This review is late in coming. But, as they say, better late than never. Contributor-At-Large, Nana Safo (@forksafo ) decided to write a track-by-track review of the album, settling on which rapper came in the hardest on each track. This article is also to wish Lil Shaker a happy birthday. Enjoy his analysis.
The plan was for Shaker to release a solo album. A hiphop or rap album to prove to people that he hasn’t lost his hip-hop antecedents. Shaker has been slammed by fans who loved him for his hip-hop roots for reducing himself to a mere hook deliverer. As a fan, I strongly felt he’d have earned more stripes if he had gone as an indie artist than joining ranks with BBnZ.
So, when fellow label mate and rapper Kojo-Cue heard him laying bars over beats in the studio, he was willing to drop a few verses on some songs. Later, the two thought it wise to drop a joint album rather than Shaker doing it alone. The outcome: Pen and Paper.
Most fans were anxious, and at the same time very expectant of what the two would offer. For those who are not familiar with him, this a flashback on his musical journey. Read Lil Shaker’s Come Up Story
Cue on the other hand has from day one till date stuck to his rap. He remains part of my 6 (six) underrated rap acts in the country.
If not mistaken, the 13 track album was officially released on Saturday, 4th November, 2017 with an impressive concert at the Alliance François, although it did not climax as expected (the show was forced to end prematurely due to time factor). Now left with the last two MCs on the label, let’s analyze, on track-by-track basis, the performance of each MC on album.
Accra – Kumasi (Prod by Ipappi)
The instrumental for the opening track produced by Ipappi was a classical hiphop freestyle beat that showcased quality as well as the worth of people who jump on it. MC’s of that caliber can never go wrong with such a beat. Both rappers did their thing chale, sticking to no particular subject but just the freestyled rhymes chale. Judging from the verses chale, I think Cue went in harder than Shaker Chale.
‘’I write verse ky3, the boy just dey type chale/ boys just dey bite chale/ chew and pour, we go sue them more/settle them/ take the settlement/ then we fly chale’’ Ko-Jo Cue.
Pen and Paper (Prod by Shaker)
This track happens to be the lead track of the album. It happens to be the first single with a simple and excellently conceptualized video (the seamless transitions are sick), dropped prior to the album release.
In an era where some rappers boast about stepping into the booth with no written rhymes and others typing lyrics on the phones, Shaker and Cue referencing pen and paper shows how much value they place on the good old art of hip hop: writing. As to who bodied their verses, well I call this one a draw because of how both acts put forward their strongest foot and traded verses with such impeccability. Read our video review here
Chale let’s face it, most of these new rappers no dey say sh*t, they basic/make I give them my beats make them waste it – Shaker
Man Dey (Prod by VacsOnIt)
This track seemed to set records straight. The two rappers told their survival stories at one end and at the other threw some shades. The chorus was perfectly laid by Cue. For the rap, Shaker took it back to what people knew him for: brilliant lyrics with funny references.
He took it to the era where the New Generation Skillions reigned supreme. With the trappy beat serving as the perfect canvas, the two felt very comfortable at work. Shaker’s display of diverse rap styles earned him a huge one over Cue.
Chale f*ck your Louis Vuitton/You see Wallaby before? – Shaker
Uh Huh, Eh Heh (Prod by King Jamal)
One of my favourite on the album. The bounce is crazy; likewise the display of word play coupled with lyrical dexterity. Lil Shaker and Ko-Jo Cue came to war on this song; sending warning lyrical shots to an artiste. Where Cue went covertly throwing shots at this artist, Shaker chose to be brazen, referencing this artiste’s signature tagline and girlfriend to give the listener an idea. Shaker topped this one too in my book.
The-6-VGMA-category-nominated-but-took-none-rapper, Medikal I’m sure would take particular interest in this song.
Wavy since, olden times/ soon we go Thor like Odin son / k) y3 Sakawa, Me no me y3 Shatta, Wale (Wa lay) every beat enkasa koraa, massa Mahama( Ma hammer) wo ex – president in my city, Nana kraa go test -ify – Kojo Cue
Pressure ft. Ru (Prod by King Jamal)
Both rappers gave what appeared as real accounts of their careers through the eyes of a staunch fan. Shaker’s career has, according to some fans, including Joseph (used in the song) stagnated since signing to BBnZ, and constantly questioned why that was the case. Cue’s approached the song from the standpoint of a young, upcoming artist who was seeking answers (from Cue) on how to make it in this industry. Honestly I feel the Ru shouldn’t have to be on the song.
His verse seemly a little derailed from the pattern Cue and Shaker went. Ru’s verse was good but the Cue and Shaker’s spoke to a distinctly unique similar storyline and was better. Back to who took this one, I think Joseph’s narration of Shaker’s career got this one in my estimation. Both accounts by the two seemed real but Shaker’s seemed “more realer” (No Pappy Kojo things).
High Me ft. Magnom (Prod by Magnom)
Well, I’m not too happy this song was featured on an album titled “Pen & Paper”, conceived as a real hip hop album. One would have expected more ‘’guy guy’’ raps but not this song. With reference to the above two sentences, I shamefully say this ‘love song’ is one of my favourites off the album. Joe Magnom nailed the chorus and both rappers did what was expected of them on the song. ‘High Me’ is a sweet music piece: the bounce is infectious, the three line hook by Badman Magnom is catchy as hell. An excellent radio formatted song. I wouldn’t judge this song. It’s just… so good.
Politics ft. Kwabena Boham (Prod by Bedi Drumkits)
It’s said that nobody has it worse than an underground artiste. In their quest to make it, they scrap every dime and throw it in a dream, with no guarantee of success. Lil Shaker and Cue address this phenomenon, highlighting the real challenges up and coming and even some establish artistes face. Getting people to listen to your songs even when songs are on free streaming and download platforms, plus promotion and other financial constraints makes it a suicidal mission.
Cue and Shaker did a conversation / duet type of rap style, revealing how ‘everything is politics’ in showbiz. Kwabena Boham came in with a different approach. He stuck to the theme of and dropped some word play with the names of members of the BBNZ crew. I will call it a draw for all three rappers. This song has everything: humour, advice and real truths.
How you get 200k followers wey your retweets be two? – Ko-Jo Cue
Up & Awake ft. Kwesi Arthur (Prod by Ipappi)
Up & Awake is a trap-bounce song which featured Kwesi Arthur, one of the new rap sensations in the country. He did the hook and climaxed the song with a short verse. Fans just wished his verse was a little longer. In summary, the song thanked God for the gift of life (up and wake up/Glory to God o) and for Him to bless our hustle when we are awake. It really difficulty to tell who topped the rap and wouldn’t be fair to score it as a draw. Shaker did good but Cue held his own well. Cue had it. Special credit needs to be given to the producer. Those strings bawling beneath the beat was dope.
Me Ti Ate (Prod by K Wypa)
A nice one to be played with high volume in a moving car. This song no doubt qualifies as a club banger. This is a hip hop tune which saw both acts “flexing” on their current standings in the industry and also how far they have come. Cue set fire to the ‘feature for exposure’ flag and the need for rappers to be smart with their finances.
Shaker pours out their credentials and why they are the leaders of the new school. An average performance by both rappers over the hard hitting kicks, head bumping beat and catchy chorus. Will pick Cue if I’m to choose who did better.
Just Know (Prod by Paq)
Not really a fan of trap music. I think this song qualifies as one. No doubt “Just Know” is nice piece of music and a good one to relax with. The song in summary speaks about confidence and the hope of success. They speak against fakeness, mistrust and need to stay real. If am to score, both rappers were up to par.
Things We Do 4 Love Ft KiDi (Prod by BB and JayMera)
A love song with beautiful highlife grooves with a trap influence. Lynx Entertainment artiste KiDi brought his smoothness on it. The instrumentation was well laid and the rappers were on point. Both rappers brought a local feel to their verses which am sure it would catch on with most people. Shaker did well with his infusion of the Ewe dialect and Cue as usual was spot on with his Twi.
The title of this song is however deceptive and disappointing for contemporary old school head like me. On a track title like that, I was expecting flashbacks from the early 2000s local TV series “Things We Do For Love”. Cue got this one hands down.
Abi you know say, if you were Kenkey/ I go pick you over Jollof, right? – Kojo Cue
Untitled (Prod by Jedi Drumkits)
The video to this song is mad creative. Untitled is a freestyle rap song where both Shaker and Cue went bananas with the bars. A listed favourite on the album, and I’m sure it will be on the hearts of most rap lovers. Listening to the song, I wonder how much Access Bank and KFC helped in its production.
Hate to say this but it seemed hibernating from the rap scene for a while took a toll on Shaker. Cue’s verses on this song could easily pass him for rapper of the year. Cue got this one by some distance. Read video review here
You see mic aa you go fear, you no near am at all, Cool cat rhymes aa Tupac Shakur, So many dope lines I for supply Tagor – Ko-Jo Cue
Hmmm Ft Cina Souls (Prod by JayMera)
Don’t know whether this is a style of BBNZ rap artistes; to climax their albums/mixtapes with real life stories of how they got to their present status in the industry. Funny enough, EL’s BAR mixtapes with similar patterned songs featured Shaker on BAR I (Saa Na Eti3) and the two (Shaker and Cue) on “We No Dey Hear” on BAR II.
Shaker did the chorus on both songs and had his story pending. Cue on the other hand, told his story and really didn’t have much to say on Hmmm (at least when compared to “We No Dey Hear”). Cina Soul, the third voice on the song blessed the piece with her sweet silky voice as she perfectly laid the chorus in Ga. I have a crush on her (Wassup @MannyFBC?) Shaker had this one for me. Just hope his verse does not breed any friction among colleagues.
This by no means seeks to disrespect or downplay the crafts and efforts of any of the artistes. They both brought their gifts to the table, resulting in the crafting of one of the best albums released last year and also, one of the best collaborative albums thus far.
This is real hard work which needs to be supported.
Mad respect and appreciation goes out to the two artistes, the artistes who featured and to all hands who helped in putting this album together. Hiphop is much grateful. Again mad appreciation for bringing into light an innovative means of revenue collection aftown.com. Buy Pen & Paper Album here
PS: This album review was intentionally written late as Kojo Cue and Shaker REFUSED to ‘chill’ us for 5 days straight – exactly like they said they should in the song ‘Politics’. – Manny FBC