HHAP Episode 21: Yugen Blakrok on Hip Hop Lyricism & the Black Panther Project

This month we speak with Johannesburg-based MC, Yugen Blakrok. Yugen Black is a South African MC, who was recently featured on the Black Panther soundtrack. Her style is distinctive and blends several different elements together in a strong lyrical flow. Her music do not contain many of the topics often found in hip hop that is heavy with braggadocio, or sexuality. In Yugen Blakrok’s music you mind find references to her Xhosa identity, Asian martial arts (ala Wu Tang), or to Black consciousness ideas and figures. Her flows sound like layered streams of consciousness, and do not fit neatly into one adjective.

In this episode we speak with her about her music career, her unique style, her 2013 album Return of the Astro-Goth, her most recent work on the Black Panther soundtrack, and her upcoming projects. 

Yugen Blakrok’s first album was Return of the Astro-Goth: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/return-of-the-astro-goth/814084115
The Black Panther Soundtrack: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/black-panther-the-album-music-from-and-inspired-by/1331258584
Yugen Blakrok on Twitter: @YugenBlakrok | Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/YugenBlakrok/  | Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/yugenblakrok/

HHAP Episode 20: Nazlee Saif on Hip Hop, Sexuality, Race, & Protest in Cape Town

Our conversation with Cape Town based hip hop and spoken word artist Nazlee Saif centers on discussions of race, gender, religion, sexuality, and activism. This conversation centers on the use of hip hop as a cultural space within which to engage several different social issues, and to deconstruct social taboos that continue to exist within hip hop culture.

Nazlee Saif is a spoken word and hip hop artist originally from Durban, who moved to Cape Town and attended the University of Cape Town (UCT) during the height of the #RhodesMustFall movement. Nazlee, who was already a socially conscious artist, was an activist and organizer in the movement on the UCT campus. Nazlee, as a queer identified, Muslim, MC, also brings those intersecting identities into the hip hop, a culture that has historically been very patriarchal, very misogynistic, and hostile to queer voices.

In the conversation Nazlee Saif talks about several topic, including the #RhodesMustFall movement at UCT, intersectionality, being Black & Coloured, queer identities, being a Muslim & queer MC, Steve Biko and Black consciousness, the term “Hoteps”, and feminism.

Nazlee Saif’s presence in hip hop challenges hip hop’s masculine, heteronormative culture. Nazlee Saif expresses strong stances on topics of race, sexuality, and religion. The artist’s discussion of a level of frustration with Black Consciousness, as well as the term “Hoteps”, may put Nazlee Saif at odds with some Pan Africanists.

Nazlee on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCwNoj0WTO0fAoKG0fagDFxQ

Nazlee on Twitter: @NazleeArbee

Readings

Clark, Msia Kibona. 2014. “Gendered Representations among Tanzanian Female Emcees”. In Ni Wakati: Hip Hop and Social Change in Africa, edited by Msia Kibona Clark and Mickie Koster. Lanham, MD: Lexington Press.

Haupt, Adam. 2016. Queering Hip-Hop, Queering the City: Dope Saint Jude’s Transformative Politics. M/C Journal, 19(4).

Smith, Marquita R., 2014. “Or a Real, Real Bad Lesbian”: Nicki Minaj and the Acknowledgement of Queer Desire in Hip-Hop Culture. Popular Music and Society, 37(3), pp.360-370.

HHAP Episode 19: Quentin Williams on Multilingualism & Hip Hop in South Africa

This episode, South African hip hop scholar and sociolinguist Dr. Quentin Williams discusses his new book Remix Multilingualism: Hip Hop, Ethnography and Performing Marginalized Voice (Bloomsbury Press). 

Dr. Williams is a Senior Lecturer in the Linguistics Department at the University of Western Cape. He has published papers and book chapters on the performance of multilingualism, popular cultural practices (specifically Hip Hop), agency and voice in urban multilingual spaces. In addition to the book we’ll be discussing today, he is also currently editing the book Kaapse Styles: Hip Hop Art & Activism in Cape Town, South Africa.

Dr. Williams has been writing on language and hip hop in South Africa for several years, and has extensive credibility within South Africa’s well established hip hop community. Dr. Williams’ research and work has also made valuable contributions to the field of linguistics.  

In this interview we discuss the book, Dr. Williams research on South African hip hop, and ultimately his place as a Coloured man from the Cape Flats in one of the oldest and largest hip hop scenes in Africa. 

Episode Breakdown

6:24 – Being a hip hop sociolinguist & self reflection in the book.
7:50 – The arena of freestyle rap battles
11:35 – His work with the group Suburban Menace
16:05 – Hip hop research and scholarship, & the responsibility to the subjects of the research
22:43 – His experiences in the Cape Flats township of Bishop Lavis during hip hop’s days of hip hop, during the last years of the anti-apartheid struggle
29:10 – Relationships between Black & Coloured hip hop heads
38:05 – Different hip hop language varieties in South Africa
39:40 – Braggadocio, and its place and purpose in hip hop
45:00 – Masculinity & toughness in hip hop
49:24 – Dr. Williams concept of “Body Rap”, respectability politics, the pornification of hip hop culture, & rape culture within hip hop culture*
58:12 – Women navigating masculine hip hop spaces
1:07:44 – The diverse audiences that this book speaks to

*Dr. Williams defines Body Rap as “a sub-genre of local rap, where the overarching theme in the lyrics is the sexualization and often the denigration of women’s bodies, performed for the pleasure of men”.

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