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Interview With Ambassadoz – Ghanaian Hip Hop Group – Exclusive


11 February 2004 No Comment

With more than 7 years experience of ripping shows, the Ambassadoz (M.O.A & Akan) get set to release their album Travelwyze. On their albums you will find them rapping in English, French, Twi, Patois, Fanti and Creole. This Ghanaian hiphop group based in Philadelphia, PA USA talked to us about their album and their backgrounds.

First, let’s start off with you introducing yourselves to the people on >this site and explaining what your roles are within Ambassadoz.

Give thanks first and foremost to the crew at africasgateway.com for giving us the opportunity to reach the masses. Ambassadoz is comprised of 2 Ghanaian emcees:

Akan (Big Fujirama) vocalist and M.O.A (Minista Of Agrikulcha) who is also vocalist and engineer

Now you are originally from Ghana – you now living in Philly?  What takes you to Philly?

We moved to Philly to pursue our educational careers. Akan attended Drexel University while M.O.A attended St. Joseph’s University. In hindsight the real reason we both ended up in Philly was because it was meant for us to connect, record and perform songs together…little did we know then. but all things happen for a reason seen?

You used to be known as Foreign Diplomatz. Why change the name?

Around ’96 we registered our website www.diplomatz.com and started doing shows under the name Foreign Diplomatz. Then during some interviews, we found out that there were other groups under the emblem as well. Then came the jiggy Camron with his click. At some of our shows, people would show up thinking it was Camron and Dipset that were performing. They would also sign our guest book thinking we were the Diplomats and down with Camron.  So really we got tired of it, though the attention was good, we did not want to be mistaken as them.

That is how the name Ambassadoz came about. If you think about it, a diplomat is one employed or skilled in diplomacy, but and ambassador is a diplomatic agent of the highest rank or an unofficial representative traveling abroad as an ambassador of goodwill. We believe as foreigner living abroad, we must uptain the highest standard of diplomacy as we are representing not only our people, but all foreign massive in general who are living away from home. its a mind state really.

Where in Ghana are you from?

M.O.A was born on a military base in Accra called 37. His father was in the diplomatic corp and his mother a major in the Ghanaian armed forces. Akan was born and raised in Kumasi. His father a prominent chief and mom in the nursing industry.

What was it like growing up?

Growing up was a constant shuffle. Both families moved around a lot as a result of the diplomatic status and ended up in places like Ivory Coast, Togo, Nigeria, Botswana, England, France, Malta. We would each make acquaintances wherever we were stationed only to be removed briefly to a different country. So it was not a stable environment where one could establish long lasting friendships. But on the flip side it was very educative and eye opening to live and learn from these different cultures. The one thing we can both say that we have gained from that is the realization that we are all one, same color blood runs beneath our skin..and though we all do things differently as humans, our end goal is the same..the pursuit of peace and joy.

How did you first become involved with hip hop? Which groups/people influenced you to start writing?

We both got into hip hop in the early break dancing days. We would watch all these music videos and movies like Breakin’, Beat Street, Delirious (Fat Boys) etc..and we could relate to the oratorical lineage of rhyming, which is the very essense of Ghanaian folklore (ex Kweku Anansi). So it was always there with us from birth through our culture. One can argue that the source of hip-hop is an African tradition, an ancient African tradition of freestyling, which is spontaneous poetry to a rhythmic pattern…though started by Kool Herc a Jamaican born dj. This is an African tradition which we both are raised upon, one which is thousands of years old. We were influences by groups like Osibisa, Fela, Bob Marley, Kurtis Blow, Grandmaster Flash, EPMD, LL Cool J, Redman, Cameo, Big Daddy Kane, Heavy D, Salt’n’Pepa, Naughty By Nature, Cypress Hill etc…….a lot of the old school funk and hip hop artists set that stage for us to further develop our love and interest for hip hop music.

What is the scene like in Ghana?

People are always surprised when we tell em that everything that happened in the South Bronx with hip-hop is what’s happening in Accra. Difference is that we don’t have any guns…well some do. but the majority of hip hop headz in Ghana are out simply to have a good time. Ghana at one point was more into the hiplife scene. The “hip” is from hip hop (Contemporary American urban music) and the “life” from highlife. They raps in Twi, others in Ewe, Hausa and even pidgin English. Hip-life is a purely Ghanaian creation that has caught on because it talks directly to the people, in languages everyone understands and with clever lyrics that make Ghanaians laugh.  The new genre is a hit with young Ghanaians and, increasingly, with older generations. Young singers and songwriters blend the highlife beat with hip-hop rap, but drop the American-English lyrics. This new formula, rapping in Akan and other local languages, is the secret of hip-life’s appeal. We see kids in the hoods there, listening to Busta Rhymes, not knowing what he was saying, but none the less digging him. And in the clubs all the kids were listening to rap from New York, or LA..again not necessarily understanding what they’re saying. One being, the image projected at home in regards to our brothers in the Diaspora, because we watch the movies and the videos and think this is how it is. As Ghanaians, we like to celebrate life and music. Most don’t want to hear songs that make them sad and play the war gangster. But it feels good to see emcee’s trying to take it further than just hiplife, and reach a worldwide hip hop international market.

Now I heard that you rap in English, French, Twi, Patois, Fanti and Creole. Damn you know all those languages?

Oh fo sho! We master linguistics you know. We have been in contact with so many different races, cultures, and faces that we take a little bit from everyone and make it into our own sound. So at any time when we write we may put in a word or two here and there, just to paint that picture that we do live in a melting pot and it is bigger than the local stage. We try and bridge gaps you know? Like one listener in in Haiti will understand a call like ‘Sa passe?’ Na bule!  and another cat in Lagos will dig something like ‘Pekin, how be? We dey cool oh oga!’  So yeah, its more about trying to relate to the different cultures out there that we come in contact with.

You do shows in and around Philly? How has the local hip hop community reacted towards you?

The community around us is so hungry for a new and distinctive sound. People would travel from DC, Maryland, and NY to come check us out. It has been a blessed experience to be able to share our life with them on the mic. Most people that come check us out are of a more open-minded vibe you know? Those not scared of change. Overall the reaction has been a positive one. We did a show one time for PASA (Pennsylvania Association of Medical Students) and after we got off stage we had Caucasian kids (like 9 -13) coming up to us asking for autographs. That was surprising, because we did not realize that it hit them like that. That gave us more drive and motivation to do the things we do..knowing that it is not in vain.. but mean you know you always have your haters too, haha. But we just focus and do what we do best…good hip hop music. It has been a long process though…we’re going to slowly build. Bands that shoot straight to the top usually fall off just as fast, so we want to take things very slow and work our way up from there. We’ve got a pretty solid fan base, the best thing for us to do is take things slow and gain more following.

What is an Ambassadoz live show like?

What?! You gotta experience it! We are constantly rehearsing in order to make the show an experience you will never forget. PhiladelphiaWeekly deemed it as ‘…some dope sh*t’, so naturally it is classified as one of the livest african hiphop act to come from the Philadelphia area. You will never be disappointed because we have been savagely rocking crowds and destroying venues up and down the East Coast whenever the chance arises. We make sure live performances exhibit the same presence, rawness, and power that was displayed when we exited the recording booth. Shows are interactive because of the hype crowd participation we bring into performing, creating a positive mood and energetic atmosphere. That atmosphere is one in which the crowd is encouraged to participate by shouting, screaming, dancing, breaking, and having fun…basically you should come equipped to get down. We really enjoy performing and being able to give the masses a good time and distract them for an hour or two. At a show, our goal is not only to rock you, but to provide a venue where you can put aside all your worries and troubles and just have a great time. We bring traveling parties along with us wherever we go, but there is also a conscious movement and message that we bring to you and that is music is a universal thing ya know. its not like he’s african, he’s german, she’s south african..the vibe is a oneness. you know? We are all one, no matter what side of the continent you are from.

Do you plan to come back to Africa?

There is so much to see in this world, and so little time. There is also a familiar saying in our culture – Sankofa – which means one must go back and reclaim his/her past in order to move forward; so we overstand why and how we came to be who we are today. So Africa is the foundation upon which we build our future. We always take trips to Accra when we get a chance, so to answer the question – Most definitely! Time will tell, and we will make that move when the time and conditions have all been manifested.

What traveling experiences have you had?

Life is one huge trip, if ya know what we’re saying. Like I’m sure you get up every morning, you have to travel someplace to take care of your daily routine. Whether it be your job, to your family. wherever. Most importantly, ever since this whole 911 propaganda, (our hearts and sympathies go out to anyone who has lost someone due to this ordeal), traveling has become such a dangerous thing. So the title was more so on an international vibe. First they looking for cats in the tora bora, they couldn’t find them, so they searching in Babylon right now. its all false pretense and these targeted people are fighting back the only way they know how. unfortunately that is through secular and radical religion. Buses blowing up in Tel Aviv, this even reached us in Kenya. but did they care? NO. Only when it happened here in the US was the situation real…like Damn! Our message is simple and clear. watch your back…I know I wouldn’t want our youth to be on a bus home from school and…..bredren..its crazy out here. We want people to realize that though the governments are playing their little cat and mouse games, claiming victory here and there…its not all good…SO WATCH WHERE YOU TREAD!

Is this your second album?

This is actually our debut album, we have been performing for a while but never put something together..albumwyze..so this is really a concerted effort to get down on paper some of the things we have been thinkin about what goes on inside our minds. We have enough material to release a double cd, because we did plan on putting an album out under the Diplomatz emblem, but also kept recording. The recording process never ends because as an artist you need to constantly be creating dope shit. The moment you say you are done recording, you might as well quit rapping.

Who did the production on Travelwyze?

We wanted to have different hands on deck so we formed our own little team of friends who are knee deep in the production world.. Cats like UrbanOne (UK), All Day Production, (US), Tommy Law
(US), E-Major (Grammy Award winner – produced Digable Planets’ Im Cool Like Dat beat),
Soleternity (UK), TriNiTro (France), and we (Ambassadoz) did some production as well.

What direction did you want to take with this album? What story did you want to tell?

We have been given an opportunity to give good music to the people and let the world know that Africans can put out classic hip hop music too, while repping our continent or hoods. We want to give people a chance to understand the tracks a bit more, though they might be in a different dialect. We think we left them vague enough as to give the listener a chance to interpret them, to helps them overstand what was going through our heads when we wrote them.

I understand that the album will be available soon. Where will people be able to get it?

One of the biggest factors is that we are taking our time with it and not just rushing to slap it together. One can always throw a song together, but it takes time to get it right. There is a lot more that goes into the song than just writing it. We have to get the production right, and record it digitally the way we want it to sound. And these things can’t be rushed. A lot of indie bands sound like just a lot of emcees and things like that, but it takes time to learn how to get the sound you want down. We are also still recording songs for the album, the package yall received was kinda like a snapshot in time of the material we had so far..we are currently in the lab creating more funk.We have so many plans…plan A is in effect as we speak. That involves politikin with a couple of labels (here in the US and UK) who have shown interest in signing.  Our other option is to push the cd ourselves. One just has to look at some of the stories of Master P, E-40. Mc Hammer, Ludacris who all pushed their cd’s ‘out their trunk’ and were successful. The cd regardless will be out this summer (2004) and available for purchase on the web and at distinct record stores worldwide. You will be able to get it through CD Baby and also available digitally hopefully through the following services for purchase on: Apple iTunes Music Store, Rhapsody (Listen.com), BuyMusic.com, Emusic.com, AudioLunchbox.com, MusicMatch.com, AOL’s MusicNet and more being added including some HUGE ones that are household names,
but we shouldn’t mention until the contract is done.

Any plans for dropping any singles on vinyl? If so which ones are you hoping to put out?

Yes that is also in effect as we speak. We are having listening parties and will gather the information of what people feel and are digging most. That will play a vital role in which tracks we put out as vinyl. Right now though, we are both feeling the 70’s flavour we got on there (EZ Come track)..but we will probably have different vinyl’s for different locations. like Africa will have a different track, Europe another different track and the US its own flavor as well.  Coz its still hip hop wherever you go, just different vibes.

What are your favourite tracks off the album?

Oh man..let see. That is hard as an artist to say you know. That is like having 4 different children and being asked to pick which one of them is your favorite child. A lot of sweat and time went into making every single track and each brings out a different mood we might have been in when we conceptualized them. So its hard to say which one is our favorite, but in terms of recording we did have some very memorable moments while in the studio working with different emcees.

Which songs are the most enjoyable to perform live?

It really depends on the venue. Some crowds are not as hype as others. We really on crowd participation and what the crowd gives us, is what we give back. We enjoy performing period. and we think that is something we will love doing regardless. due to the energy we bring.

What kind of equipment/software are you using for production/recording?

Well, M.O.A is basically the engineer when it comes to recording. Our pre-pro lab Last Exit in Philly, uses Pro Tools, Acid Pro and CoolEdit to mix and record. CD Architect is used to finalize mastering. Production is done on MPC, ASR-X, Tritron. In terms of mics, we use the AKG series 1000-C and 3000 condenser microphones, Roland monitors and AKG cans. We then take them to a bigger studio, track em out, record vocals again if we need to and send to a different mastering lab.

How has radio/web/magazines/newspapers responded to the album so far?

Well, the album is not out yet, therefore we haven’t started to really push the album at that major level yet. What we have been doing is trying to target certain markets and send them some xclusive tracks. There will be a huge college radio push in the summer, or possibly the fall. We’ve done a few college radio interviews and been added in some key webzines. We’re just out there touring and spreading the word of the record, since it is in its early stages. And so far the response has been dope..very dope. We are always looking for methods and means of getting out there. College stations have been down with us the most, we believe due to the nature of their listeners. Websites like yours, ghanamusic.com, kafoi.com have also showed a positive response.

Do you foresee the Ambassadoz doing any collaborations with other artists? If so who?

We would love to do collaborations with similar minded artist, that share in our goal and vision. In terms of major artists, we like Talib, Pharaoh Monch, Steven Marley n the Ghetto Youths Crew, those are a few select musicians we like listening to ourselves.

What’s a typical day like for Ambassadoz?

Man..its hectic! We are so busy, not only with our regular 9-5 jobs. Akan is in the security business, M.O.A is a database engineer . So we tend to do the music thing after the hustle and bustle in the rat race ya know? On any given day we will get up with our producers, listen to some beats, come up with concepts, meet and talk to some promoters, scout new venues to host shows, write some scripts etc… This is all between the 5pm and 4am hour of the day..this is the only time we can really focus on that apart from weekends. We also do things together not related to music like reason, discuss world affairs while meditating with some nice quality vegetation.

What would you like the listener to get out of listening to your album?

We want them to have a good time listening to our record. We want it to sound like a whole album, one they can sit down and listen from start to finish and enjoy all the way through. When putting this record together that was one of our main goals. We wanted headz to put the TRAVELWYZE cd in, and not want to take it out. We want it to be a soundtrack to your life, but most importantly we would hope that those who listen to our music will move their ass and just have a good time.

I like it how you fuse so many things in this album, the album is hella tight. What else is there you would like to tell us that we perhaps did not touch on?

Men, yall did a good job with the questions. We only wished yall could have been here and shared a spliff or two with us! We just want everyone to know that its really not where you from, but more importantly its where you at! Your state of mind, dig it?

Before we end this off can you tell us which African emcees (besides yourselves) are you feeling?

Oh man of of our heads..lets see..wow so much talent out there like Real Elements, Bissao na Bissao, Positive Black Soul, NIX, Daara J , Pee Froiss ,Godessa, Metaphysics, Mr. Devious, (R.I.P), Reggie Rockstone, Hard Blasters, Black Rein, Wanlov, who else lets see…man there are so many and that is a good thing to see african emcees do their thing…we are still ourselves discovering the discographies out there..so many..

Thanks for taking the time to talk to us down here in South Africa. Nuff props and keep doing what you doing. 

Yeah man we’d like to bring your attention to a documentary we have been blessed to be part off:

“Rock A Mole Productions has just finished a documentary film, The Ultimate Song, that highlights
the great importance of music in the battle to end poverty. The Ultimate Song includes interviews
and/or performance footage of Ice T, Sara Hickman, Jackson Browne, Tom Morello of Rage Against
the Machine, Bruce Springsteen, Brother Bank, Marah, Warren Haynes of Gov’t Mule, Krown Ju-Elz,
Ambassadoz, Steve Earle, Kindred, Wayne Kramer, and Brian Blade.

This is combined with interviews and action footage of the growing poor people’s movement in the
United States. The leaders from the ranks of the poor detail the importance of music in their
work, how it helps break down the isolation of individuals and organizations and how it keeps
spirits up during trying times.

The Ultimate Song explores a new relationship between musicians and poor people’s organizations,
where the poverty of musicians and their struggle to create is placed on the same footing as the
general problems of high rent and low health care.

The Ultimate Song, filled with music from beginning to end, shows how the use of culture can help
bring about the end of poverty for musician and fan alike. It tackles such questions as:
“Are Poor People Lazy?,” “What Color is Poverty?,” “Musicians Are (Poor) People Too,”
“The Power of Music,” and “What Can Musicians Do?”.

A VHS copy of the Ultimate Song will be provided FREE to any musician who wants one. If that’s you, just email us at rockrap@aol.com with your name and postal address. For everyone else, we request a $10 donation. Please send to: 
RRC, Box
Los Angeles CA 90034.

Props to africasgateway and all SA massive for checking us out, the website is still under construction but will be up shortly. . Respek due to all emcees and producers that are part of the TRAVELWYZE project. Peace and Blessings to all human beings worldwide trying to uplift self. We out. Cop the cd when it drops.

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