A discourse on Hip Hop in Africa

Music | By Akala Music, Musician | 19 May 2013
PHOTO: © Baynham Goredema

Living in London, I suppose my view of hip hop is skewed differently. The way hip hop was born in the Bronx is a mix of a very long tradition of Latino and African American poetry by the last poets and people like that. But then honestly we have all heard African apart from anyone else coming from Caribbean it’s like this blend of two different African cultures.

In the UK it’s similar in that we have a heavy Jamaican presence in my life long before really, hip hop took over, I mean from the day I was born and we already had in the UK Jamaican rappers if you like in the charts before any American hip hop record was in the chart. So, it’s Mighty Culture who was number one in Britain in 1985, rest in peace, he died recently. But he was in the charts in 1985, so, we wouldn’t class that’s hip hop necessarily because it was Jamaican accent or British accent but it’s rhyming, its sampling its looping its many of the same elements that went over to your mixed with what was goin on there, they also came to England of their own genesis if that makes sense.

But first hip hop record I heard I was maybe 5 or 6. My step dad and my real dad were both DJs and again it was already mixed because they were Caribbean sound system DJs but they were also playing this American hip hop massively and there was this dancehall/hip hop constant trade off, what that was the record I mean, The Fear of a Black Man album actually, and I had learned the words to the entire album when I was maybe, literally 6 or 7 because it got played so much and again just like that for me it’s been my life ever since or maybe even before.

In a sense I think that was most naturally and what I mean by that it’s like African American culture particularly has had many different manifestations but there has always been a consistent energy if you like, so what we've seen in jazz will be able to free style or all of that kind of essentially was what African Americans were bringing with them. We say in Caribbean but we saw in Brazil so it’s almost as if it’s just 360 genres, like the culture has gone in many different journeys, its evolved in many different ways via many different technologies, but essentially when we look at what were doing in West Africa or when we look at those kind of poetic traditions when we look at Europe priests you know, of the day and still in Brazil now have to memorise thousands of poems, literally memorising it’s like, so this kind of like rhythmic oral poetry it’s been very consistent, a very present thing in Africa, in all culture in African Caribbean culture particularly.

I think it’s almost natural that and hopefully in the 21st century that we all start to see the necessary dialogues that New York had for a period of time that L.A had for a period of time, its popping up elsewhere in the world and hopefully particularly in Africa we can see that all over. I won’t say Africa as if I don’t know that there are millions of countries in Africa. I know that can often help with market, I mean it in the sense that I don’t think you can sell America back to America better than America already does it. Britain tried that for a very long time, it didn’t work and finally they started to get a better voice it’s because it’s not an American voice any more. If you rapped in American accent now in England people will just look at you and say, have you lost your mind. 15 years ago that was the norm, everybody did it and so I fell like all over the content I’ve travelled where at that stage where that dialogue has been happening but what Zimbabwe can bring for the table in my own opinion what Africa generally can bring to the table is an African, you can’t be an American and you shouldn’t be an American. You know African Americans have particular experience and here it’s like, the musicians from here have done so well. We’re talking about the this the other day you know I’ve been with people that, Hugh Masekela and the Miriam Makebas, the people that haven’t even taken America or Britain. You know you've got something that’s’ so unique and so beautiful and so different and that’s what you should add into hip hop. It’s your experience and you flavour.