Feminine ideals in Toussa Senerap’s work

Toussa Senerap

Toussa Senerap—who’s name is a play on the French “Tous ça,” or “everything,” and an agglomeration of Senegal and Rap—plays an interesting consciousness in her work surrounding the idea of femininity. Senerap both embraces womanhood and shies away from traditional conceptualizations of femininity from both hip-hop and Senegalese contexts. For this piece, I’m primarily analyzing two of Senerap’s music videos on her YouTube channel, as these were the most accessible pieces for visual and lyrical analysis.

Rapboudjiguenbi–or Women’s rap

Rapboudjiguenbi, the title of the more recent video, is a direct ownership of Senerap’s unique positionality. Rapboudjiguenbi translates directly from Wolof as the rap of the sister, but can be more loosely interpreted as woman’s rap. Senerap is laying down a classic braggadocio track—talking about her skill, her uniqueness, her clout. Senerap lays claim to her flow being “raffett”—asthetically pleasing, clean, sharp. She namedrops Seaplaza, the luxury mall that services the country’s elite and foreign population—the rodeo drive of Dakar. This video is particularly interesting because it is such a rap standard, and retains the hallmark of the subgenera of braggadocio tracks, yet is also an embrace of a unique and slightly subversive position as a woman in such a traditionally masculine space, especially in Senegal.

The other track is “I don’t care,” released in 2014. The video and lyrics don’t deal directly with Senerap’s gender, and is perhaps the other side of the coin as Rapboudjiguenbi, as “I don’t care” focuses directly on Senerap’s talented flow.  In a particularly artful line, Senerap raps “dafa tanga on the groove,” or hot on the groove [with her lines], referencing her skill. Senerap continues this bilingual thought, a few lines later rapping “dafa tanga lol muy i don’t care” or “i’m really hot but I don’t care.” There’s a particular openness to Senerap’s aesthetic in her video, neither undone nor overdone. That Senerap is rapping in three languages with ease speaks volumes as to her skill.

It is unfortunate that the conversation around femininity, especially within hip-hop, is so centered around sexuality. By centering her skill as tied to her gender, as she does with her track Rapboudjiguenbi, Senerap offers an interesting proposition–her femininity is not defined by her sexuality, but her rap is defined by her womanhood, and is actually better for it. Rather than being an aesthetic for the male gaze, Senerap contends that womanhood has a product.

Senerap’s Youtube channel is here.

N.B.: My wolof is really rusty; I tried to translate Senerap’s lines as faithfully as possible, but if there are any errors in my translation please contribute.

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