I grew up as a military kid. My ma and dad were in the military so even though they were separated, I was always on a military base when I moved in between them. I grew up in a pretty shelter environment for the first half of my life until I reached middle school. I was finally in a public school that was not on a military base. Growing up on base, I was the token black person; the black person that white people saw as “palatable.” I didn’t know what ebonics was, I didn’t experience the “normal black experience” so the only blackness I had was through my family. Well the kids at my middle school took notice very quickly and the nicknames of “oreo” and “white black girl” stuck with me until I reached high school. To outsiders, growing up in this environment doesn’t really affect you that much because “kids will be kids.” But it’s so unfortunate being outcast by white people your whole life and then finally going to somewhere you thought you understand and could relate to and being outcast there as well. So I chose the theme “Feeling like an Outsider as an Insider.” I mean I was literally just as black as these other kids, but still felt like an outsider. African rappers in the diaspora are located all over the world. Some have moved from their respective African country from as young as 7 and lived in another country for years. But even though they’ve basically grown up in a country they weren’t born in, they are still seen as outsiders. They are literally from that country and have known that country for more than half their life and still feel like they don’t belong. Or even worse, their other identity is erased and they are only associated with the country they immigrated to. Intersectionality and the struggle with identity is the main focus of this playlist. The songs on this playlist are a few of the experiences that African rappers have had feeling like an outsider as an immigrant.
Green Passport Remix (feat. Sound Sultan)- Modenine
In this song, Modenine speaks on being Nigerian and being seen as nothing but a “Green Passport.” But he was born in England. He has the accent and was literally born in London. But in this song, he has to explain why he feels like an outsider because of these stereotypes, he’s singled out. And not just him, all those who have green passports. He says that they treat him as a crook even though he’s just as English as the white Englishmen. Insiders can’t see that he can be both African and English and therefore remove one of his identities. He is only seen as African and the rest of his identity is essentially lost.
Lagos (Where I’m From) (Better Late Than Never)- ShoBiz
In this song, ShoBIz spins Anthony Hamilton’s song he speaks on where he is from and how it is to experience Lagos. But ShoBiz or Simi Crowns, says “Instead of being Simi Crowns, I started being the guy who’s black, the guy who’s an immigrant, the guy who’s a nigger—I wrote this track in reflection of those times,” in an interview done with Pitchfork. He used this song to speak about the hardships of growing up with those titles while growing up in Dublin. The discrimination he faced forced him to show them his worlds. And how they collide to make him. He describes one of his identities in an attempt to show those apart of his other world that he can be both, and he’s not just one thing. The song is him trying to connect his different identities while simultaneously showing the distinction between the two.
Dah Jevu – Incubus
This song was added mostly because of the video. Chris Montana, or Tafari Pesto, left Congo at age 7. IN his interview with Pitchfork, he says “Moving into the public housing neighborhood of Jobstown in Dublin, he distinctly remembers sleeping with the lights on to discourage neighbors from stirring trouble, and being subjected to constant racist abuse throughout the school.” In this video, the group is seen burning KKK masks, symbolizing their rejection of the racism and prejudice experienced in Ireland. Chris has grown up in Dublin and still had to experience prejudice, as an insider. He can’t hide his African ancestral genes from the world but the space he grew up in won’t accept that he is both African and Irish, therefore you must acknowledge both parts of his identity.
Sampa The Great – Mwana (feat. Mwanje Tembo, Theresa Mutale Tembo, Sunburnt Soul Choir)
With this song, Sampa was trying to use her album to connect the two worlds of her identity, both Australia and Botswana. Sampa the Great says in an interview with Culture, “I just wanted those two worlds to be connected, but also the journey of why those two places are separated to be talked about. The album takes you through that journey.” This song is a connection to her ancestral roots as well as her Australian roots and it takes you on that journey with her. You feel the connection between the two worlds she’s a part of. Not just with this song, but the entire album is almost like a homage to both worlds.
Laura Lora – REBEL
The thing that drew me to this song was the artist’s captions under the music video says “this is a song of freedom and self-discovery.” In the song, Laura Lora intersects her different identities of being a woman, being African, and being American. In the song, she says “I’m in distraught/Not (African) enough/Not American enough/Never woman enough (anything enough)/got damn, Who made these laws (fuck em)/Y3 fra me rebel /They ain’t never seen nothing like me.” This song is her speaking on racial inequalities and discriminations faced by immigrant populations and how Laura Lora is using her access to multiple cultural and linguistic systems to reveal her different identities that are rooted both in Africa and the West.