African Hip-Hop: Re-Creating America?

"Hold Me Back" Video (Nigeria Version)
"Hold Me Back" Video (Nigeria Version)

Think Africa is the answer to everything wrong with the culture surrounding hip-hop in the United States? Think again, says Afua Hirsch.


She writes in a piece for the United Kingdom's Guardian newspaper that African artists have the capacity to beat Americans at their own game. And depending on your perspective, that might not be a good thing:

These days if you want to get away from US hip-hop's big bling, Moët overflow and embrace of all things ghetto, Africa is not the place to go. The continent's burgeoning music industry is churning out images of champagne bucket-laden yachts, fair-skinned girls in bikinis and the entire range of mixed messages that has made black American music so notorious.

The capacity of Africans to beat Americans at their own game has not escaped the attention of US hip-hop's megastars. Rick Ross, the prison officer turned rap phenomenon, recently filmed a video for his "Hold me back" single in Lagos. Realising that the ghettos of New Orleans — shocking as they are — seem pretty sterile compared with the likes of Makoko in Lagos, he put out six minutes of heaving crowds, filthy streets, and powerful poverty to accompany his record about, on one interpretation, triumph over adversity.

Nigerians were not impressed. "I hated the song because of the way he portrayed Nigeria as a hungry nation, a nation of war," said Soso Soberekon, a Nigerian producer. "I didn't like the fact that he had the licence to shoot in Nigeria. Right now we are trying to repair the image of Nigeria and someone else is passing the wrong message out."

Twitter was a-flutter with similar messages, reflecting the battle over who dictates the image of the new Africa.


Read more at the Guardian.

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