GNL Zamba’s Rapid Rise in Uganda, Indigenous Pride, and His Take on Social Issues

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GNL Zamba stands out in Uganda’s rap scene as the first rap artist to popularize indigenous rap, or Lugaflow. He inspired a new generation of rappers in Uganda to rap in their indigenous languages. He earned fame as a rap artist during the initial development of the hip hop scene in Uganda, where he auditioned for Hip Hop Canvas, a multi-lingual music project. He stood out because of his ability to tell local stories in Luganda through his rap. GNL Zamba came to discover his passion for music as a child, when his grandmother encouraged him to pursue it. He grew up in the slums of Kampala around a lot of poverty post-civil war, which helped GNL Zamba tell stories about socioeconomic issues in his rap. Surprisingly, he went on to get a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Management. He is now the founder and CEO of an independent Hip Hop label called Baboon Forest Entertainment.

GNL Zamba is most well known for using his songs to highlight and criticize issues of sexuality, womens’ issues, domestic violence, politics, environment, and more. He uses characters in his raps to portray instances of these issues affecting people’s lives.

GNL Zamba is heavily involved in humanitarian and social work, both in Uganda and overseas. He has done a lot of work to promote sexual health and safety. He worked with Buzz Teenies to tour Ugandan schools, provide mentorship, and speak about safe sex. His song, “We Cry,” was a huge influence in promoting the message of safe sex to Ugandan youth. Additionally, his music video for “True Manhood” encouraged Ugandan youth to use condoms. He has also travelled to the US, and helped promote sexual health programs in Los Angeles and NYC.

GNL stands for “Greatness No Limits,” and GNL Zamba’s greatness is easily seen in his work promoting indigenous languages as well as the stories of Ugandan people in his music.

Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GIuQauL9Yxo

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/gnlzamba/

Website: https://gnlzamba.com/home

Trotro or Metro..a Universal Struggle

Emmanuel Owusu-Bonsu better known as Wanlov the Kubolor (@wanlov on Instagram and Twitter) is arguably one of Ghana’s most unique hip-hop voices. He has made a career as a musician, film director, and influencer. He’s experienced great success and acclaim since the release of his debut album “Green Card” in 2007 which solidified his place as a force to be reckoned with. In 2017, Wanlov released his latest project “Orange card: Fruitopian Raps” after a five year hiatus from music. One of the most popular songs from this album was “Trotro Blues” a catchy tune detailing what it is like using Trotros, a common form of transportation for many Ghanaians.

When watching the video for Trotro Blues, which has over 31 thousand views on Wanlov the Kubolor’s youtube channel, I was immediately struck by the beauty of the the shots he was able to capture. The video begins as the camera (which was likely a drone or attached to one) shows the top of one Trotro then pans up to expose an area with at least 100 Trotros of various colors and sizes arranged haphazardly. As it continues, the shots are equally as breath taking as they show what is like to use Trotros to get around in Ghana. I enjoyed how the perspective changes to really make you feel as if you are experiencing everything they are experiencing. This effect was created by capturing shots from the point of view of someone inside a Trotro, someone waiting in line to try to get into one, and someone looking from the from seat into the back where they can see people essentially squeezing together to make room for more people than would typically fit.

The song itself is incredible. A melodic tune over-layed with story telling that is simple yet poignant. Wanlov perfectly describes the trouble with Trotro usage, and does so in a calm tone that makes you empathize with the struggles he is describing. The most interesting thing about the song for me was my ability to relate to what he was saying despite never having visited Ghana or ridden in a Trotro. I think this speaks to the universality of hip-hop. I can relate my struggle using Washington D.C’s God-forsaken metro system to someone using the predominant form of public transportation in their country on the other side of the world. These commonalities are what make hip-hop the ever relatable art form that it is. I had never listened to Wanlov before hearing this song but he has certainly gained a fan in me and I look forward to further exploring his music. Maybe I’ll do that the next time I’m waiting for the train…

MoJuice’s Barak Jacuzzi Has the Juice

Barak Jacuzzi is taking not only the Kenyan hip hop scene by storm, but also dominating in America.  Getting his start as the “hype man” for Kenyan hip hop artist Octopizzo, Barak Jacuzzi has made a name for himself.  He first attracted attention with his cypher in “Nokia Don’t Break the Beat” in 2012.   After stepping out of Octopizzo’s spotlight, Barak spent some time in America understanding hip hop on a different scale, but soon realized he needed to be in Kenya to join its revolutionary hip hop industry.  When he decided to go to Kenya, where his parents immigrated from, Barak started as a radio host, slowly perfecting his hip hop craft.  Barak Jacuzzi has been regarded as not only an artist, but also as a personality and an entertainer who can dance, rap, sing, host, and DJ, just to name a few.  His much awaited debut mixtape, The Juice Bar, was released in 2017 and a seven track project, which is heavily influenced by his American roots. Barak’s style is definitely influenced by his roots to both America and Kenya. Most of his songs are in English, however some of the slang and the nature of his lyrics are true to Kenyan hip hop style. His most popular solo song is called “Coco Ma$ta,” with over 50,000 views on YouTube.

Barak also collaborated with his mentor, Octopizza, and another Kenyan hip hop lyrist, Boutross, in one of the biggest “trap” hits of 2017 called “Tergat Gang,” which has drawn over 400,000 views.

Despite his American roots, being born in Columbia, South Carolina, Barak decided to Kenya to pursue music because the Kenyan hip hop market is much harder to tap into.  Another component of this idea is that much of the American hip hop battle rap style has been diluted in the new wave of hip hop. However in Kenya, battle rapping has been a keystone and the foundation for many hip hop careers; it is always a new challenge and forces artists to keep on their feet.  Although Barak Jacuzzi is from America, his style of hip hop is an American/ Kenyan fusion, but importantly, he considers himself a Kenyan artist and continues to prove he has the “juice.” 

Learn more about Barak Jacuzzi:

Queer, Feminist, Survivor: How Ugandan Rapper Keko Brought New Perspectives to Ugandan Rap

Ugandan rapper Keko relaxing in a cafe in Kampala.

Uganda has seen a steady rise in its Hip Hop scene over the past two decades, but no Ugandan rapper has made as unique an impact on the scene as Keko, a 31 year old queer female rapper whose style of storytelling through rap stole the hearts of many Ugandans and Africans. She started out as a radio DJ on Uganda’s government owned station called X-fm, and then left her job to focus on recording music. Her climb to fame in East Africa came with her first single “How we do it.” She then released a single called “Alwoo (Cry for Help)” which caught the attention of Ugandans and many Africans, because it told stories of domestic abuse, career setbacks, grief and loss, personal struggle, and more. This message resonated with many Africans, and many Africans admired her lyrical creativity and consistent style.

A sample of her lyrics from “Alwoo” regarding the issue of domestic abuse faced by women is as follows:

“She said it felt like waking up to darkness in daylight,

Every day’s a war, no date night,

And she can’t go home, her mom will send her back,

Telling her it’s okay to not fight back,

‘A man is a man, let him have his way,

And in time you can see it will be okay.’”

Keko talks about the loneliness and anguish faced by many African women who grow up in a patriarchal culture that disempowers women to fight against abuse inflicted upon them by their male partners. By telling the woman’s story, Keko wanted to shed light upon the experiences of women facing abuse from their viewpoints and hoped that people would have more sympathy for women being treated this way. In this way, Keko gives a voice to the most vulnerable individuals in Ugandan society through the stories her music tells.

Keko has gone on to perform at some of Africa’s biggest music festivals, collaborate with other famous African musicians, receive endorsement deals from Pepsi and Mountain Dew, and be featured on CNN’s “African Voices.” However, the loss of her mother as well as living a closeted life as a lesbian in a very conservative, anti-LGBT Uganda led her to drug addiction, which she fought to overcome. Keko ended up moving to Canada and taking Canadian citizenship, after which she same out as lesbian on her Twitter, happily proclaiming “My gay ass is free yes free and there will be a wedding you best believe” and “Thank you Canada for giving me a new home… I feel free like a new person. It was a burden to live in a box and walk on eggshells.” Keko remains a household name in East Africa, but also saw a small rise to fame in the US and Canada because of her coming-out after moving to the West.

For now, Keko has chosen to live a private life, but many fans hope that she will come back with her same style of story-telling rap to provide narratives of queer-identifying Africans and their struggles.

Song: Alwoo (Cry for Help) – Keko (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SgyYSB-fgwo&list=RDEMiw3EScs0bxL8CjnclnEHGA&index=2)

Twitter: https://twitter.com/kekotown

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KekomusicOfficial/

WHO IS SYNIK?

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Imagine, your sitting in high school and you start putting your thoughts into
raps in your school note book. You have been a fan of hiphop since you got
introduced to the culture in your childhood. Listening to Tupac Shakur and being inspired by him. Well thats what  hip hop star Synik was doing before his break into the industry.  Born Gerald Mugwenhi on November 7 1983. Synik has made a major noise in the hip hop community in Zimbabwe and world wide. Continue reading “WHO IS SYNIK?”

To be the MC that’d walk 1000km…

To rap in one language is impressive, two rap in two is incredible—but to rap in two languages at the same time in the same verse? Well that’s just called Kast, and as someone who can’t even rap in their native language, there seems no end to the impressive escapades of the Botswanan rapper. Continue reading “To be the MC that’d walk 1000km…”

The Prince Of The South

 

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We see all the time in the United States artist claim there titles. You got the King of New York or The Queen of Rap, but meet the Prince of South African Rap. Kiernan Jarryd Forbes, known by his stage name AKA. AKA is a South African hip hop recording artist and record producer. Continue reading “The Prince Of The South”

Blitz the Ambassador’s Concoction

Blitz the Ambassador, a Ghanaian rap artist, has been influential in the concoction of African culture and American culture within his music.  Based in Brooklyn, New York, the basis of Hip-Hop is prevalent in his craft while still honoring his roots.  Let’s take a look at his 2016 video for his song “Running”. Continue reading “Blitz the Ambassador’s Concoction”

F E M A L E

How does an Under Armour commercial display the full potentiality of feminine athleticism and power? They could set the whole video to a Sampa the Great song, for one.

A Zambian-born, Botswanan-raised artist with a point to prove, Sampa the Great has distinguished herself as not only one of Africa’s great female MCs, but one of the world’s great MCs— female or not— and her music serves to support this claim. Embracing the role of feminist inspiration and all-around skilled MC, Sampa the Great’s F E M A L E possesses a powerful and uplifting message about the power of women around the world. Its lines acknowledge just how much respect women deserve in a society that constantly allows accomplished females to go unrecognized. She also mentions the power in African women, and the importance of recognizing our roots and how they contribute to our strength. She mentions the power of women struggling economically, the power of women fighting everyday to reach their goals, and the power of women to get out and continue to achieve more. Continue reading “F E M A L E”

Dakar’s Female MCs and the Power of the Cyp(her)

In a hip-hop scene as developed and competitive as Senegal’s, the cypher continues to act as a platform by which talented, young rappers make their debut. The fast-paced intensity of a hip-hop cypher is the perfect way for new artists on the scene to prove to their worth to the public. And in a society where women must give it their all to make an impression in the musical community, the cypher allows female MCs to show everyone that they are just as lyrically passionate and complex than their male counterparts— if not more. Continue reading “Dakar’s Female MCs and the Power of the Cyp(her)”