Papa Gora is a Senegal-born, Cincinnati-based Hip Hop artist who started turning heads this year with his debut recording project, H.O.P.E., which came out in early January.
The album (the initials stand for “Home of People Everywhere,” and it is subtitled “Based on a Village in West Africa”) is a stunning, revelatory piece of art, especially when considering it is Papa Gora’s very first musical statement. The soundscapes on the tracks are warm and soulful, laced with supple Jazz and Soul grooves and sounds (J Dilla fans will dig it), while Gora's acrobatic rhyme schemes and wise lyrics have the weight of someone who has been working on their craft for many years.
Late last month, Papa Gora released the third music video from H.O.P.E., for the standout track “Too Much.” Much of the album, as its title and subtitle suggest, is based on Gora’s reflections on West Africa, looking back at his time growing up there through the lens of someone who has gone on to experience and learn much more about life, the world and its people. One of his best lyrical talents is in top form on "Too Much," as he presents "then and now" perspectives in a way that is universal and easy for almost anyone to relate to.
On “Too Much,” he fights to keep a positive outlook and to be grateful for what he has but he becomes overwhelmed by the heaviness of certain realities and memories — from Senegal's food and water insecurity to high poverty rates to civil and governmental unrest — because he knows a lot of it is still going on. Midway through the track, he raps, “Aw man, damn/Feels so good to be alive/With everything we’ve been through/The violence, to survive/The thirst, the hunger hurts my stomach worse/Today we pray but yesterday we never ate/Losing faith.”
“Too Much” and H.O.P.E. are Papa Gora’s poetic way of drawing attention to the struggles in his country and help others understand it as he does. As large chunks of the U.S. population grow more cynical — and with xenophobia as apparent as ever — Papa Gora provides a gateway to empathy, offering with his words an “on the ground” view that is powerful.
“Too Much” was produced by Vavilon. Oussmane directed the music video.
Papa Gora is also raising money to provided clean drinking water to those in need. He is donating some of the proceeds from the sales of Bandcamp downloads of the album to the Water For Africa organization. Find details here.
H.O.P.E. is also available now on most digital/streaming platforms. The Bandcamp page is papagora.bandcamp.com.