Hiphop is such a big genre, one couldn’t even fully explain the size of it in one article. It has an extensive character which stems partly from it’s diverse cultural influences, it was able to take the character of the people who wore it.
People didn’t become hiphop, rather it became them. So to explain hiphop is to explain the lifestyles and vast traditions of all the people who practice it.
Google the term “hiphop” and you will be treated to a slew of search results. The resources you find on the top sites are almost academic, thanks to black historians and music enthusiasts. Wikipedia does a great job too, it breaks the huge genre down into sub genres and takes time to explain each bit down to it’s most minute detail.
For example, the sub genre of gangsta rap is also subdivided into sub-sub genres like Chicano rap, dirty rap, mafioso rap and G funk, each of these have their own pages and an extensive list of quality references.
Each of the three sub-sub genres are also divided and subdivided down the ladder of influence. But I feel wronged, or should I say cheated.
I believe that some very important contributing cultures in the hip hop story have been overlooked, sidelined if you like. hiphop from Africa is underappreciated.
One phrase you will not find in any of the top sites is “African hip hop” or any thing related. I think we deserve more attention.
If not for anything but just for the fact that tools native to the dark continent were used to create this sound we all love.
Apart from Jazz and Blues, African instruments like the Kongo drum, cymbal and the tambourine have been major influencers of the hip hop sound.
So is African hiphop a legitimate subgenre of or just a coinage, is it just a term we use when we try to convince ourselves that we are doing something important?
We writers have done a great job of keeping the intellectuals fed with valuable material about this musical culture called hiphop. We have been the very custodians that KRS1 always talked about, we are the unsung grand masters who will probably never have a record.
But I’ve identified a major flaw in the way the hiphop narrative is written, the culture is made to look like it doesn’t value its African roots. If Hiphop is truly a black culture, then why is it so hard for the observers to accept it when it manifests itself in it’s African forms.
Here is one reason why. The term “Black” is expansive, but it has been used too often to describe African Americans. So there is black, and there is African; it somehow feels like being African is to be a step below being “black”.
There is a huge prejudice against acts from Africa, you can sell and break records, all the records on the continent if you like but you will not get the recognition you deserve from the powers that be. Rather you’ll have a subsidiary label offering you quack and opportunistic deals that you can do without frankly.
They is no value, ask Sinzu how his collaboration with Taylor gang entertainment panned out.
This is the same reason why the black entertainment television network (BET) finds it very difficult to recognize recording artistes from Africa. We’re African not black, But it shouldn’t be so. Foreign writers create unbelievable tags for what we do partly because they don’t know us and out art.
Going by core definition and practice, Dagrin is as hiphop as any American rapper so you can understand why I was disturbed when I saw an article on Hiphopdx in 2010 calling Dagrin “some kind of creole musician” with potential. They spelt wrongly on the site as Dargin.
These are efforts that have been made to reduce our form of hip hop. There is always a problem when foreigners write out our stories for us; miscalculations, misappropriations and misrepresentations.
For example, A certain British explorer named Mungo park, came to Nigeria from his country and “discovered” the Niger river, as though the natives living and fishing there didn’t know the river was a river.
There is a general disrespect for rap from Africa, this is partly because of the gross ignorance of the so called “black community”. Lets not forget the popular American DJ cum OAP, J Nicks, who in his infinite wisdom said “Nigerians can’t speak english last year, he actually thinks so.
These people still think of Africans as unclad, hungry, barefooted, arrow-shooting witch doctors reminiscent of Shaka Zulu. Can’t even blame them, this is what they see on TV when when news reporters talk about us.
So what do we do about this, we need to write our own narrative. We need to become the masters of our own hiphop, create our own standards and begin to compare ourselves against ourselves. Thank God we have a lot of good rappers too.
Sarkodie is one of the greatest rappers that will ever exist, his sound has penetrated African hearts. You don’t have to understand or speak whatever language he raps in, you just gotta love the guy for how he makes it look so easy. This is as original as hiphop can get, and its ours.
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