Music – enjoying music can be for many reasons; fun, dance, relaxation, letting out steam, among others.
Short of words on Valentine’s Day? Let the music do the talking. Looking for words of encouragement? There is music for that too.
However, there is a sense of belonging when you find music that put into words the emotions that you feel, the experiences that place you under society’s microscope and relate to the challenges dragging you down into the dark corners of life.
That connection is a priceless asset that many adults wish to have in any way, shape or form. There are a few singles and albums that achieve this objective; the haven where you’re not judged, and where your emotions matter.
KooKusi’s 5Foot3 lands squarely in that universe.
5Foot3 is a seven-track EP that seemingly addresses different social issues. These topics are interconnected in a way that breathes life into the broader conversations that are barely addressed.
“The whole 5foot3 concept is that every single one of us has a five-foot-three (an insecurity),” the rapper explains.
A month after this EP from an “underground” rapper hit streaming services, it easily became a favourite of many music enthusiasts – one of such who noted if Kojo Cue had a part two of the critically acclaimed ‘For My Brothers’ album, this would be it.
Without taking anything away from Koo Kusi, it would be amiss not to see the striking similarities between the two albums, not in terms of instrumentals or lyrics but as bodies of work having a well-reasoned agenda to put to the front.
Every song on 5 Foot 3 has a different message and yet they are interconnected in a way that leaves every listener curious to know what’s next.
The EP starts with the title track ‘5 Foot 3’. This melodic tune addresses a young man’s inferiority complex – his height – and having to face criticisms and mockery associated with it.
“Physically I am five foot three, short black boy,
That is all you see I mean you can’t see more,
You no go see am, cos the only foresight you ever had is on your TV screen.”
A listener can easily notice from these lines how defensive Koo Kusi is about this one feature of his that has been attached to his identity – he even lashes out at his ‘tormentors’.
Additionally, he moves stealthily to take the attention from his five foot three to incorporate the inferiority complexes of others from weight to physical challenges.
The term ‘5Foot3’ then becomes the symbol of inferiority complexes not just in the title song, but in subsequent tracks.
Through this track, KooKusi gracefully becomes the mouthpiece of the ‘oppressed’, who have had to go through a similar ordeal as him. This easily manifests itself as the EP progresses.
But perhaps what would draw every listener in is hearing a part of themselves in the song knowing they are not alone on this journey.
“Your body-shaming got me feeling underrated,
I can’t even feign it,
This is all the work of God you should never hate it,
Now you got me second-guessing every single complement and praise” he raps.
One of a storyteller’s best friends is imagery – a rapper’s ability to use words or circumstances that aid listeners in visualising the scenario is key to grabbing their attention.
That is why the second track ‘Phone Down’ stands as one of the best on the track. Beyond pointing out, his ‘partner’s’ obsession with their phone to the point individuals around them are insignificant, he’s heard arguing with them about their addiction to social media, seeking approval from the nameless people online.
This creates a barrier in their relationship creating a space where there is a lack of communication with the person who matters, the person who sees their frown when they send a laughing emoji, the person who knows them inside out, the person next to them.
“So what’s the worst thing that could happen if we started talking. Bowed down to your phone like Jesus Christ was on it. Head down you’re texting happy faces when indeed you’re sulking.”
This then leads to a big blowout argument at the end of the track when he attempts to question this person’s addiction.
‘Phone Down’ may seem removed from ‘5Foot3’ but in a deeper examination, your mind’s eye is opened to the fact that the people who are so addicted to social media one way or the other want to compensate for their inferiority complex by showing off on social media.
Others seek approval from their followers, posting their every trouble on their pages, but perhaps it is because they lack friends in real life. And this in turn creates a false sense of belonging with the people they do not know on their platforms.
“Okay I get
It’s kinda hard to look a brother in his eyes
Talk about your weaknesses
And hope he wouldn’t criticise
Best you do is post it on your status
While you wait for him to read it
Caterpillars in your stomach turn to butterflies,” KooKusi says.
And when you do share,
“Psychological disturbances they term emotion
I try to share with peeps
They telling me I need to focus,
‘You be hard guy you no for worry your body my don’,” he adds.
In a conversation on MyJoyOnline.com, KooKusi said though he touches on people’s addiction to the internet, he does not invalidate the purpose of social media.
“Think about it, how is Kwadwo Sheldon surviving? How is KalyJay surviving? Social media has saved their lives. Because unemployment in Ghana is real and crazy and if people can think of ways they can make money through social media. People are hiring through social media.”
Some albums have intermissions and these are usually presented either in the form of short speeches or some instrumentals. Alternatively, KooKusi ditched these widely used practices and opted for a skit.
Although this may not necessarily be an intermission, it makes a certainly interesting piece for Koo Kusi to introduce his next song addressing stereotypes with a conversation he’s having with a friend.
Among other things, they touch on the controversial Achimota vs Rastafarian case and the Wesley Girls controversy where it was realised that Muslims were not allowed to fast.
It is the perfect way to introduce a song that presents itself as a double-edged sword – Stereotypes.
“She got a crazy sense of fashion
Body type fitting, she be dripping
You could never put the blame on her for stirring attraction.
But you take your gown, then your wig,
Court rise you dey judge,” he says in the first verse.
In this verse, KooKusi holds dear the phrase ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’.
He defends men and women whose appearances – from dreadlocks to form-fitting clothes and others – get them facing the unwelcomed wrath of society through no fault of theirs.
If Beyonce has visual albums, KooKusi has an interactive EP. If you’ve listened to and then watched the videos that came after Beyonce’s ‘Lemonade’ and ‘Black is King’ albums, one thing is clear, the legend has mastered the art of creating pieces that elevate her album from a collection of songs to visual albums that stylistically provide an in-depth look into the songs.
Not just that but it evokes some excitement and generates conversations (for instance when she destroyed cars with a slugger in Hold Up).
KooKusi is no Beyonce, obviously, but it’s admirable to listen to an album that gets you reacting and sometimes wanting to respond to the ideas posed and Dream Olympics is proof.
The song starts with a teacher asking kids what jobs they’d like to do. Their simple answers like sell ‘omotuo’, be a driver among others gets you laughing.
After a moment you think back to the answer you gave years ago, then wonder how many times those dreams changed. What your dreams were as a teen? Then, what are they as an adult and how far away are you from the dreams you had as a kid?
Dreams Olympics is one song that gets the conversation going. But it also reminds me of “why you dey biz me where a dey job bro” in 5foot3 shining light on not just unemployment but the need for people to hide their jobs because they don’t meet society’s standards.
My biggest takeaway from KooKusi’s Pentecost Signboard is his final words.
“Being a billboard or a signboard means you are ultimately at one place. That could mean you are immovable like a solid rock or you are stagnant like water that has lost its way….so are you a rock with a set foundation or water without the ebb and flow of life?”
This question posed perfectly encapsulates the thoughts he expressed not in just that one song but all others before it.
Throughout Pentecost Signboard, he leaves you questioning whether you practice what you preach, take seriously the words you preach and whether your actions are in correlation with your words.
Then one question allows you to ponder where you are in life, your purpose, direction and whether your input is reflected in your growth or you are content with being stagnant.
Ironically, these words could apply to KooKusi as well. He has a goal. The goal is to be recognised as one of Ghana’s best rap artiste, whose intricate use of allusion (biblical or historical), imagery, personification and others draw every listener into his work.
There when you are finally at one with his words you see his second goal, to put forth youth challenges like mental health and addiction using art.
But what if he fails to live by his own words, what if his 5foot3 still hunts him, what if the EP that carries such beautiful yet massive words is lost on people, what does that make him? Water with the ebb and flow of life or stagnant?
Has he even confronted his insecurity? Has he addressed his hypocrisy or despite all these words, he’s still stagnant water that has lost its way. It’s one thing to advocate but it’s another and a sign of growth and maturity when a person does an introspection, confronting his own bias.
As distinctive of 5foot3, KooKusi puts up a mirror urging everyone including himself to confront their reflections, inferiority complex, bias, hypocrisies and addictions.
Let It Be
Let is be is a beautiful song that crowns the rapper’s angst. Many Ghanaians believe in a supreme being.
The Almighty in whose hands people leave their troubles when they feel they have nowhere else to turn to. Going through the motions of the topics expressed in this EP as a person can be exhausting and frustrating.
So, what better way can such a person end their day, or find solace if not in the hope that a prayer said in earnest to the Almighty would at least give them the strength to overcome said afflictions.
“Inferiority is holding me captive
Chained by these 5foot3s and these streaks wouldn’t snap it
Wrestling with morals, where I am hip is where it strikes
And I’m denying my hypocrisy
I am calling it adaptive,” Agyeibea says in the chorus.
In a society where people in pain pretend to be strong as expressed in Phone Down, it takes a lot to admit your insecurities are holding you back from where you want to be.
KooKusi may have said a simple prayer but personifying the ‘greatness’ he is seeking as ‘Stephen Curry’, ‘Klay Thompson’ and ‘Drake’ is ultimately his way of manifesting his future.
But again not narrowing down the blessings he is seeking to one individual gives him room to expand and grow beyond expectation.
As he said in Phone Down…
“We came from analytical to skin deep
Self-sufficiency but low key we depressed gee
Narcissistic generation, e dey vex me
We’re filling bigger shoes
But not attaining great feat,”
…we all may need as much prayer as we can have to help us muster the courage to truly help us work towards attaining the feat reflective of the massive shoes we’re filling.
After listening to the album, there are other things that may intrigue people aside from the man of the moment, KooKusi.
I wondered, who produced these songs, who are those vocalists, where did he find the other rapper? These are just a few questions I asked.
Koo Kusi’s ‘5Foot3’ gives credence to the Micheal Jordan quote “talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.”
There is absolutely no doubt that Koo Kusi could have done this album alone and still have it be good, especially since as a songwriter he knows when, where and how to engage his listeners with his rhymes, stories and flow.
However, he does not rely solely on himself to make the album what it is today. It is the incorporation of different talents all from his camp of friends that adds to the uniqueness of EP.
Victor Morgan featured on ‘Dream Olympics’ made the artwork for the EP. In the conversation with The Millenial Street, KooKusi gushes over how talented his friend is.
Perhaps some of the striking things about the album are the female vocals featured on it.
Agyeibea is featured on 5Foot3 but her presence is not felt only in the words she sings but in the mesmerising way she draws people in with the emotions behind her voice.
That is only possible because Agyeibea has a connection to the track.
Again she is featured on Let It be with Makafui Dawoe and their harmonies are one of the highlights of that song.
Just like Agyeibea, Justina featured on Phone Down has a story with social media and she leaves it all on the track. Her voice is the first thing you hear on Phone Down.
Aside from the thought-provoking lyrics on the EP, the beats/instrumentals are one thing that elevates the album. Rdeebeatz who produced every single track on the album is also a friend of KooKusi.
The rapper believes so much in his friend’s talent he gave him the creative freedom to make beats that reflect the songs and essentially the album.
“He works in a hospital and does this production on the side. The whole project was recorded in his bedroom. And so for someone like him, you realise how apparent a song like Dream Olympics is for him when his dream is to be a beatmaker but people are pushing him into the medical profession.”
It pays off for him because aside from the content you are hit with on 5Foot3, the production takes you on a journey.
Then William Francis Agyei Mensah played the guitar on Phone Down. This is a body of work put together by like-minded individuals who understand not just the aim but the processes it takes to get there.
KooKusi told The Melillennial Street Podcast that he is hoping this project becomes a stepping stone on which some of his friends especially Rdeebeatz, who wants to make it as a producer, become the respected pillars and appreciated talents in the industry.
It is one thing to come across the work of an up-and-coming artiste and see their brilliance. It is another to realise that to achieve this level of eminence, they incorporate the skill and expertise of others who may not be big but are equally or more talented.
Many young musicians at the beginning of their career have only one goal in mind, fame. So to ensure they are accepted, they build on their craft, whether it’s their songwriting or their vocals or their rhymes to gradually reach a level that sees them at par with their predecessors and there are many examples in the industry.
But when an artiste’s debut song/EP speaks so much, you question which way is next. It could go so well as we’ve seen of many new artistes like Black Sherif, Mr Drew and others but, it could also be the last of brilliant work they release.
That’s why aside from the goal of fame, having a plan, and a focus by which you measure your steps, and ensure your name becomes a celebrated one in the industry, may not always work but it goes a long way to dictate your stay in the music scene which can sometimes be fleeting.
So perhaps KooKusi’s ultimate goal would be his saving grace. And if the information I have is anything to go by, expect more and possibly elevated music.
If there is one thing that adds to the prospects of this EP and assures its growth aside KooKusi’s passion for rap and advocacy, it is Jay-Z’s words on rap music.
“Rap is poetry, it is thought-provoking, there is thought behind it and there is great writing in rap as well. You never hear rappers being compared for the greatest writers of all time, you hear Bob Dylan but so was Biggie Smalls (The Notorious B.I.G.) in a hitchcock way.”
“Listening to some of the things Biggie writes, you take those lyrics and you pull them away from the music and put them on a wall and someone had to look at them, they would say, this is genius.”
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