In this episode we speak with Ghanian-born, U.S. based artist Laura Lora. In the interview, Laura Lora talks about her experiences an artist, navigating between Ghana and the United States. Growing up in Los Angeles has definitely influenced her music and style, as she talks about being Ghanian and American. Laura Lora, who majored in Black Studies in college, also talks about her experiences in the African American community, and with the divide between Africans and Africans Americans in the United States.
Her music and work has also placed her in conversations around gender and sexuality, where she chooses to confront ideas on how African, or Ghanian women should dress and behave. In this interview she also addresses ideas of beauty and femininity, which she has also chosen to challenge.
Laura Lora is very conscious and intentional about her music, and the messages she wants to send. She is very intentional about her confrontations with gender and identity. Her most recent video for the song “Rebel” blends hip hop, femininity, Ghanian ascetics, and American sounds and visuals. The colorful video is clear in its expression of all of these identities.
You can find Laura lora on:
Catherine St. Jude, commonly referred to as Dope Saint Jude, is a Cape Town rapper who has rendered a reputation of transparency as it pertains to feminism, race, class, body politics, and gender neutrality. This rather edgy and controversial rapper has also served as a guest lecturer on the social mobilization of hip hop at a number of universities in Cape Town. Saint Jude’s debut single “Hit Politik” introduced her to local audiences, even offering a fresh perspective of Cape Town’s queer culture.
Saint Jude’s latest single, “Brown Baas” isn’t foreign as far as the rapper’s typically honest and edgy lyrics are concerned. The single explores race relations as well as matters of social hierarchy in a country still ravaged by discrimination and inequality. Lyrics such as “do you know what it’s like to be brown for a girl like me” and “they keep us in chains while they keep on building their towers” are representative of the rapper’s stance on gender neutrality and social inequality.
In an interview with OkayAfrica, when asked how she feels her presence as a colored woman and rapper is being felt she responded:
My coloured identity has always been a difficult thing for me to deal with. I am a first generation coloured person, as I come from a mixed race family. I recognise my blackness, even though I am coloured. I feel a great sense of responsibility to my community and to young women, to be a role model and to work hard. I think it is so important for us to have our voices heard, to change voice of the media and to create the climate we want in South Africa!
Dope Saint Jude stands as an activist for matters beyond the familiar topics discussed in music today. She has continued to release music that holds the intention of rubbing people the wrong way, in order to open necessary dialogue.
On a collaborative album titled “Interesting Flavours” many promising African artist come together to assemble a musical work of art. One group on the album is the female rap trio Godessa, which is formed by Eloise “EJ von LYRIK” Jones, Bernadette “Burni” Amansure, and Shameema “Shame” Williams. Their track on the album is entitled “Social Ills” and speaks upon a lot of crucial subject matters.
In “Social Ills” Godessa talks about all the problem and issues society has that make people clones and not individuals. These issues are coming from the media and commercials showing what is hip or not. An issue that they talk about is the materialistic society we live in. People want to buy the newest Nikes, Levis, etc. They also touch on society’s beauties standards for people. One of the standards they talk about is one that seems to be universal amongst colored races, which is the thought that lighter skinned people are better looking. All the issues that they talk about basically sum up to the lack of originality amongst people and how they want to be like everyone else from the clothes they wear to the way they want to physically look.
The paper titled Masculinity and Nationalism in East African Hip-hop Music by Evan Mwangi published in 2004 may not be current in terms of the date of publication but applies even today to hip-hop in general and East African hip-hop in particular. Hip-hop in East Africa has grown considerably since 2004 both in the number of artists and the variety of styles and messages but the majority of the artists are still males and the message is masculine in nature. Mwangi explains in his paper this and more including how female artists try to reverse this portrayal. He also writes about how East African hip-hop, even though influenced by Western hip-hop culture, is localized and is growing to be a culture of its own. Using examples and illustrations the article explains how hip-hop music is used to portray nationalism in the countries of the East African Community namely Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. The 16 page paper can be accessed through the link below.
Counting Headz: South Afrika’s Sistaz in Hip Hop is a documentary that was shot in Johannesburg and in Cape Town, South Africa. This film is a documentary about South African women and their struggle. Several rap artists in the film discuss their life and situation through music and Hip Hop. The film explained the obstacles and stereotypes women face on a regular basis. Many women don’t have a voice and are required to follow certain roles, such as being a mother and caring after children. Very few women resist or speak out but, just conform. However, many hip hop artists have chosen to speak out through Hip Hop music. For example, DJ Sistamatic speaks out about how she feels about the way women are treated and portrayed.