of his recent tunes.  I guess that's the effect of teaming up with a group like Gang Starr.

A pic of Premiere in more-recent times, still very much active in the game.
However now releasing raps by an artist who was considered old school 15 years ago presents its challenges.  If anything what this reality is telling me is that, despite being a living legend in the hip-hop industry, from a professional standpoint (in the least) Premiere has never been able to replace Guru.  But I don't see how Guru is going to be able to hang with today's cats considering, once again, he wasn't necessarily able to do so in the past.  But chances are if they throw enough big-name collaborations on the project (i.e. Nas) it will at least garner a bunch of listens, especially in today's climate of the music industry being totally unable to get over deceased artists.