Dusted Reviews

V/A - Africa Raps

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: V/A

Album: Africa Raps

Label: Trikont

Review date: Nov. 27, 2002

Identifying Characteristics of Political Hip-Hop

You’ve heard of this uppercase “P” “Political” hip-hop. Perhaps you’ve desired to partake of it. But how to seek it out in its natural habitat?

The following clip-‘n’-save guide will list characteristics for which to seek should you decide to draw out and embrace this incendiary, cooption-resistant strain of digital beat science and vernacular poetics.

1. SEEK POLITICAL HIP-HOP OUTSIDE AMERICA. Americans rap about glittering tchotchkes, emotionless sex and random violence. Don’t hate us ’cause we’re afloat in a thick soup of nihilism. We simply rap about what we know, and we’ve come to believe we don’t know shit about politics, that they’re infinitely complex and confusing and we’re best shutting the fuck up about them. That may be so, but politics in Africa are considerably more complicated, and that doesn’t keep the modern day griots from talking about them. Most non-yank hip-hop leans heavily into politics, and there’s no better place to look for dangerous politics than Africa.

2. POLITICAL HIP-HOP DOES, INDEED, BEAR A CHARACTERISTIC “SOUND.” Listen for ponderous, rumbling bass and muddy, thumping beats. The most archetypal political hip-hop sounds as if it’s emitting at high volume from some distant body of water. Think punctuation over artistry. Think “ominous.”

3. CHECK THE MICROPHONE STYLE. Even the greatest, most threatening American battle raps (see 2Pac’s “Hit ‘Em Up” or Ice Cube’s “No Vaseline”), so long as they’re personal in nature, maintain a certain smug aloofness. As the MC attacks his mark, he must also maintain his own persona. The Political mic doctor has no such self-conscious subtext to keep up. He channels all his energy into sounding pissed off, saving none for self-glorification. The personal rapper is indestructible. The Political rapper will self-destruct for the Cause.

4. GET AFRICA RAPS. This compilation, grafted from an enviable collection of underground hip-hop cassettes purchased in dingy canteens in Senegal, Mali and the Gambia, is Political hip-hop at its most vital and virulent. Its slow-pumping DIY grooves buoy the passion, never upstaging the rappers. And it’s gravy, because the rappers could hold their own a cappella, driven forth by the sort of class warrior rage a pup from the suburbs such as Chuck D had to find in books. These MCs never needed to seek out politics, as their politics come to them on many different levels, on a daily basis. Although they rap in French – a language that generally sounds as if it were designed to train its speakers for truly amazing cunnilingus or fellatio – you can hear the spittle hitting the mic and the children of the powers that be getting high off the passion. Look at it this way: I speak almost no French, and I just know that every single one of these raps is Political, and I get at least a vague notion of what sort of politics these are. That’s communication.

American hip-hop could use some of the cues coming from the land of the red, black and green. It ain’t like music’s most confrontational genus is limited to flaunting income, insulting upstarts and belittling women. America’s own ghetto sociology could use this level of journalistic dedication.

By Emerson Dameron

Read More

View all articles by Emerson Dameron

Find out more about Trikont

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.