13th Trinity International Hip Hop Festival: Panel Discussion: “Free Speech, Censorship and Protest”

Hip hop, music genre developed in the 1970s by inner-city African Americans from the Bronx, New York city, consists of conscious lyrics which often bluntly address social, political, or economic issues. The nature of hip hop is explicit, authentic, and genuine, and now after decades of diffusion and cultural spreading, the art form perseveres to survive even in areas where censorship and limitation of expression run deep. On April 6th 2018, during the Panel Discussion: “Free Speech, Censorship and Protest” at the 13th Trinity International Hip Hop Festival, Howard University’s Dr. Msia Kibona Clark moderated a group of hip hop artists from all over the world who discussed the condition of media censorship of hip hop in the realm of social change and political discourse.

Dana Burton, a hip hop pioneer and influencer in China asserts that the supposed ban on hip hop in China was simply “fake news.” Burton went on to explain the reaches of Chinese censorship, exemplifying the Chinese ban on the ‘Free Tibet movement.’ In summary, anything that violates national integrity remains off limits in China. For example, videos which include the Tibet flag are banned and individuals are forbidden from using the word ‘Tibet’ in public or media settings.

Another panelist, MC Puos is a hip hop journalist who cofounded china’s first hip hop magazine, Bang. He discussed his upbringing in Detroit and referenced his understanding of words, communication, and censorship, and the unspoken rule of limited self-expression as a youth. A person could lose their life by saying the wrong thing to the wrong person: a realization that showcased the strength of words.

Panelist Emile YX?, a journalist, author, playwright, b-boy, and member of Black Noise, (one of the first hip hop groups in South Africa) discussed the current censorship is South Africa. As a solution to the suppression of black voices in South African Media, YX? proposed that black people create their own markets and industries. His project, Heal the Hood focusses on dismantling the Eurocentric monopolization of the capitalist society by supporting our own businesses. Overall the event was an enlightening intellectual experience.

Trinity Hip Hop Festival 2018 Panel Discussion: “Free Speech, Censorship and Protest” Recap

The 13th annual Trinity International Hip Hop Festival was focused on censorship and activism when it comes to hip hop on a global scale. Aside from great performances and artwork from international acts, there were also discussions and panels catered to the overall theme of protest, free speech empowering the youth around the world. One panel in particular that was very engaging was the discussion on “Free Speech, Censorship and Protest” which featured MC Puos and Dana Burton from China and Emile YX from South Africa on the panel that moderated by Dr. Msia Clark herself. Continue reading “Trinity Hip Hop Festival 2018 Panel Discussion: “Free Speech, Censorship and Protest” Recap”

Black Noise Vs X Clan

My interest with South Africa’s oldest hip hop group, Black Noise, began when I read chapter seven of Hip Hop and Social Change in Africa: Ni Wakati. Here, the author explained the significance of the “colored” community in South African hip hop and the emergence of an Afrocentric blend of Khoi/San traditional music and hip hop–dubbed “Khoi-pop.” Black Noise was listed as being one of the pioneers of the genre.

My first experience listening to Black Noise was spent analyzing their song “Black is Back.” The title seems to fit with the Afrocentric quality present in the Khoi-pop genre. The beat begins with what almost sounds like a James Brown song (or some other 1970’s hit from Black America). A female vocalist is then accompanied by a fast/upbeat hip hop rhythm. The style reminds me of an early 2000’s fusion of US r&b and hip hop. After she finished singing the chorus one of the lead rappers started the first verse which was full of Afrocentric and Khoicentric references. Some of which included the following: “What it look like? Mad fingers on the deck/It’s all about the culture and the spiritual connects…The Khoisan is back and the change will be next.” In this verse the artist also made references to the transatlantic slave trade and the five elements of hip hop (deejaying, b-boying, graffiti, emceeing, and knowledge): “One love for my people in the hood/…The five elements always make you feel good/The black noise is back make your body want to move/nobody move, nobody gets hurt/For five centuries all my people get whipped/for five centuries.” Much of the rest of the song follows the same trend. Black Noise is an excellent example of Khoi-pop music and the problack identity it holds. In Hip Hop and Social Change in Africa: Ni Wakati discusses this identity preference as a protest against the “colored” identity and the discrimination coloreds face in South Africa.

To compare Black Noise to a group in the united states I decided to look for a group (rather than an individual) whose popularity began in the 80s/90s, and who also believed in Afrocentricity. X Clan was almost a perfect match. Their hit Heed the Word of the Brother serves as a good example. Although this song takes on a much more militant aesthetic (images of civil rights demonstrations, Harriet Tubman with a gun, and lyrics that are more aggressively Afrocentric) their cultural and political focus is similar to that of Black Noise. Heed the Word of the Brother contains the following lyrics: “Great blackness brought from the genesis/Won’t exist ‘til armageddon is a witness/The originals built the Earth.” And others such as “The key opens knowledge and plays as an antenna/Americana man, Africana brother/ Don’t forget the land cause the birth is from the mother.” X Clan, and other pro black groups during their day were landmarks in Hip hop’s social/political development. Like Black Noise, this development is centered in a Pan African/Pan Black identity.


Black Noise

Hip hop crew Black Noise from the Cape Flats in Cape Town, South African is recognized as one of the crews that began Cape Towns ‘conscious’ hip hop scene. The other, the well known Prophets of Da City. Black Noise started out as a group of survivors from the breakdance era in South Africa. The members were all influenced by hip hop music in some way or another and they would often hang out with each other on the weekends. They eventually began doing performances at schools, malls, and carnivals. Most performances consisted only of breakdancing, but if there was equipment available they would do some beatboxing, Mcing, or rapping. The crew continued to grow and evolve from there. They’ve had members leave and join the group as time has gone on, and today the only remaining original member is Emile Jansen.

Continue reading “Black Noise”

African Hip-Hop Artist #2



Black Noise is an African hip-hop group that contains survivors of the breakdance era. The group initially started out performing specifically dances and then later branched out to MCing. Through their rhymes, Black Noise decided that they wanted to share meaningful verses that would be memorable and educational. In addition, they wanted to create crowd riveting and inspiring performances. The beginning of their journey occurred when one of the members wrote about AIDS. The expansion of the group’s success has resulted in the founding of a non-profit organization called Heal the Hood. This organization hosts various hip-hop events bring attention to the past culture of breakdancing and old throw downs.

This group was the first to combine their dance shows with MCing during that time because the breakdancing era focused specifically on the dance during shows. They initially struggled to get booked for gigs because they were new talent. However, as the group practiced and perfected their approach, they were able to get in contact with a managing performer. Even though they were able to get gigs, the group ultimately knew that there would be better off working as independent artists. The group continued to travel and perform around Cape Flats in Cape Town and other areas in South Africa.

Artist Review

From the second the song “Black Is Back” began, I immediately found myself feeling happy and nodding to the beat. The beat produces a light and jumpy sound that makes it impossible not to dance along. A woman begins singing and then the group members each take a turn sharing their voice. Each member of the group provides a unique artistic attribute that compliments one after another. Black Noise makes it hard to not like the song because in addition to a funky beat, message is focused on culture and black history. The combination makes you want to follow along and learn the lyrics. Although the song contains raps and singing in English, their accents cause you to focus in on the content of the song.

The music video is also enjoyable because there is a lot of reminiscent scenes of old school hip-hop. Their video contains the group engaging in activities that are relatable to the urban youth worldwide. Scenes of the members breakdancing, spray painting, and roller skating are all things that people can relate to or remembering experiencing in their lives. Most importantly, everyone is just having fun. The energy and good vibrations channeled from the artists makes you feel happy even if you aren’t a fan of the song because you can tell that their intent is to uplift and motivate their audience. The carefree video appears welcoming enough to join in the dance sessions and feel as though you are apart of the group yourself.