User Review( votes)
Who Started Mboko Rap? A Brief Summary of the History of Mboko
Fela Kuti founded Afrobeats. Wizkid and Davido made millions of dollars by selling their arts on the default template of Afrobeats to the world. Irrespective of their popularity and fame, they always give credit to Fela Kuti.
In Cameroon, Mboko is a street language, it’s an ideology and equally, it’s a form of music—a form of music that has been innovated into a sub-genre—known today as ‘Mboko Rap’
Rap is said to be a music delivery style whereby the singer uses rhyme, rhythm and spoken language and delivers over a beat or performed acapella with no accompaniment. Mboko Rap fits the aforementioned conditions of rap music as it has a rhythm, rhyme and language(Mboko). In other words, the content, which refers to what is being said is delivered in ‘Mboko’, a street language used in Cameroon.
Lapiro De Mbanga has for long, before his demise, made use of the Mboko Lexicon to decry societal and political ills against the oppressed people of the Cameroonian society. On this note, one can say Mboko Music is any music that uses the Mboko language to fight the ills in the society.
Social Media Brouhaha
There has been a lot of argument on social media for the past weeks as to who started Mboko Rap. It is not strange to get such reactions from fans or the rappers themselves as rap, especially Mboko Rap has become one of the most popular genres of music in Cameroon. Mboko Rap is birthed from rap in general. However, the content, in particular, is drawn from three different street languages: Pidgin (which is widely spoken in English-speaking Cameroon), Camfranglais (street language common with the youths in French-speaking Cameroon) and the famous Mboko Talk (Cameroons street language that was made popular by Lapiro de Mbanga).
I may not know who actually started Mboko Rap in Cameroon, but before I share with you my views, let’s take note of these below:
Mboko Rap is not Pidgin Rap. Mboko Talk is not pidgin per se even though pidgin is used.
Mboko Rap is not Camfranglais. For example, Koppo (Cameroonian rapper) did not rap using Mboko. He used Camfranglais.
Mboko Rap is a sub-genre of Mboko music that has been prominently used by Lapiro, Frank De Blaiso, Longue Longue, Douleur and many others.
Mboko Rap is Mboko Music void of any creed. Simply put, Mboko Rap makes use of the Mboko language but leaves out the political ideology or does so in a subtle manner.
If we all agree that rap is a form of music that entails vocal delivery which brings together “rhyme, rhythmic speech and street vernacular“, then Mboko Rap has one important characteristic – Mboko Talk (the street language). Anyone singing in pidgin or Camfranglais is not considered singing in Mboko talk.
Before we continue, let me clarify something: Mboko can refer to the language as well as the person speaking in. So for us to understand better, I will use Mboko Talk for the language and Mboko for those who speak Mboko Talk.
Origin of Mboko Talk
The above screenshot is what Skiezy Ayenkea had to say about the Mboko slang. Continue to read to know if it’s actually true or not. The Mboko Talk originated around the Mbanga area in the Littoral Region of Cameroon where Lapiro de Mbanga grew up. Mbanga was an important crossroad in the 70s and 80s as traders left different parts of Cameroon stopped there in other to board a train for Kumba (English-speaking Cameroon town). Since Mbanga was close to the English-speaking town of Kumba, it also served as a point of touch for people traveling to Kumba from the Northwest Region (English-speaking), West Region, Littoral and Center Regions (all French-speaking). With such a mix, people needed to use a language where all will understand. So the mix of English, French, Bassa, Duala and other local languages gave birth to this street language which I may not call Mboko Talk (you will see why).
With commercial activities flourishing around the Mbanga area, so did the activities of petty thieves, pick-pockets, feymania (conmen) and other small crimes. This is what brought about the Mboko Talk or Mboko because these small criminals were the real ‘mbokos’. They had their own language which you had to be initiated before you could understand. This language became known as Mboko Talk. They constructed sentences using different languages representing the different people that meet at Mbanga. At times, they will create their own words by cutting and pasting words from the various languages to form theirs. This ‘thug language’ is what was later to become Mboko Talk that was brought into prominence by Lapiro de Mbanga (Lambo Pierre Roger). Skiezy Ayenkea was not actually wrong but for the fact that he said Lapiro started Mboko Talk.
The birth of Mboko Music using Mboko Talk
From the above, we have seen that Lapiro De Mbanga is not actually the one who started the popular Mboko or Mboko Talk as I have seen some people claim. What he did was he brought it to prominence through Mboko Music. Read what he said in an interview with Cameroon Info
“…je parlais un moment à la grande majorité de la population qui à l’époque n’allait pas à l’école. Si vous avez des parents bien, qui ont de l’argent, vous allez à l’école, sinon c’est le quartier. Ils sont donc devenus de plus en plus nombreux, ne parlant ni le français, ni l’anglais. Pour donc communiquer, il fallait mélanger le pidjin, un peu de français, et les langues vernaculaires pour obtenir cet argot, qui est devenu très populaire. Alors, pour parler de leurs. problèmes, de leurs souffrances, le meilleur moyen je crois est de le faire en leur langue, qui est devenu la notre, la leur.”
This is to say the Mboko Talk did not start with Lapiro as he himself confirmed with the above interview. However, in my opinion, Lapiro de Mbanga is the one who made Mboko Talk prominent in in his music. I am not sure if he was the first to sing with that language, but he must have innovated his own that has likened him to be the father or founder of Mboko Music.
The advent of Mboko Rap
Rap is considered street music because they use street slang and language. Rap won’t have been considered rap in Cameroon without the use of street language. Talking about street language, I may not consider pidgin English a street language in this case. The real street languages in Cameroon are Mboko Talk and Camfranglais. Camfranglais itself was brought into prominence by Koppo in my opinion and later on developed into a street language. The real street language popular amongst Cameroonians is Mboko Talk. This means, rap in Cameroon won’t have been rap without using the original street language, Mboko or Mboko Talk.
It all started with underground rappers using pidgin to rap in the two English-speaking regions of Cameroon until it evolved to what we call today Mboko Rap. Talking about who started it will be like having to find sand in a bag of garri (tapioca). People evolve so does languages. We have only seen evolutions and so it will be difficult to actually tell who started something.
Jovi and Mboko Rap
Now talking about Jovi, we can say a similar thing to Lapiro happened. Jovi met the Mboko Talk already being used in music by the likes of Lapiro de Mbanga, Frank de Blaiso, Njohreur, Douleur, Njume Loko and a host of others.
Was Mboko Rap already in existence when Jovi started? This is where the problem is. Mboko Talk and Mboko music had existed far long before Ndukong Godlove (Jovi) was even born. So it is out of place to say he started Mboko or Mboko music (I have never read him saying that). Many people confuse a lot when it comes to the Mboko argument. The bone of contention in this is who started Mboko Rap and not who started Mboko or Mboko music?
We have had rappers from the French-speaking part of Cameroon sing in English, Pidgin English and French. However, that is far from being Mboko. It falls under what is commonly called Camfranglais. We have also seen many rappers in the English-speaking part of Cameroon rap in Pidgin English which cannot be likened to Mboko even though they may add one or two Mboko words.
Mboko Rap came into play when rappers from the English-speaking part of the country realized that for them to succeed, their music must touch all Cameroonians. Camfranglais wont have been the solution because it is easy and goes fluent with someone who has French as a first language and not someone who speaks English or Pidgin. The only way this could be done was to use a language spoken by those on the streets, the downtrodden, the buyam-sellams, the sauveteurs, the chuck-heads, bendsikineurs, wakas, nanga-mbokos, etc. A language that could be understood by majority of Cameroonians. And that language is no other than Mboko or Mboko Talk.
Just like Lapiro, I will say Jovi may not be the first to have rapped with Mboko Talk, but he did innovate his own to be unique which brought it to prominence. When we talk of Mboko Rap in Cameroon, Jovi is the first to come to mind, just like Lapiro and Koppo will take credit for Mboko Talk/Music and Camfranglais rap respectively. So just like Lapiro can be termed the father or founder of Mboko Music, Jovi can also be likened as the father or founder of Mboko Rap.
My opinion is based on prominence
I base my opinion on who made it prominent. History always remembers who makes something prominent as the founder/inventor and not who actually started/invented it. In the world where innovation is rife, it is very difficult to know who exactly is the inventor or founder of something. That’s why historians usually dispute certain ‘facts’ when it comes to who started or invented something. However, in the absence of knowing who actually started, the person who made it prominent is usually considered the founder or inventor.
Recommended: Jovi Falls Short Of His Mboko Glory
The way forward
This fighting for who is a founder, who is follower does not help us in any way. Bloggers have taken it as a habit to fuel hate among fans of the various artists instead of creating good content about the genre of music. What we expect from artists as well as content creators is to export this genre of music which is unique only to Cameroon because of their multi-cultural nature. Camfranglais and Mboko cannot be spoken anywhere else with fluency like Cameroonians will do. This makes it a very unique and great art for export. Just imagine one person singing in French, English, Pidgin, Fulfude, Lamnso, Bassa, Duala, Hausa, Fēfē, Ngemba, Wimbum, Mubako, etc all in one music called Mboko! This means many people will understand.
To succeed in the entertainment industry, you must have something unique to export. Singing in pidgin has been accepted by the entire world because of Nigerians, Swahili because of Kenyans, Lingala because of Congolese and why not Mboko, Camfranglais because of Cameroonians. It can be done, but if we continue to promote rivalry than creating good content about the genre, we will not succeed. It’s time for bloggers to leave artistes do what they do best and for them to do what they can do by creating good content about Mboko Rap rather than picking screen-shots here and there and sharing with no real content.
Conclusively, Jovi remains the founder of Mboko-Rap! We now look unto him and other Cameroonian rappers to add societal impacting ideologies to the genre of music so it can stand out unique in Africa and the world at large.
By Lobga Derick Sullivan with contributions from Davis E. Tabot for Iyunade Blog