M. anifest is an award winning Ghanian rapper singer songwriter. M.anifest’s song “Coming to America” really speaks to the experience of an African people coming to America. He begins by discussing the beginning of the diaspora and more specifically colonization when he says “ever since they came in the name of King James, my people been crippled and maimed”. M. anifest talks about how immigrants come by boats and planes, and while some come legally with passports and visa, others, that don’t have those resources, take the chance of stowing away to come to America, never knowing what will happen to them. The biggest concern that M. anifest iterates in this song is the need to send money home to support his family. This is big reason that people outside of the country come to America, for the economic opportunity.Another point that is brought up by M. anifest is the fear of police and police brutality. He mentions often that there is a constant danger of being arrested and going to jail in America. This, to me, speaks on how the mass incarceration system is an institution that oppresses and lingers over the head of all black people in America, no matter where they came from.
M.anifest in this video represents most obviously his home’s culture in the way he dresses. The video talks about the experience of black people in America, and there is nothing American about the outfits M. anifest wears. We can see the intricate textile patterns and bright vivid colors along with the symbols that are commonly found in this style of clothing. He accents the clothing with carved wooden jewelry, which is also traditionally African, and one of the necklace I saw had the Gye Nyame symbol, which is a famous African symbol that means “fear nothing except God.”
The power of women on the hip hop scene is growing each day in Africa. Female hip hop artist often struggle to get there music and art pushed into the mainstream of a genre that has been historically male dominated. I believe this is the reason that these women are producing more revolutionary hip hop art. Two artist that have made particularly creative music videos are Little Simz, who hails from London but is born to Nigerian parents, and Patty Monroe, who was born and raised in South Africa. These artist show very different sides of the artistic spectrum in the themes they convey and hopefully this blog can give some insight into their messages.
Continue reading “Black Girl Magic”
Blitz the Ambassador. Just from the name you can get the feeling that this man is a well travelled, well versed rapper. Coming from Accra, Ghana he has been in the game since 2000 and has only grown deeper into his craft. Blitz the Ambassador’s videos are some of the most visual creative I’ve seen. I love them because they tend to tell a story. In his music video “Running” Blitz uses his video to speak on the topic of spirituality. The concept of the video is that you can run from spirituality but you can’t hide from it. The video reflect this message in the story it tells
Continue reading “Candy For Your Eyes”
Many rappers carve out their own niches in the market by having certain traits in their music that stand out. For instance, some rappers have been known to add shock value to their music and videos to gain attention from audiences. In South Africa, the rappers Die Antwoord use a lot of sinister imagery in their music video “Ugly Boy” while their lyrics portray a deranged love. In America, the rapper Tyler the Creator uses gory imagery and graphic lyrics in his music video “Yonkers”. These two artist portrayed two different types of crazy, but who is more convincing.
In “Ugly Boy” by Die Antwoord reminded me of a Joker and Harley Quinn (Suicide Squad 2016) type of crazy. The first visual connection that I could make was between Ninja and joker seeing that both have eccentric tattoos and are often caught with their torsos exposed. Yolandi and took on a Harley Quinn look by using the red and blue eyeshadow some scenes and white foundation in others. Lyrically, the song depicted a relationship between the to rappers who are literally crazy in love with each other. Its show both Yolandi and Ninja having an obsession with each other. In the video I think the most shocking aspect was the us of red paint and fake blood that often covered the body and face of ninja throughout the video. The least shocking part of the video was the dancers that were painted white with streaks of red.
In “Yonkers” by Tyler the Creator the audience is taken into the mind of an insane artist. An eerie beat rings throughout the music. Shot in black and white, Tyler the Creator spits confusing and frustrated lyrics. With his constant body movement and sporadic nature Tyler the Creator shows a possessed quality that wasn’t executed quite as well in the Die Antwoord video. “Yonkers” also had more shocking content within the video. Lyrically, Tyler used excellent end rhyme to convey graphic images, even stating how he would stab Bruno Mars in his esophagus as an example. Visually, Tyler was seen eating cockroaches, vomiting, becoming possessed, and, most shockingly of all, hanging himself.
I chose to compare two South African Artists whose music videos seemed to lie on different ends of the musical spectrum. Representing the Hip Hop side was Jean Grae, with her song “Kill Screen”, and representing the more Pop/Soul side was Lira, with her song “Phakade”. While both music videos depicted geuine narratives, Jean Grae tended to be lean towards a more serious and realistic perspective, while Lira was geared toward light heartedness and enchantment.
You open up the video “Kill Screen”, and within the first ten seconds the mood is set. Gunshots are heard and the first thing you see is a body laying on a floor. All in black in white (except for a strip of comic, probably related to Jean Grae’s name coming from an X-Men member) . Already you can feel the realness of the visual message as you watch the body struggle for life. The video continues and ghetto centric images flash through the screen showing worn wood floors and worn painted walls, candles for lighting, bloodied hands and even a glimpse of an intimate moment. Jean appears on the screen and her rap begins. The rhymes that ensue are captivating, as Jean utilizes an intricate vocabulary. Perhaps the crypticness of the lyrics is the most impressive part to me, forcing me to listen to the rhymes multiple times to drawing meaning from them. The message itself mainly postured Jean Grae in a way that most MCs do. Saying how superior her rap skills are in the most complex way possible. The music itself I noted to also be quite interesting. Even though the instrumentation was pretty standard hip hop, the bass beat seemed to mimic a heart beat, which both challenged and interacted with the time of the song and cadence of the rapper.
You open up the Video “Phakade”, and within the first ten seconds you get a fairy tail feel. “She dreamt of an everlasting love, sometimes dreams come true…” is the first thing you see across a black screen which then transitions to a cinematic scene with a girl skipping up to a porch to chat with an older woman about her first encounter with her husband. All in high definition. As the transition is made to the next scene you can feel the happiness and playfulness in the visuals as Lira blow bubbles and hand washes her clothes. The video continues as a well dressed man enjoying a bike ride through the woods stumbles upon the beautiful voice of Lira and seeks her out. Night falls and the man brings her flowers and conjures magical insects to gain Liras attention. Lira sees the insects and begins singing. The notes that ensue are compelling, as Lira utilizes a smooth and soulful voice. I would say that I was most impressive part of her song was her instrumentation, which reminded me of some of India Arie songs, especially the use of guitar. Beyond this Lira’s message was beautiful, as it talked about everlasting love and dreams being realized.
If I had to chose one piece that probably represented South Africa the best I would probably go with Lira’s. Even though Jean Grae’s song might have been more realistic in its depiction of life in general, the cinematic narrative was mostly confined to a house and she identified the setting of the video as New York. Lira gave a beautifully captured depiction of what I assume to be South Africa, but what really stood out to me was that she sang the song in Xhosa (one of the unique languages of South Africa). Personally I enjoy hear beautiful music being made in languages other English, even though I know the reality is that this usually makes the music less marketable globally.