Rosa Ree, coined from Rosary Robert, is a Tanzanian native and one of the fastest rising female hip-hop artists in Africa’s hip-hop scene. Her music break came circa 2015 when she got signed to the record label The Industry Studios– label led by Tanzanian rapper and producer Nahreel. I was so excited to write about this as soon as I saw her video “Dow“.
Rosa Ree embodies the total package when it comes to addressing the ways in which female emcees display braggadocio in their careers. This video highlights a lot of the several points raised in chapter 4 of the Hip-hip in Africa book about “Femme de Combat” in the hip-hop scene. A lot of female emcees have embraced the culture and lifestyle of hip-hop and have not been afraid to show that in their music and way of life. In this video, she is seen smoking a cigar comfortably in the midst of men and this sends a strong message as she is using her braggadocio to show that she can stand shoulder-to-shoulder in any male-dominated context- in our case, the Tanzanian hip-hop scene. Some of her lyrics contain lines like ” Mic check 1,2 I am the illest” “Look at my rack, and then look at my stacks, boss ass moves is all I do’s can’t lie bro I don’t need no dudes, self-made goddess oh my highness only thing higher than my heels is my standards”. These lyrics depict Rosa Ree as using her braggadocio to show her credibility and skill as an emcee, to comfortably portray her sexuality in an untraditional manner, and to show her stance as an African feminist who holds herself to the highest regard in the hip-hop community.
I am highlighting Rosa Ree because she’s young and still exhuming the excellence and tenacity that a lot of female emcees before her like Nazizi, Eyirap, Sasha P, Toussa Senerap, equally displayed. These female emcees all made sure to deliberately highlight the struggles of the African woman through their art and drive attention to issues that the world needs to pay attention with regards to women rights in these African countries- female genital cutting, violence in women, unequal opportunities, etc. In Carlos Ncube’s article in Music in Africa “Rosa Ree: a rose among thorns“, she emphasized that “in the society I come from women are not believed to be able to do hip hop, so the number of female hip hop artists is very low. We’re trying do something of a revolution because we want to make people believe that females can play a game that is dominated by males. People have been taught that males can do it only because it’s hardcore. What we’re trying to do is to bring change into society so that people can believe in female rappers.” when poised with the question of what her experience is as a female hip hop artist in Tanzania.
Braggadocio is important in hip hop because it helps artists in terms of credibility and authenticity. Hip hop culture is known to be predominantly male globally and to be unforgiving to weak players. Female emcees struggle to not only claim their stance in the hip hop community but also establish their strength and right to be in the game while contending with their male counterparts (Clark 2018). Rosa Ree uses braggadocio exceedingly well in her songs and videos and consequently contends with the male emcees in the hip hop genre. She talks about this tradition in her first song “One Time” which was very harsh, aggressive, and angry. This was her using braggadocio to introduce herself as a young hip hop artist into the rap community. In the song, her lyrics, “do not look down on a woman because she’s a woman” shows how she uses her voice to address challenges to gender oppression and also expose the world audience to African feminist discourse. I particularly enjoy Rosa Ree‘s style because she pours her emotion(s) into her lyrics and constantly represents her community, womanhood and hip-hop in her own unique way.