Posted in Africa, Diaspora, Ghana

Different Country, Same Attitude

There’s two types of people in this world: those who conform to the rules set by society and those who rebel against it. In their collaborative hp hop song “Gentleman”, rappers M.anifest and Wanlov the Kubolor come together to tell you that they’re the ladder and not ashamed of where they’ve come from. For today’s blog, we will look at the African diaspora and how this common African experience has translated over to the music of these two artists. Just to give you a bit of a background on each, M.anifest is a Ghanian rapper who is known to many as the king of Ghana hip hop. He migrated to Saint Paul, Minnesota back in 2001 to attend college. He even resides in Minnesota as well as Ghana currently. 

Wanlov the Kubolor is a Ghanaian-Romanian musician who moved to the US for college back in 2000. Both of these artist are very proud of their Ghanian roots and let their experiences as immigrants influence their sound.

Wanlov

In their collaborative song Gentleman, both rappers immediately start the song off saying the chorus immediately saying “I won’t be gentleman at all, I’ll be African man original. I wont be gentleman, won’t be gentleman at all”. They immediately set the tone for the song with their straight forward acclamation to stick to their roots despite living in a country that has a different culture. Within the song they mention a number of aspects that are associated with the men of western culture and then rejects them with their own versions that they’ve grown to live with in Ghana. Both M.anifest and Wanlov the Kubolor have experienced first hand what it feels like to migrate to not just a different country but an entirely different continent like many Africans for the sake of their futures. the African immigrant population between the year 2000 and 2010 increased from 800,000 to 1.6 million and of those people these artist were part of that. There’s such a big population of African Immigrants that can relate to this song and are able to not feel alone in their fight to not keep who they are while surrounded by Americans. Gentleman is a great song that compares the two cultures and also speaks to what they mean to the Ghanian rappers. It’s fun, it’s unique, and it will always be African.

Posted in Diaspora, Female Emcees, South Africa, Student Projects

A Lady, a Miss, a Feminine Touch to Hip Hop

If I were to tell you “there are women in hip hop” you wouldn’t hesitate to tell me that you already knew that. For years, women have been making names for themselves in the male dominated field of hip hop through their lyrics, looks, presence, and persistence. Today we’re looking at some femcees (female emcees) that are taking the genre and making it their home. Lady Leshurr is a hip hop artist from the UK who has been  coming out with mix tapes since 2009 and is most known for her Queen’s Speech rap videos.

lady

Her lyrics are clever, silly, and most of all memorable. In her 2016 song/video Where Are You Now?, Lady Leshurr immediately sets the mood with loud brass ensemble that plays an upbeat, “aww shit” type of tone as the camera moves from showing us the colorful walls of a room to seeing Lady Leshurr in a bright red and yellow oversized crewneck sweater looking very nonchalant. She begins speaking in her accent about how all the people she has been apparently suppose to see and how they have all of a sudden “disappeared”.  The whole song is about people who have treated her like she’d never succeed in the business but now she’s making it pretty big and all those people have seemed to of shut up. Lady Leshurr in this video (and all of her others) is all about the lyrics, upbeat tempo, and flow. throughout the entire video you see her in comfortable and cute outfits but nothing that evokes the idea of sex or distracts you from the lyrics. She makes the song just an all-around fun experience from beginning to end. One thing that also stood out was that despite having a male rapper be featured in the song, he doesn’t appear in the video. There could be many reasons this didn’t happen but I like to think it was purely because Lady Leshurr never has a man in her videos. This speaks volumes to me as a way of saying that a man can collaborate with her but at the end of the day people should want to experience her content as hers. If you came for Lady Leshurr then that’s what you’ll get!

This ties into our other femcee: Miss Celaneous. A lesser known rapper from South Africa. In her 2015 song/video #TRAPEM, she has the same feel as Lady Leshurr in her independence as a female rapper but the difference is the tone and the message that is being told.

miss

It clear to the listeners that Miss Celaneous wants to be seen as versatile with lyrics like

they think I’m rude, they think I’m a dude

He never thinks that when I’m sending my nudes

I’m poorly misunderstood

actually I’m not, they just can’t handle the truth

Miss Celaneous shows the two sides of her that has managed to make people either love her or hate her. She’s naughty, she’s nice, she’s miscellaneous… uh, sorry, Miss Celaneous. Both of these artist use their lyrics instead of their bodies to define themselves. A lot of the times it seems that in order to make it as a female in a male-dominated field of hip hop, you have to talk about sex, show yourself in a sexual way, or both but these ladies it shows that you don’t have to. Femcees of today are still struggling to be taken seriously but with women like Lady Leshurr and Miss Celaneous out here, it’s only a matter of time!

Posted in Diaspora, South Africa, Student Projects

South African & American Hip Hip: Brothers From another Mother

There are many similarities between the history of South Africa and the history of North America. From white supremacy to black/colored people fighting for their rights. Because of these parallels, its very understandable that hip hop music for both countries have similarities in sound and style. Today we’re going to be looking at two hip hop songs, one from America and another from South Africa. AKA is an award winning South African hip hop artist and producer from Cape Town.

aka

In his song Composure, you immediately notice the trap music sound that sets the mood for the song and music video. AKA appears to be in a studio for a photo shoot while he raps. The flow is very similar to that of an American rapper. Even the auto tune-like chorus is very common to modern American hip hop. The first thing that I thought of when seeing this was Drake. Just for consistency, I’ll give a little background on who Drake is. He’s an award winning American rapper from Canada who’s resume includes acting in a Canadian teen drama between 2001 and 2009 . drake-ftw

In his music video for Energy, Drake sort of has the same sound and feel as AKA’s Composure song. For Composure, it seems as though AKA is talking to someone directly about them doing him wrong which is pretty synonymous with Drake talking about all the people in his life who have done him wrong. This is a pretty common trait found in rap songs. I find it to be really cool how the culture of these two different countries aren’t completely the same but when it comes to hip hop and its sound/ style you start to really notice the similarities. The significance of hip hop can be seen in the ways that it brings our people together and this is just another example of that.

Posted in Ghana, Senegal, Student Projects

Ghana & Senegal: Letters to the People

There are many types of hip hop songs: some sample old songs, some create their own back track, some tell a story and some send a message. In many African countries, the voice that hip hop artists have due to their popularity has been used to speak to it’s community of listeners (typically the youth) to send positive and political messages. Protest and Combat type hip hop songs have been ways of stressing an issue that is affecting the lives of many. An example of this is the Senegalese group named  Y’en a Marre  who took their talents and urged the large population of young people to vote against corrupt actions that were taking place by the government. Besides these common characteristics, there are also songs with a message to the people that are simply enlightening.

Ghanaian hip hop/ hiplife artist m3nsa has a song that speaks to his audience in a way to reassure them about life’s doubts called No One Knows. The video begins with a young girl in a yellow rain jacket and red boots lip-syncing to the song No One Knows by Asa about the uncertainties in life with a big smile on her face. M3nsa then enters with his positive verses. The big picture that the entire music video as well as his lyrics were trying to convey was that despite the constant fear of the unknown, it’s okay to not know what will happen, just trust in yourself and live each day one step at a time. This song’s message and visual imagery conveys positive energy and reassurance to it’s audience.

m3nsa

There are many hip hop songs that are similar to M3nsa’s that bring comfort to a common fear that many have. On the other hand, there are times when an artist makes a song that comforts an audience who are experience a certain situation. The Senegalese hip hop group Wagëblë has the perfect example for that with their song titled Message of Hope. This song is not in English but there are many elements within it (and obviously the title) that are clear signs of a song with a message. The first thing the audience sees and hears  is a clip from a news report explaining how despite the great poverty in Senegal, there are young musicians who are developing a “unique brand of hip hop, sending a message of hope to the country’s younger generation”. This sets the mood and theme for the video. Wagëblë are those artists and they want to bring that message of hope. Throughout the music video you see them performing live which shows not only their connection with their fans but their influence. There isn’t much imagery or any theatrics in this video like in m3nsa’s but I believe it’s for the simple goal of the audience having their focus on the lyrics. This is also hinted during part of the video that only show their lips mouthing the lyrics.

wageble

Both these songs come from different artists from different countries and yet despite their differences they both have a common goal of getting a message across. The message doesn’t always have to be about politics and it doesn’t always have to be about mundane anxieties but what does matter is that the audience can understand and relate. Hip hop will continue to change, warp, and evolve but one thing that keeps it alive is what makes us human: empathy.

Posted in Nigeria, Student Projects

Hip Hop VS Pop in Nigeria

You can turn on the radio today, here in America, and easily find both pop and hip hop songs. Many artists have managed to have both genres on the radio. Even Kanye West has been fluent in both as he has evolved or, as some might think, devolved as an artist. He’s done songs that are undeniably hip hop and songs that would be seen as more pop. This versatility among musicians has translated over to Africa causing a debate on who’s an MC (can freestyle and writes their own lyrics) and who’s just a rapper (not necessarily skilled at the art of freestyle and can have a ghostwriter for the sake of having the fame as an entertainer). This has also made it a bit difficult for some people to tell the difference between pop and hip hop songs. In Nigeria, there’s a strong fan-base for both genres who’s artists, in many cases, end up collaborating.

One pop artist from Nigeria named Yemi Alade is becoming a household name as a pop star with hit songs like Johnny and Tumbum thanks to her African pride and catchy songs about different relationship situations. Her songs for the most part are, without a doubt, pop songs. From her auto-tuned voice to the fast paced, repetitive and catchy rhythms and lyrics Yemi is true to the genre. For the music video of her song Want you, we’re given a simple and upbeat rhythm that is paired with Yemi wearing bright colors on a sunny day. As you could probably guess, she is singing about a guy that she wants but it’s not sang in a longing and passionate way but rather in a more playful way. There are many scenes that show her dancing with backup dancers in bright colors while there are also scenes of her and other characters having miscellaneous fun together on the beach.

These elements are commonly found in music videos for pop artists like Meghan Trainor or Katy Perry. Artists like Yemi Alade create songs that are meant to cheer people up, make them want to dance, and most of all get stuck in people’s heads. It’s a very obvious goal when you notice her lyrics at the chorus are “I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I want YOU!” It’s a very common trait to find. A pop artist relies on emphasizing a very short and sweet point whereas a hip hop artist relies on taking multiple related points and finding clever ways of fitting the right words together to say them. Now, don’t get me wrong, Yemi Alade is honestly my girl-crush thanks to her ever changing natural hair styles and her bright, Afrocentric outfits.

In contrast to the pop music, there’s a Nigerian hip hop artist who goes by the name Falz who is a small scale musician and has found mild success with songs like Soldier and Marry Me (which, mind you, is featuring my girl Yemi). There was one music video of his that I was able to find that had over a million views and was not featuring another artist called Soft Work. The first thing that I noticed was the rhythm, which could easily be mistaken for a pop song at the beginning if you were only listening to the instrumentals due to its simple claps and dreamy electric keyboard run. Falz jumps in with the lyrics about how his lifestyle is filled with expensive things and not much regard for anyone/anything else.

This theme has been found in many hip hop songs (but definitely not all) where the artist is living the life they’ve been striving for and they express it in the best way they know how: by rapping. The song is all raps (no singing, not even during the chorus) but it still holds many pop-like elements in the music video like how every last one of his props in the video from the pink car to the yellow couch and the red cup are vibrant colors as well as those who surround him. As he raps to the camera there’s a bunch of attractive men and women (mostly women) having a dance party all around him. The video focuses on beautiful women and expensive things. The contrast from a typical pop song that this song has is that despite having lyrics about being happy and rich, Falz kept a very calm and nonchalant tone unlike Yemi’s song where she longed for a guy yet she sounds fun and joyous.

Personally, despite identifying as a hip hop artist, I would honestly place Falz under the title “rapper” which, depending who you are, isn’t something to be ashamed of. If it’s giving you the lifestyle and satisfaction you’ve been seeking then it’s no problem in my mind. There are, though, many artists from Africa (yes, not just Nigeria) who, without a doubt, are MC’s who could mesmerize you with their on-the-spot lyrics and impeccable flow. It shouldn’t be too hard, though, all you’ve got to do is listen out for them.