About Time: Singing Political, Socioeconomic and Youth Emancipation into Existence

Tino Foy's About Time EP is a landmark sociopolitical statement and a torch to the youths seeking guidance.

Like most countries faced with economic challenges and political conflicts, Cameroon continues to witness many of its youths seeking ‘greener pastures’ even in the least productive parts of the world. Despite the perilous desert, the dreaded Middle East and the inhumane welcome they get in some European and American states, many still prefer to take the risk rather than stay home.

This is the point of departure for artiste, Tino Foy in ‘237’, the first song off his About Time EP. Being one that has lived in both the Cameroonian and ‘foreign’ climes, his work spells more than just wishes and opinions. It reeks of experience and defies multiple aspects of conventionalism.

Many Cameroonian youths take the perilous migrant journey to Europe by boat

He goes on to show how much the Cameroonian citizenry share in common, including the ‘crab in the bowl’ mentality of pulling others down. He further addresses multiple other themes including the regular juxtaposition of Cameroon entertainment with that of its neighbours, notably Nigeria. The conversation has for a long time now, gone mainstream, but public opinion remains deeply divided.

Tino further weighs in on the art productivity conversation, and the past glories contemporary Cameroonian artistes are yet to surpass, such as getting a Grammy after the late Manu Dibango. He goes on to throw in a few political punches, dissing controversial traditional ruler and soldier, Moja Moja, as well as making reference to the interior minister’s ‘bury the bereaved’ trend.

Hardly any political conversation can be raised today without the Anglophone crisis and Tino is fully aware. He pays homage to the Ngarbuh massacre victims, wondering what some of them could become in future if their lives were not cut short.

Hardly any political conversation can be raised today without the Anglophone crisis and Tino is fully aware

Yet, he is just getting started. He further traces a variety of themes including the current economic situation and the average Cameroonian’s fight for survival with the odds stacked against them from day one.

He digs deeper on the EP’s third piece, ’Mon Pays’, calling out the country for letting him down. ‘My own Pays no do me so’ he sings, half shocked. Mr Foy goes on to sample the legendary Petit Pays’ ‘soffa’ chorus as well as the waka waka chant of the Zangalewa music group. Both are solid bases which much of contemporary Cameroon and even global music continue to be built upon. Truly, old is gold.

You don’t need to be a Beethoven, a Bob Marley, Petit Pays, Fhish or Dr Sley to know that just a few lines of song can change the course of a people’s history or social trajectory. What joy it would bring if fellow rapper and voice of the streets, Mic Monsta would opt for a remix.

As the body of work progresses, Tino metamorphoses into a more subtle persona. The fierceness and boldness with which he stepped on the mic now soften as he drops the hard hip hop and drill beats for something more subtle.

On ‘Gold’, he dives into prayer mood asking God to keep him safe from haters and those praying for his doom. On ‘fighting spirit’, he cries out citing betrayal by loved ones who too only want to take but have no interest in supporting him.

Midway into About Time, Tino introduces a new voice, as he invites Savatia on the track ‘energy’. Savatia is a humanitarian, a gentle soul, a soothing gospel voice and yet, a force to reckon with, and she brings all that energy on the song. Still, both artistes maintain the subtle trajectory, recounting life, its hardships and the triumphs thanks to God’s intervention. Tino closes his debut EP with ‘Ruler’, another hard track that spits assertiveness, dominance and mastery.

With a Jovi-like vibe steeped in trap vibrations, he tells of his levelheadedness and how he ruffles feathers by denying to toe the line. He goes on to give Jovi his props, citing him as the only one above [him?]. Jovi Lemonstre it should be noted, is one of Cameroon’s foremost rappers and music producers.

For now the only one above na Mboko God’ – Tino

The creative process

Being a hands-on creative, Tino is known to never shy from putting in the work when need be. In a behind-the-scenes clip with Savatia months back, he described his creative process as an intentional means to an end.

“I create more from things that already exist rather than just pull from the sky. I’m always enhancing. I never really think about it like work, but as effort. Hours of trying to perfect… it is more about the end goal,” he explained.

Tino Foy

Cultural relevance

The About Time EP is not just a body of work. It is a testament, a bold statement. Tino has over the years, proven to be a relevant voice in Cameroon’s entertainment industry, and has walked the talk on multiple occasions. His run-ins with many in the sector, have often been followed by his pledge to perform, first as proof that he knows what he is talking about and then as a lead to others who seek to achieve but don’t know how. Of course, it has not been all rosy and to date, many have their reservations as Tino could often pass for being cocky, than assertive and bold.

Still, beyond the personality of the singer, lies an incredible trail of art, now topped by a body of work that makes the hair strands erect. From ranking himself as second to Mboko God only, Tino has sent shots to the best of the best, at a time the clamour for Cameroon’s rap throne appears to be hottest. It might just be a new level in the fray that has seen many careers made and others marred, spurring increased creativity and proliferation for more mind-bogging works thanks to the ripple effect.

Also, the political references and innuendos cannot go unnoticed. While Tino has often raised his voice for the youths and against certain political establishments, the About Time EP engraves his stance as a voice for the suffering masses and the unseen victims of the political spectrum.

Cameroon has a youthful population of over 60%

Cameroon has a youthful population of over 60%. Through social media, their active involvement in politics or challenging societal norms is on the increase, with those aligning to the long-time status quo being cancelled or withdrawn popular support. By failing to sugar-coat his dismay with the leading political class, Tino passes the vibe check of political consciousness and independence which many artistes and ‘loud voices’ in Cameroon today appear to be short of.

He might not be mounting high stages and giving sleepless nights to the establishment [yet] but it definitely was about time someone raised the hourglasses to our faces.

Giyo Ndzi

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