Jean Grae was born in South Africa to politically conscious musician parents who immigrated to New York for more freedom when she was very young. Though she identifies as a New Yorker, she stays close to history and exemplifies the struggle Black female artists go through in Africa or in America. She speaks of the struggles faced regarding the education system, health care, police injustice and many other social issues. A primary focus in her lyrics is the nature of hip hop and what it takes to make it in the game and how someone like her will always be left out of the limelight. She could be compared to Immortal Technique in many ways with her no apologies delivery and super hard core style most of which should be applauded. However, in tracks such as “Hater’s Anthem,” where she departs from inspirational hip hop and capitulates to promoting violence, resorting to degrading language to women, and homosexuals she reinforces her similarities to Technique and many of his downfalls. She also works with Immortal Technique directly in very positive ways on several other tracks such as “The Illist” and a very powerful piece called “You Never Know.”But in my opinion much better collaborations come with Talib Kweli in tracks like “Black Girl Pain,” where she reaches to her African roots making connections between the struggles faced by black women on both sides of the Atlantic. After a psuedo retirement, she is still working on Talib Kweli’s record label.
“Black Girl Pain” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mhRKepkIrPE
“Black is the Color” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZMW37NbjuCc&feature=related
“My Story” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jFz6ECvaiqQ
Mensa Ansah otherwise known as M3nsa, was born in Accra, Ghana and grew up along side his now common musical partner Wanlov the Kubalor. He worked with Reggie Rockstone early on in his carreer taking sounds from Hip life, Afro-beat and other styles to eventually carve his own place in the hip hop world. Much of his music his light hearted, often funny with dance beats and he has the ability to appeal to mass audiences. This is part of the reason he rising to become a global star, working and living throughout Europe and the United States. However he remains true to lives and situations of poor, working people in Ghana and around the world and this is shown in much of his music and especially on his album No. 1 Mango Street. He raps and sings in English and Pidgen and places a high emphasis on language and the use of it in his music. He also emphasizs the role of his audience in his music and remains ever grateful as can be seen in his song “Anaa.”
“No One Knows” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SC2Ra2_3do0&feature=related
“Adjuma Work Hustle” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=geWUQxMvqyc
“Broken Language” Ft Wanlov the Kubalor http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TUemB1KQWKY&feature=related
In the article “Sharing Hip-Hop Cultures: The Case of Nigerians and African Americas,” author, S. Shonekan presents a thorough description of the state of hip hop as an artistic expression as a whole in the U.S. and in Nigeria. The author draws on the socio-economic conditions of African Americans who are pushed to the fringes of society through racist class oppression and Nigerians who live in one of the poorest and most deprived and dangerous places on Earth. In describing “Black Art” as a cultural expression of resistance and struggle, the author points out how many earlier hip hop artists in America such as Public Enemy, Kool Herc, Queen Latifah, Boogie Down Productions and others have been replaced by commercialized, mutated hip hop that clogs media today such as 50 Cent, Ludacris, Lil Jon, Snoop Dog and others who degrade women, promote violence and drug use and reinforce stereotypes.
Similarly in Nigeria, early pioneers of hip hop with messages of reality and resistance such as Junior, Daddy Showkey, Pretty and Baba Fryo have been replaced, overshadowed by flashy Nigerians who also mutilate hip hop. They look to American ‘pop’ hip hop for inspiration and imitation. Examples used by the author are 2Face, Black Face and others. However, within the U.S. mostly on the underground, sometimes managing to sell, are true hip hop artists like Talib Kweli, Mos Def, and Immortal Technique. In Nigeria as well largely shunned artists exist though they are even harder to find such as the Unsung Heros and Tribesmen, more on them to come.
Shonekan, S. Sharing Hip-Hop Cultures: The Case of Nigerians and African Americans. American Behavioral Scientist 2011 55: 9 originally published online 5 November 2010
In her article, Being a ‘bitch’: some questions on the gendered globalisation and consumption of American hip-hop urban culture in post-apartheid South Africa, Lliane Loots explores how American hip-hop has impacted the identities of youth in South Africa. Loots begins her article by discussing her first encounter with hip-hop in Wentworth, South Africa. This town was historically colored and featured a dance studio where many of the local youth would hang out with friends and practice their moves. She noticed that many of the young men would attempt difficult breakdancing moves while most of the young women would “dance like Janet Jackson”, refusing to be labeled as ‘b-girls’ because they did not want to seem “unfeminine”. Loots claims that American hip-hop culture had not only affected the music scene in South Africa, but it had also affected the mindset of many young people. She saw the incoming hip-hop movement as a culture from the North that was being sold to South Africans as superior, and as “defining our entry into this global (American) village”. She notes that many of the songs contained misogynistic and vulgar lyrics. Loots claims that this hip-hop culture is a form of “cultural colonisation”.
Loots spends a great deal of time discussing the gender dynamics in the hip-hop culture of the US. She claims that many women are often objectified and relegated to sexy background dancers while males are the ones who make music. She criticizes American hip-hop because she feels it does not provide a space for black women to be treated as equals. Since many young people in the South are consumers of this culture, Loots argues that hip-hop could have a detrimental effect on the way women and men interact.
Many of the young people in South Africa have adopted some of this American hip-hop culture but they have also subverted traditional hip-hop by adding new sounds, lyrics and experiences. South African youth do have agency and have been using hip-hop as a way to express their own opinions instead of just blindly following American trends.
This is an article from OntheMedia.org with an interview between the hosts Brooke Gladstone and Bob Garfield and Abdulla Darrat who is one the founders of the website Khalas which is run by exiled Libyans. The Khalas team was surprised to find that one of the most common mediums people were using to voice their discontent in countries like Tunisia and Egypt was rap music. Abdulla Darrat created a mixtape for the website that contained rap songs with strong messages of revolution. One of the artists on the mixtape is Lotfi Double Kanon who raps to reason with the President of Algeria saying he brings a message from the youth. Many of the Hip Hop artists spread the message, “that Islam can make a person more honest, more loving to, more caring for his fellow citizenry.” Abdulla Darrat says , “I think these are cultural forces… These are young people who are using their skills, their talents to not only make others aware, but give people a set of ideas.”
The rise of hip hop in South Africa began with Prophets of Da City when they performed the song “Excellent, the First Black President”, said Lee Kasumba, a DJ, writer, and all round authority on the rap scene there. That song put hip hop on the map in South Africa. Prior to that, hip hop had been an underground movement who fans are mainly poor, mixed-race kinds living in squatter camps outside Cape Town. But Prophets of Da City changed all that. Before most people had heard about hip hop, Kasumba has been growing up listening to hip hop music brought back by her Dad from the trip to UK. According to Kasumba, hip hop music caught people’s attention when the song, “Harambe”, which is Swahili for “let’s pull together”, became huge. Then South African Music Awards put in a best rap category, the rest is history.
Under President Wade, the political and economical situation has continued to deteriorate in Senegal for the past ten years. While many have suffered under the rule, rappers, Thiat and Kilifeu from the central Senegalese town of Kaolack stood up and denounced acts of corruption and served jail time as a result. Now they are back with a gem of a video, directed by Senegalese new school crew Gelongal, the video “Coup 2 Gueule” (Let’s act on our Words). The video becomes even more relevant in the current state of crisis.
Baboucarr Joof aka Hot B SDF, one of the Gambia’s promising hip-hop rappers recently released his second album. After being discovered during a music festival held in the Senegalese city of Dakar, the rapper made his fame when he dropped his debut album, called “Love and Peace in the Gambia” in 2007. But unlike his previous album, the artist decided to release it on the internet in the form of a free download. In a recent chat with What’s on, HOT B as fondly called said he decided to release the free download online album because of the love he has for Hip-hop and ever-increasing fans. HOB B also has another upcoming album that he made after signing with an independent label. The album is called “Independent Squad” and will hit the streets very soon.
In the midst of the chaos following the election of 2007 in Kenya in which over 1,000 people have been killed, a group of hip hop artists took action to denounce the violence engulfing their communities. They formed the Hip Hop Parliament. At the centre of this is what they call “conscious hip-hop”. “Our hip-hop is about love,” said Roje Otieno, a member of the Hip Hop Parliament. They feel that young people are being provoked when their families are attacked, they are the ones who feel the need to respond with violence. The group called on the youth not to be part of the problem, but be part of the solution.
In the article, Morocco’s Hip Hop Revolution, Latifa al-Arousni writes about the emergence of hip hop in Morocco and how it has affected identity and culture. In the city of Rabat, bands gather for the annual ‘Mawazine Rythmes du Monde’ and perform in front of large crowds. Most of the music played is hip hop, rap and reggae. The author of the article admits that many of the bands are unskilled and perform simple songs but they draw a large crowd mainly beause they embrace this Western type of music and “Moroccan-ize” it by adding in rhythms and instruments from their own culture. She notes also that the people at the concerts are sporting baggy jeans, loose cotton T-shirts, earrings and gold chains–which are commonly worn in the West by hip hop artists and fans. But these artists are not merely copying Western styles of hip hop. Their lyrics are written in colloquial Moroccan Arabic and they address a variety of issues such as unemployment, prostitution, poverty and war. Many of these artists are very patriotic and nationalist, but they still garner an intense amount of disapproval from most Moroccans. Many Moroccans believe that hip hop is just a fad that will soon be forgotten. Others speculate that the reasons young people are drawn to hip hop are because it is loud and often talks about topics that are not normally discussed out in the open (such as politics, etc). People that attended the festival argued that the event allowed a wide variety of artists to perform, fusing contemporary and traditional music. As rap has become more widespread, there are more people urging artists to stay away from vulgar lyrics since they have noted that rap can have a significant impact on the social and political lives of Moroccans.
The article can be accessed through this link.