Hip-Hop in Dakar, Senegal

In his article, A Historical Analysis of Hip-Hop’s Influence in Dakar from 1984-2000, Ben Herson discusses how American hip-hop culture has influenced youth and music in Dakar, Senegal. He also states that this new Western form of music is not necessarily “corrupting” traditional values. Rap is not forcing itself onto Senegalese youth, rather it has been adopted as a way for young people to express their opinions and beliefs. Rap has even changed the world of politics, opening up questions about money, power and religion–topics which were often considered too controversial to discuss.

Youth in Senegal do not merely copy their Western counterparts, they fuse traditional music together with rap–many of their lyrics are in the native language, Wolof. Rap has brought many people together. Since rap groups are formed based on neighborhood and class, they represent the ethnic mix of Dakar.

Many youth in Senegal have tried to use English in their lyrics to seem more “authentic”, but Herson claims that this is not merely because they want to seem American, rather, they recognize that many job opportunities are available to those that speak English. Senegalese youth find ways to display material wealth through the clothing and jewelry that they wear. Many young people save their money until they can purchase authentic brand-name clothing, even though there may be cheaper knockoff version available. Senegalese youth are painfully aware of the stereotypes that exist about them in the Western world and want to separate themselves from them. Their reinterpretation of hip-hop allows them to address their complex social problems and dispel these myths.

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