The Polyglot Rapper


Nkiacha Atemnkeng


Is Forkeh the new face of Cameroon’s polyglot rap scene?



In the Wasi Fathes-directed video for “Menomo”, Forkeh presents two versions of himself: in the first, he is in traditional gear, sitting on a throne like a chief in front of his palace, briskly spitting bars in Metta. He is surrounded by masquerades who also pass for guards. The camera zooms from left to right, across his face and across the jujus, sometimes oscillating quickly. Focus is then shifted to the nodding masquerades, leading to a transition to the second version of Forkeh. Here, he is rocking a pair of jeans and a black T-shirt bearing the song’s title. He is in a much more urban setting, surrounded by thug-like buddies donning “Menomo”-labelled T-shirts; all of which generates just the right imagery to accompany his Pidgin English flow.

The hyper-cultural world Wasi Fathes creates in the first scene is a feast to the eyes, especially as it makes for a contrast with contemporary music videos. It nevertheless leaves one reeling from trying to guess what is going on behind the traditional visuals, in the artist’s psyche. Such guesswork is quickly cut short by the second scene, which highlights Forkeh’s ambitious, confident, witty, and funny persona. The rapper then whets appetites with a brief flow in English before signing out.

Forkeh’s freestyle song is a fast spin of fervid rhymes, metaphors, and punchlines that fire up the listener from multilingual angles. He’s the new, confident bull of Cameroonian hip hop, let loose to inaugurate what already seems to be a promising year. Forkeh is in the same category with the talented Cameroonian rapper and polyglot, Ngoma, who rhymes in his native tongue, English, Pidgin English, French, and Camfranglais.

The flow in Metta is the peak moment of the song, and just when one thinks his tune is going to be delivered only in Metta, he changes the direction in the second verse. The part in Pidgin English delivers as well, featuring what is probably one of the song’s best lines: “Invite me for your birthday, I go rap sutay you go gimme your car key!” It also serves rather catchy lines, such as:

Jovi, to be frank you, be grand,

I di follow for your back, nobi sey you get to add my rang.

If you be colonel, I be adjudant!

Although this video could be much finer, there is something exhilarating about watching this young beast channel his polyglot energy in polyvalent fashion.



Nkiacha Atemnkeng is a Cameroonian writer, blogger, and music critic. He tweets @nkiacha.




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