By chronicling the stories of two
charismatic young rap artists, a Cameroonian filmmaker
confronts her own identity—and reveals the
complex realities of today’s urban Africa.
Aretha Louise Mbango is both gatekeeper and thoughtful
narrator, providing complete access and an accessible
perspective. Born in a small town in Cameroon,
then raised for a decade in New York City, Mbango
has spent the past 17 years as a television and
radio journalist covering music in Cameroon’s
two largest cities. Mbango breaks through the
exotica and idealization that characterize many
Western documentaries about Africa. Her world
may be entertaining, but her insight is deeply
informative and even troubling.
Through Mbango’s work at a major radio
station, we meet Lady B and Koppo—the two
most talented artists in a burgeoning rap music
scene. We get to know them over several years,
and we encounter a recognizable story: the quest
of the young artist to retain a unique voice,
appeal to an audience, and make a living.
Behind the glitz and rhythm, this
film features the city—in all its contradictions—as
a character. The city provides jobs, opportunity
and education, but it is straining beyond crumbling.
On a global level, this is an urgent narrative:
by 2020, half of the world’s projected population
of 7.6 billion will live in 400 or more megacities
each comprising one million or more people. Cameroon
typifies Africa’s role as a leader in this
transformation. Its major cities, Douala and Yaoundé,
are two of the fastest-growing in the world.
While Koppo and Lady B live in these crucibles
of dynamism, the promise in their lyrics is this:
If you don’t develop what is yours, then
who will? Their aspirations, likewise, are clear—to
take what is theirs and dominate the national
scene, and then if possible, to go international.
The core of these musicians’ paradox is
this: as they become more successful, they confront
a choice Mbango once faced—whether to stay
in Africa or to move abroad. Entertaining, insightful,
and unapologetically authentic, Koppo and
Lady B sheds light on changing African culture
and identity—what does it mean to be an
urban African today?