HHAP EP. 67: Yugen Blakrok on Spirituality & the Spectrums of Human Experience Found in Her Music

Yugen Blakrok doesn’t incorporate hip hop’s boom-bap style, she has no interest in being the Queen of SA rap, she does not do trap, and she is not interested in being boxed into someone’s idea of a conscious MC. Her music has been described as “a mix of sci-fi soundscapes & meditative melodies”. It’s definitely introspective and speaks to you on several levels. It blends references to places, times, & themes both inside and outside of South Africa and contains spiritual references that borrow from diverse spiritual systems. Yugen Blakrok was born in the Eastern Cape and later moved to Johannesburg, the heart of South Africa’s music industry. She released her 1st album Return of the Astro-Goth in 2013 and her second album, Anima Mysterium, which contains a cameo by Kool Keith in 2019. In 2018, she featured on the track “Opps” with Vince Staples & Kendrick Lamar on the Black Panther soundtrack.

In this interview, she engages in thought-provoking dialogue with our students who really connected with her music, which transcends a lot of boundaries. Yugen’s music does not just belong to South Africa but has universal messages that connect on human levels. Additionally, she spoke to us about being a socially conscious artist without the need to declare it, but being socially conscious by being it, not necessarily saying it.
The conversation is moderated by Mikal Amin of Words Beats & Life. We’re joined at the very end by Phiwokuhle Mnyandu, who teaches Zulu at Howard University.
Yugen Blakrok is online at
Twitter @YugenBlakrok
Instagram @YugenBlakrok
Bandcamp yugenblakrok.bandcamp.com

HHAP Ep. 61: An African Hip Hop Palaver

In this palaver, we have a lively chat with Ghanaian hip hop/hiplife scholar Dr. Nii Kotei Nikoi. We talked about the hiplife and hip hop music industry in Ghana, especially one of the country’s most popular artist’s Sarkodie. Nii discusses the structure of Ghana’s music industry, the way artists construct their images, and the role of class (and language) in Ghana’s popular music scene. We also get into an interesting conversation around collaborations between African and Diaspora artists in Beyonce’s Black is King project and the depictions of Africa in the Black Panther film.

Nii Kotei Nikoi is an assistant professor of Global Media and Digital Studies at The College of Wooster in Ohio. He studies African popular culture, and has a special focus on how popular culture reinforces and challenges existing ideas around race, gender, and sexuality. His work is influenced by his background in graphic design and documentary photography. Currently, his research examines development discourse in Ghanaian popular culture.

Check out his latest article, “Hiplife Music in Ghana: Postcolonial Performances of the Good Life.” in the International Journal of Communication  14 (2020): 19.

He also hosts the podcast Our Culture. Season 1 of the podcast includes on several reflections on a range of topics.

EPISODE CONTENTS
1:50 The performance of material success in popular music in Ghana
8:08 The popular use of Ghanaian languages and clothing in the Ghanaian music scene
15:00 An analysis of the class divides and language choices in the beef between Sarkodie and M.anifest
26:20 The participation of women in hiplife
33:17 African scholars doing (hip hop) research at home
48:03 I try to get Nii to take the bait and engage in the discussion on Nigerians “borrowing” music from Ghana
52:52 Beyonce & the collaboration with African artists on the Black is King project
1:03:03 Black Panther & the homogenization of Africa, and the presence of Africa film industry in general

HHAP Episode 23: Uganda’s Ruyonga on African/African American Relations, Black Panther, Politics, and Christianity

This interview with Ugandan artist Ruyonga, formerly known as Krukid, is an in-depth discussion on the artist’s perspective on the Black experience, relations between African Americans and Africans in America, his issues with the Black Panther film, being a Christian MC, and his perspective on laws and politics in Uganda.

Ruyonga studied in the U.S. in the early 2000s. He began rapping in Uganda before coming to the States, and he established an underground career in the U.S. and became known for his distinct sound and strong lyrical ability. After almost a decade in the US, Ruyonga returned to Uganda. He changed his name to Ruyonga and built his career as a Christian rapper.

After a long stay Ruyonga has an interesting perspective on being an African immigrant in America, and the tensions between African and African American communities. He talks about those tensions from an African immigrant perspective, and comments on the diverse racial and ethnic dynamics he saw in different parts of the United States. The conversation turns towards pop culture and race and Ruyonga has strong feelings about the Black Panther and the representations of Africans in the film, and Hollywood’s presentation of the Black experience.

Ruyonga also opens up about his views on race, Black pride, and feminism, as well as his views on the ways different groups of people have been pitted against each other. Part of the conversation includes the artist’s views on some of Uganda’s more controversial laws regarding women and sexuality, especially the infamous Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Still a strong lyricist, Ruyonga now uses Christianity as the vehicle with which to express his lyricism. His latest release is Voice Of My Father, and follows an impressive body of work that spans over 10 years. Ruyonga is on

BandCamp at https://ruyonga.bandcamp.com

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/ruyonga/482094271

Twitter: @ruyongamusic

Episode Breakdown
7:30 “African American, American African”
9:30 “Pearl City Anthem”
11:45 “Hand of God”
12:40 Background and move to the US
14:00 The Black Experience
15:15 African & African American relations
23:42 The Black Panther movie & Hollywood
29:33 Black pride, feminism
32:00 The return to Uganda
35:45 Language
37:18 Christianity & politics

Saudi

Anele Mbisha, known to his fans as Saudi, was born and bred in one of Soweto’s townships, Senaone. Growing up in a family that loved

HHAP Episode 21: Yugen Blakrok on Hip Hop Lyricism & the Black Panther Project

This month we speak with Johannesburg-based MC, Yugen Blakrok. Yugen Black is a South African MC, who was recently featured on the Black Panther soundtrack. Her style is distinctive and blends several different elements together in a strong lyrical flow. Her music do not contain many of the topics often found in hip hop that is heavy with braggadocio, or sexuality. In Yugen Blakrok’s music you mind find references to her Xhosa identity, Asian martial arts (ala Wu Tang), or to Black consciousness ideas and figures. Her flows sound like layered streams of consciousness, and do not fit neatly into one adjective.

In this episode we speak with her about her music career, her unique style, her 2013 album Return of the Astro-Goth, her most recent work on the Black Panther soundtrack, and her upcoming projects. 

Yugen Blakrok’s first album was Return of the Astro-Goth: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/return-of-the-astro-goth/814084115
The Black Panther Soundtrack: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/black-panther-the-album-music-from-and-inspired-by/1331258584
Yugen Blakrok on Twitter: @YugenBlakrok | Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/YugenBlakrok/  | Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/yugenblakrok/