This episode features the music of several MCs from across Africa. We depart from the interview format and bring you music from some of our favorite (women) MCs. This is essentially a mixtape of diverse female voices in African hip hop. These MCs live in different countries, seek different languages, and speak on diverse topics. In each of these songs, the artists performing deliver strong, hard hitting lyrics that are both classic hip hop and representative of African styles of hip hop. See the artists’ social media pages for more information. Additionally, some of the artists have their work on iTunes. Those links are provided.
The song I selected for this assignment was Studio in the Cemetery by UG Boyko. Boyko music was unique and well put together. The music had some sort of techno beat along with a trap feel to it. Throughout the song, he talks about not being put inside of a studio. Boyko is saying that if he enters the studio he will drop incredible lyrics. He has a great amount of confidence in his music, and one can notice that from his lyrics. He does not care about anything in the world if he has his microphone and studio. Boyko claims that he can teach other artist a couple of things. According to this track, Boyko cares about the studio more than he did attending school. One can tell after listening to the studio in the Cemetery, that Boyko has several women and haters. He describes one of the women that he is dating to have a butt that is as a big as Hippopotamus. He was very descriptive through his lyrics, painting a picture of events for anyone that was not there to witness the events themselves. He also explains through his lyrics that the studio is down in the cemetery. Boyko is at great distress, and smokes to help deal with all issues he has faced in the past with his father. His dad caused him a great amount of pain as a child. In Boyko’s younger years he was timid, and did not make clear life decisions. He has also had to deal with the death of people close to him, which caused him to gain a great amount of pain. Overall, one can really enjoy the song, because it has a great amount of life lessons that are expressed throughout it.
Korokoza is the Shona word for “hustle” – and the hustle inspired the inception of this song. Comrade Fatso, a multi-talented spoken word artist, and Chabvondo use their musical platform to speak on the trials trying to make it in spite of poverty and questionable government in Zimbabwe, or as Nomadic Wax puts it,”Korokoza is a hopeful song dedicated to the resilience of Zimbabweans and people across the world who struggle to survive.”
The hook of this song repeatedly shows how the artists celebrate the somewhat universal theme of persevering under socioeconomic hardships.
“Everyday we hustle, Korokoza!”
The second verse explains how the media and others view the hustling as criminal, but to Zimbabwean citizens, it is just a means of living.
Korokoza was written by a multi-ethnic and diverse group of artists, which explains the musical uniqueness of this song. The instrumentals are a little rock and roll, the flow and rap verses clearly make it hip hop, and there are some influences from music local to Zimbabwe. The traditional nuances along with the liberal use of the Shona language make this hip hop song very Zimbabwean and is relatable to the people at the heart of the subject matter.
“I’m not afraid of the risks. I gotta keep going to survive.”
The music video shows many aspects of Zimbabwe, including the people making a living hustling in the streets. This lyric seems to embody their mentality.
Interestingly enough, the musicians and film crew were detained while making the video while in Zimbabwe, which makes the song even more special.
Taku Mazire, who also goes by Master Con Fuze, is a South African rapper, born in Rusape, Zimbabwe. As a self-proclaimed revolutionary, he aims to promote love, freedom, and peace in his music. A few years ago, Taku Mazire released a track that uses those ideals to describe the modern day socioeconomic conditions of Cape Town, South Africa. It is titled “House of Hunger” and the song, its lyrics, and its message I find very relevant to similar conditions in the United States.
The music video for “House of Hunger” starts with a voice over referencing slavery, and suggesting that politicians are just as “owned” as slaves were. Taku Mazire, wearing a shirt with his logo that says “More Justice, More Peace” sits and lays down on a bench labeled “Whites Only.” While these are all likely references to the racism and injustices that stemmed from South African Apartheid, I cannot help to notice the parallels to the United State’s own history with said issues – the mention of slavery, the bench reminiscent of those seen in the Jim Crow South, and the slogan on Taku Mazire’s shirt that mirrors a chant from the Black Lives Matter movement.
In the first verse, Taku Mazire mentions the “system”, a term commonly used in the States to describe unfair governing bodies. He goes on to explain how the system “devours freedom.”
“Minimum wages, mass arrests. Society trapped in economic cages, we work too much, peep out weary faces, in many places it’s mostly men with more melanin, but less benefiting…”
While Taku Mazire is describing what he observes in Cape Town, this lyric undoubtedly applies to many cities in the United States.
As the song goes on, many other truths and similarities between oppressive conditions in South Africa and the United States are told through Taku Mazire’s lyrics. His tone is angry – as it should be – and “House of Hunger” highlights a need for change in both countries.
Black Bird is a hard-hitting female emcee hailing from Zimbabwe. She is credited as being the first female rapper in Zimbabwean history to release a full album. She is aware of her position and influence within Zimbabwe’s male-dominated Hip Hop community. Black Bird is currently mentoring the younger generation of girls, in hopes that they will follow her lead and take the male-dominated rap community by storm in the same manner that she has.
As a child, Black Bird listened to some of Hip Hop’s illest female rappers, so there is no wonder her flow and lyrical prowess is exceptional. At a young age, she was drawn to female Hip Hop heavyweights like MC Lyte, Left Eye, Da Brat, and Queen Latifah. Although these females had an influence on her style, she has developed her own unique sound and approach to rap. Her songs allow you to connect with her on more than a superficial level and she is not afraid to be vulnerable within her music. Black Bird takes you on a journey from the start to finish of her songs by way of her outstanding storytelling abilities. When you check out her work/videos you will immediately notice her flow, confidence, creativity, and of course her beautiful ombre locs. She is the true embodiment of a female lyricist and an artist. Her videos often coincide with the story in which she is telling. She has been referred to by many lovers of Hip Hop as the Queen of African Hip Hop. She has solidified her spot as the Queen of Zimbabwean Hip Hop but she is still pushing to solidify her position as the undisputed Queen of African Hip Hop. Black Bird has released five of her own solo projects and has been featured on over 20 mixtapes. Black Bird has received a lot of backlash for opting not to use her native tongue. Unbeknownst to her language critics, her ultimate goal is to bring an international awareness to Zimbabwe and its Hip Hop scene through her English lyrics.
Author: Marquisha Taylor
Hip Hop Artist Tongai Leslie Makawa born September 22, 1983, in Southern African nation of Zimbabwe Capital of Harare. He grew up with two working parents who are now retired, his mother was a bank teller and father was ministry of education then became the director general for the Zimbabwe Association of pension funds which he had retired from. Both his mother and father are farming full time. He is the last of four siblings, one sister and two brothers who all use to rap. He started writing in fifth and six grade and from that day on he continued to write.
Tongai is also known by his performance name Outspoken, one of Zimbabwe leading spoken word poets and activist who became a part of the house of hunger poetry slam. He is a hip hop and spoken word artist and also the co founder of Magamba network that is an organization that promotes events, artist, word fusion activities and the expression on the urban cultural scene in the country. Outspoken works as a solo artist or with his band the essence, who plays the drums, bass, guitar, violin and brass. They have been working together since his upcoming. His work has reached different parts of the African continent and U.S. Zimbabwe, to South Africa, to U.S.A, Kenya, Senegal, Germany, Belgium and many more. Outspoken and the essence released their double debut album uncode and overrated and God before anything released in 2012. He is a hip hop mentor for power in the voice a British council program, which seeks to better the performance art by targeting talented youth and mentoring them in their various disciplines. He is alpha intellect some may call him.
Tongai music and poems are politically motivated and inspired by the educational system, when he started to his education he had many question to why they want him to know what they want him to know that he don’t want to learn, what’s going on, being a part of the system but why can’t the system attend to his needs. He felt there were a lot of questions that needed to be answered his music and poetry are more like questions to individuals. His song slave master’s whip draws attention to where our people came from and the institutional racists system that has people stuck. How we are from a place of political outcomes, but we have to keep it moving even with the slave masters whip on the back of the people. I’m going to quote a view of outspoken lines that it may broaden your horizon. “I do not work a 9/5 white collar. Black scholar poetry is my occupation. Labeled an enlightened nigga, my mind as the trigger with words as the bullets”. This piece basically is saying that you don’t have to work a job to be a black scholar; you don’t have to use a gun for it to be the bullets of retaliation just allow your words to be the bullets, because as many say words can kill too right. Outspoken music is the depiction to how out people move from slavery to being colonized to a state of freedom that hasn’t been fully achieved. As many may know how slavery was for blacks. Africans, African Americans and even though the people are free we are not really free because they still manage to have prison that are basically enslaved people changes, shackles if you catch my drift. With Artist like Outspoken also a poet brings a different taste to hip hop his style, versatility, lyrics and passion. He touches me in a very soulful type of way and that’s what the community needs all over. Instead of rappers talking about bitches and hoes he calls the women beautiful way that I like. Please check him out.
A piece of Ebony 1991 Chiwoniso met two young hip-hop artists Herbert Schwamborn and Tony Chihota, and formed Zimbabwe’s first Afro hip-hop group A Peace of Ebony. They recorded an album From the Native Tongue in 1992 in Keith Farquharson’s studio, with Keith contributing much of the music and production.
Herbert began his career as a radio host on Zimbabwean radio (Radio1) while he was still in High School, the radio show “Young Zimbabwe” targeted teen related issues. During his early years in radio Herbert began experimenting with music production and formed one of Zimbabwe’s first Hip-Hop groups “Lethal Language” the group was featured in the USA based magazine The Source. In 1992 Herbert formed the group “A Peace of Ebony” which went on to break radio chart history in Zimbabwe with a song titled “Pretend it never happened”. In 1994, Peace of Ebony won the the Best New Group out of Southern Africa award in the Radio France International Discovery contest. P.O.E’s entry ‘Vadzimu’, a song they composed specifically for the competition, was a potent mixture of the Shona, English and French languages riding over a heavy mbira-laced hip-hop rhythm. Vadzimu appears on the Putumayo ‘African Grooves‘ compilation.
The success with A Piece of Ebony, led her to join Zimbabwe’s leading band, Andy Brown and The Storm. It was at that time that her talents as singer and musician blossomed. The Storm achieved huge success both in Zimbabwe and abroad. They played various concerts in Europe and Africa, including performances at the SADC Music Festival in Zimbabwe in 1995 and The Masa Festival in Ivory Coast, in 1997. At the same time, Chiwoniso continued to write her own music, and performed alongside other artists with the support of The Storm. She also embarked on the 2 year General Certificate in music course with the Zimbabwe College of Music and studied sociology as well. She believes that the artist has to flow with the times, otherwise the public turns away to follow the latest craze. Keeping with that belief, Chiwoniso took up the challenge of learning and playing percussion including the mbira, an African thumb piano indigenous to the Shona people of her country. When Zimbabwean music history will be told, one name is most likely to be mentioned –that of Keith Farquharson. He is the lanky white guy who thumps the piano in Cde Chinx early music videos as Barrel of Peace. He took Chioniso Maraire into the first ever Zim hip-hop group, Peace of Ebony, when she returned to Zimbabwe from the US. The group they formed was a multi-cultural outfit which, for some years, ruled the roost with the song From a Native Tongue.
A Piece of Ebony Music Review
A young man, who later became Zimbabwe’s most celebrated key-board player, songwriter and producer, operated a home studio in one of Harare’s suburbs. Keith Farquharson’s studio, Barrel of Peace, was not sophisticated as other studios but it enabled him to lure other youths that had music in their blood. First to come was Herbert Schwamborn who was introduced to Keith by another great musician, the late Joey Steblecki. Next came Tony Chihota and later Chioniso Maraire who was 16 years at the time such that Keith had to seek permission from her father, the late Dumisani Maraire, for her daughter to come to the studio.
With this grouping, a studio project later named Peace of Ebony was born in 1992 with Keith as the leader of the multi-ethnic cast. The name showed the composition of the group that would later have two Zimbabweans, a German, an American, a Russian and a Malawian. The group was undoubtedly the first to play rap music using mbira and marimba as the basis of their beat. It also defined and refined what is now the internationally recognized African rap music ‘Where local languages are used since their music was in English, Shona and French. Their first recording was the internationally acclaimed album titled From The Native Tongue, a blend of hip-hop dance groves with mbira and marimba that was recorded in South Africa under the Teal Tone’ label.
A top South African producer, Devereux Harris, whose company was heavily involved in the formation and running of the immensely popular Channel 0, made the video for the song From a Native Tongue. Off this album were two immensely popular songs, Don’t Slow It Down and Give It All Up that caused quite a stir especially in South Africa while the title track left a mark in Zimbabwe. Soon after the release and the success of the From A Native Tongue, Phiri and the former Miss Zimbabwe, Karen Stally, joined the group and were involved in the recording of the track “Vadzimu” in 1994 that was written for the Radio France International Discovery Competition. The Zimbabwean group Peace of Ebony shows off a bit of slick rapping and Afro-pop influenced heavily by the Paris scene, and Hardstone reuses a Keith Sweat track as a base for some capable rapping. In 1994, Peace Of Ebony won the the Best New Group out of Southern Africa award in the Radio France International Discovery contest. P.O.E’s entry ‘Vadzimu’, a song they composed specifically for the competition, was a potent mixture of the Shona, English and French languages riding over a heavy mbira-laced hip-hop rhythm. Vadzimu appears on the Putumayo ‘African Grooves‘ compilation.
One positive trend is the groups of female emcees in various countries in Africa coming together to release collaborations or cyphers. It gives female emcees the spotlight and a chance to display their skills. It also promotes unity instead of beefs between femcees. Some of these emcees are underground. Some of these emcees perform pop tracks, but have shown off their hip hop lyricism in these collaborations. Some of the more notable collaborations include:
Ghana has two cyphers. The first, “Girls Dorm Cypher”, features Eyirap, Dein, Yayra & Lila http://youtu.be/KpmWol7tuzE
The second, “Gh Female Rappers Cypher”, features Eno, Esbee, Abena Rockstar, Porsche, EyiRap, Xcot, Mila, and Scrach http://youtu.be/ztRX0qbOU4I
These women vary in style and ability, but they show that there are female emcees in Ghana, and that they have something to say. It will be nice to see these women grow as artists. Some of them are doing more pop music, but it would be really dope if Ghana produced a female emcees for the international hip hop scene. Someone who can stand next to Sarkodie, M3nsa, Blitz the Ambassador, Wanlov and other male emcees that represent Ghana.
Nigeria: “I No Send You”, which features Sasha, Muna, Eva, Mo Cheddah, Blaise, and Zee http://youtu.be/PR63wCNhYtM
Some of these artists are already well known, others are newer. Like everything on the Naija music scene, many of these women often release flashy, sexy, pop tracks full time. It was therefore refreshing to see them break from that and produce something more hard hitting, and more hip hop.
Southern African femcees released “No Sleep”, which features Gigi LaMayne (South Africa), Sasa Klaas (Botswana), Devour Ke Lenyora (South Africa), Ru the Rapper (Namibia) & DJ Naida (Zimbabwe) http://youtu.be/jozzzTC83wM
Southern Africa has one of the most diverse scenes as far as female emcees in Africa. This track brings together very diverse styles. Most of these femcees are young and are artists that mix styles and looks. They come together on this well produced track (DJ Naida) and flex their lyrical skills. Some of these femcees have become some of my favorite rappers and I hope to hear a lot more from them in the coming years.
In Senegal femcees have formed a female hip hop collective called GOTAL. The song “UNITY” used the beats from the famous Queen Latifah song to celebrate Senegalese femcees. The song features GOTAL members Toussa, Anta, Lady Zee and Venus http://youtu.be/5sB4AHyye5I
Senegal has had a reputation for having the biggest hip hop scene in Africa, and the most conscious hip hop scene. But for years women’s voices were few. With the exception of a few, like Sister Fa and ALIF, hip hop in Senegal was mostly a man’s game. Today female emcees have come together to form GOTAL, an all female hip hop collective. They honor Senegal’s conscious hip hop roots, and bring more women’s voices to Senegal’s hip hop scene.
mUnetsi is an artist from Zimbabwe who uses slang. His song “Ghetto Slogan” is very interesting because it is supposed to show the everyday life of people in the ghetto. In reality it does not show much in terms of images throughout the song but the lyrics clearly depict what can happen to a person from day to day life. The song even includes traditional war chants throughout it. He also mentions that he uses traditional African funeral music to put a unique blend on his style. This unique blend leads to an upbeat sound that holds a deeper meaning to it about the hardships of life in Zimbabwe. This is interesting because he puts a twist on the common thought to the lifestyles of people in Zimbabwe. What mUnesti does is show that Zimbabwe is a busy place where people can work hard and still have a deep connection with their culture and heritage.
This is interesting and powerful because he is acknowledging the roots of his people and creating something beautiful and new. The social aspect of the song however does not have such a beautiful meaning to it. In the song he raps about getting into a crowded mini bus after work and being surrounded by criminals. He also talks about the fact that while in this crowded mini bus his wallet gets stolen by one of these criminals. All throughout the song he uses traditional chants to boost the enthusiasm of the song. He also mentions going out and hunting certain animals for food and why some animals are suitable for hunting where others are not. This is important because it draws attention socially to the fact that not everyone in Zimbabwe can take a drive down to the corner to buy food. Born Munetsi Matambanadzo, Incredible MU, as he likes to sometimes refer to himself as, has been around the hip-hop scene since the late 90’s. His music is well known for its close connection to real social, economical and well, lighter issues. The amazing thing about him and his journey is he himself has realized he has come a long way with his relationship with the art of poetry and rap music.
The mixtape was written and performed by Naboth RIZLA, mixed by Dj Mellow T a well-known club dj in Bulawayo with over 20 years of experience in the business. Mastering was handled by Da Kompozitioner an accomplished music producer. Extra vocals came from Cassandra Kay an Australian based vocalist with an amazing voice. This mixtape is Naboth RIZLA’s first solo mixtape as he prepares to release his #TheGrindNeverSleeps EP scheduled for late 2014.
Naboth RIZLA is well known for co-founding a hip hop website based in Bulawayo (Zimbabwe) with Da Kompozitioner called www.da-grape-vine.com This website is responsible for promoting Hip Hop not just from Zimbabwe but the world over. It also has a tv show dubbed Da-Grape-Vine TV (DGVTV) and a popular rap battle monthly showcase known as Da-Grape-Vine Rap Battles all of which are presented, hosted and are the brainchild of Naboth RIZLA. The rapper is also a freelance writer that sees him contributing to several publications like www.worldhiphopmarket.com (USA) and Hype Magazine (South Africa) hardcopy publication. He also hosts the Street Blaze Radio podcast currently on its second month running.
Musically in 2005 he was involved with a USA/Zim music compilation called Hip Hop is Timeless were local artists from Bulawayo (Zimbabwe) traded verses with artists from Texas (USA). As DGV TV he teamed up with SDR TV from Zambia in 2013 for the UNWTO Mixtape which saw actual copies being distributed at the conference in Victoria Falls. On the mic he released a mixtape under the rap crew SKR (Spinx, Kompozitioner and Rizla) called Gold Tapes Vol 1 in 2011 which saw them getting a lot of airplay on local and international radio and saw them perform at Shoko Festival 2012. SKR music was featured on Big Brother Africa house 2008 and in 2013 SKR song (BYO) Bulawayo featuring Trey was part of the Africa Nations Cup soccer showcase CD compilation which features HHP and Zone Fam amongst other notables held from 19 January to 10 February 2013.
Naboth RIZLA has released a single called Fast Lane as his first single to TheGrindNeverSleeps EP to be released late 2014 and this song released late 2013 has seen him gain a following that has supported his current mixtape by making it have over 400 downloads on its release date of the 4th of July 2014.
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