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by Khadija Shariff

The explosion may not be quite so audible from out here, but you cannot mistake the bombs dropping on African soil for anything else but powerful words of struggle, resistance and perseverance. Hip hop is blowing up on the continent, its hard hits are not leaving any territory unaffected, but unlike the ones dropping on the Iraqis, these bombs do have bring some hope of liberation and freedom from the chokeholds of colonization, imperialism and oppression of every sort that has depriving true life out of africans for the past 400 years.

From Senegal to Tanzania, Somalia to South Africa, even on the miniscule little islands that surround the continent on all sides, the sounds of beats, chants and inspirational lyrics can be heard. Now many of you reading this article, from this side of the world, have, for the past decade or two, been over fed with statistics of african poverty, hunger, famines, deaths from every type of scary sounding disease you can imagine. And so the dark continent becomes a place of deep sorrow, pain and hopelessness. Yet what they have not been feeding you is the nutritious information of growth and perseverance, of strength and creativity, that defies all bounderies and stereotypes that can be given to the so called dark continent. On the silent tip, young africans been grabbing on to mikes, pens, beats, and rhythms, and creating a life out of the words that come out their mouth. As in the Genesis, where the word became life, these modern day prophets are reliving that phenomenon every day. As lovers of conscious hip hop here in the states cry out to Hip hop, write songs of loss and pain for the hip hop that has left their shores, they realize not that it has only gone to where it would be nurtured, loved and given its due credit, in the bosom of the motherland, hip hop is chilling, loving every word, sound and power that it is receiving. Dancing to the congolese drums, the maasai chants, the Khoi San clicks, the Somali wails, the Zulu war cries, it had to go back to its source, because its roots were calling for it to come back.

Hip Hop has stepped on to the globalizing scene to bring medicine to the sickness that’s spread itself throughout the world calling itself by many names, but best known eurocentric white supremacy. Its technology, its culture, its spirituality, its economics, is all driven by the wrong gas, the gas of money and greed. In order to reinstall the balance and harmony that is required of equality, and freedom, hip hop has stepped on the scene to cause some roccous. And so inevitably, the freedom chant comes in the form of break beats and freeflows whether spoken in Swahili, Portugese creole, Somali, Korean or Meuri( New Zealan, aboriginal). I see this phenomenon as nothing more than the definite capacity of unification in the process of liberation.

What makes the hip hop in Africa, different from the hip hop in the United States, where its become a mockery as artists continue to be the puppets controlled by the Massa, rather than becoming responsible artists with a tool for social change. My first assumption when I found out about how big hip hop in Africa was to say, oh its just gonna be a bunch of young african kids trying to become americanized and continuing to glorify the gangsta rap, mysoginist, self hate inflicting mentality of the MTV manufactured rap style. Although that may be an issue, it is actually more minute in the larger scheme of things. Many african youth are so hard core, that even the concious hip hop heads, the likes of Dead Prez, Talib and Chuck D, do not satisfy their revolutionary tastes. These youth are looking to take this hip hop thing to another level. A talk with a brother from Tanzania, who works with a hip hop group in his community development project, puts me on to some of the reasons why this phenomenon is so. First thing he explains is the oral history of precolonial africa, and how that space was taken from them as african cultures and traditions were slowly ripped from underneath african foundations. In its place, the written tradition was used, and in that, eurocentric traditions were implemented. This stunted the ability for africans to grow, express their concerns and mobilize their communities. Hip hop came into the scene and was reminiscent of that ancient oral tradition, and it fit perfectly within the fabric of african society. ( Continue on with Yunus’s words about everyone being blessed with the gift of singing, no special talent needed, its part of the work and life of every individual in the communuty, and also, it’s a space that africans will not take lightly, so instead of rap about nothing, they use the space to rap about everything they ve been unable to express for some many years)

Traditions of art, music and creative expression tied and woven closely within the fabric of social and political aspects of the community allow africa to be so receptive to hip hop. This is also the reason why it is being used as a social justice tool. It is not being used as a medium to blow up egos and personalities that exaggerate real life, and create delusions about the social and political realities of the majority of people. So hip hop in africa is not about bling bling, or having fancy houses and cars, or dressing up and being cute. Its not about putting on a big show or pointing out someone with a gift or a special talent, singing, dancing, and other forms of creative expression are things that all of the community is blessed with.

To be continued...



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