Little Simz Reflects On Her Struggles in “Gratitude” Visual

UK-based rapper, Little Simz, chronicles the struggles both herself and her community face in the video for her 2015 single, “Gratitude.”

Little Simz, originally from Nigeria, connects with her African heritage throughout the video. She utilizes clips of student protests that took place in Cape Town in 2015 to further emphasize the abstract idea of struggle. In one of the clips, a protester is saying that “education is not a privilege, it is a right.” In 2015, students at South African universities protested against the increase in tuition fees and demanded that they be cut by at least 11%. In “Gratitude”, Little Simz says:

“Put my feet in the studio and call it my home
While others have got no way out/”

Continue reading “Little Simz Reflects On Her Struggles in “Gratitude” Visual”

Little Simz Recognizes Home

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Born in Islington, London, England, to Nigerian parents, Simbiatu “Simbi” Abisola Abiola Ajikawo, does not forget her parents roots, nor her own roots or self awareness in her music.  The twenty-four year old rapper, singer, and actress, better known as “Little Simz,” has been able to understand rap to a wide array of communities throughout her career while reaching out and being able to enlighten those about political, social, and cultural issues. Continue reading “Little Simz Recognizes Home”

Diaspora Rappers

Diaspora based artists like K’Naan, Blitz the Ambassador, M3nsa, Wale, and French Montana, and Tabi Bonney have been covered heavily in this blog. There are several other first and second generation African MCs around the world who have not been covered as much in this blog. As students in the Hip Hop and Social Change in Africa course this semester are discussing Diaspora based artists, here are some of the artists those students are looking at. In the coming week students will be putting up posts on these and other African MCs that are based outside of the continent. Continue reading “Diaspora Rappers”

Black Girl Magic

The power of women on the hip hop scene is growing each day in Africa. Female hip hop artist often struggle to get there music and art pushed into the mainstream of a genre that has been historically male dominated. I believe this is the reason that these women are producing more revolutionary hip hop art. Two artist that have made particularly creative music videos are Little Simz, who hails from London but is born to Nigerian parents, and Patty Monroe, who was born and raised in South Africa. These artist show very different sides of the artistic spectrum in the themes they convey and hopefully this blog can give some insight into their messages.

Continue reading “Black Girl Magic”

Femcees–Pushing back against the rock in a hard place

Female hip hop artists find themselves in a precarious situation.  They navigate a male dominated industry that profits from objectifying women’s bodies through sexualized images and lyrics. Their environment is misogynistic. The presence of a female emcee (“femcee”) is antithetical to mainstream hip hop norms. Because of this, female artists (particularly black female artists) are confronted by stereotypes that are often responsible for policing a woman’s body and sexuality.

In her song “Hold on,” Medusa confronts gender norms through her clothing, flow, and body language. The first thing I noticed about her was her country of origin. Medusa is from Tunisia where Islam is the national religion. Although Tunisia has granted more autonomy to its women than other Muslim-majority countries in its region, Tunisian women still battle with sexism, religious conservatism, and misogyny. When I clicked on the link to Hold On, I did not know what to expect. Medusa, however, challenged gender norms through her clothing. She wore a hat on top of her long, natural hair. She sported jeans and a blazer–a style that is perceived as both masculine and western. She also sported earrings which contrasted with her more masculine appearance. Her rap-flow can also be perceived as masculine. Whereas women are either musical props or expected to sing, Medusa came forward as a rapper. Her rhyming style reminded me of a few of the male rappers I’ve heard in the US. Lastly, the way Medusa used her position on the set and her body language also challenged gender norms. She was at the center of the music video. This is significant because most women in the hip hp industry are placed at the margins unless they are wanted for their bodies. Medusa was also one of the only people on the set for the majority of the video. All attention was on her as she freely expressed her body.

Little Simz’ song, “Dead Body”, is one of the most incredible examples of a femcee defying sexist stereotypes and individual/artistic expression. The title, Dead Body, is violent and eye-catching. Aggression and violence, in the Hip Hop industry, is usually expressed by men. Guns, assault, and violence are often conflated with hyper-masculinity. Because of this, few women in hip hop (or in the music industry in general) are expected to be as explicit about these themes as men. Calling a song Dead Body and writing lyrics such as “Do you want to see a dead body? Probably not” is a direct challenge to the norms that dictate what themes a woman can express.  Furthermore, the themes of this song are incredible. She begins by talking about the demons that torment her. She mentions the struggles of being a homeless drug addict on the street. The chorus is very compelling as well, “I just might sell my soul. Cause I don’t feel like I am a part of the world no more. Will anybody miss me when I’m gone? Will anybody miss me? Have you ever seen a dead body? Prolly not.” The most powerful aspect of this song is Little Simz’ artistic expression. She provides the audience with a window into the inner turmoil of her mind. She walks the audience through her addiction and her repudiation against religion. This, coupled with intense black and white imagery defies stereotypical norms about women emcees who are often expected to talk only about love and sex.