Medusa is a Tunisian artist who emerged as an MC in Tunisia’s hip hop community around the time of the Arab Spring of the 2010s. Her career as an MC has followed an interesting path, as she often found herself in the role of “conscious MC”, being one of the few women in the Tunisian hip hop community and speaking out on important social issues.
In this interview she talks about hip hop under the Arab Spring. While many talk about the role of artists in the Arab Spring, Medusa talks about the impacts of the Arab Spring on hip hop culture. She says the Arab Spring encouraged youth engagement, and that post revolution, many youth have moved into more commercial rap sounds.
She has since moved to France, where she talks about her experience in the Parisian hip hop scene and her work with a new team of creatives. We met up with Medusa during a 2019 self-funded trip to the U.S. Medusa made to promote her work and establish contacts.
During her trip, she visited the class of American University professor and hip hop scholar, Dr. Kendra Salois. Our interview took place after her guest lecture in Dr. Salois’ class.
In April 2017, Roma and some of his colleagues disappeared for 3 days. This incident has put Roma at direct odds with the government. More recently, in November 2019, Roma released the single “Anaitwa Roma”, which was a direct criticism of government policies.
Roma has been a source of division in Tanzania’s hip hop community. There have been a lot of debates about who Roma is, and why he continues to be so vocal. His actions have shined a bright light on other artists who have also identified as being socially conscious. Many have chosen to criticize, or distance themselves from Roma. Some of this may be to avoid scrutiny over why they themselves have not been more vocal or active. Some artists may disagree with Roma’s views, and have criticized his methods and intentions. And, some artists may support Roma, but may not have been publicly vocal in that support.
In this interview, however, it was clear that Roma Mkatoliki believes that he is doing the right thing. Our decision to interview Roma is not an endorsement of any one side. And, we are not able independently verify all of the information Roma provides during this interview. But, we feel it is important to have these conversations on diverse platforms. As a hip hop artists who is engaged in social and political commentary, it is important that Roma’s voice be heard on this platform.
The interview is done in both Swahili and English. I have attempted to summarize Roma’s responses in English, though he switches between Swahili and English in his responses.
The song that opens and closes the episode is Mkombozi, which was released in January 2020. This link takes you to the version of the song with the English subtitles.
This episode is our second mixtape episode. The episode features the most recent works of 23 of Africa’s fiercest lyricists. All of songs featured on this episode were released in 2018 and 2019, and features women from across Africa, and African women who reside in the Diaspora. Some of the artists are fairly well known to followers of African hip hop scenes, while others are more up & coming. Some of the artists, like Burni Aman, EJ von Lyrik, and Jean Grae have been active for two decades. Others are new to the game, and quickly making a name for themselves. They also are diverse in their styles and the languages they rap in. The artists also differ in terms of content, some of the songs offer social commentary, some are displays of braggadicio, and some are simply about having a great time. The common thread is that they all represent some of the best lyricists out today.
It was important that all of the artists and songs in this episode be submitted and voted on by serious hip hop heads, people who are active in hip hop communities. So, thank you to the hip hop heads and experts who contributed to making this mixtape possible:
Mikko from Planet Earth Planet Rap
Ikenna aka Bionic from Rap Radio Africa
Seth Markle, Associate Professor and Faculty Advisor for the Trinity International Hip Hop Festival at Trinity College in the United States
Nimoh from Sauti Za Mabinti
Buddha Blaze, podcaster & talent manager
Xuman, Senegalese hip hop legend, pioneer, and avtivist
Elom 20ce, Togolese hip hop artists and activist and founder of Arctivism
Sampa The Great “Final Form” from The Return (2019) (Australia/Zambia)
EJ von Lyrik (with Roufaida) “Ego” (2019) (South Africa & The Netherlands /Morocco)
Burni Aman & Jean Grae “Masters of the Humanverse” (2019) (Switzerland/South Africa & U.S./South Africa)
Little Simz “101 FM” from Grey Area (2018) (UK/Nigeria)
Isatta Sheriff “Beat Therapy Freestyle” (2019) (UK/Sierra Leone)
Blaise “Hennessy Cypher” (2019) (Nigeria)
L-Ness “Freestyle ‘Peers w/Bars’” (Kenya)
Rouge “Rouge Freestyle on Sway” (2019) (South Africa/DRC)
Xtatic “Reignition” from Tatu EP (2019) (Kenya)
Abena Rockstar “Politically Incorrect” from Harvest Season (2019) (Ghana)
Eva Alordiah “Solo Life” (2019) (Nigeria)
Phlow “Hiphop” (2019) (Nigeria)
Lauretta Yemoja “Inferno” (2019) (Nigeria)
Moonaya “Il est temps” (2018) (Senegal)
Mina la Voilée “Girl Power” (2019) (Senegal)
Sista LB “Ji gën – Ladieme” (2019) (Senegal)
OMG “Lu Ci Sa Yoon” (2019) (Senegal)
Flash Marley (with Vicky R) “La Madre” (2019) (Togo)
Assessa “Izangoma” from Ugogo Ep (2018) (South Africa)
Kanyi Mavi “Umsindo” (2019) (South Africa)
Gigi Lamayne “Winnie” from Job Woods (2019) (South Africa)
Yugen Blakrok “Carbon Form” (2018) (South Africa)
In this episode we spoke with Mikko from Planet Earth Planet Rap. Mikko has years of knowledge & experience with hip hop culture and the music industry, and it was great to get his impressions of hip hop around the world, and where some of the strongest hip hop scenes are, and who some of the artists he listens to are. He has listened to hip hop music from artists in every corner of the globe, and his experience and love of the culture has given him some great insights.
Mikko talks about the emergence of Planet Earth Planet Rap (PEPR) and their work of curating hip hop music from across the globe. He also talks about his work in South Africa with Bush Radio, a legendary hip hop station out of Cape Town, and PEPR’s current relationship with Chuck D’s And You Don’t Stop radio network.
We talk about the power of NGO funding in African hip hop. Specifically, the role NGOs play in the direction and production of socially conscious hip hop music in Africa. This led to candid talk about race and privilege, and how Mikko, as a Finish hip hop head, has navigated his position to make a space available for hip hop from around to be heard, without artists having to deal with payola and the egos of radio & TV station tastemakers.
Togolese hip hop artist Elom 20ce is a multitalented artist, activist, and Pan Africanist. He brings Pan African ideals to his music and his art, and this episode Elom discusses studying international politics and working with the United Nations, and how his studies and experiences influenced his music. After witnessing the hypocrisy around international development and politics, he felt compelled to speak on it in his music. In his music he talks about the importance of Pan Africanism and the current state of neocolonialism that many African people find themselves living in. He stressed that neocolonialism is not just about what Europeans are doing, but it is also about our lack of unity. In the interview we also discuss hip hop in Francophone Africa, and how it differs from hip hop in Anglophone Africa. Elom explains that a lot has to do with Francophone Africa’s colonial history. The French had a system of direct rule, meaning that they were much more involved in not only economic control, but also influencing and transforming the culture of their colonies. The French maintained control over their colonies, even after independence. Elom believes that as a result, Francophone Africans are still struggling for their independence.
Elom 20ce also talks about his “Arctivism” project, and the importance of activism and hip hop. He talks about being introduced to the works of George Jackson, Frantz Fanon, and Cheikh Anta Diop, and others through hip hop. Through Arctivism, he hosts programs and workshops that facilitate dialogues around freedom of speech, development, and Pan Africanism.
Model, video vixen, MC, BET Awards nominee, & reality TV star: Lola Monroe is an Ethiopian artist who has found success in the mainstream music industry in the United States. Going by many names, including Queen Roe, Lola Monroe was born Born in Ethiopia & raised in Washington, DC. She started her career in entertainment as a model & “video vixen”, and later moved to music. In 2011, she was nominated for BET’s Best Female Hip Hop Artist, and she also became the first woman to join Wiz Khalifa’s Taylor Gang label. Throughout her career, she’s worked with hip hop artists such as Wiz Khalifa, King Los, Trina, and others. She has also appeared in films & on TV, including the reality show, The Platinum Life on the E! network.
In this interview we spoke about growing up rooted in both Ethiopian and African American communities, and representations of Ethiopians in the entertainment industry in America. She also discuses her decision to go vegan, and choices she has made regarding her health and diet. She also discusses her experiences in the music industry, and the relations between women MCs in the industry.
The episode starts with her single “Blah Blah”, and ends with her song “Grime”. Lola Monroe can be found on all social media & streaming platforms.