A woman stepping into the male-dominated field of hip-hop is revolutionary in itself. Hip-hop was created by men like DJ Kool Herc and Afrika Bambaataa,
Since the arrival of hip hop on the continent, South Africa has birthed and housed some of the most notable African hip hop artists. As
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
This is the first in a special series of episodes being recorded lives with African Studies students at Howard University and George Washington University. The series is co-hosted with Words Beas & Life, who is also live-streaming the episodes on their Facebook page (facebok.com/wordsbeatslife) on Wednesday nights at 5pm EST. The schedule is on our website at hiphopafrican.com.
A part of the “born free” generation, Gigi Lamayne grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa after the fall of apartheid. She graduated from Wits University with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Media and Anthropology in the midst of the #FeesMustFall movement. Rapping since high school, she released the powerful track “Fees Will Fall” just months after graduation. Considered one of South Africa’s best lyricists, her music addresses topics like Black pride, gender-based violence, feminism, sexism, and the shadiness within the music industry. We first interviewed Gigi Lamayne in 2017. She has continued to find mainstream success while addressing serious topics in some of her songs. In the conversation, she talks about her career, her views on the resilience and activism of South African women, race in South Africa, the relationships between women in the industry, and the stigmas and views around mental health in Africa.
The video version of this and other episodes are on our YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC43HnRR6MNq5DePBVKZZ7LQ
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