Heritage: Home to Here

In K’naan’s song Nothing to Lose feat. Nas K’naan comes to terms with his Somali culture and heritage and how it influenced him when first immigrating to the United States. He recounts some embarrassing moments when he was unsure of  the culture but then eventually becoming entrenched in American style and culture. He even goes into depth to describe how he use to buy knock off Filas. This drives home the point of K’naan being an outsider and being unsure of the style immigrating from a different country. Although, K’naan builds an understanding and sense of American culture and norms he doesn’t lose sight of his own African culture as he shows in this song. Continuing on in this post I will further dissect his song Nothing to Lose and how he uses it to connect with his African and more specifically his Somalian roots.

In his lyrics K’naan makes references to Somalia. He spits, “I don’t know pilots, I know pirates.” Furthermore, he highlights in the video young presumably Somali girls in hijabs, again this displays his strong ties with his motherland. He also highlights the Somali Social Club in the video and Nas even embraces the culture by adorning himself in a keffiyeh. In addition, K’naan brings up other East African countries and urges that knowledge is key and that we need to learn more about one another’s history.

In closing, I would argue that K’naan has close ties with his origin and his motherland. I think that more African rappers need to highlight aspects of their culture and heritage so that fans and the public can become more socially and culturally conscious/aware and tolerant. Knowledge is power, the more we learn about other people’s culture and norms the more likely we will become a more interconnected world.

Reserved vs Revealed: Femcees

Both Miss Celaneous and Kanyi are hip hop femcees that hail from the country of South Africa. Despite the fact that both artists are from the same country their styles and dress couldn’t be more different. In Miss Celaneous’ video #TRAPEM she expresses her sexuality in terms of the way she dresses as well as her delivery within the video physically and verbally. Miss Celaneous’ lyrics are in English and she describes sexual acts within her lyrics. Miss Celaneous wears shorts and has on revealing clothes throughout the music video. In terms of American society and cultural norms Miss Celaneous is dressed regular and not too revealing; however, as we discussed in class, shorts and exposed shoulders can be seen as provocative in African countries.

In comparison to Miss Celaneous fellow hip hop femcee Kanyi in her video Ungalibali takes an alternative path. Kanyi’s dress as well as her content and mannerisms are in stark comparison to Miss Celaneous’. Kanyi’s song is about attempting to stay true to herself and identity. In the music industry maintaining an image as a femcee that isn’t provocative is difficult because it doesn’t feed consumer’s want for a sexy female rapper. Kanyi’s style differs greatly from Miss Celaneous she has more of a tomboy type of appearance she wears a snap back and baggy clothes.

 

As a hip hop femcee it is difficult to decide the type of persona one wishes to adopt. She has to choose wether she wants to portray a sexy image or less sexual tomboy type of image. However this begs the question why do femcees have to chose? Why can’t a femcee dress as she feels comfortable and appropriate? One day she may want to sex it up while on another occasion she may feel more comfortable in baggy clothing. Black women aren’t able to change fluidly in between different personas the same way white women are. Femcees should have the same right to represent themselves in the way they please at any time or moment wether it be reserved or revealed.

US vs South African Music Video

The two music videos I will be comparing is All Eyes on Me by AKA and Pop That by French Montana. The striking similarity in both videos is appalling. Both music videos take place at a mansion. Both videos feature scenes in an outdoor pool as well as scantily clad women. In addition both videos show an abundance of name brand alcohol. This could be due to endorsement deals which highlights the topic of the commodification of hip hop we covered in our class readings. Ciroc Vodka for example is featured in the Pop That music video there is a part where the camera even zooms in on it. The content of the music primarily talks about women, money, and partying. The music doesn’t provide actual substance or talk of anything of meaning. Both songs are clearly meant for party music.

A great amount of the United States rap scene is made up of a type of “fast rap” rap music that is catchy and has a killer beat, but two weeks later is considered old and not played in the club/party circuit any longer. I think that this extremely common of rap music in the US especially “trap music” or “turnup music” It is important to be aware of the quality of these songs, even if the beat and production of the song is great the lyrics or message might not be.

One difference that I did find in the videos was the tone of the videos. Even though both videos featured the same concepts the way these were executed were very different. For the Pop That video the whole song seemed natural and an actual party the women in the video were playful and even running across the camera during a rappers camera time. For the All Eyes on Me the women in the video were careful to keep their distance and not interrupt that rapper’s camera time. They were featured as props rather than the main source of video entertainment. In the Pop That video I would argue that the rappers relied heavily on the influence of the women to make the video entertaining.

Ghana’s Hip Hop Artists

In this post I will analyze two different Ghanaian hip hop artists. The first is rapper Edem who has released two albums in his career so far. In Edem’s song Heyba he slams all of his competition claiming he is the best. “Heyba” translates into English as “Not on my level” Although the music is not in English, I found a website that translates the lyrics into English here.

In class we discussed how rappers from other countries make references to American culture. In order to do so however, one must be familiar with pop culture references as well as language. In the song Heyba, Edem makes references to Italian wine and Irv Gotti. Meaning that Edem is familiar with American hip hop culture.

The music video was extremely appealing. The women in the video were dressed in traditional African dress and makeup. The video had a scary element to it. At one point face were coming out of the wall and there was even a bengal tiger in the video. All of these elements were combined to show the power that Edem has as a rapper.

The second video by hip hop artist Sarkodie called Take it Back has the same scary feel to it. Again showing the power Sarkodie has a rapper. Although parts of the song were in English it was still difficult to understand. The visual elements help viewers to accurately understand what the artist is trying to say exactly. At one point in the video there is a person with a gas mask on burning a sign that says “weak flow” possibly referring to his competitors. From the video and lyrics combined my understanding is that maybe someone dissed him in another rap song and this is his reply to that song.

The videography in both songs were strong and appealing. They allowed for great entertainment and were visually stimulating.

 

Nigeria’s Modern Day Musical Renaissance

With widespread popularity of music artists from Nigeria to other countries it is no surprise that Nigerian’s music scene is experiencing a rebirth in it’s own right. A musical renaissance of sort.

Popular artists such as Wizkid, Patoranking, Tekno and alike blend a range of different elements to create a type of cross over music that can appease any crowd and is versatile in nature. This blend includes pop and traditional african instruments coupled with hip hop flare. This type of music has been dubbed a modern day take on “Afrobeats.”

Two videos are linked in this post. The first is Nigerian rapper Boogey freestyling to Wizkid’s “Ojuelegba.” The second video is of Wizkid’s original track of the song.

Both have different styles entirely. Boogey in true emcee form is freestyling. One of the most striking things about his video is that he is simply rapping in the entirety of the video. Boogey isn’t worried about melodies or pop appeal. Furthermore,  you can trace his rhymes by the story he tells like a modern day African griot. He also touches on his skills as a lyricist and how he can enlighten us to, “a main verse, one that [we] have never heard.”

In comparison, Wizkid’s song “Ojuelegba” lyrics shed light through his struggle of working hard and giving thanks to God always. With careful inspection I found the lyrics interesting due to the fact that I’ve listen to this song many times never knowing the message of the song. The song’s upbeat tempo and melodies contrasts with the seriousness of the message of the song. In the song he covers tough topics such as people in Nigeria suffering yet still having such tremendous faith in God and praying for blessings.

Although some may argue that this modern day “Afrobeats” genre is susceptible to sponsorship and turning into a commercialized entity, it is important to note the vast benefits this could have for African countries such as Nigeria. This genre can be used as a stepping stone, bridging western and African culture. With this bridge more interest in African music will lead to a pathway of understanding and tolerance for a more globalized and interconnected world.

It is crucial however, that these artists remain true to their musical messages and do not fall prey to capitalistic nature of the music industry. African artist can use their music to advance compelling messages that will invoke social change. They can use this modern Afrobeats genre as worldwide platform to reach many with whatever message they choose. In the end it is up to these artist as to which message they will send across the world to their millions of listeners. We will be waiting and listening.