Ghana-based Benjamin Lebrave speaks fluent French and English, and can schmooze in Spanish and Portuguese. He’ll report on new African music every other week. This week, he writes about the Takoradi-born MC Kofi Kinaata.
I am obsessed with the beaches of Ghana's western coast. Most are just west of Takoradi, one of Ghana's biggest cities, now self-proclaimed the O.C.—Oil City. Late last year, as I once again passed through Takoradi on my way to one of the area's beautiful beaches, I told myself I should really build more ties in Tadi, to justify—or better yet multiply—my trips out west.
I asked Wanlov if he was aware of anything popping in Takoradi. The first name he shared was Kofi Kinaata. As soon as I heard Kinaata's "Wonky3 Ghana," I knew I had to at least interview him. Getting a hold of him was a different story, and I never even spoke to him until just recently. After several failed attempts last year, I let the idea sit. Meanwhile Kinaata moved to Accra to work with Samini and his Highgrade team, and the name Kinaata is no longer confined to the Western Region.
Kinaata first came out of his shell in 2008, when he rose to the top of a hip-hop competition held on the Kasahari show by Takoradi's Melody FM. "Many thought I was going to win, but in the end I was first runner up. I was just a kid, At the time I had only been rapping for months, there was no room for me then."
But Kinaata's talent forced Takoradi to make room for him. In 2010, Kofi completed high school, after which he managed to devote more time to music. "I started rapping more, studio works, on rap battles. I performed at schools and fairs. All the students knew me, they really wanted me."
Kinaata raps in Fante, the Akan language of the coastal Fante people. It's close to twi, which means it can be understood by a majority of people throughout Ghana. Wanlov tells me Kinaata is "a Fante Yaa Pono," a serious compliment when you know Pono is Kubolor's favorite twi rapper. "He is wise, [uses] lots of poetry, he's very lyrical, witty. He pulls from everything from astrology to food." I also asked Kofi how he describes his own raps. "I say the unthinkable, what you cannot even imagine. I believe in punchlines, [I give] universal advice, nothing profane. At the end of the day, when you listen to me you have to laugh."
Alas, my own Fanti sucks, so I am missing out on practically everything Kinaata raps about. But his flow keeps me interested, as do some of the Takoradi beats he's used. Now that he is based in Accra, Kofi is working mainly with Accra producers, including top dawgs such as Appietus, Ball J, Dr Ray & Cash 2 and Magnom. However I have chosen to feature one of his earlier works, which in my mind are what set him clearly apart, a combination of his smooth, precise flow with futuristic, minimal beats.
Download: Kofi Kinaata, "Onnyi Chorus"
A good example of this is the song "Onnyi Chorus"—no chorus, produced by Willis. In Takoradi, Kinaata also worked with Elorm, Still Vybez and Oil City Vybez, all dope producers well worth checking out. Their sound is at least as good, if not better than what I hear coming out of studios in Accra. Clearly there is decent gear out west, and a decent work flow for these beatmakers. For all the drama oil causes everywhere it goes, in Takoradi it seems to be fueling a wave of extra dope hip-hop: only in Ghana can people turn a fossil fuel into renewable energy. More vim Tadi.