‘We had wanted to screen the second video for y’all tonight. But, our video director say e no finish am’. This was Ko-Jo Cue talking to the very few who got invited to the album listening session for ‘Pen & Paper’ at the BBNZLive Bar at Nima, a week ago.
Both Cue and Shaker would, at the least opportunity, express their disappointment at how the planned screening didn’t pan out as expected. But, he made an emphatic statement to us: ‘If you loved the first video (Pen & Paper), this next one would blow your mind’.
Everybody who had seen the video for ‘Untitled’ would applaud them for conceptualizing an astounding piece of artwork. The video is the second to be released, after Pen & Paper. The duo are ‘hopefully’ looking to release videos for all the 12 songs on their joint album.
The video for ‘Untitled’ is a re-visitation of the past, and a homage paying venture for the legends that inspired these two young rappers to pick up the mic and rap. It is their way of saying thank you to their idols. When i asked Cue why they went with this concept, his answer was straight forward: ‘Homage. Everything i do has to pay homage to the old generation’.
Before I begin dissecting the video, slide by slide, let me state that, this probably is going to be the best piece of video you’d see in 2017. Ko-Jo Cue, Shaker and the video director Esianyo Kumodzi really put in work. As Cue and Shaker told MsNaa on her show some weeks back, all their videos would be shot by Esianyo Kumodzi. It’s very obvious to note why.
Back to the ‘Untitled’ video. This review would cover the many iconic musical references, the various interpretations for each scene and why they chose this concept.
The beginning opens with the two rappers, dressed in all black (seems that’s the costume for the album), walking towards a simple, open air music studio. Whereas Cue carries a microphone and chords, Shaker has in his arm a keyboard. As they proceed towards the ‘studio’, the two turn back, staring straight into the camera, and by extension, the eyes of the viewer.
That scene is drawn from the Jay Z and Kanye West Otis video (off their ‘Watch The Throne’ album). If you watch the beginning of the Otis video carefully, you’d see Jay Z peeping into the camera.
Ko-Jo Cue’s re-creations of his favourite music scene
Ko-Jo Cue’s love for Daddy Lumba runs deeper that you can imagine. Adopting the moniker YDL (Young Daddy Lumba) isn’t only because Lumba is from Kumasi as Cue, but an attestation to Lumba’s influence on highlife music and pop culture. So, seeing a 24 inch black and white TV set beaming the visuals of the very iconic ‘Aben Wo Ha’ video is no coincidence. (Did you hear the music playing at the background?) Ko-Jo Cue goes ahead to re-create the opening scene of the ‘Aben Wo Ha’ video as it was done almost 20 years ago (video was released in 1998).
Pardon Cue for those dance moves (if we can call it such). @S_tage couldn’t have put it any better.
Just know say that your Aben Wɔ Ha dance be my default settings at all parties moving forward.
— Kebashor (@S_tage) October 18, 2017
We again see the re-creation of that Obrafour ‘Kwame Nkrumah’ ‘rapping triplet’ scene (that scene had me wondering if Obrafour was a three-man group or just one person, days after watching the video some decades ago). Cue again re-creates M3nsa (of the Fokn Bois) ‘spitting fire on a mic’ video scene from ‘If You Don’t Know’ video (featuring VIP). We finally see him and Shaker, in their Last Two emblazoned T-Shirt living out moments off Edem’s ‘Keva’ (You Dey Craze) with Sarkodie video. The re-creation of the images by Cue is his way of showing appreciation and paying homage to the past.
It is worth saying that, apart from the Daddy Lumba video, all the rest were directed by legendary videographer Abraham Ohene-Djan and his OM Studios acolytes.
Lil Shaker Re-creates Iconic Album Covers
Lil Shaker enters the scene to continue from where Cue left off. This time, he pays homage to the very iconic hip-hop idols he grew up listening to. Shaker did this by re-creating some of their major album covers like TuPac’s ‘All Eyez On Me’, Ja Rule’s ‘Pain Is Love’ (shot by the legendary Jonathan Mannion), the iconic ‘Get Rich Or Die Tryin’ by 50 cents (shot by Sacha Waldman), and Jay Z’s classic ‘Black Album’ (shot by Jonathan Mannion).
Beneath the album covers is an interesting sublime statement about his own career path. Lil Shaker could be drawing parallels between him and 2Pac with the reference about his own path to greatness off Pen & Paper album. Don’t forget 2Pac was in jail in 1996, after being convicted (falsely) of rape. His album ‘All Eyez On Me’ became the No.1 album on Billboard. The legend of 2Pac was cemented by the album. So, Shaker is telling us this is his time to grow to greater things.
Since joining BBnZ, Shaker has been criticized for his diminishing role at the label. The optimism which many, including myself, had when he joined the label began to wane, after he chose to be more T-Pain than TI. The bullet ripped glass scene he re-created from 50 Cent’s GRODT cover could represent the criticisms that fans have leveled at him-shattering the glass house he found himself inhabiting. Not incurring any injuries, he’s more inspired to be the best. The theme of inspiration segues into the re- enactment of the Jay Z Black album cover, which could also mean his aim at greatness or Pen & Paper is definitely a classic. In short, those images or scenes sum up Shaker’s past and offers an insight into his future (henceforth).
Towards the end, Lil Shaker ask us to rewind the song to the beginning and listen again. The video then shuffles back to the Ko-Jo Cue as daddy Lumba ‘Aben Wo Ha’ scene. This is where the Untitled video ends, unceremoniously.
Some few points of notice:
‘Untitled’ is a continuation of Pen & Paper video. There’s a striking theme between the two. The video is shot in black and white. And we saw in the P&P video references to Obrafour’s ‘Pae Mu Ka’ poster and old cassette tapes. In ‘Untitled’, these themes are explored on a wider scale- paying real homage to the legends.
Both Cue and Shaker referenced four idols each- Lumba, Obrafour, M3nsa and Edem/Sarkodie. For Shaker, it was 2Pac, Ja Rule, 50 Cent and Jay Z. Splitting the number to the middle indicate how the making of ‘’Pen & Paper’’ is a shared creative effort. With Cue idolizing Ghanaian artists and Shaker referencing legendary hip-hop icons, they tell the story of many Ghanaian rap fans; inspired by home grown and US rap stars.
My only reservation is that, they could have done away with the reference videos they re-created. Imagine how compelling it would be if they had allowed the viewer to identify their scenes from the original sources that served as their inspiration? The nostalgic feel would have been outstanding.
In the last scene of the video, we see the two rappers set up their ‘studio’ and a cardboard with the inscription ‘DIY Studios’ sitting at the left side of the screen. Despite the reeking humor in the name, it points to the DIY (Do It Yourself) spirit that many indie artists embody when chasing their musical dreams.
And could the last scene be the album cover?