Spoken word artist Hondred Percent has rigged out his poetic raps with musical trappings and created a vivid collection of auditory art; a hip-hop album that defies the preconceptions of a music culture soaked in derogatory shout-outs to money, sex, and fame. Decrying what the Ghanaian rapper calls “moral decay” may not be a groundbreaking concept, but for a debut album in the hip hop category, WTF? is in the very least a venturesome feat.
Still, it’s not all radio-friendly. “Just because it has parental advisory on it, doesn’t mean that I’m talking about stuff that shouldn’t be heard,” the artist says in an interview with yoyo tinz. “Are there swear words? Yes, but it’s intentional. It’s a bit hypocritical to stand up and say you are going to talk about certain issues in Ghana and assume that it’s gonna be all clean.”
Hondred Percent, or Paul Forjoe Jr., was introduced to hip hop by his brother, though didn’t quite comprehend “what the hell was being said.” The turning point happened during the 90’s growing pains, like the murder of Biggie and the album ‘Life After Death’ that followed. “I was now studying lyrics,” Paul says of his high school days. The less tragic squabbles of whether Jay-Z or Nas was a better rapper helped pinpointed his style. “Even though I liked both artists, I realized I gravitated more towards punchlines as opposed to storytelling.”
Paul listened to rap but wrote poetry “for romantic purposes”, which was more akin to Robert Frost than Jay-Z. “The kind of jargon…” He shakes his head. “It wasn’t down to earth to the modern person.”
Years later, this album is a far cry from Paul’s young Shakespearean tendencies. Now, his poetic POV is, in a word, refreshing. Hondred Percent has flipped the lyrical game on its head and spun it like a top. Punctuated with thought-provoking punchlines, WTF?‘s verbose heart throbs with beats reminiscent of the 90’s; an old-school feel with new-school theory.
It was while attending university in South Africa that Paul refined his lyrical prowess. An epiphanic poetry meeting exposed him to the frank, relatable lyricism of the spoken word culture. He realized how his love of hip hop and affinity for words could unite. After university, Paul returned to Ghana as Hondred Percent – a name that served as a self-motivation tool.
“When I say I’m the best, I’m not saying I’m better than you,” Hondred explains the motive behind his bold epithet. “All I’m saying is in my mind, I am the ‘ish’. Because if I don’t see myself that way, I’m not going to expect the best from myself.”
This attitude is reflected in the track ‘Akola Boni’, where he makes a vote for the resurrection of moral fibre. The melancholy of the imagery-lit ‘Africa Sent Me a WhatsApp Message’ digs into social and economic issues, and the upbeat, grown-up sing-along ‘Doing It Live’ gets you back on your feet. Musically, ‘Do What I Do’ nearly stands alone on stage but holds its own with strong prose.
The art of the word is where hip hop artists flounder or float. In WTF?, Hondred Percent swims. Against the current. The fundamentals of spoken word flourish against non-fussy beats produced by Boamah Made It (and some by the artist himself).
WTF?‘s diversity percolates the ears and the cortex, simultaneously moving feet and shifting thought patterns. Paul’s positive dispatch juxtaposed with nostalgic beats are not paradoxical. It is the revival of an optimistic attitude, the challenge of goodness in a season of bad, the rebranding of the hardworking hustle in apathetic days.
Crescendoing from simple beats to accelerated move-your-body rhythms and staccato’d with comedic interludes of a rather unexpected ‘character’, WTF? takes a jab at life’s dramatic nonsense and social media shenanigans, then jumps into corruption, religion, and “naughty boy” territory with a topical cohesion of satire.
He isolates underlying details of everyday life that often go overlooked and overused, calling out the subconscious effects they render on the populations psyche. The unforgettable ‘BNS’ throws profanity in your face in a less than subtle attempt to demystify the conundrum of certain **** words. With a flourish of robust rhetoric, he nails it.
Hondred Percent has stitched together a colourful, thought-provoking quilt of records rooted in “Ghanadom” with universal appeal.
The artist expresses ability to not take the world seriously enough to impede the enjoyment of life. An exercise in critical thinking, WTF? questions the status quo. Hondred’s version of the popular acronym is not the usual rhetorical profanity, but a carefully crafted question poised to the listener. What does Hondred Percent’s WTF? really stand for, then? The answer, like the album, is not what you’d expect.
Photos: yoyo tinz