Hip-Hop At 50: Where Does Africa Stand In All Of This?

Fifty years have passed since the first time Hip-hop came to fruition and it's been half a century of greatness, half a century of cultural impact, and half a century of stars.

Hip-Hop At 50 Where Does Africa Stand In All Of This
Hip-Hop At 50

Hip-Hop at 50 is a celebration! “New York, Drop Dead” was a prevailing saying that once rode the borough of New York City in the early – late 1970s. The infamous line was coined in reference to the heavy substance abuse that once plagued the Bronx, New York. 

In those days, Heroine walked on all fours, depleting a variant of depression, nonchalance, poverty, and unemployment into the nitty gritty of the lives of young black people who lived in the Bronx. However, there was a light at this tunnel’s brink.

As a coping mechanism for the gruelling despondency, young people sought solace in nightlife activities and soirees. Very often, these gatherings featured loud music, and It was in one of these sorts of gatherings that Hip-hop was born—exactly on the 11th of August 1973. 

At a back-to-school-themed party, a disc jockey named Kool Herc had improvised during his set. Herc ingeniously mixed beat loops over dual turntables, and the by-product of his era-defining moment gave birth to what would be the generic term known today as hip-hop.

Fifty years have passed since the first time Hip-hop came to fruition and it’s been half a century of greatness, half a century of cultural impact, and half a century of stars.

Recently, progenitors and lovers of Hip-hop all over the world came in unison to celebrate its fiftieth anniversary- with many paying homage online through lengthy votes of thanks essays while others opted for audiovisual tributes.

Over the years, Hip-hop has grown from a means of vivid expressions about topics such as racism, politics, and the daily struggles of the average black man in a capitalist-driven society, into a global phenomenon that has informed the cultural zeitgeist of many societies, including Africa.

History of African Hip-hop

 In Africa, Rap music found popularity during the early 1980s due to the relatable African-American thematic expressions. One of the earliest African nations to adopt Hip-hop into its culture was the West African country, Senegal. 

The primordial practices of griot expressions in Senegal seemingly made Hip-Hop a familiar terrain for artists in the West African nation as the former was an oral tradition that involved detailed storytelling (something Hip-hop had in affiliation). Rappers in the country adopted the Western style of music whilst fusing indigenous lingua which was most times propelled toward patriotic activism.

Back then, the Hip hop scene in Senegal was fierce, unadulterated, and satirical. It involved a lot of underground rapping which was most times characterized by youthful outbursts targeted at the ineptness of the Senegalese Government, and as a result, it often got a lot of backlash (Similar to America’s Hip-Hop).

The mid-eighties/ early nineties would navigate Hiphop to the shores of other West African nations such as Nigeria, and Ghana. 

In Nigeria, Hip-hop was multilingual with pioneers like Ron Ekundayo, Stevano UGo, Eedris Abdulkareem, Remedies, Baba Dee, Lexy Mella, and The Trybesmen combining Nigerian pidgin, with premier English over quintessential hip-hop instrumentals such as the type made by the founding fathers of Hip-Hop. 

The rise of a new millennium brought about an influx of new rappers flooding the scene with their cut-throat storytelling, entertaining mannerisms, and creative visual adaptations. Nigerian Artists like Modenine, Ruggedman, Freestyle, Eldee tha don, Gino, 2shotz, Mr. Raw, M.I Abaga, and a list too many to mention in this article contributed immensely to the popularity of Hip-Hop In Nigeria. 

In Ghana, Hip-hop found new meaning. It was called GH Hip Hop or Ghana Hip Hop by certain Ghanaian rappers who fused local languages such as Ga, Ewe, and Twi into the familiar hip hop sonics. Rappers like Ball J and Jayso led the pack. 

A little while later, Hip-Life was formed. The sub-genre was a mixture of American Hip-hop music and Ghanaian highlife sound.  Reggie Rockstone was Life’s most notable pioneer. Artists like VIP, Nananom, and Talking Drums helped take the sound to considerable heights.

Over time, other African nations like South Africa, Angola, Tanzania, Namibia, and Kenya began to accept and utilize Hip-Hop into their sonic culture upon seeing the effect Hip-hop had amongst their counterparts in the West. 

Commercial Success

In Africa, during the late nineties and early 2000s, Hip hop music had considerable appeal due to the popularization and appropriation of Western musical styles. Nigeria most especially enjoyed a cult following of Hardcore rap aficionados, with talents such as Modenine and Ruggedman championing the nation’s interest in the genre. However, in terms of mainstream success, Hip-hop was no match for the heavy outage of R&b and Pop music. 

Most of the music that got airplay attention In the country were usually those with “pop appeal” as the audience seemed to relate with its theme in comparison to Hiphop music.

Even when rappers managed to score hits, it was usually tethered with pop artists and jingles (with rare occasions such as Modenine’s ‘Cry’ and Gino’s ‘No Be God’).  

Despite later efforts by a new and exciting crop of African rappers like M.I Abaga ( Nigeria), Stanley Enow (Cameroon), Nasty C (South Africa), and Sarkodie (Ghana) Hip Hop still couldn’t inspire jaunty response from listeners in Africa in terms of record sales and loyal patronage. Major labels in the continent often shied away from investing in the genre of the phobia of lack of ROI.  

As a result, the genre wandered for survival, with most of its creators either quitting due to lack of dividends or morphing into other genres and expenditures to avoid inevitable annihilation.

With the Apex of Afrobeats, African hip-hop further dwindles in its appeal and appreciation. Although there are a few beacons of culture who occasionally try to take charge and relinquish the public of its myopic approach towards the musical style, their valiantness is often short-lived as sooner or later, these artists make turns, switching introspective rap lyrics for whatever sound is in vogue.  

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