The group Godessa carve out for themselves a new sound and scene that is for women and by women. The three of them speak into the world their thoughts and beliefs without any limitation. Their intention: to tackle social issues from a female perspective.
The first female group to break through the South African hip-hop scene, Godessa occupies a special place. The group’s members are Shemeema, EJ Von Lyrik, and Burni, and each of the three of them makes valuable contributions to the group. One is an emcee. The other two are famous for their spoken word poetry that ties into hip hop rhythms. The last is an MC that ties everything together. The members themselves diversify hip hop and by identifying as women in a hypermasculine culture. They remain and create an authentic space for themselves that did not exist before. This lends to their credibility as hip hop artists.
In the group’s video for “Mind Ablaze,” the trio perform as secret agents in an alternate Cape Town, South Africa world. As the three cartooned hip hop artists receive missions in an office under a record store, we get the message in the lyrics as to how their music is a platform for the way they choose to express themselves and their unique identities. In similar works such as “Social Ills,” the artists intend to progress South African society by critiquing the ways the social systems try to force its citizens to conform into one way of thinking. Instead of following those conventional ways, the trio continues to extinguish “evil” through their music, proving how hip hop’s popularity as a genre of music can offer socially conscious artists a large platform in which to share their music. Although Godessa has since disbanded, their music and honest commentary on the social issues they faced will not be forgotten.
Burni Aman’s website: http://www.burniaman.com
The color black is so powerful. That is the thought that comes to mind when I first watched South African artist Dope Saint Jude in her video “Grrrl Like.”
The first scenes in the video reveal a group of women standing together, preparing its viewers for the overall message in Dope’s female-centered single. Poet Audre Lorde often talks about the importance of “defining and empowering” in her work when discussing how people can learn to appreciate how each individual is different. It is also important when talking about beauty standards and nonconforming and marginalized communities. The people surrounding her in the video all wore black to signify that they were united. However, a closer look would reveal that each one of the individuals was expressed themselves differently by their body piercings, hairstyle, and jewelry. The imagery conveys that to simply “be” can bring about resistance in itself.
Dope executes her verses in a confident, striking, and compelling manner. In an interview with Elle magazine, she mentions M.I.A., Major Lazor, and Santigold as influences in this particular track. In addition, she explains that the term “Grrl” originated from the feminist punk movement and that she uses the term to refer to “Anyone who identifies with femininity and grrrlhood.” Her decision reveals the importance of inclusivity of people who may not be considered to fit society’s standards of being female. The result of Dope’s creativity: a space to celebrate the uniqueness of those in her community.
In her lyrics, she describes herself like her mom, Madonna, and Michelle Obama, giving the audience insight into the women that inspire her:
“I’m like my mama
Sometimes it’s drama
Forget the karma
Might hear me holla
Reverse Madonna (that me)
My bike’s a Honda (that me)
Michelle Obama (that me)
You feel me holla”
Dope Saint Jude’s work often challenges gender norms, racism, body politics, and classicism. By mentioning a wide range of examples of iconic and accomplished women, she reveals that her identity is limitless. This contrasts the narrow images that are often portrayed in mainstream hip hop music, adding an interesting and more inclusive depiction of womanhood, “grrrlhood,” and femininity.
Dope Saint Jude’s social media: