The Rough Guide To African Rap

The Rough Guide to African Rap (RGNET1126CD), released this week, displays the kind of grooves that are rocking twenty-first
century urban Africa and the Diaspora. In Africa, wordplay has always been a
great source of entertainment and social commentary, and rappers have responded
to social and political issues by addressing such subjects as poverty, AIDS,
famine, corruption and globalization at a time when the changing economic,
political and media climate across Africa has resulted in less censorship and
more freedom to be critical of people in power. Not all these tracks are
strictly hip-hop but the rap element is ever-present. Some of the tracks are by
world-renowned stars, while others have never been heard in the West. Rappers
move easily across cultural divides; their community is a more global one and
all these artists can hold their own whether outside Africa or within.Best known as the drummer who created the Afro-beat rhythms for Fela Kuti’s
band, Tony Allen is a legendary name when it comes to Africa and beats. In
‘Right Here In Front Of You’ he creates a new mix between Afro-beat and London
hip-hop (Afro-hip) with Unsung Heroes and Ty. Starting out in the townships of
South Africa, Prophets Of Da City scored some of the earliest international
acclaim. They released their first album in 1990, and in 1993 led the Rapping
For Democracy voter registration tour and played at the inaugural celebration of
President Mandela. Progressive and controversial, they have been censored more
than once by South African Broadcasting. Hailing from Cameroon, Manu Dibango is
one of few musicians who will automatically hit the target with whatever missile
he is aiming to launch. ‘Senga Abele’ is taken from the album Polysonik, which
was recorded in London in the early 1990s by producer Simon Booth, and features
his guest MC Mell’O’ on the microphone. Probably the originals, the role models,
the godfathers, of African Rap, Positive Black Soul emerged from Dakar, the
capital of Senegal, rapping in Wolof, their main language. They released their
first cassette in 1992, and in 1994 made a pioneering tour of Europe. ‘Boul Fale’
meaning ‘Don’t Worry’ accused national authorities of corruption and was their
first big hit.

During the 1990s in Ghana, a new musical fusion called ‘hip-life’ evolved. The
‘hip’ was taken from ‘hip-hop’ and the life from ‘highlife’, the popular dance
music of the 1950s that became one of Ghana’s most enduring exports. Ghana’s
hip-life king, Reggie Rockstone, was born in Britain, brought up in Ghana and
studied in the USA. Rapping in Twi, the language of the Ashanti, and Pidgin
English, his music has taken him to superstar status.

In 1995 three childhood
friends from the Malian capital, Bamako, created Tata Pound. Historically, Tata
was the name given to the wall that protected the town of Sikasso, in the south
of Mali, against invaders from Africa or Europe. Tata Pound take inspiration
from the street and from scientific and historical texts.

X Plastaz are one of the hottest musical acts in Tanzania, and ‘Msimu Kwa Msimu’
is taken from their first international release, due out in early 2004. Hard
Blasters were among the first wave of rap in Tanzania, and ‘Blast Nuff’ is a
good example of how Tanzanian rap started out. A musical collective from
Mozambique, Mabulu sing and rap in a mixture of Shangana, Portuguese and
English, educating as well as entertaining local people. ‘Ni Wakati’ is the
title track off the Kenyan rap trio Kalamashaka’s first album, in which
hypocrites, corrupt offices and unfaithful clergymen are all targets of their
criticism. This track has an opening clip of a speech by Malcolm X.

Angolan Das Primeiro released ‘Liberdade’ as his first single in 2002, which
displays typically political lyrics. Pee Froiss have a big following in Dakar,
thanks to their engaging rap techniques and lyrics, which criticize, denounce
and moralize in the best traditions of neo-griots. Trybe are a versatile
multi-ethnic band from South Africa, who sing, rap and rhyme in various local
African languages including Shangaan, Shona, Sotho, Xhosa and Zulu. ‘Na N’Ko’
means ‘So What’ and is taken from Congolese K-Melia’s first album, before its
European release.

Buy The Rough Guide to African Rap.