Student Project: Hip-Hop artists use of protest and combat songs to challenge censorship in Africa

Too often people perceive the genre of hip-hop to be “angry” music. Across all cultures, Hip-Hop music is negatively stigmatized as loud, vulgar, and explicit, without any acknowledgement of its deep messages. People fail to realize that these songs are meant to serve as cries for help. It is essential for listeners to see past the intense voice behind the mike and recognize the place of frustration that the lyrics are coming from. 
The shared grievances among Africans have made the continent a breeding ground for lyrical outcry. In Africa, Hip-Hop music has served as a form of expression, activism and social consciousness. Artists create protest songs that highlight issues impacting their environments such as State violence, corruption, and poverty. In a similar fashion, some other artists take it a step further by producing combat music which puts fear in the hearts of their oppressors. Although overlooked, the intentional and strategic nature of the Hip-Hop genre, is an area worthy of attention. The podcast will show how Hip-Hop Artists from North Africa, Togo, and Liberia use their voice to deliver raw messages of oppression despite the struggle with government censorship and prosecution. Through the use of protest and combat songs, you will see how artists establish influence and catalyze change in their countries.

Furthermore, the podcast will briefly draw a comparison to Hip-Hop culture in America. The commonalities between the two places will reveal how people, irrespective of region, use the genre to make a call to action, by exposing deeply rooted issues. We hope that this podcast will debunk negative stereotypes surrounding hip-hop and shine a positive light on its lyrical power.

The podcast will feature the following songs: Warning: some songs occasionally contain strong language (which may be unsuitable for children)

El General – “Rais LeBled”- 2010

Elom20ce – “Vodoo Sakpata” – 2015

Takun J – “Policeman” – 2007

NWA – “F*ck the police” – 1988

The Notorious B.I.G. – “Juicy” – 1994

(Introduction and ending song by Tekno – “Yur Luv” – 2018)

Work cited
“El Général, the voice of Tunisia, English subtitles”. YouTube, uploaded by Michelangelo Severgnini, January 10 2011,https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IeGlJ7OouR0

“Elom 20ce – Vodoo Sakpata (Official Video)”. YouTube, uploaded by THUMP, September 14 2015,https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A3g_ECtpM8E

“Liberian musician Takun J talks about “Police Man””. YouTube, uploaded by TakunJTheHipCoKing, January 11 2012,https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xrYieEMNKoA&t=506s

“N.W.A. fuck the police with lyrics”. YouTube, uploaded by MegaTuvieja, November 8 2011,https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qu6r7Yd_iG8

“Policeman”. YouTube, uploaded by Elton Djxman, February 23 2013,https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tqLS3tUPVjQ

“Tekno – Yur Luv (Official Video)”. YouTube, uploaded by TeknoMilesVEVO, March 21 2018,https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1d_jkY2444s

“The Notorious B.I.G. – “Juicy” (Official Video)”. YouTube, uploaded by The Notorious B.I.G., September 6 2011,https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_JZom_gVfuw

Asawin Suebsaeng, “The FBI Agent Who Hunted N.W.A”, Daily Beast, August 14, 2015,https://www.thedailybeast.com/the-fbi-agent-who-hunted-nwa

Benjamin Lebrave, “This Rapper Is Defying Togolese Censorship to Tell Stories About Africa’s Political Problems’, Thump Vice, September 14 2015.https://thump.vice.com/en_us/article/wny3e9/this-rapper-is-defying-togolese-censorship-to-tell-stories-about-africas-political-problems

Clark, Msia Kibona. (2012). Hip hop as social commentary in Accra and Dar es Salaam. African Studies Quarterly, 13 (3), 23-46.

Olivier Morrison, “Turn That Down! 40 Banned and Censored Songs”, National Coalition Against Censorship, March 3 2015,http://ncac.org/blog/turn-that-down-40-banned-and-censored-songs

Vivienne Wait, “El Général and the Rap Anthem of the Mideast Revolution”, TIME, Tuesday February 15, 2011http://content.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2049456,00.html


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Nigeria’s Modern Day Musical Renaissance

With widespread popularity of music artists from Nigeria to other countries it is no surprise that Nigerian’s music scene is experiencing a rebirth in it’s own right. A musical renaissance of sort.

Popular artists such as Wizkid, Patoranking, Tekno and alike blend a range of different elements to create a type of cross over music that can appease any crowd and is versatile in nature. This blend includes pop and traditional african instruments coupled with hip hop flare. This type of music has been dubbed a modern day take on “Afrobeats.”

Two videos are linked in this post. The first is Nigerian rapper Boogey freestyling to Wizkid’s “Ojuelegba.” The second video is of Wizkid’s original track of the song.

Both have different styles entirely. Boogey in true emcee form is freestyling. One of the most striking things about his video is that he is simply rapping in the entirety of the video. Boogey isn’t worried about melodies or pop appeal. Furthermore,  you can trace his rhymes by the story he tells like a modern day African griot. He also touches on his skills as a lyricist and how he can enlighten us to, “a main verse, one that [we] have never heard.”

In comparison, Wizkid’s song “Ojuelegba” lyrics shed light through his struggle of working hard and giving thanks to God always. With careful inspection I found the lyrics interesting due to the fact that I’ve listen to this song many times never knowing the message of the song. The song’s upbeat tempo and melodies contrasts with the seriousness of the message of the song. In the song he covers tough topics such as people in Nigeria suffering yet still having such tremendous faith in God and praying for blessings.

Although some may argue that this modern day “Afrobeats” genre is susceptible to sponsorship and turning into a commercialized entity, it is important to note the vast benefits this could have for African countries such as Nigeria. This genre can be used as a stepping stone, bridging western and African culture. With this bridge more interest in African music will lead to a pathway of understanding and tolerance for a more globalized and interconnected world.

It is crucial however, that these artists remain true to their musical messages and do not fall prey to capitalistic nature of the music industry. African artist can use their music to advance compelling messages that will invoke social change. They can use this modern Afrobeats genre as worldwide platform to reach many with whatever message they choose. In the end it is up to these artist as to which message they will send across the world to their millions of listeners. We will be waiting and listening.