Apollo Diablo’s ‘Rep Ur Hood,’: Representing Botswana and Hip-Hop Culture

In the 1970s, Bronx, New York, a city heavily saturated with people of color birthed a vibrant and meaningful underground movement of conscious rap, now known as ‘hip-hop.’ Decades later the movement has spread throughout the globe, mixing and meshing with different cultures and creating lively lyrical art all over the world. African hip-hop is a particularly unique fusion of cultures, harmonizing the African-American culture which retains heavy African influences with the African narrative. Botswana’s very own Apollo Diablo portrays hip-hop culture in his music, all the while representing his own Botswanan culture and celebrating his roots.

The song, ‘Rep Ur Hood’ off his Album, Good and Evil is a prime example of how African artists blend their own local cultures with broader hip-hop culture to create magic.The music video features many dancers the background wearing street-style brand-named clothing, sneakers, and snapbacks while break-dancing: all details typical of the hip-hop scene worldwide. A few of the dancers even wear hats reading, ‘NY’ for New York, seemingly paying homage to the originators of hip-hop.

In contrast, the two artists featured on the track, M.O.D and ATI rapped entirely in dialect or native Botswanan tongue, while hip-hop beats which resemble African drumbeats played in the background. The beginning lines of the chorus, “don’t stop what you do, rep your hood” is repeated in Setswana, reinforcing the fact that its important for individuals to take pride in their origins and remember where they are from. In addition, amongst mainly English lines, Apollo Diablo mixes in Botswanan slang, occasionally speaking broken English like, “me and my crew ‘shatta man dem” or throwing in short phrases like “boya” or “howzit,” incorporating his culture as footage of Botsawan landscape appears in short clips. Overall, the song is a hopeful and semi-lighthearted combination of mainstream hip-hop and the local Botswanan culture, used to encourage cultural pride.

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