Ben Sharpa was born in 1979 in the slum of Soweto, South Africa. From young childhood Ben Sharpa experienced the brutal reality of the Apartheid regime as well as the struggle against it. As a child his father moved the family to live in Chicago, Illinois where he grow up acutely aware of the suffering going on in his homeland. This lead him to hip hop music which was being used to give a voice to the oppressed. In 1993 Ben Sharpa moved back to South Africa and immediately started forming underground crews like GroundWorks and Audio Visual. Ben Sharpa’s music adresses themes like social consciousness, politics, conspiracy theories, and the struggle to survive. In 2007 Ben Sharpa fell into a diabetic coma, and when he awoke after having little chance of recovery Ben said, “I have seen the other side of the Matrix.” This near death experience gave him renewed energy to continue with his hip hop music.
Driemanskap is a hip hop group from South Africa, consisting of El Nino, Ma-B, Redondo, and Dla. They are represented on Pioneer Unit record label based out of Cape Town. This hip hop group like many other South African artists believe that hip hop is about bring attention to important issues and representing where you are from. Driemanskap are the founders of a uniquely South African style of hip hop called Spaza. Spaza hip hop combines the mother tongue of South Africa IsiXhosa, English, and Cape Town slang. The record out now is Itsho Into. Driemanskap started out performing in parks and street jams, and music festivals. Now they are performing on the same stage with some of the country’s biggest artists like Ben Sharpa, and the Archetypes.
Lotfi Double Kanon is an Algerian rapper who was born in Annaba in 1974. He has been labeled a “rebel” by Algerian authorities for his music being to “expressive”. His first album was Kamikaze released back in 1997 and he now has six albums out. He has a huge youth following in Algeria and his motto for his lyrics is “It speaks only what eyes see.”
Lotfi Double Kanon’s official website:
This is an article from OntheMedia.org with an interview between the hosts Brooke Gladstone and Bob Garfield and Abdulla Darrat who is one the founders of the website Khalas which is run by exiled Libyans. The Khalas team was surprised to find that one of the most common mediums people were using to voice their discontent in countries like Tunisia and Egypt was rap music. Abdulla Darrat created a mixtape for the website that contained rap songs with strong messages of revolution. One of the artists on the mixtape is Lotfi Double Kanon who raps to reason with the President of Algeria saying he brings a message from the youth. Many of the Hip Hop artists spread the message, “that Islam can make a person more honest, more loving to, more caring for his fellow citizenry.” Abdulla Darrat says , “I think these are cultural forces… These are young people who are using their skills, their talents to not only make others aware, but give people a set of ideas.”
This is an article from NigerianEntertainment.com in which they interview rapper and hip hop artist 2face Idibia, who was born Innocent Ujah Idibia in Jos, Plateau State, Nigeria. 2face states that he chose the rap name 2face, because the person people see on the outside and the person he is on the inside is two totally different people and he believes that all people have two faces. 2face had been singing for fun his entire life, but in 1997 he decided to make music his profession when he and fellow hip hop artist Blackface started a rap group called Plantasion Boyz. 2face talks about his long term goal in the interview which is to have international fame and to be remembered with the greats like Wyclef, Bob Marley, Michael Jackson, and Fela. 2face’s biggest single has been African Queen in which he describes his love for the African woman and also shows appreciation for their capacity to be loving and to care for their men and families. 2face ends the interview by saying he has his eyes set on the music scenes around the world, but he is a Nigerian artist and he will continue to represent that.
This is an article from GhanaMusic.com that talks about the album “Reggiestration” from the African hip hop artist Reggie Rockstone. Rockstone was born in Ghana but spent his early childhood in the United States. He returned to Ghana in the 1990’s and has been continuously living there developing the music style hiplife which infuses the African genre highlife with hip hop music. The album “Reggiestration” is a double album that includes remixes of some of Reggie Rockstone’s older songs as well as brand new tracks. There are many big artists featured on this album like 2face, Wyclef, Sena, D Black, and Trigmatic. The second track on the album is titled “Ah Jay” and has the essence of the African Highlife style, the chorus of the song is done in Twi. Songs from the album “Reggiestration” tell the history and roots of Africa as well as celebrate the high points of African culture and life. The album cover has a cocoa pod, which Rockstone said represents the harvest of all the hard work he has been doing.
Nneka Egbuna was born in Warri, Oil City in the country of Nigeria, Africa where she lived for nineteen years, absorbing the sounds and music of her country. She then moved to Germany to pursue an education and a degree in anthropology from the University of Hamburg. Her musical style ranges from tear jerking soul singing, to free style rapping. Her debut album was released in 2007 titled Victim of Truth and was a mixture of “black consciousness and 21st century soul.” The second album she released was No Longer at Ease and then she released a collection of songs called Concrete Jungle, which focused on giving hope to the people in Warri and the Niger Delta in Nigeria. Nneka is a hip hop artist with courage as she demonstrated with her song “Africans”, in which Nneka tells her people to stop blaming colonialism for their problems and take responsibility for themselves. She performed this song and others like it to sold out shows while touring in Nigeria, a country under strict military rule.
Hip Hop artists in Africa are faced with a common problem among most musicians in the world, how to reach as wide an audience as possible. For most the answer has seemed to be the internet, but the internet is not as useful for this problem in South Africa because only 6 million of the 49 million people living here have access to the internet. The solution for the music industry to this problem has been through sharing music through cell phones. Simone Harris, editor of Hype magazine, the biggest hip hop magazine in South Africa, says that hip hop artists in South African are now networking with corporate entities to get promotion and funding from food and cell phone companies. However, since most of the corporations are based in Johannesburg mostly only hip hop artists coming from this city are receiving notice. One of the biggest independent record labels in South Africa is Pioneer Unit based out of Cape Town, they are known for representing artists that rap in other languages besides English. One hip hop artist El Nino says he is unhappy by the way music is going in South Africa, because his music is not getting air time since it does not sound American enough. South African Artist AKA, on the other hand, says if you want to have international recognition, you must speak the international language and that is English. He says no South African artist can deny being influenced by American rappers.
This is an essay written by, Alex Perullo and John Fenn which can be found in the book Global Pop, Local Language by, Harris M. Berger and Michael Thomas Carroll. Since Hip Hop’s emergence in North America during the 1970’s and 1980’s, Hip Hop has become a global way for the youth to express their own local styles. This is no different in Tanzania and Malawi, two neighboring African countries. Both countries use English in their hip hop music, but Tanzania uses also Swahili and the Malawian youth use the language Chichewa. Author, Alex Perullo, states that Tanzanian hip hop in English reflects American hip hop in talking about the pleasure’s of life for example, parties, friends, and praise of the artist. Perullo then says that when the musicians use Swahili, the hip hop artist is usually conveying a message to the Tanzanian people about important social issues like lack of employment, corruption in the government, police brutality, and HIV/AIDS. Tanzanian hip hop artists have stayed away from some American themes found in rap music like violence, because it is seen as disrespectful by the Tanzanian people. Although English is the dominant political and economic language in Tanzania, it is only spoken by five percent of the population, so Swahili has become the most dominant language in the Tanzanian hip hop scene. Many Tanzanian hip hop artists use American rappers such as Tupac Shakur to learn the flow of hip hop music and once they have acquired the skills they develop themselves as Tanzanian hip hop artists. The creation of new words and the changing of the meaning of old Tanzanian words is core to the hip hop scene because this creates a common culture the youth of Tanzania are able to identify with. In Malawi, English is all over rap and hip hop music, but it is usually accompanied simultaneously by the language Chichewa. Much of the conversation about hip hop music in Malawi is done in English including newspapers, radio, and face to face dialogue, but the young hip hop artists of Malawi realize the importance of using the local Chichewa language when trying to convey certain messages in their music. The Malawian youth see hip hop as having important social functions as well as a way to effectively transmit meaning.