Female MCs in Africa have long faced barriers in trying to enter a male-dominated industry that doesn’t take them seriously or believe that can create a lasting impact. As female artists are now on the rise more than ever, they are using their craft to shed light on social and cultural issues faced by women in their communities. Through their lyrics, they are providing am empowering voice for all women going through the same struggles. This mixtape which can be found on Youtube is specifically a compilation of songs produced by South African female artists that embody the same theme of voicing female struggles as an act of empowerment. Individually, the songs differentiate in the struggles they are trying to call attention to. Social ills and Inside address challenging beauty expectations, Sheba Ngwan’O addresses gender discrimination whilst Umsindo and Koze Kube Nini discusses domestic abuse.
The first song on the list is Social Ills by South African female hip hop group Godessa, who’s members are Sheema “Shame” Williams, Elouise Jones, “EJ” Jones, and Bernadette “Burni” Amansure. The song was produced in 2002 making it the oldest in the compiled playlist and addresses how the persistent images portrayed by clothing companies and the media have pressured women into abiding by certain social standards, turning them into “clones” of each other. Through symbolic lyrics, the artists shed light on the struggle that women face as they choose to sacrifice their individuality to be viewed as wanted or desirable:
It’s hard to think why you don’t wear what you like
You wear what you think they think is tight
And I don’t think it’s right to find replicas of
Jennifers all over the world
The second song in the playlist is Inside by Dope Saint Jude, a queer South African rapper who has been known for her socially conscious lyrics and genre-fluid sounds. Inside is a personal reflection of the artist’s girlhood struggle with South African cultural beauty standards as they are aligned with the characteristics of being white. This song is seriously admirable as Dope Saint Jude provides a voice for all women who have ever been picked on or felt ugly because they didn’t match what was seen as ideal. She reclaims power in her identity as she strongly dismisses these ingrained stereotypes and identifies her negative experience as something that didn’t break her but rather turned her into the amazing person she is today.
Fuck all the girls in school who thought they were cool ‘cos they had straight hair
Who is a fool now
The next song on the playlist is Umsindo by Kanyi Mavi, a Xhosa-speaking Cape Town artist known for her raw lyricism addressing a range of social issues faced by young Africans today. In Umisindo, Kanyi tells the story of a woman abused by her partner, a reality faced by many women in South Africa as they are socially conditioned to believe that tolerating and forgiving unacceptable behavior conducted by husbands and boyfriends equates to strength. In the song she states:
Namhlanje ndivuke ndingafani nayizolo
Akho nzolo, akho nalo molo
Uth’ uxolo, uthi ‘uxolo’, uthi ‘nyolo’
And’funi noyivha, v’tsek, cima longxolo
This loosely translates to ‘Today, I woke up different to yesterday. You are asking for forgiveness, Voetsek, cut the noise. ‘
This song is meant to reflect the thoughts of a woman in an abusive situation and empower them to overcome fear-driven tolerance of this behavior. Kanyi’s commanding use of the Xhosa language, and natural but still vicious delivery are emotionally impactful. The song’s instrumental include chanting and beats that I find to be extremely moving and is comparable to some of the alternative sounds you would find in a song like Famous by Kanye West.
The song after this on the mixtape is Koze Kube Nini by Gigi Lamayne Ft. Eminent Fam. This song too addresses the increasing gender-based violence being faced by many women in South Africa. In the song, Gigi refers to Karabo Mokoena, a real woman who had been violently killed by her partner in 2017. The music video was created to match the emotional lyrics as it follows a girl the story of a girl as she moves through an abusive relationship.
Love isn’t pain
Love aint a game
I gotta know my worth and I know its gonna hurt
These specific lyrics of the song can be argued as a way Gigi’s is calling for these women to have courage to truly love themselves by no longer being with those who abuse them. Although the bongo Flava style beat keeps the song catchy, the seriousness of its message remains clear and not lost.
The last song on the playlist is Sheba Ngwan O’ by Rouge who is an artist famous for her complex lyrics of empowerment, strength, and determination. The title of this song roughly translates to ‘Look At Her’ which is the actual name of a chant kids at Rogue’s high school would sing when a girl was doing well in her running race. The name alone is such a great depiction of the agenda of the song as an anthem praising women to not be afraid of making moves and bringing focus to themselves. In South African culture, women are often told to be dismissive and quiet and through her strong lyrics, Rogue is determined to empower women the change that norm: don’t apologize for being successful or pursuing success.
Overall, the songs in this playlist vary in instrumental styles, with Social ills, Sheba Ngwan O’ more in line with the sounds you would find in contemporary American hip hop whilst the others incorporate more alternative music styles into their instrumentals. With that being said, the core theme of all of them remains to be the same message pillared around women empowerment. Regardless of the tone and sound of the music, this ultimate message is never lost. Not only do these songs shed light on the social problems faced by women in South Africa, but their empowering lyrics are telling women to stand up and define these norms.
To find the mixtape please clink on this link: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL1pL78pZV2dBEX4_oDe2LHF6QNCxocazZ