For any conceptually brilliant album, there are a string of records that form the pivot of the album. In this article, we highlighted the three records that hold “For My Brothers” together.
Ko-Jo Cue’s album, For My Brothers (FMB) has been out for three months and the response accorded the album has been enormous. The talented rapper did not only make an album that reflected the realities of life, and most specifically, the issues that afflict the youth – the intersecting challenges between life, work, family and pursuit of dreams- presented in an honest, reflective and vivid terms. Like we indicated in our album review, “For My Brothers” is the BBnZ signed artiste’s magnum opus and an “Album of The Year” contender.
Ko-Jo Cue’s brilliance as a rapper has never been in doubt. From his Before We Shine album to The Shining Mixtape (circa 2014) to his collaborative album with fellow BBnZ mate, Shaker on Pen N Paper, he has exhibited a knack for great storytelling, lyrical ability and wordplay. “For My Brothers” showcased his growth as a rapper, and maturity of a man ready to share his emotions with a multitude of audience. The flood of emotions and his truth from the first song “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” through to “Dua” to “Shii The Song” are sonically different but thematically parallel. The subjects are delivered with clarity.
Every excellently conceived album has its own roots. That is, every album has some songs that serve as the fulcrum from which all other themes blossom. With FMB, it is the first three opening tracks. However, upon repeated listen, tracks 6,7 and 8 carry the best introspective tales by Ko-Jo Cue. “Muddy Story’’, ‘’Never Mind’’ and ‘’Loser’’ had Cue delivering some of his best intimate stories about his life (or his truth). Aside the truth shared across these records, the sequencing of the tracks made the tales more fathomable.
Even though the tales are shared from different perspectives, the subject matter is of great relevance. On Track 6, Ko-Jo Cue touched on the theme of deadbeat fathers with emphasis on how the narrative told the child is often skewed in favour of the mother. Considering how much of the stories that filled the album are a reflection of own realities, I wonder how much of the stories held his own truth.
The mid-tempo drum and kick beat with strong finger snaps (or was it 808 synths?) featured Maayaa, who lined the beat with some infectious yet haunting soulful vocals on the hook. Cue weaved a touching tale of a father’s strenuous relationship with his child for his ”irresponsibility”: the contempt his girl’s family held against him, the one-sided narrative told his child in an attempt to entrench the hatred for him and more.
“Cos as of now my only fear say/They’ll let you grow into thinking I’m a deadbeat even when I paid the school fees”, Cue rapped, shedding light on how an unplanned pregnancy, a failed relationship could ruin not only the innocence of a child but make him a victim of the situation. In presenting his side of the story, Ko-Jo Cue did not exonerate himself of any wrong – which is the case in most instances. He, however, hoped that one day, when his kid is 18 years, ‘I go tell you my version”. This song reminds me of “I Told You So”, a song by Nana Benyin (formerly Rumor). The first verse of the song reflected Ko-Jo Cue’s own story about that time he almost became a father.
She captain America, I’m iron man in the field
Civil war and you’re Spiderman caught in the middle
My only hope all this palaver don’t scar you a little, my son [Muddy Story]
A situation where you are denied the opportunity to see your child could shake your soul thus leading to depression and anxiety. A man’s heart, they say is full of secrets that is not often shared due to lack of trust. On “Never Mind”, Ko-Jo Cue explored the various reasons why people (sic: boys or men) rarely seek for help -professionally or not over their deepest secrets. ‘Y3 se bibinii ntumi nya (they say black people don’t suffer) depression, and so we keep it all in’’ and ‘’Life in these parts be traumatic/ Wo ka a y3 se (If you complain, they tell you to) shut it, don’t ever talk about it’’ emphasized the mindset of many. At the base of this stuck up action of not opening up is down to lack of trust.
On the second verse of the record, Cue articulated the fears of being honest with his friends, including his mum since one cannot be sure of their reaction. Though Cue clearly admitted the need to cry sometimes and the burden of holding everything in, he curtly expressed why it’s daunting: ‘’Can’t trust a soul but my mother / But I no fit tell her these things / Hold the pain in my head till I’m dead”.
The burden of walking through life with truck load of trauma, depression, pain, anxiety and mental health issues bore great parallels with the Joewackle written and directed short film “Boys No Dey Cry”, which highlighted the subject of mental health, seeking professional health, the difficulty in opening up and the various coping mechanisms people adopt in our efforts at warding off the monster that keeps goading them. The statistics on mental health/depression in the country is alarming: 800,000 people are said to be living with mental health with 600,000 suffering severe depression. About 1.2 million people are reported to be battling with moderate depression.
“Sometime you be loyal pass
But, I still can’t fuck with you
Cos somebody hurt me bad
And a brother get trust issues
Remember when I said all the negative energy no dey bother me? I lied” [Never Mind]
Sometimes in life, you have to leave people behind to move on. So, the quote goes. Growth means recognizing the things that hold you or has the potential to stunt your growth. Leaving others behind on your path to success is not an easy decision to take. It is, however, a necessary evil. Such decisions usually come with consequences like guilt. You have to have a deeper skin to fend off the criticisms and keep your head up en route to your dream destination.
Across the three verses that made up “Loser”, Ko-Jo Cue dissected the various scenarios on his handling of criticisms from fans, cutting a very close friend and losing a lover.
Cue’s potential as a top tier rapper has never been in doubt. And his signing to BBnZ was seen by many – including this writer- as a new frontier for him; a platform to project his amazing rap talent to the world. This hope was given extra glow with the release of his mixtape “The Shining” in 2014. The anticipated glow did not quiet shine bright enough. Disappointment and social media are a bad mix and soon fans were airing out their feelings about Ko-Jo Cue and his decision to hop on the BBnZ train.
Some went as far to posit that Cue’s career would have been more successful if he had taken the indie route. Re-echoing the sentiments of a one-time fan, Cue rapped about the frustrations of this fan which ultimately led to him abandoning the Cue ship: “If debates with his crew commot/ And they talk on who’s the God, emcee/ Lately he dey exempt me’’. The ”misses” by Cue- including chasing a radio hit with the azonto inspired “Mama Yie” single with Shaker was the last act that made that fan walk away.
The second verse of the record exemplified the struggle of having to leave behind someone you truly care about. The story presented is that of a close friend whose actions and habits Cue considered a potential injury to his career and growth as a human being. Even though he has love for him as a close buddy, Cue is also aware that some ‘’habits dey block blessings’’ thus the decision to let go.
As the adage goes, you cannot change a person who does not want to change. This friend was stuck in his ways – smoking 24/7 to kill off his stress. As an artiste with a focus, building a team to help you navigate the maze of music business is essential to one’s longevity and success; something Ko-Jo Cue is not ready to lose sight off or let friendship cloud his judgment.
‘’And you are who you hang with/ Nti you for choose your friendships/ To suit your dreams/ watch your goals to choose your team’’.
The closing verse on ‘’Loser’’ is a narrative about parting ways with your lover; the one person you had dreamt of spending the rest of your life with. In some instances, these dreams become reality. But in most cases, the dreadful happens. In this case, the girl in question moved on to have a better love life, leaving Cue behind. ‘’I guess I’m such a loser’ which closed each verse did capture two expression of emotions judging by the context of delivery: first, an acceptance and respect of people’s decisions (revealing the ‘fakes’ and the real fans) and finding grace in losing someone dear to you. And in all this, Ko-Jo Cue harboured no malice in his voice.
‘’For My Brothers’’ is Ko-Jo Cue’s magnum opus. The strength of the album lies in the message and themes covered- they reflected the realities of today’s young adult. The stories on the album aside, it’s Ko-Jo Cue’s brilliance as a songwriter and rapper along with his bravery to tackle these uncomfortable themes is what made For My Brothers a life care kit.