Nseobong Okon-Ekong writes on Cameroonian rapper, Stanley Ebai Enow, who nurses the big dream of conquering the world with his music, starting from Nigeria, a juicy and strategic market, which he considers premium
Most of the time he sits by himself, enjoying his own company. We are in the Gambia for an All Africa Music Awards, AFRIMA, sensitization event. I need to explain that I did not perceive him as snobbish. Let’s say he likes to observe things from a distance and get a thorough understanding of the event before venturing into it. Unlike many of his peers in the hip hop and rap music genre, Stanley Ebai Enow does not have an exaggerated respect for high social position or seek to associate with social superiors, while looking down on those regarded as socially inferior. So, when I go over to say ‘hello’ to him, his response is quite warm.
That sincere welcome opens the door for further fraternal interactions. First, we start talking about the humongous logistics involved in moving people and materials across Africa for AFRIMA events, like the one we are attending. He has come in from his home country, Cameroon, and because he has been travelling quite a bit for a while, he really needs some rest. Maybe, it is the stress from these frequent journeys that is taking its toll on him; what makes him appear standoffish from a distance. But he feels a sense of debt to AFRIMA, the continental reward body that honoured him as the Best Male Artist from Central Africa. He comes with AFRIMA to the Gambia to fulfil that obligation.
We are back at the hotel in Banjul from the countryside where we had gone to perform an important function on the AFRIMA itinerary-that of presenting musical instruments and computers to selected public schools in that country. The visiting team is led by AFRIMA President and Executive Producer, Mike Dada. The trip is somewhat tiring and it is very thoughtful of the AFRIMA coordinators to make dinner more fun by requesting a DJ to play upbeat and danceable tunes on the side with the noble intention of rejuvenating flagging spirit. Not totally surprising, much of the music on rotation are from Nigerian musicians. Obviously, the Nigerian party are enjoying all the courtesies of being conversant with the sounds-nodding their heads; a few are even fired up enough to dance.
It is in this seeming cheerful atmosphere that I approach the respected Cameroonian rapper, Stanley Enow, who is a bit removed from it all. In his late 20s, Enow is in the vanguard of a new generation of Cameroonian musicians who are upturning the status quo of what used to be known as a very conservative and traditional sounds performed by the likes of Salle John; and Manu Dibango, arguably, the most famous musician out of Cameroon.
Enow acknowledges that he is standing on the shoulder of giants including the famous Cameroonian-Nigerian composer and performer of the hit, ‘Sweet Mother’, Prince Nico Mbarga. He says, “Every discipline that exists in this world has its predecessors. You have old school artistes who were interested in the hip hop game before we came in but maybe due to the fact that they became old or at a certain age they became fathers and some became mothers, they took a back seat; so most definitely there are people who started everything we see in the world. However, in a few cases, there are people who are pathfinders. They are credited with starting a thing and there were no persons before them.”
Enow has one album. That is all his claim to fame, for now. But in a country where there are only a handful of rappers, he has established himself. That is not to say that the rigours of making commercial music is less demanding. He explains how the music industry in Cameroon works. “In the Cameroonian structure where I come from, you don’t release albums just like that. You release albums as per demand. You start from dropping a single. After that you go to a second single, if people like it, then you can drop an EP before you go on to a full album.”
Sounds like a tortuous route to travel, but he does not mind. The landmarks leading to the destination of his first single, ‘Hein Pere’, on April 13, 2014 registers lasting impressions with so much force that he cannot forget the dates. The full album, ‘Soldier Like My Papa’ follows on July 25, 2015.
“The first single, ‘Hein Pere’ is the song that took me everywhere and brought attention to my craft. That was my debut single. Before that, I was singing. I had some songs, but it did not make sense to people. With the debut single which became a hit, people were saying bring back those previous singles. What that taught me is that an artiste only needs one song to be able to make an impression on people, he says.”
Stanley Enow is a rapper, radio and TV presenter and voice actor. He is the co-owner of the record label, Motherland Empire. He is the first Cameroonian to win in the Best New Act category at the 2014 MTV Africa Music Awards.
Enow was born in Bamenda, the capital of the Northwest Region of Cameroon. He is Bayangi from the Southwest Region, giving rise to his nickname ‘Bayangi Boy’. He holds a degree in Business Journalism from the University of Douala. “I am a journalist by training and an artiste by profession.”
Enow started writing rap lyrics and break-dancing while in secondary school. He hosted two popular night shows on Cameroonian television. He also performed on several private radio stations, where he worked as an animator and director and did voice-over advertising. This explains his insistence that he was into music before the hit single brought him public reckoning.
To underscore the struggles he goes through in the quest to continue to better his craft. He says, “I am blessed to have a team that tries to portray me well for who I am. Because there is a struggle from back home. People regard me as a riffraff. But I try to make music and inspire others. Now, people don’t only regard my music, they regard my personality. They regard everything else about me.”
Enow’s parents were choristers in the Presbyterian Church. However, he is taking the family’s love for singing to higher levels by pursuing a professional career in music. He is encouraged with a plethora of awards in a career that is still growing. In 2013, the Cameroon Academy Awards rewarded him with Best Male Artiste and Best Urban Artiste trophies. The same year, his video for ‘Hein Pere’ came tops at the Balafon Music Awards. The MTV Africa Music Awards named him the Best New Act in 2014. He won in the same category at the African Muzik Magazine Awards of the same year. At the Canal 2 International Awards in 2015, he was decorated as Best New Act and Best Urban Artiste. Thankful as he is for these recognitions, Enow is not cajoled. He says, “It has given me recognition as one of the most influential rappers in Francophone Africa. It has given a boost to my career. I am very hungry and I have to conquer the world. To reach this lofty height that I have set for myself, I cannot afford to be distracted by awards. I feel like I have not done anything before. That is the best attitude to adopt in order to keep working harder. I really want to go to higher heights.”
And the rewarding Nigerian market is one of the juicy pies, he is hoping to sink his hungry teeth into. Hailing from Mamfe, the English-speaking Cameroonian town which shares a border with Ikom in Cross River State, Nigeria gives him that sense of affinity to Nigeria. His artistic incursion into Nigeria has progressed steadily. He says, “From Nigeria, there is a lot of love. It is a gradual process. The guys on the streets of Lagos may not know me now, but we are getting there. My name is already out there. The time for my international breakthrough is coming and I think if I can conquer Nigeria, I am well on my way.”
Enow is on 2Baba’s 10th anniversary album, ‘From Grass to Grace’. He has a single titled, ‘Yours’ in which he collaborated with Chocolate City artiste, Ice Prince. What has become another nickname of his, ‘King Kong’ is actually the title of a single in which he featured Nigeria’s DJ Neptune.
His biggest collaboration yet is with Mr. Eazi, the Ghanaian-Nigerian born artiste on the single, ‘Adore You’. The song draws wider admiration because Enow expresses his love for strong and independent women worldwide. He says women are lucky charms to be treasured. The song was released on the Motherland Empire label which he co-owns.
Enow is respected in his home country as one of those who really understands the business of rap and hip hop music. He is showing the way to go by investing in the industry to grow his craft and extend the benefits for himself and others. One of the copious ways he is demonstrating this is the huge capital outlay on his videos. He stops at nothing to produce clean and clear videos always.
Enow also extends the tentacles of his collaboration to South Africa; working on the single, ‘Bounce’ with SA rapper, AKA and Locko.
Many critics see Enow as the rapper who has the capacity to merge his style of rap with Cameroon’s conventional genres like, Makossa and Bikutsi. His success at creating such a fusion may very well achieve the world conquest that he has set his eyes on.