BBC Afropop West

A radio program that describes the evolution of hip hop in West Africa. The program is hosted by Nigerian hip hop artist JJC.

The audio file can be found at: Afropop West 

In Senegal, the artists interviewed link hip hop with the West African traditions of the griot, traditional historians.  Daara J refers to how these griots and traditions traveled to America through slavery and evolved into hip hop. Daara J, who named their album Boomerang say that “rap music was born in Africa, it grew in America, but now it’s back home”.  The Senegalese artists interviewed have a view of hip hop that recognizes the African elements in hip hop as well as the American influences in the music.

In Ghana, the importance of radio in artists getting their music heard comes through as the program talks about the number of radio programs. The program talks about hiplife (a combination of hip hop & highlife music that is sung in Twi), which Reggie Rockstone is credited with creating and making commercial. Rockstone identifies more as hip hop, but talks about the sense of community that exists within the hiplife community. Tictoc is presented as a popular hiplife artist. Tictoc talks about distribution, which in Ghana is done via record stores. In the US and Europe, music is sold via the underground. He makes no mention of how Ghanaian hiplife is sold in other African countries. Many of these artists, to earn money, have clothing lines and rely on endorsement deals.

JJC questions some artists in Ghana about whether their music really represents their African heritage or if they are simply imitating American music. The artist’s responded by saying they use English to bridge the gaps, but that the content of the lyrics reflects their African heritage. The artists, however, remind me of bad imitations of the worst in American hip hop and reinforce the thin line between good hip hop and pop rap music.

Other Ghanaian artists interviewed focused on the importance to represent African culture and music.

Nigeria: The move to Nigeria talks about Nigeria being home to the “big booty girls”. This is about as far away from Senegal as one can go in terms of hip hop. The program begins with Senegal, with looks at transatlantic linkages and African traditions and begins its final segment with a song that is an imitation of mainstream American rap.

 The segment on Nigeria highlights all the different languages in Nigeria, and the pidgin English that all Nigerians speak. The host says that in Nigeria they love freestyling and battle rapping.  The next song they played, a diss song, was very good. It flowed well, and was clever.

The issue of piracy is brought up. One tactic is to make the music available at the lowest possible price, to combat piracy, with the idea if there is a small price difference, people will buy the original.

Author: Msia Kibona Clark

Assistant Professor in the African Studies Department at Howard University. Professor of the course Hip Hop and Popular Culture in Africa. Researcher and photographer of hip hop in Africa.

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