“The only black rappers who want to be white” — tongue-in-cheek, hilarious and often controversial, Ghanaian duo FOKN Bois call their sound gospel porn rap. They are known for challenging the status quo of Ghanaian society and highlight social and political issues with a good measure of satire, shock lyrics and performance art.
FOKN Bois are touring South Africa. The two were invited to perform at Vansa’s Joburg Art Week and will also be performing in Cape Town.
Some might remember the Pan African Space Station in 2009. The event was hosted by Chimurenga magazine and showcased musicians from across the African diaspora, including Malian kora maestro Toumani Diabate and Los Angeles beatmaker Ras G. It was also the same event that introduced local audiences to Ghanaian pidgin rapper Wanlov the Kubolor.
For that concert, audiences were greeted by a tall dreaded man, wearing nothing but a tiny wrap around his waist and dancing barefoot in the Slave Church museum. There, he told stories that hypnotised the audience, many of whom had not heard of Wanlov before. Kubolor is a Ga word that essentially means wanderer and Wanlov is known as the African Gypsy.
That performance has stuck in the memories of many local fans. Now Wanlov returns with FOKN Bois and teams up with his musical soulmate in the form of M3NSA (the Ghanaian Hiplife Pioneer).
The email interview with the two is about as strange as the group itself.
When asked what they will be presenting on tour, FOKN Bois replied: “Our Pretoria High School hairstyles among other things, like an intimate performance in Cape Town facilitated by Chimurenga.”
FOKN Bois have garnered attention for some of their more controversial songs, such as Thank God We’re Not A Nigerians, Sexin Islamic Girls and Want to Be White. When asked how they deal with criticism for some of their more controversial lyrics, or whether it matters, they say: “Laughter. Yes, it matters a great deal. We really love to laugh.”
Of their impressions of South Africa in comparison to life in Accra, they say: “In Accra, you feel like you are in Africa.” This is probably because they are staying in the gentrified Maboneng area of Johannesburg, which they find very confusing with its discrepancies.
To them, FOKN Bois is “Wanlov the Kubolor and M3NSA. Bored and constantly looking for sometimes creative ways to amuse our minds. The sound is a silent awkwardness for the guilty and those who care about them … we call it gospel porn.”
Both members rap and play keyboards, samplers, drum machines and guitars. The two first met in high school in the 1990s and freestyled together. They started recording in 2006 and officially became FOKN Bois in 2008.
They’ve since become one’s of Accra’s biggest live acts and have performed at music festivals and shared the stage with the likes of Snoop Dogg, Femi Kuti and the Gorillaz.
The two screened their 2010 film Coz Ov Moni in Johannesburg. It is described as “a musical in pidgen English that takes the viewer through a day in the lives of two friends living in Accra”.
In June this year, they released FOKN Ode to Ghana, the follow-up to their debut album Fokn Wit Ewe, which came about after hearing the beat tape Ode to Ghana by Hobo Truffles. It featured various hip-hop producers who made beats using mainly Ghanaian highlife and Afro-jazz samples.
They explain further: “We really liked the mix so we decided to rap on all the beats. It took us a while because we live continents apart and when we meet we are always performing or experiencing light off in Accra. We wanted listeners to know we can also be deep even though it is very boring to be so.”
Wanlov says of memories of Cape Town: “I enjoyed the African Market and the white old guy that kicked me out of a music shop for trying to buy tuning pegs. I had fun hanging out at the Pan African Space Station and enjoyed all the musical performances I saw and took part in.”
To their South Africa fans, they say: “Your country is cool. Nice temperature.”
Safe to say, they are guaranteed to be highly-energetic live performers and not to be missed.
FOKN Bois perform on September 10 at Greatmore Studios, Woodstock. Visit foknbois.bandcamp.com