K’Naan – Somalia

KNAAN is an artist who came to the United States as a refugee at the young age of 14. His homeland is the country of Somalia. He is an artist who does a great job of balancing both his African roots as well as his roots in America as an immigrant. The song that I will be using for this blog is called Somalia, from his Troubadour album. This album was  a tribute to his motherland. In this song,  the artists describes the very raw reality of hardship and violence in the country through his vivid lyricism. He paints a picture with his words of a young girl who had the potential to become anything a doctor or model,  but instead picked up a gun. He talks about how pirates are terrorizing the ocean and how everyday where he’s from there is some sort of commotion and unrest. He stays true to his African roots by telling these stories so that he doesn’t forget where he came from and to bring awareness. My favorite part of the song is “Do you see why it’s amazing When someone comes out of such a dire situation And learns the English language Just to share his observation? ” K’naan as an artist has come a long way on his journey to where he is today as a recognized artist internationally. He represents his American immigration roots by learning and producing music in the English language. He also has expanded his music to include collaborations with American artists such as Nas, Nelly Furtado and others which speaks volumes to his career expansion. But like most artist who get signed at some point there becomes a sacrifice. He has three recorded albums, the first two were done without any outside control and the third he began to have label influence. During a meeting he had with the label they encouraged him to keep his American audience happy, because they don’t want to hear about violence and trouble in Somalia. According to The New York Times, “And for the first time, I felt the affliction of success. ” He began to compromise his sound a bit in order to please others and now he is trying to figure out a way to continue to produce his most authentic sound while staying true to the diaspora. 

The Lack of Women Empowerment with Female MC’s

Hip Hop is a male dominated field. Many of the male artists in their music discuss women primarily in a negative light. They either discuss women as inferior to them, discuss them as hoes, discuss women at the strip club, and more. Male MC’s fail to acknowledge women in a positive light in their music leaving a negative message about women to dominate the air waves. Although few female MC’s, it is up to them to change the way women are portrayed in music and music videos. Female MC’s have the ability to not allow sexuality to be at the forefront of their image, but to have more focus placed on the message they want listeners to receive. But, female MC’s currently have failed to incorporate a women’s empowerment message into their music. Instead they continue to do what their male counterparts do: brag about their money, brag about their bodies, and tear down other women. Instead of using their platform to empower women in their music, they continue the cycle of degrading women.

When watching South African artist Rouge’s “Mi Corazon”  the song and video lacked a message. The video captured your attention due to the visuals not due to any important message that was suppose to be displayed in the song. Rouge even rhymes in her song, “Not reppin’ the females, that’s not my focus”. She is acknowledging her failure to put on for women in an empowering manner and choosing to demean them. She has the power to use her platform to change the image of women in hip hop, yet she is choosing to continue the cycle of degrading women. When watching U.S. artist Nicki Minaj’s “Beez in the Trap” video, the video had no message towards women. The video focused on her looks as well as the other women in the video’s looks. The lyrics likewise lacked an empowering message about women nor for women. Both artists hold platforms that will allow them to change the face of women in music, yet why do they fail to do so? Their black female sexuality is put at the forefront of their music, lyrics, and image allowing the message for female empowerment to be overshadowed. If they don’t put women’s issues at the forefront of their music than who will?

Femme Fatale

The state of rap music has changed since its creation in the 1970s. Starting in Bronx, New York rap was always seen as an underground subculture that deviated from the social norms and patterns of the dominant culture. It was here that the expressions of young Black and Hispanic men were freely expressed and not criticized. Rap music is a cultural art form that consists of four elements: deejaying, break dancing, rapping, and graffiti. Having its historical roots in ancient African culture traditions, rap music can also be traced to countries that were part of the African diaspora. And even though rap music was a means of civil disobedience against the “Man”, uniting all those who felt indifferent about the system in which they lived in it is not a fully inclusive culture. I feel as though we still objectify and under value our femcees by constantly undermining their skills and giving them less room for creative freedom.

The success of femcees as we’ve seen with the success of artists such as Missy Elliot and Nicki Minaj has relied on the use of their sexuality. Missy expresses her sexuality through her lyrics for example, the first verse to one of her most notable songs Work it :

I’d like to get to know ya so I could show ya                                                                                               Put the pussy on ya like I told ya
Gimme all your numbers so I could phone ya
Your girl actin’ stank then call me over

While Nicki expresses her sexuality through both her lyrics as well as her image as we’ve seen in her song Anaconda where she says:

This dude named Michael used to ride motorcycles                                                                                 Dick bigger than a tower, I ain’t talking ’bout Eiffel’s                                                                               Real country-ass nigga, let me play with his rifle                                                                                       Pussy put his ass to sleep, now he calling me NyQuil

While most femcees are objectified by their labels in an attempt to boost their sales Nicki has embraced her sexuality and uses a tactic known as self-objectification. Where instead of letting her label be the ones to push her sexuality to the forefront she embraces her sexuality and in an essence objectifies herself. Im not saying that the rap industry should be dominated by femcees but its time that we let them take control of their own sexuality and stop belittling their presence in the game.



Trinity Hip Hop Festival 

Trinity International Hip Hop Festival in Hartford, Connecticut 

HHAP Episode 8: Hip Hop in the Academy, in Conversation With Seth Markle

Dr. Seth Markle is an Associate Professor of History and International Studies at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. Seth received his PhD in History from New York University. At Trinity College he teaches the courses Global Hip Hop Cultures and Introduction to Hip Hop. Much of his academic work has centered around Diaspora communities in Tanzania. His new book A Motorcycle on Hell Run: Tanzania, Black Power and the Uncertain Future of Pan-Africanism, 1964-1974 is scheduled to be released this year with Michigan State University Press.

His work in hip hop has been global. He has been very active in the hip hop scene in Tanzania, where is known as DJ Pemba. He has also traveled to several countries and worked with hip hop communities from Costa Rica to Russia. He is currently the faculty advisor for the Trinity International Hip Hop Festival, which happens every year on the campus of Trinity College and features artists, activists, and scholars from all over the world.

In this conversation we discuss the festival, it’s background and mission, as well as how people can get involved. We also discuss his work in Tanzania, his research, and being a hip hop academic.

Dr. Seth Markle is an Associate Professor of History and International Studies at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. Seth received his PhD in History from New York University. At Trinity College he teaches the courses Global Hip Hop Cultures and Introduction to Hip Hop. Much of his academic work has centered around Diaspora communities in Tanzania. His new book A Motorcycle on Hell Run: Tanzania, Black Power and the Uncertain Future of Pan-Africanism, 1964-1974 is scheduled to be released this year with Michigan State University Press.

Continue reading “HHAP Episode 8: Hip Hop in the Academy, in Conversation With Seth Markle”

Hip Hop S.A and Hip Hop USA

I chose tear gas because of Pro Kid, and what made Pro Kid catch my eye was his song about Soweto. Soweto was a township in South Africa where children were brutal murder for having their own opinion about their education. In the chapter reading from class, the book discussed the influence Soweto Massacre had on the birth of Hip Hop in South Africa. However, Pro Kid does not have a video for Soweto so I had to settle for Tear Gas. Tear Gas lyrics talk about how money changes those around you. How once these artists started to make money, they also started to lose friends, develop haters, and the authorities started paying them more attention (in a negative way).

I chose Wishing because the Tear Gas video made me think of Wishing. The song is about the artists’ ability in the bedroom and how through these ability and the financial opportunities that come with dating one of these artist, females will wish they had the chance with one of them. However, the video is about a drug bust done by sexy female police officers. Keeping true to hip-hop’s ability to objectify woman and glorify the “hood life”.

Goodfellaz – Tear Gas ft. Pro Kid & HHP and DJ Drama – Wishing ft. Chris Brown, Skeme & Lyquin have several similarities. Both are all male songs with videos implying trouble of some sort. You noticed this trouble from the attached picture where both artists end up in an interrogation room. Another similarity you will notice is the cop is the female with heavy sex appeal, showing “too much” cleavage and has on a short tight skirt. Another noticeable similarity is that both songs do not necessarily match the video at all, the story in the songs are not the story lines that the videos proclaim.

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Black Noise Vs X Clan

My interest with South Africa’s oldest hip hop group, Black Noise, began when I read chapter seven of Hip Hop and Social Change in Africa: Ni Wakati. Here, the author explained the significance of the “colored” community in South African hip hop and the emergence of an Afrocentric blend of Khoi/San traditional music and hip hop–dubbed “Khoi-pop.” Black Noise was listed as being one of the pioneers of the genre.

My first experience listening to Black Noise was spent analyzing their song “Black is Back.” The title seems to fit with the Afrocentric quality present in the Khoi-pop genre. The beat begins with what almost sounds like a James Brown song (or some other 1970’s hit from Black America). A female vocalist is then accompanied by a fast/upbeat hip hop rhythm. The style reminds me of an early 2000’s fusion of US r&b and hip hop. After she finished singing the chorus one of the lead rappers started the first verse which was full of Afrocentric and Khoicentric references. Some of which included the following: “What it look like? Mad fingers on the deck/It’s all about the culture and the spiritual connects…The Khoisan is back and the change will be next.” In this verse the artist also made references to the transatlantic slave trade and the five elements of hip hop (deejaying, b-boying, graffiti, emceeing, and knowledge): “One love for my people in the hood/…The five elements always make you feel good/The black noise is back make your body want to move/nobody move, nobody gets hurt/For five centuries all my people get whipped/for five centuries.” Much of the rest of the song follows the same trend. Black Noise is an excellent example of Khoi-pop music and the problack identity it holds. In Hip Hop and Social Change in Africa: Ni Wakati discusses this identity preference as a protest against the “colored” identity and the discrimination coloreds face in South Africa.

To compare Black Noise to a group in the united states I decided to look for a group (rather than an individual) whose popularity began in the 80s/90s, and who also believed in Afrocentricity. X Clan was almost a perfect match. Their hit Heed the Word of the Brother serves as a good example. Although this song takes on a much more militant aesthetic (images of civil rights demonstrations, Harriet Tubman with a gun, and lyrics that are more aggressively Afrocentric) their cultural and political focus is similar to that of Black Noise. Heed the Word of the Brother contains the following lyrics: “Great blackness brought from the genesis/Won’t exist ‘til armageddon is a witness/The originals built the Earth.” And others such as “The key opens knowledge and plays as an antenna/Americana man, Africana brother/ Don’t forget the land cause the birth is from the mother.” X Clan, and other pro black groups during their day were landmarks in Hip hop’s social/political development. Like Black Noise, this development is centered in a Pan African/Pan Black identity.


Composure and Fake Love

Drake is one of America’s top artists at the moment. He’s constantly creating narratives that are relatable to all his listeners, fans, and even his counterparts. While critics says he’s lost touch of his original style that made him even more relatable, he embraces this style with “Fake Love”.

As discussed academically, rap is a product of the environment, perfect to convey a large spectrum of emotions about it. As an expression of numbness, realization and standoffish feelings, Drake uses “Fake Love” to convey how the music business makes him feel. He states that “They smile in your face, whole time they want to take your place”. Perhaps speaking on his own development as an artist, his way of approaching people within his industry which monetizes an art that’s based off of feeling, is by treating folks with a long stick because it isn’t about respect, or perfecting your art, it’s about trying to take what they have and where they are at.

In his video, it begins with a lot of unrelated material, almost laughable situations that sort of depict how the music scene has been saturated with remnants of a highly dramatized life style. Drake argues with Tyra Banks in a restaraunt, behind in a strip club, a guy in a cowboy hat makes demands of his strippers saying that there’s an 80/20 split (20 for the girls), and after all that they go out to dance for Drake. All in all, the music seems to be the very last thing the video cares about, which is sort of a symbol as to how it works in the American Music industry. Purposefully or not, Drake made a statement visually.youtube.com/watch

As hip hop took the world by storm, it’s very obvious that America has always been the standard for style and brand development. However, South African artists have always been about the music and while the vibe of the artists may be similar, they always manage to show their “woke” side while still being marketable. One such artist is AKA and his disussion of the industry is very similar to Drake’s however he speaks about how he’s living his dreams and not concerned about who’s trying to take his place. He remarks the “N***AS get touched when you the real thing” and that “It’s more than Drake and Meek Mill s**t”. He sees how the industry gets people up in arms and how confict arises easily, just because it’s how it is to desperately fight and do anything to stay on top. It’s become less about being an artist and more about competing to create the most marketable image. The irony is that his sound is very much like Drake’s (sonically and message wise) however, his video doesn’t have much an intro and only has him behind a changing black and white backdrop. youtube.com/watch

Message wise, AKA was deeper and understood that in order to musically succeed over others, you have to look past their moves for your place create your own. Drake took the approach that you have to stop messing with people, and call them out on their “Fake Love”

Black Like Me

Hip Hop was borne from the oppression Black people faced in their urban communities and the outlet to this madness was found in a dope beat and intellectual wordplay. The Black struggle found in the Bronx in America can be mirrored in South Africa where Black people were similarly oppressed in their communities. The Black struggle is unique– if you’re not a member of the Black community, it’s hard to understand what it’s like living while Black. It’s a never ending struggle of escaping oppression and trying to live fully in your skin. Blacks in America in the 90s reached out their hands to their brothas and sistas in South Africa because they knew all too well what it’s like enduring the war against Black all over the world.

Dope Saint Jude, a queer South African hip hop artist and Joey Badass, Brooklyn Native hip hop artist, although growing up in two completely different places, explore what it means to live like them, live Black like them.

In Dope Saint Jude’s video for her song “Brown Baas” the focus is mainly on her and her brown skin and statement locs where she is delivering fierce lines about the oppression she faces being Black in South Africa which hints at the remnants of Apartheid still in the country. She uses the South African term “baas” which means authority figure, and proclaims herself as a “baas” or boss, saying that she’s proud of her Blackness even though others may have a problem with it. She’s owning who she is. She repeats, ”
What it’s like to be brown for a girl like me” “What it’s like to be a baas for a girl like me”

Similarly, Joey Badass invites people into his world with his song, “Like Me” that talks about the everyday struggles of being a Black man in his Brooklyn. The daily fight to stay alive and how people like him live differently and have a whole other perspective on life. “Like Me” was used as a protest song on Jimmy Fallon to shine light on the recent killings of unarmed Black men raising awareness of the pressures young Black men, and Black people in general face.

Both artists reclaim their Blackness and highlight the struggles that come with it, but also show how it’s a source of pride. Dope Saint Jude and Joey Badass both reflect on their experiences through their lyrics and are really trying to send a message because their lyrics come in clear. Joey Badass’s video is more of a cinematic piece where he paints a story for the listener and visual, while Dope Saint Jude has herself as the focus. The video that is very raw and grimy. They both are being a voice for young Black people who are trying to figure out their place in a world that isn’t always that kind to them.

Corazon vs. Pills and Potions

  The two videos I chose to focus on for this comparison are “Corazon” by South African artist Rouge and “Pills and Potions” by American artist Nicki Minaj. I will not be comparing rap styles because these two artists are completely different and are at different points in their career I will just be speaking on the videos. Both videos were very simple and both were released in 2015.

            Rouge is a South African artist who raps in English. Her video for “Corazon” was very simple. There were only three people who appeared in the entire video; Rouge, , and a girl dancing. The video consisted of Rouge rapping with a plain background that switched between black, red, and white. The only objects in the video were a couch and a few balloons. The song was upbeat and had a bit of a techno feel and it sounded very American.

Nicki Minaj is the biggest female rapper in the United States. Her video for “Pills and Potions”, unlike the rest of her videos, was actually very simple. The video consists of Nicki rapping alone in front of plain backgrounds that are different colors. The only two people in this video are Nicki and the Game who was the male model in this video. The video was very simple and plain with her as the center focus.

  Both video were very simple with simple concepts. The outfits worn by both women were simple and there were minimal props in each video, with the artists as the center of attention. I liked both videos and songs. Both women have unique styles of artistry. The videos were simple yet attention grabbing and enticing. Both artists have very different styles and sounds but the videos for these two songs were surprisingly very similar in concept and execution.