HHAP Episode 57: Octopizzo on Hip Hop, Refugees, and POlice Brutality in Kenya

An MC, activist, and actor, Octopizzo was born in Nairobi, in the notorious Kibera slums, one of the largest slums in the world. His mixtape and album releases include: The Come Up V 1 (2008; Mixtape), El Classico (2014; Mixtape), Chocolate City (2014; album), LDPC (2015; album), Refugeenius (2016, album), and Next Year (2018; album).

He addresses a lot of social issues, including poverty, ethnic tensions, corruption, and the legalization of marijuana. He is also one of the few MCs to seriously and consistently address the issues around refugees. Kenya is home to a lot of refugees from surrounding conflicts, including people fleeing violence in the Congo, Sudan and Somalia.

On the album Refugeenius he collaborated with 20 Refugees from Kakuma & Dadaab Refugee camps in Kenya.

Octopizzo is the founder of the youth group Y.G.B. (Young, Gifted, and Black), which is a collective of MCs, poets, graffiti artists, graphic artists, and dancers. He founded his not-for-profit Octopizzo Foundation in 2015 and through the Foundation, he tries to use culture and sports to reach the youth.

More recently he has joined other activists addressing police brutality in Kenya, and drawing parallels between police violence in Kenya & the US. Recently he was involved in protests in front of the US embassy in Nairobi, holding up a sign of people killed and injured by the police. Recently, there have ben reports of over a dozen deaths at the hands of the Kenyan police supposedly trying to enforce a dusk to dawn curfew put in place to slow the spread of Corona.

The songs featured in the episode are “Nu Afrika” in the opening and “Another Day” in the closing.

Octopizzo can be found at: http://octopizzo.com/ | @OCTOPIZZO on Twitter & Instagram

The video version of this episode is on our YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/ZOu5ILtZ-Vc

HHAP Episode 56: Lord Ekomy Ndong on Gabonese Hip-Hop & French Politics

Lord Ekomy Ndong, has been a leading voice in the African hip hop scene since 1990, when he founded the Gabonese group Movaizhaleine. Movaizhaleine’s 1999 debut album was Mission Mbeng. He released his 1st solo album, L’Afrikain, in 2003. It is considered by many to be a hip-hop classic. Over his career, he has done collaborations with several artists, and released numerous studio albums.

Around the time of the 2009 elections in Gabon, Lord Ekomy Ndong released the singles “300”, “809” and “Engongol” (What a Shame). The songs were critical of both corruption in Africa, and of France’s controversial presence in Africa.

In 2011, with his 11th studio album, Ibogaine, he once again took shots at France. In the song “Questoins Noires” (Black Questions), he talks directly to French President Nicholas Sarkozy about France’s military presence in Africa. His 2017 album, La Théorie Des Cordes (A Theory of Cords), he reflects on the global protests that took place in the Gabonese diaspora around the 2016 election in the song “Sur mon Drapeau” (By My Flag).

In this interview, we spoke about his career and hip-hop culture in Gabon. We also spoke about France’s occupation of Africa, and the implications of that occupation. We also talked about his outspokenness, and the price paid by musicians who speak out against corruption and politics.

This past May, he released the album Petit Mutant Dans son Coin which can be found on online streaming platforms.

Facebook: @LORDEKOMYNDONG
Instagram/Twitter/SoundCloud: @Ekomy

The video of this interview can be found on The Hip Hop African YouTube channel.

Mixtape: In the Pocket: South Africa’s Spittas

South Africa is almost indisputably leading the pack right now in terms of quality hip-hop music produced on the continent. South African rappers, more so than any other African rappers I’ve researched, have that distinct level of lyrical ability and production quality which makes hip-hop great. In an article highlighting some of the top African Hip-hop artists, Joey Akan says that “the power of hip-hop lies in the South of the continent, as rappers from South Africa continue to drive the pulse of the culture. Much of the hip-hop in South Africa is derived from Western beats and samples mixed with localized rhythms and accents and drives the urban culture of the continent.” As I dove into the discography of different South African artists, I could almost immediately identify an American hip-hop song that I felt it paralleled. Some artists rapped over more mainstream style beats, whether it’s upbeat with African drums or bouncy r&b vibes. Most artists in this mix rap in their native languages- including Zulu, Swahili, and Xhosa. They mix in AAVE fluently. Sometimes verses will be all English. There are different factors that determine what language an artist speaks. Most of the time, it is just what depends on how they are most comfortable delivering the message. In the case of more mainstream artists, they will rap/sing in English to reach larger audiences. In All of the songs I selected for this mixtape, I felt the artists were right “in the pocket” in their verses. Being “in the pocket” in both music and dance means to be rhythmically in sync and fluid. Each of these songs I felt had complex cadences, fluid transitions, and essential elements of quality hip hop.

Speeka- “Party ya Mapantsula”

The first song on this mix of very talented South African artists is “Party ya Mapantsula” by Speeka featuring Noks Matchbox, Sfilikwane, Mthizo & Jef. Speeka is a well-known producer in South Africa who collabs with many rappers. Rappers are eager to hop on his beats. Most of the song is in Zulu and what sounds like some Xhosa- both are South African languages. Mapantsula is a Zulu slang term meaning petty gangsta. So the song title means Party with petty gangstas or Party of petty gangstas. The vibe of the songs parallels group songs by American artists like- “Mercy” which features Big Sean, Pusha T, 2chainz, and Kanye Wet, or “Down Bad” which features JID, J cole, Bas, and Nudy. “Party ya Mapantsula” takes on the general braggadocio style rap, where rappers talk their shit- explaining their come-up, lifestyle, and origins for 16 plus bars.

Sfilikwane- “Vandal”

Next in the mix is Sfilikwane’s “Vandal’”. I selected this song purely because of the sonics. Most of the song is in Zulu, and does not have a translation online. However, Sfilikwane’s delivery and flow throughout the song is masterful. It stood out to me because I felt the execution was equal if not superior to that of American artists. The instrumental has an old school boom-bap vibe, but the lyric cadences are complex enough to make it sound modern. In other words, Sfilikwane was right in the pocket on this record. Many of the comments on this video read something including “uyakhafula” which means “You spittin”.

Sho Madjozi- “John Cena”

Sho Madjozi represents for the ladies on this mix with her song- “John Cena”. This song embodies that upbeat braggadocio style of rap, but with more of an identifiably African style beat. The song is mostly rapped in English. The hook goes, “ Some wanna act rough like John Cena, Some wanna get buck like John Cena! He use to be cool when I use to come through now you wanna act tough like John Cena!” She performed this song on the popular American internet music show- Colors. The performance got her mainstream recognition from artists like Missy Elliot and Pharell. It also got reposted by John Cena himself. Sho Madjozi sits in that braggadocio pocket very well. Her lyrical ability also made me include her in this mix with her very talented peers.

Gigi Lamayne- “Stoners Prayer”

South African artist Gigi Lamayne joins the many artists who have made songs that are odes to marijuana. Gigi’s “Stoners Prayer” is her own take on this common theme in hip-hop. The lyrics go, “ Dear Lord, thank you for the herbs you grew, Dear Lord, thank you for the munchies too.” The theme of the song immediately made me think of Jhene Aiko’s “Sativa” – where she sings and raps about Sativa strains of weed and their effects. I also thought of Wiz Khalifa’s “Young Wild and Freee” where the lyrics repeat- “So what we get drunk, so what we smoke weed, we’re just having fun, we don’t care who sees.” Gigi mostly performs in English and makes music with more mainstream themes. Nonetheless, she is just as skilled her more conscious or lyrical peers.

AKA & Anatii – “10 Fingers”

Last on the mix I’d thought I’d end it out with a banger. “10 Fingers” is a collaboration between internationally recognized artist- AKA and Anatii, both from South Africa. 10 fingers is the typically “ I’m getting money, I’m living the life” type of hip-hop record. Anatii adds some R&B flavor to the song. From just the song, you couldn’t really tell that the artists are South African. They speak all English and fluently use AAVE in their lyrics. Their sound is very attractive to mainstream radio stations. There is low profanity, upbeat tempos, and, of course, catchy hooks.

All in All, the songs on this list fit into that effortless braggadocio style of rap. The cadences and delivery in these songs are on point, and truly embody what I believe is the essence of hip hop. All of the artists featured in the mix are also very technically skilled rappers, and it was possible to determine that just based off sonics for those songs performed in African languages.

HHAP EPISODE 55: HIP HOP PALAVER, V.2

This is a special episode of the Hip Hop African Podcast. It is a collaboration between the HHA Podcast and the Global Hip Hop Exchange (GHHE), which is an online network/community of hip hop creatives who are primarily from, or based in, Africa.

This is our second hip-hop palaver, with hip-hop creatives from around the continent. This time we continued the reflection on the COVID19 from the perspective of parenting. We also discussed hip-hop collaborations. Some that we had been a part of, and some that we are currently working on.

The discussion included members of the Global Hip Hop Exchange, all of whom have been involved in hip hop culture in their respective countries for several years:

2. Hustlajay Mau Mau/@Jay_maumau| Hustlajay MauMau is a socially conscious MC from Mombasa, Kenya. He raps mostly in Swahili, and has made a name for himself by not only rapping about social issues, but also getting involved in social and political issues in Kenya. He is currently based in Austria. The opening and closing song, Sign of Hope, is one of his new releases. | YouTube Channel

2. Fete Jen/@Fete_Jen | hip hop organizer & founder of The Lounge (open mic event) and producer of the upcoming mixtape | from the U.S., previously based in Tanzania, currently based in Pretoria.

3. Mikko of Planet Earth Planet Rap/@PEPRRadio | Mikko is one of the founders of Planet Earth Planet Rap, which is a segment on Chuck D’s #AndYouDontStop radio show. They play, talk about and celebrate international Hip-Hop from all continents. | PEPR can be accessed 24/7 at https://rapstation.com

4. Msia/@Kibona | HHA host & hip hop professor, photographer, & author | from Tanzania, based in the Washington, DC area | Website: https://msiakibonaclark.com

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