MHD en sa Patrie

Mohammed Sylla (MHD) performed in front of thousands of Senegalese in Dakar in December 2017. This concert, staged in front of the 49-meter-tall African Renaissance Monument,  united the international phenomenon MHD with domestically-popular Senegalese hip-hop artists in an evening ripe with music, dance, and humor.  Continue reading “MHD en sa Patrie”

My Motherland Is Not A Jungle: Africa Through Say’hu’s Eyes

I decided to choose an artist whose name I did not hear much in the class. The title of Say’hu’s song, “Motherland” drew my attention because everybody has their own opinion as to what their motherland is or what the term means to them. To me, my motherland is where myself and my family originate from, Africa. Although I have never been there and the two generations before me were born here on American soil I still have this strong connection to Africa. America is not my native land, otherwise I’d be Native American. For Say’hu, Africa is also his motherland being that he was born there, lives there and is of African descent. He describes Africa as “land of the great pharaohs where the sun never leaves”. Say’hu sees Africa as a land of radiance and beauty, a place where royalty are from and people from all across come to capture his vision. However, Say’hu also mentions how certain immigrants to the land are ignorant to this view of Africa and think of it as a jungle whenever they hear her name.

Say’hu represents both his country and the diaspora because although there are people like him who are born and raised in Africa and recognize it as their motherland, you have the black diaspora, which includes myself, whom also consider Africa to be their motherland. Although many of us have never set foot on African soil, many of us do acknowledge that Africa is our country of origin, before migration and of course slavery changed all of that for the most part. Say’hu talks about how Africa needs a savior, as well. His people are dying and the leader’s priority is money, an idea that many of the black diaspora here in America can relate to. African Americans are dying at a rate much higher than other races but our government and our system is designed to ensure this happens and to profit off of it.

Overall I believe Say’hu gave an accurate respresentation of both Africa and of the diaspora by incorporating personal experience, quotations and by describing the two sides of Africa and also the different views people have of the motherland.


Not Your “Average” Females

I recall watching a Dope Saint Jude video earlier in the course. She was raw and so eclectic, so when I saw her name on the list I knew she was the first artist I would choose. Dope Saint Jude bends the norms in Xxplosive, much like many of her other videos, using her words, her clothing, and overall attitude. She can be seen wearing loose fitting or baggy clothing all throughout the video and takes this very slouchy, masculine stance. Also, she wears her hair locked, which to many aren’t very “lady-like”. As far as lyrics, she refers to women as bitches, so not only is she swearing but she’s using a derogatory term for women. Overall she has a very androgynous look vibe. Her characteristics may even make someone question her sexuality or what she identifies as, but she makes it very clear that she is all female and could care less about what you think.

The next artist I noticed was Nadia Rose in her video for “Station”. Although she doesn’t give off the same consistent masculine appeal like Jude, you can still see her slouching her posture and sporting baggy clothing from time to time. For majority of the video she’s wearing a sports bra, jacket, and form-fitting pants, which are deemed as more feminine, but the amount of skin on top may be seen as unladylike. This is the perfect example of how artists can be on opposite sides of the spectrum, but still given the same label. Also, Rose openly talks about her sex life, reciting “he put his bit in my bit, now I’m “coming” on the go”. Society, both in America and especially in Africa may deem her expressive lyrics as too personal or explicit for a woman.

Overall, both femcees are going against the grain in their own ways and paving the way for future female artists to openly and freely express themselves however they want because tha’s what hip hop is all about.

Inside and Out

The moment I heard Gigi LaMayne’s “Fees Will Fall” another well-known female rapper came to mind. Hailing from the U.S is Angel Haze, who’s image and flow I was reminded of when I watched LaMayne’s video. Both artists give off this masculine-feminine vibe. In Fees Will Fall you can see LaMayne wearing what appears to be a sequined dress, with her hair in a bun and wearing make-up, what is deemed to be a feminine appearance. However, her flow and delivery is hard and she uses “masculine” hand gestures to get her point across. In Angel Haze’s video for “Werkin Girls” you can see similar aspects. Haze is dressed in pants and a crop top, with her hair long and straight and makeup. All of these details giving Haze a feminine feel, however, when she starts to rap the way she delivers her bars and the hand motions make Haze appear hard and more like her male counterparts in the game. Not only that but what she says has a manly appeal, especially when she makes references to her bitches and talks about males turning into bitches, insinuating that these males are exhibiting “female” behavior. Both videos are also in very muted color, LaMayne’s being in complete black and white. This gives both videos a very stoic and cold feel to them. One of the only major differences between the two femcees is the messages behind the videos. In “Fees Will Fall” LaMayne’s purpose is to bring awareness to being who you are and claiming your freedom. It is positive and political, touching on how “they” (the government or possibly white America) put on a front and act as though they understand what black America has been through. In “Werkin Girls” the main message Haze is trying to deliver is that she is all about her money and that she is not one to be played with nor underestimated. Although both artists are spreading different messages in these particular videos, they both exhibit being “inside” and also “outside” the box.

Hewale and Revolution

Ghanaian artist: C-Real

Senegalese artist: Didier Awadi

Instantly I could detect differences between these two artist. C-Real has the ” harder ” sound though he is trying to spread a positive message just like Awadi. C-Real’s song title, “Hewale”, in the link that I have attached translates to strength. “Hewale” is about being strong and staying strong and follows the old saying, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. In summary, “Hewale” is about not letting your bad experiences or struggles define or break you, but rather growing from them as a person. This can be taking politically because he’s probably referring to his environment or possibly those power being the forces trying to break him. Although some of the lyrics and even the video do not so much reflect that. Awadi’s song, on the other hand, is clearly for the people and is about making a stand. In the video you can see him traveling through the town and interacting with the civilians like a “man of the people”. Although Awadi does not rap in English, based on the title we know that he is rapping about a revolution, a revolt by the population against authority causing a change in political power usually occurring in a short time. His video doesn’t really express this idea in an extreme way but subtly him showcasing where he is from, the conditions the people are living in and how close they are supports his message. In conclusion, C-Real’s song is a good representative of a lot of Ghanaian hip hop music. It’s political, however, it also focuses on other topics and isn’t as direct. Whereas Awadi, the Senegalese artist, makes music about his people and the progression of his home. The Senegalese music seems to be more religiously-inclined in some ways. Both artists touch on social struggle, but lyrically and in terms of the videos they have two clearly different approaches.



Positive Black Soul

Positive Black soul or (PBS) is a hip-hop group consisting of Didier Awadi who was a breakdancer as well as a rapper and Amadou Barry. PBS is actually a play on word of Parti Democratique Senegalais or (PDS) because both political and social activism is an integral part of their identity as a group. PBS was founded in Dakar, Senegal in 1989. Originally the two were rivals performing on opposite sides of Dakar until they performed together and realized they had much in common.

The group has performed under MC Solaar in France and toured in France, England, and Switzerland and released a vast body of music. Collectively they’ve released Boul Falé (1994) Salaam (1995), Daw Thiow (1996), Wakh Feign (1996), NewYork-Paris-Dakar (1997), Revolution (2000), and Run Cool (2001). They’ve collaborated with the likes of Res, Tony Allen, Ray Lema, Baaba Maal, Archie Shepp, Youssou Ndour and Ismael Lo. Individually they’ve worked with the likes of Wyclef Jean, Viviane Chidid, and Bakhaw from Da Brains. They also share similar philosophies on pan-Africanism with hip-hop legend KRS-one.

What intrigues me the most about this group and most of the artists we’ve studied are their versatility. Versatility is something I find missing in much of American hip-hop today all the music sounds the same. They perform in several different languages including traditional Wolof languages, English, French, and they actually use Senegalese instruments in their music including percussion, kora, and balafon.

I respect the fact that they use their platform to not only talk about political issues but issues plaguing their communities’ issues like corruption and Aids. They’ve written about AIDS in the song “Écoute Fils” or “Listen Son”. I also respect the fact they consistently promote other lesser-known artists, American hip hop hip hop is more competitive you rarely see artists promoting and uplifting other hip hop artists. I must say although the two have gone on to pursue solo careers I really love and prefer the work they’ve done as a group.

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The Link Was Never Broken: African Connections Prevail

Although I already covered music by Ghanaian-American hip hop artist, Blitz the Ambassador, I had to revisit his work—his solo work. From taking another look, I have come to see that Blitz is a visionary. The genius of his work can be attributed to his ability to develop well- thought out concepts that are both visually striking and intellectually stimulating. The video for his song, ‘Shine’, is a direct representation of the former. Rather than the music being the primary focus, Blitz allows it to amplify and complement the underlying message. Blitz clearly has a pull to convey the Diasporic experience in most of his works; it is evident in the stories he chooses to tell, the characters he chooses to highlight and the lyrics that never fail to mention Africa as a centerpiece. {I guess this makes him an Ambassador of hip hop, of sorts.) What’s most fascinating is his use of hip hop as platform to incorporate elements of history, visual art and the like.

In the video, ‘Shine’, the storyline is about a father seeking validated immigration statuses for him and his daughter. In order to complete the process, he is asked to hop in the vehicle with two men who appear to “make things happen.” In agreeing to go along for the ride, he must abandon his daughter who accompanied him to the  initial meeting place. The father instructs his child to go home, and on the bus, the magic appears. An African deity personified, emerges next to the young girl, acting as her spiritual guide and protector, as she navigates the streets of the unnamed urban city.  The deity dressed in traditional garb and the young girl dressed in all- white “church” dress dance in unison, perfectly mimicking traditional West African movement. The significance of this video is that the child who is obviously distanced from the Motherland, still receives love, protection and an unbroken connection to an ancestral presence.

Video “Shine” by Blitz the Ambassador

I believe Blitz sought to spread the implication by way of this video, that one is never too distanced from Africa, genealogically or spiritually. Navigating life, assimilating into a foreign land and desiring security and protection are expectations African people throughout the Diaspora experience on a daily basis, whether they are conscious of it or not. The message by Blitz the Ambassador is clear, for he even says it repeatedly, “You already know, they can never change you.” Remaining cognizant of the self that is inextricably linked to humanity’s birthplace is the only sure way to ensure survival. We should all take his advice and “shine our light[s]”, persevering in our walks, because ancestral guidance and protection are never too far off— the link was and never will be broken. Kudos, Mr. Blitz.







We are the only choice…

Video for British Palestinian emcee, Shadia Mansour’s, song: “لازم نتغير” (We have to change) ft. Omar Offendum

Hip hop is the ideal platform for social commentary. When experiences are contextualized into phrases syncopated atop equally gut- wrenching beats, hip hop has the capacity to emit just what the heart cannot say for itself. Shadia Mansour has captured my attention because she is so eloquently able to embody truth, genuinity and power. Continue reading “We are the only choice…”


Rita Ray of the BBC has dubbed him “Ghana’s rapper supreme”; City Pages has described him as an artist with “an incredible gift” (the run off groove) who possesses “the kind of assured, joyful, ruminative voice that made Mos Def into Hollywood’s favorite conscious-rap star” (City Pages). He has also been described as “a rapper from Ghana who’s as smart as Talib Kweli and as funky as Kanye West”. M.anifest or “Manifest with a dot” as I call him was born Kwame Ametepee Tsikata and is an award winning Ghanaian rapper and songwriter. He spent ten years in Minnesota growing musically and now he spends his time in between Ghana and Minnesota. That has helped him to have a transnational experience, which is very prevalent in his music. His grandfather is Professor J.H Nketia, one of the leading ethnomusicologists (someone who studies music), and composers in Africa.  Out of all the rappers we have listened to in class he is my favorite thus far.

Continue reading “M.anifest”

A review on M3nsa’s ” No one Knows”

In M3nsa’s song, “No one knows tomorrow”, he basically discusses the uncertainty of life. The message of the song is no one knows tomorrow. He promotes positivity in this song, stating that we should cherish what we have while we have it. He briefly points out that people are different and that the slightest things can set people apart. M3nsa also encourages people to fulfill their dreams and build a legacy around those dreams. He also mentions the pride he has for his heritage and how his ancestors watch over him. He mentions that people try to control their lives by predicting what will happen next. He talks about how he wants people to remember him and “sing his name ” when he passes on. M3nsa mentions how people should leave behind all of their pain and sorrows and live in the moment.

In the second verse of the song, M3nsa mention how people shouldn’t have to wait for their lives to get better. He also mentions how people find ways to escape when life gets hard. He adds to this statement by saying that life will get better after all of the pain and bad times go away.He also mentions how procrastination is pointless and how nothing gets done because of it. Through effort, we can make the best out of our circumstances. M3nsa uses analogies such as ” the sunshine comes after the rain” to validate this point.

Personal Critique

The song has a very upbeat feel to it. The acoustic instrumentals and the vocals are refreshing. It is unique in comparison to other Ghanaian hip hop songs. The message is positive and uplifting, which I consider important, especially in relation to the youth of today.