Soft sunlight cuts into a small loft overlooking the city, announcing Friday August 11. Ahuofe Dua’s eyes slowly part open to welcome it. A slight neck pain reminds her what a hectic day yesterday was. An extra hour of sleep will be a blessing, but sleep is for the weak.
She inhales deeply and sits upright. She reaches for her phone on the nightstand to her left, and replies a quick message. Through the screen, she’s also greeted by the single tattoo she has. Elegant ink the shape of love, it rests just beneath her clavicle, pointing down at her heart. She had that tattoo done on the eve of her 21st birthday, right around the time she had decided that short hair works best for her.
She wraps a towel around her head, and soon, she settles into her morning routine, which involves sipping tea against the smiling sun, lighting a stick of incense, making soup, dancing by her window, half an hour of yoga, and then a shower.
The above is what ensues in the first minute of M.anifest’s latest video Be My Woman. Directed by Makere Thekiso (Call Back Dreams Production), the song features South African House band Mi Casa, and like all things M.anifest, steers conversation away from the hullabaloo to the core of matters: great art. It is what he has insisted on from the very start, especially with collaborations, and whereas artists collaborate for various business reasons, great art is what should be the the real “business reason”, he holds. This is why his music oozes such soul.
Deservedly so, M.anifest (Kwame Ametepe Tsikata) has earned a seat at Africa’s rap Vatican, delivering some of the most iconic verses the macho genre has witnessed in recent history. Yet, because of such songs as Cupid’s Crooked Bow, Goodbye, and Mind Games, he’s also distinguished himself in the character of resident loverboy. When it’s time to show vulnerability, M.anifest shows up just as impressively. A singular verse he pours on Simple Love, made it one of the most requested songs in 2016. Supported only by an acoustic guitar, he empties his very depths unto the record –and when an artist is fearless in his weakness, it also translates to the ear at the end of his voice. Doubtlessly one of the biggest songs off Nowhere Cool (his latest album), it is unanimously recited back to him during performances.
He replicates a similar sensation in Be My Woman. “never felt like this/ my heart’s over heels but my heart says I like this/ my muse, it’s for you that I write this/ you make a gee send out sappy emojis”, he begins, before going on to unconditional love and fairytale nobility for Ahuofe Dua. There overflows in his speech, the specific authenticity of the foolishness of flaming love. And as everybody has articulated sentiments thus at one point in life or another, it makes it the more relatable.
Mi Casa’s sound –alternative, mature, and gracefully interior, proves a perfect balance for the Mike Millz –produced joint. Consisting producer Dr. Duda, silky singer J’Something, and hornsman Mo-T, they add to the first-rate quality of the song. Respected as a strong force in Ghanaian hiphop, Millz merges melodies from the two parts uniquely, but manages to retain the essence of the sounds: the strings and trumpet feel South African, but also present in the drum progression is unmistakable Ghanaianness, like is heard on another M.anifest record —Forget Dem (2015).
Ahuofe Dua might translate from Twi as “tree of beauty”, and is a peculiar Ghanaian compliment for women of infinite splendor. It is accurately testimonies of such a woman that we hear in those 4 minutes or so, and witness in the accompanying visuals. “Shea butter, smooth skin, gap tooth, 24-carat smile” –the daily charm of African goddess is portrayed both without effort and unnecessary flamboyance. Also present in the film is an alluring proximity worked into the eyes of the viewer. This sleekness in rendering may appear normal, but is not– else it will be seen in every third music video on YouTube. It is the consequence of deliberate ingenuity behind the lens, and exceptional sleights.
While Be My Woman is a refreshing marriage between the sounds of Ghana and South Africa, and adds delightfully to his catalogue, it is not the first time he is pulling something of this nature off. A truly pan- African artist M.anifest seems to have developed a natural connection with acts from that part of the continent especially, brewing masterpieces with rap heavyweights HHP, ProVerb, and Tumi Molekane, as well as with eclectic singer/spoken word artist Nomisupasta.
A gentle sun sets on the the smooth chocolate complexion of Ahuofe Dua’s skin. She’s draped in a flowery dress which reaches down her wrists and ankles. Large beads hang down her neck, and a happy smile draws across her face. The majesty of her gait on these pavements has made her the object of every man’s gaze. She’s unmoved by the many admiring eyes trained on her. She notices the tall dark man by the car ahead, and her smile broadens. He’s wearing a suit and a hat, and holds a large kempt beard between the thumb and forefinger of his left hand. He’s smiling too. They embrace –Ahuofe Dua and this tall dark man, like lovers. He is no stranger; all through her day he has been present –in spirit and in truth –reciting her rap from a chair across the bed as she slept, in her mirror, next to her earlier as she showered, and while she painted her toe nails earlier.
The class of Be My Woman, like other pieces M.anifest has published in the past, makes it something to treasure — a product of genuine global quality. It reaffirms confidence in his mandate as among leading ambassadors of art and culture from the Gold Coast.
A multiple –award winner, M.anifest is author of Manifestations (2007), The Birds and the Beats (2009), Immigrant Chronicles: Coming to America (2011), Apae: the price of free EP (2013), , and Nowhere Cool (2016).
He is signed to Singitdamnit!
Watch “Be My Woman” below: