Hip Hop & Pan African Dialogues

Daar J family performing in Washington, DC. Daara J’s first album was titled “Boomerang”

Chapter Overview

Cultivated from the hip-hop resistance in the United States, hip-hop spread to the continent. The youth in Africa influenced and lead the movement. Initially a form of imitation, hip-hop in Africa began to change to fit the demands, struggles, and realities of African populations. The genre brought voices to the youth, supplied an outlet for them, while simultaneously creating a form of historical record of the time that will continue to be played and listened to for years to come. The purpose of this research can be partially explained in a quote by Ingram (2010), in order to understand any society or culture “one must understand the practices that surround the production and consumption of its music.” The answer to understanding political institutions, social change, gender, migration, and identity is the music of the people. This helps shape an understanding arguably more accurate than any news segment or article. The music derived from the hip-hop community provides a more personal insight that isn’t available elsewhere. The chapter is named for the album “Boomerang” by Senegalese rappers Daara J. It is a concept that Africans took their musical traditions with them when they were stolen from their land in the Atlantic Slave Trade. These African musical traditions evolved into hip-hop. The theme of linking the creation of hip-hop to the African continent is one often explored through African rhythm and drums, modern rapping to African poetry or rapping and by connecting parallels between the emcee and the griot.

Graffiti piece in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
Discussion Questions
  1. What are the reasons for the tension between hip hop and pop music in parts of Africa? Do you find similar tensions in other parts of the world?
  2. How is hip hop a product of the cultural exchanges between Africa and the African Diaspora? What other music forms have moved between the African continent and the African Diaspora?
  3. Hip hop is a form of cultural representation. We can therefore learn a lot about an individual by examining the types of cultural representations they consume. Create a playlist of 5 of your favorite hip hop songs (not in any particular order). Share that list and reflect on what that list says about who you are.
  4. Write an original rap verse (16 lines/bars) using one of the rhyme styles discussed in the chapter. Reflect on the process. What languages do you use? Which slangs do you use? Which topics do you discuss?

Relevant Scholarship

Alim, H. S. 2003. “On Some Serious Next Millennium Rap Ishhh: Pharoahe Monch, Hip Hop Poetics, and the Internal Rhymes of Internal Affairs.” Journal of English Linguistics 31 (1): 60–84.

Appert, C. M. 2016. “On Hybridity in African Popular Music: The Case of Senegalese Hip Hop.” Ethnomusicology 60 (2): 279–99.

Bradley, A. 2009. Book of Rhymes: The Poetics of Hip Hop. New York: Basic Civitas Books.

Hall, S. “The Work of Representation.” In Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices, edited by Hall, 13–69. London: Sage.

Ingram, B. 2010. “Music.” In Cultural Studies: A Practical Introduction, edited by M. Ryan, Ingram, and H. Musiol, 105–21. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

Keyes, C. L. 1996. “At the Crossroads: Rap Music and Its African Nexus.” Ethnomusicology 40 (2): 223–48.

Shonekan, S. 2011. “Sharing Hip-Hop Cultures: The Case of Nigerians and African Americans.” American Behavioral Scientist 55 (1): 9–23.

Shonekan, S. 2012. “Nigerian Hip Hop: Exploring a Black World Hybrid.” In Hip Hop Africa: New Music in a Globalizing World, edited by E. Charry, 147–70. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.