I’m just 25. I’m still trying to prove for myself the authenticity of the claim that everyone has someone who is their one true love. Until I do, my view on marriage will be like my view on jollof – it’s a nice dish but you can’t live your life eating one meal.
My view on marriage however doesn’t overlap with my view on love. My view on love is love is the only thing we need to develop our world. Love has a beautiful way of bringing the best out of every one of us. Love, simple ordinary love, is what we need to develop as a nation. If our leaders love the nation, they will take decisions in the interest of the nation. Love is the genesis of a good life. Love brings joy to our soul.
Every artist who has ever lived has at a point in their lives created a love-themed work of art. You’ll think the world should be fed up with love songs, poems or films by now. Ex-Beatles member, Sir Paul McCartney’s Wings band had a song called Silly Love Songs released in 1976. The opening lyrics were “You’d think that people would have had enough of silly love songs but I look around me and I see it isn’t so”. Almost 4 decades later, those words have proven to be eternally prophetic. It looks like the more we talk about love, the more we want to hear about it. Take a look at any music chart you can access, you’ll see love still reigns.
As a performer, I have observed people’s reactions to me performing poems on various subjects. My love poems tend to arouse the highest audience participation and the most applause. One of my poet friends, Tetteh d’Muse, told me he can see me being myself when I do my love poems. Even though I don’t believe in the concept of monogamy, I’m a believer of love. When I think about places like Angola, Iraq and Australia, the question I ask myself most is, “How do the boys ‘chuck’ girls at those places?
How do they fall in love? How do they express love?” I sometimes wonder what say Ras JM told Lordina for her to give in to him. When I meet people from other countries, how relationships are formed and maintained between lovers in their countries is usually my main concern. I was talking to a girl from The Gambia the other day who thinks Gambian men are more respectful to women than Ghanaians. A Gambian man won’t insult a woman in public like she sees Ghanaian men do when she sits in a trotro, no matter how the girl is dressed.
She gave me many instances and how a Gambian man will approach it as opposed to a Ghanaian man. I thought it was interesting because of the image I have of her country, a country where people who oppose the government go missing in this day and age. My girl told me the key to a happy relationship is honesty. It’s best when you know who you are dealing with. It’s in the Bible (Genesis 2:25). Adam and Eve lived happily without shame till they fell. #ShameIsOverrated.
I realized people can see your soul when you perform and are drawn to you and get attached to you when you perform from your heart. Every artist people have deep connection with is an artist who wears his heart on his sleeve. That realization is what led me to create an album called See Me Naked – an album on which I am being 100% honest with the listeners. Telling my story as it is. Even when I’m not telling my story, on the songs which are works of fictions, I make sure my heart is shown through the song. My opinion on the subject being discussed is exactly as it is. I won’t say things just to get people to like me. From the beginning of the album, you’ll realize you are listening to a carefree album created with love.
The first line on the album is, “Region of Hasaacas, city of 11 Wise, me y3 orhorhuor wor kurom ha, Menni kurom ha asem (I’m a stranger in this town, I don’t know what goes on here)”. The first part sets the scene for the listener to know the incidence on that song happened in Takoradi. The second part is homage to that classic song, Show Your Love by Paapa Yankson. In that song, he said he was from Takoradi. I chose to start the album that way because of love. Taadi is one of my favorite places in Ghana, not just because my girl is from there but also it’s the capital of the region that gave us my favorite human being ever, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. Not just him but also one of Ghana’s greatest artists ever, Castro.
Just like there was hip hop before Kanye and hip hop after Kanye (because Kanye’s arrival totally changed the sound of rap music); there was Ghana music before Castro and Ghana music after Castro. Before Castro, Ghanaian musicians were expected to specialize. You were either a singer or a rapper. And even in that regard, you were supposed to have something you were identified by. A Ga singer or rapper or a twi singer or rapper. If you were Obour and did Meso Dae, people still didn’t respect that song as a good highlife song, they just see as you saying one of those your scary things. If you were Tinny, a Ga rapper, rapping twi, you only get a “he tried” pass. Castro broke down those barriers. He made it cool to do everything and be good at everything. Castro made being versatile and being great at everything an attainable mark for a Ghanaian artist. Now you have a new school of Ghanaian artists (me included) not scared to experiment with every genre because he paved the way.
I remember the day Castro went missing like it was yesterday. I was taking my Sunday afternoon nap in Ada when people started bombarding me with phone calls to confirm the news. I had no idea what they were talking about. I went out to make some enquiries and get some information. I never went to the site though. I was too overwhelmed with emotions to do that. I love Castro, I mean who doesn’t. That is why I tried to abstain to commenting on him till now. I never had (or have) any relationship with the dude. I spoke to him only once over the phone when I was a journalist and have walked pass him backstage at a couple of events, never exchanged words, but I love him.
The Friday before the Sunday, I was listening to Notorious B.I.G’s Going Back to Cali, thinking I was going to create a cover version and call it Going Back to Taadi. I was thinking of making the song about the women, weather and waakye (One in Town waakye) of Taadi. I wrote, “I’m Nene B.I.G, king of the East Coast// Here to invade yout West Coast// Till these boys to pack out before I put them on death row// and tell the girls Sugar (Suge) is here to be your Knight in a shining armor”. (Those lines still haunt me. I still wonder why I wrote them). I thought about featuring him and the two of us will talk about how similar and different Taadi is from Ada. And then Sunday came and then since then I have not able to revisit the concept. So I decided to start my album by paying homage to the Twin City, no, Oil City as a show of my love for the town and the man.
Talking of love, I can’t do that without talking of self. I believe love begins with the self. You can’t love someone else without first loving yourself. The Bible said, “Love your neighbor AS YOURSELF”. That means your highest ability to give love is dependent on how much you love yourself. If you love yourself, you’ll want the best for yourself. If you love yourself, you’ll only want joy and happiness around you. In effect, you’ll bring joy and happiness to other people so you see more smiles around you. If you don’t treat yourself right, you can’t treat anyone right. If you value your life, you’ll value other lives. Having this in mind, is why I created an album bathed in self-love.
I love music, I love poetry. I love different genres of music. I am a proud cliché of the generation Castro and Kanye created. A generation of people who can’t make up our mind on what specifically we like. We like anything as long as it feels good or it makes us feel good. We are criticizing Nana Aba Anamoah one second and the next we are defending her. I created an album for myself and my generation. I express my and our mentality on various issues in the lyrics.
I created an album full of the different types of music I like. I love Ghanaian music, I love African music, I love world music and I love contemporary pop music. I love drums so I start my album with drums. I love songs with solo instrumental beats so I created Cold Flames with just keyboards. I’m a Gemini so I easily change my mind, so I made a song that expresses that quality (or flaw), Me, My Self and Eyes. The beat switched up like a million times in the less than 4 minutes run like an Outkast song. I created that song for ladies too, because I love them.
I just created an Instagram account (hisneneness) but some of my friends allowed me to visit IG with their accounts just watch pictures of girls. The more suggestive, the more I love it. I saved some of them on my devices to watch when I’m not online. I wanted to create a song that celebrated the art of Selfie-taking (a.k.a self-loving). It took me two years to do that because it had to be fun and deep at the same time.
I wrote the chorus in December 2013 during the Becca Girl Talk (I was one of the few blessed men allowed into the audience). All I saw the girls do that night was take selfies and take pictures and videos of the performances. They didn’t seem to be enjoying the show to me. I wrote the chorus to capture the fun they seem to be having with their phones. It felt to me like they came there to take pictures. I love music so much, I can’t be doing anything else, not even scratch my butt if there is a musical performance doing on. Seeing people who were the opposite of me intrigued me. I believe I captured that intrigue well in the writing of that chorus. I love different. When I see things different from me or different from normal, I love it. I remember reciting the chorus to my manager and he suggesting, I make fun of selfies and how ladies do it (because I don’t like taking them myself) and me refusing. I told him it will be hypocritical to do that because I love watching selfies. That gave me an idea for the verses (I won’t discuss the verses because that’s not the point of this write-up but it took me 2 years to nail it).
When my producer friend, Hot Sauce, sent me an experimental beat he was working on to ask what I thought of it, I told him, I love it and I’m keeping it for myself. Danny Beatz and I played around with the arrangement of the beat and made it more Outkast-like, I threw in some voice memos from conversations I have had with friends on whatsapp and voila, we had my current favorite song on the album, Me, My Selfie and Eyes.
I was excited to have Mzbel sing the chorus. Apart from the fact that she’s such a talented artist, I have had a crush on her for like 10 years. I remember telling her on the way to the studio riding in her car. She asked me my age, I told her and she called me a small boy. At least I got to tell her how I feel about her (If you love someone, please tell them). She nailed the singing. I think she should win Best Female Vocalist at next year VGMAs for her performance on that song. It will be crazier if I told you it took her just two takes to nail them. Oops, I just remember Yaa Yaa’s singing on Cold Flames is also one of the best vocal performances of any female artist in Ghana ever. She deserves to win Best Female Vocalist too. If VGMAs doesn’t award any of these two that award, I’ll pull a Kanye.
I made this album as a fan. Even though I’m a spoken word artist, I’m a fan of good music and great vocal performance so I got the best singers around. Jackie Morris, Danny Beatz, Galle Ansah (I felt in love with Galle’s voice the first time I heard her play Esaba in Kwaw Ansah’s Love of AA in 2010 or 11), Myron AK (who I think it’s going to the best music star in Ghana within the next 5 years) and Reynolds (I hate him because girls love him but I must admit he’s great) are all people I heard sing, loved and got them to be on the album. The only rap verse on the album was delivered by Edem. We recorded that song two years ago. I got him because he’s the favorite rapper of the girl I was dating at the time. I have to say thank you to them and the producers (Magnom, Drumroll, Hot Sauce, Camaflaj, Danny Beatz and Enay) for helping me prepare this love feast for you.
- * Nenebi is a poet, songwriter and storyteller. His mixtape, A B.I.B.L.E of Things We Do, has been out online for free downloading since September 21st, 2014. His debut album, See Me Naked, will be available online from October 13th, 2015 on modzaka.com. Follow him on twitter and Instagram @HisNeneness or on Facebook, “Ur Nenebi (HisNeneness)”.