The songs below are just a small number of the female rappers who have contributed to Zimbabwe hip-hop over the past decade. All of these women are relevant and celebrated in their country and show the vast wealth of what women in Zimbabwe hip-hop have to offer.
The first song on my playlist is the single “Waiting for Love” by Black Bird, a well-known emcee in Zimbabwe. The music video for the song came out in 2013 and it is very reminiscent of the late 90’s early 2000’s era of American hip-hop that was heavily infused R&B at the time. Black Bird raps in English and has a hard-hitting flow reminiscent of the golden era of New York rap style. The song uses a sample of Bob Marley’s “Waiting in Vain” over a neo-soulesque beat. The video and the song itself reminded me a lot of the contemporary neo-soul era like India Arie. “Waiting for love”, a play on Marley’s song details a romantic relationship. In the song, Black Bird often repeats the phrase “You are a king and I am your queen”. It details a passionate love story from beginning to tribulations to ending with the healing of the relationship. In the song, Black Bird often remarks that this is not a simple attraction but the meeting of soulmates of cosmic partners. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed the song and she represents a more traditional, Black-centric style of hip-hop. Teetering on the line of tradition, the underground and commercial.
Second, on my playlist is the bop “Sauce” by Tiffcake that came out around 2019. From the onset of the song, it is clear that Tiffcake is of the school of the braggadocious, hype female rapper. The chorus revolves around the line “I’m dripping sauce”, which is clearly meant as a turn-up song. Coming from the likes of rap artists like Kikky Badass and Cardi B, the song features lines about being fine, “I’m the girl yo boyfriend wanna meet “, etc. In the song, Tiffcake somewhat gives us her life story of chasing her dreams, being independent, confident, and being from the streets. Delivering the lines effortlessly, around the 2:42 mark of the track TiffCake switches it up and reveals more of the talents she has in the bag. In this second half of the song the beat switches and during this time TiffCake continues her flow and though the song has been rapped in English up to this point, she switches into another language for a bit, assumed to be her native tongue. The last minute is spent with her displaying her vocal abilities as she does the “singing-rap” we see often these days. The song all in all is a fun anthem meant for girls to play in the car and twerk to, which she features in her music video.
In the 3rd Song on my playlist, it comes from someone I have covered before, the rapper Kikky Badass. Kikky Badass is a popular, beloved, and well-respected female rapper in Zimbabwe. Her catalog features sexy, brazen rap songs. Her most recent single this year “1000 bars”, is exactly how it sounds. The music video is her in a backdrop in front of a mic and seems like a freestyle or something rappers often do in deciding to do a track to simply show off these rap abilities and Kikky Badass does just that. Rapping in between her native tongue and English, she delivers bar after bar without rest and switches her flow up throughout the song. Kikky Badass has always walked the line of the braggadocious rapper but in her music, there’s always an edge, a hardiness like Chicago drill rap. This edge also comes from the clear talent and command she has over her craft, that she demonstrates here.
Next we have Trae Yung’s “NDIKOKO” on the playlist. Trae Yung is a masculine presenting female rapper in the Zimbabwe scene with skin in the game. Yung’s flow is way more laid back and more punchline based. The song itself has an intense bass made for being blasted in the car and reminiscent of OG Atlanta trap. Yung, at least through this song does not seem to be a lyric heavy rapper but is definitely talented at making a good, fun song.
Now we have Awa Khiwe, in a video performance of her song Ngeke Bengimele. Awa is an extremely talented rapper and this song demonstrates that. She delivers lines confidently and smoothly while staying at a ramped up pace. She maintains this flow while switching it around, dominating the beat underneath her. Awa Khiwe is a traditional emcee in the delivery of her music while choosing intense but non-traditional hip-hop beats. Awa’s artist aesthetic is an homage to the history and culture of her country. Adorning herself in remixed versions of the traditional clothing of her country from her performances to her cover art. This is also brought to her rapping primarily in her native Bantu while mixing in some verses English just cause. In the description, it is noted that in this song she addresses misogyny in hip-hop, something that she has talked about throughout the entirety of her career. Which has brought her notoriety and attention from local and international outlets. She coins herself as the “Queen of Ndebele Rap” as the song translates to “They can’t handle me”. The title rings true as a bop that clearly illustrates that Awa is a hard one to beat.
Through this playlist, it gives us snippets of the multitude of female rappers and aesthetics in Zimbabwe hip hop. From songs celebrating love to reasserting the power of female emcees to bops that are for having fun with your friends before going out. It shows the many facets of Zimbabwean women, hip-hop, and African women. Zimbabwe has some talented female emcees and there is a clear fiery spirit in the genre right now.
Cover art by: Manzel Bowman @artxman