1st Album Review: K’Naan “The Dusty Foot Philosopher (2005)”

K’Naan’s album, “Dusty Foot Philosopher (2005),” was an album that thoroughly discussed the life of a Somalia immigrant. The majority of the album is in English despite track 2. Track 13 is also spoken in K’Naan’s Somali native language, as he featured another artist named, Mwafrika, who did not speak English throughout the entire song.  On track 4 K’Naan expresses his living standards when he described his home to be made of brick white washed walls and tin roof tops. K’Naan does a great job expressing the struggle that goes on in Somalia on track 3, entitled “What’s Hardcore”. He talks about Somalian children being born with AK-47 in their hands and being trained to shoot at a young age. He also talks about how riots are started daily throughout his hometown of Mogadishu.

He represents Africa (Somalia) throughout his album. One specific topic K’Naan covered was when he talked about the importance of music.  People need music like people need water. He also discusses some of the food he grew up on and the religion that was enforced in his home. Some of the politics K’Naan talked about was how the U.S government claims to help but yet kids still walk around with guns and no aid, with poverty continuing to increase.  The intended audience is younger group of individuals because the younger generation is one who would listen and care about some of the controversial issues that go on in African countries. He doesn’t really talk about African American too much on his album. The album was overall a really good album. Its opened my eyes to a more poetic and philosophical version of hip hop.

1st Album Review of M.anifest: Manifestations (2007)

Manifestations (2007) was an amazing album! The album is mostly in English, however on track 5, Gentlemen Ft. Wanlov the Kubolor they speak in their native tongue for at least 30 seconds of the song then continue to rap in English.

M.anifest speaks about his immigration in just about every track of the album. However, majority of the immigration experience is rapped about during track 2, Babylon Breakdown. During this track M.anifest specifically talks about how he experienced not having a passport or visa and being neglected in his own country alongside his people. Also in track 6, Manifestation, M.anifest continues to rap briefly about a “slave economy where money is the root of all-evil”. However, he encourages listeners to get to know who they really are. Which is exactly what he did to give him a different perspective on life.

M.anifest clearly shows that he represents his hometown, Ghana and Africa throughout the entire album. On track 4, Swing Low, M.anifest raps about a carriage that would carry him back home. Meaning that if he were to die in America he would want that carriage to carry him back to Ghana to be buried. In track 5, Gentlemen Ft. Wanlov the Kubolor, both men rap about how they will forever be “Sons of Africa” and by doing so they are satisfied within themselves. They also believe that “Sons of Africa” do not have to wear a typical suit to be gentlemen. Being all natural, using herbs to heal their wounds, and shopping in a traditional market are small things that are meaningful to both men to pay tribute to their country.  Lastly, track 9 Africa Represent, M.anifest raps about how he focuses on providing fans or listeners with relevant rhymes that mostly give back to his country. “Represent who? Represent what? Africa!” M.anifest wants to show his people that throughout everything he and his people have gone through that they should be proud of their culture. 

M.anifest raps about a variety of social and political issues from being neglected, poverty, to his views on a “black paradise”. Mainly on track 8, Against the Grain Ft. Checkmate, both men rap about the issues that are always portrayed in media. A few issues for example are, a drug free country, traveling without a visa, no HIV/AIDS, less sex on television, and no heavy taxes. A “Black Paradise” would be a place where none of the above issues exist. But a place where you could chill and not worry about being killed. Going against the grain means making a change and not doing the usual. The commentary at the end of the song really helps you realize that there are so many problems worldwide not just in Africa. I believe this song gave M.anifest the chance to vent. “Too many problems, music feels like my only friend”. 

M.anifest mainly speaks to the people of Ghana and Africa. However he raps internationally to allow everyone else the chance to hear what he has to say. On track 2, Babylon Breakdown he raps “City where I rest, pick your chest up”. M.anifest raps to give his people strength. Also on track 10 Change Gon Come Ft. Desdamona, M.anifest and Desdamona give listeners courage that change is always happening. But most importantly change is the ability to free your mind. 

M.anifest does not exactly point out any specific African Americans in his album. However in track 3, Emcee Psa, he raps about having innovation and creativity. He believes that a real MC should rap about reality. “Sharpen your sword”, M.anifest flows for the people not for the money/industry. That is what he believes has made him different from all other MC’s.

Although I only brought up specific tracks that made M.anifest’s album Manifestations different from other rap music today the album had other songs that were extremely catchy and did not have such an emphasis on African culture. I enjoy rap more than any other type of music, therefore it was easy for me to understand what the album was about and enjoy the beats. I loved that at the end of certain tracks there would be commentary or a sample of African drums which made me just want to groove with the beat. I am glad that I got the chance to do an album review on Manifestations it was a great album. 

African Rebel Movement – A.R.M.

A.R.M. which stands for African Rebel Movement consists of none other than M.anifest hailing Ghana and now in Minnesota and Krukid who comes from Uganda and now lives in Las Vegas. One recent album is called Uprising and it definitely tries to create one although the uprising itself is not really described in too much detail or really promoted much in their rhymes. . Their lyrics are generally positive and relate to life on the streets, and the hip hop industry both in Africa and in America. A.R.M. looks to possibly be a more conscious politically oriented side project of well established artists, primarily in the case of M.anifest but their releases to date dont really convey the message of rebellion yet and seem to be out there to help the record sales uprising as much as the people’s uprising.

“Fear of the Mundane” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G35M25R8mcY&feature=related
“Africans” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DRSw5hEqUf0
“Heaven Only Knows” Ft Brother Ali http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OkFtm5IBDfw
“Two Africans and a Jew” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v1vyrUfRKUU&feature=related
“As We Enter” over Nas and Damien Marley http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ic4zNLFUTg&feature=related

Jean Grae

Jean Grae was born in South Africa to politically conscious musician parents who immigrated to New York for more freedom when she was very young. Though she identifies as a New Yorker, she stays close to history and exemplifies the struggle Black female artists go through in Africa or in America. She speaks of the struggles faced regarding the education system, health care, police injustice and many other social issues. A primary focus in her lyrics is the nature of hip hop and what it takes to make it in the game and how someone like her will always be left out of the limelight. She could be compared to Immortal Technique in many ways with her no apologies delivery and super hard core style most of which should be applauded. However, in tracks such as “Hater’s Anthem,” where she departs from inspirational hip hop and capitulates to promoting violence, resorting to degrading language to women, and homosexuals she reinforces her similarities to Technique and many of his downfalls. She also works with Immortal Technique directly in very positive ways on several other tracks such as “The Illist” and a very powerful piece called “You Never Know.”But in my opinion much better collaborations come with Talib Kweli in tracks like “Black Girl Pain,” where she reaches to her African roots making connections between the struggles faced by black women on both sides of the Atlantic. After a psuedo retirement, she is still working on Talib Kweli’s record label.

“Black Girl Pain” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mhRKepkIrPE

“Green”  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dcSuyNYbt_8&feature=related

“Black is the Color” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZMW37NbjuCc&feature=related

“My Story” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jFz6ECvaiqQ

M3nsa

Mensa Ansah otherwise known as M3nsa, was born in Accra, Ghana and grew up along side his now common musical partner Wanlov the Kubalor. He worked with Reggie Rockstone early on in his carreer taking sounds from Hip life, Afro-beat and other styles to eventually carve his own place in the hip hop world. Much of his music his light hearted, often funny with dance beats and he has the ability to appeal to mass audiences. This is part of the reason he rising to become a global star, working and living throughout Europe and the United States. However he remains true to lives and situations of poor, working people in Ghana and around the world and this is shown in much of his music and especially on his album No. 1 Mango Street. He raps and sings in English and Pidgen and places a high emphasis on language and the use of it in his music. He also emphasizs the role of his audience in his music and remains ever grateful as can be seen in his song “Anaa.”

“No One Knows” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SC2Ra2_3do0&feature=related

“Adjuma Work Hustle” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=geWUQxMvqyc

“Broken Language” Ft Wanlov the Kubalor http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TUemB1KQWKY&feature=related

“Anaa” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S1u6CvtW4-s&feature=related

Documentary ‘Ni Wakati’ Brings American, East African Artists Together

Los Angeles — The new documentary by Kenyan filmmakers Michael Wanguhu and Russell Kenya premiered at the Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles this year. It proved to be a good year for Kenyan film, with eight films set in the country.

Ni Wakati is a documentary that deals with issues including the state of hip hop, connections between Africans and African Americans, and the struggles between commercialized and conscious hip hop.

Continue reading “Documentary ‘Ni Wakati’ Brings American, East African Artists Together”