24th Apr2017

All Hail Kendrick

by admin

DAMN

Born and raised in Compton, California, Kendrick Lamar has made more than just a mark in the rap music scene. His is a long-lasting legacy. After releasing his debut studio album Section 80, his music started gaining more exposure, giving him a broader fan base worldwide. I can best describe his music as thought provoking and more poetic, compared to the other clichéd ‘girls and money’ rappers. To hail him King, is another debate every rap fan has an opinion on. My definition for King is simple; it consists of the acronym ‘RAP’ which Rhythm and Poetry.

Poetry is art, a platform of expression, a voice for the voiceless, an artist’s view of the socio-economic issues, politics and issues influencing the self. Listening to Kendrick’s music, you realise that his music touches on those very basic elements of poetry. In this era we live in, not many artists can be dubbed as influential and motivational when a lot of them talk about having sex with different girls and how much money they spend in night clubs; repeating the same thing over and over again. It seems like rhyming and coming up with a cool hook qualifies you to be a rapper without deeper consideration about your lyrics, the meaning behind your lyrics, the message conveyed and the influence it has on the audience. In my opinion, only a select few can bring realism into their craft. From a rap fan’s perspective, Kendrick Lamar achieves that realism; that makes Kendrick stand alone, and without much competition to deal with. This is not to say he is either a god or some deity of rap. However, with no one matching his calibre, he can be dubbed the king of rap.

One might look at it from a different perspective. We cannot deny that over the years, the hip hop industry has evolved and become broader; we are no longer stuck on that old boom bap sound. We are now in what one can call this new movement the ‘trap era’. We have seen artists fuse the hip hop sound with other music genres, creating new unique sounds coming from the likes of Future, Lil Yachty, Lil Uzi Vert to name a few. Most importantly, and the reception from the audience to this new sound has been positive. For someone to stay with that poetic element in his music, and still be able to reach the people, that’s something else.

Looking at how Kendrick uses poetic devices in his music, and for you to get the message you first have to decode or analyse his verses, that has made people more active and participatory instead of just listening to the same thing from different people with no need to apply your mind. With some controversy over his lyrics now and then, people don’t just listen to his music to lip sync, but to understand the message and motive of the song. We’ve seen his music touch on trending issues like racism, politics, feminism and self-love, and the responses that have followed from his audience. That is what an artist is supposed to do: keep the people talking and engaging in societal issues. All hail King Kendrick.

24th Apr2017

Fashionable Diversity

by admin

All-Black

2017 has been a significant year for diversity in the fashion industry. In February, we had Marc Jacobs debut a collection that was explicitly inspired by hip-hop http://observer.com/2017/02/this-season-marc-jacobs-was-inspired-by-the-history-of-hip-hop/). Jacobs explained that his collection was inspired by the four-part documentary Hip-Hop Evolution which covers the hip-hop industry from the 70s to the 90s and features luminaries like Grandmaster Flash. In his show notes, Jacobs explains that, the “collection is my representation of the well-studied dressing up of casual sportswear. It is an acknowledgement and gesture of my respect for the polish and consideration applied to fashion from a generation that will forever be the foundation of youth culture street style”.

Gucci has seemingly followed in Jacobs’ lead through their pre-fall campaign that features an all-black model cast. The campaign is a tribute to Northern Soul which is different to the sci-fi vibe of the house’s Autumn/Winter 2017 show. The images were inspired by last year’s Made You Look exhibition at the Photographer’s Gallery. The exhibition was highly influential, exploring black masculinity and Dandyism (a counterculture that has also inspired the visuals in Solange Knowles’ Losing You music video). The campaign was further inspired by Malick Sidibe, the iconic 1960s photographer renowned for his black and white studio portraits, and Northern Soul. Northern Soul was a 1960s movement inspired by black American soul music that made clubs like the Wigan Casino famous. The campaign features both dancers and models, showing the splits and backdrops associated with the subculture’s dance style.

Titled ‘Soul Scene’, the Glen Luchford-shot campaign features only people of colour. This is significant considering that the industry has increasingly come under fire for the lack of diversity on runways and advertising campaigns. Runways, particularly, have been criticised for the lack of diverse castings. The most recent incident revolved around the agent James Scully, who took to Instagram to criticise the whitewashed Parisian catwalks and the mistreatment of models at a Balenciaga casting.

Although these are only two campaigns, they demonstrate that fashion is moving in the right direction. Coupled with the historic appointment of Edward Enninful as the new editor of British Vogue, the fashion industry is beginning to embrace diversity. Although some may say that these are just examples of how the fashion industry is embracing tokenism, I would like to argue that this is not the case. We are currently witnessing a black man take the helm at one of the industry’s most influential publications. As written in my previous article, Enninful is serious about increasing diversity within the industry. People like Enninful understand that the diversity-problem is serious as diverse representations are what will make the fashion industry’s influence more sustainable. I believe this we have not seen the last of these campaigns celebrating diversity.

Gucci Campaign

10th Apr2017

#QueerRap

by admin

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In 2012, singer-songwriter, rapper and record producer Frank Ocean made headlines when he confessed that he had fallen in love with a man at the age of 19, in an open letter posted to Tumblr. He drew even more attention when people assumed that some of the songs on his Channel Orange album were addressed to a man. In the post, Ocean wrote:” 4 summers ago, I met somebody. I was 19 years old. He was too. We spent that summer, and the summer after, together. Everyday almost. And on the days we were together, time would glide. Most of the day I’d see him, and his smile. I’d hear his conversation and his silence. Until it was time to sleep. Sleep I would often share with him. By the time I realised I was in love, it was malignant. It was hopeless. There was no escaping, no negotiating the feeling. No choice. It was my first love. It changed my life.” For the most part, the artist has left his sexuality ambiguous, choosing not to label himself as being either gay, bisexual, pansexual, or really any of the labels that people are expected to adopt and wear either as a scarlet A, or a badge of pride (which is highly unlikely). It is my firm belief that people who identify with whatever sexual orientation or gender identity they do, are only expected to do so because cisgender, heterosexual and patriarchal society needs a name to put to all of this identity in order to other it. It is a lot easier to hate something you choose to not understand if, at the very least, you have something to call it.

The poignancy and honesty of Ocean’s (real name Christopher Breaux) post drew numerous declarations of support. A number of black, male rappers took to social media to praise his courage, among them 50 Cent and Tyler, the Creator. This is particularly noteworthy because homosexuality (or really any sexuality that is not macho heterosexuality) is not normally met with kindness and understanding. Rap as a genre has been characterised by homophobic and misogynistic lyrics. Often times it is not easy to separate the misogyny and homophobia – nor is it necessary to. At times it seems as though homophobia occurs because of a perceived proximity to femininity – an individual who identifies as male being seen as mimicking a woman simply for loving a man. This might be rooted in how little our society has thought of women, and the understanding that anything that resembles femininity is undeserving of any respect. It might be necessary to point out that my earlier thought does not seem to account for women who might love other women in a romantic way. Still, women who identify as lesbian frequently fall victim to all manner of abuse, physical and sexual. The current scourge of “corrective rape” proves just how much men might assume ownership and control over women’s bodies.

This then begs the question; (how) is it possible to reconcile the public displays of support – if it can be called that – shown to Frank Ocean after his confession, with the rampant homophobic and misogynistic culture that hip-hop music festers and thrives in? More often than not, this is a question that goes unanswered. The question of how can you claim to love women, respect someone’s sexuality and appreciate the lives and lived experiences of black people, when you effectively disregard their humanity and differences?

A noteworthy response to the homophobia and abuse within not only hip-hop music, but society as a whole, is the personified status quo disruption known as S’bonakaliso Nene, known as Gyre. Gyre is a queer rapper, who also happens to be a student at Wits University. Gyre is noteworthy because he embraces his being queer, thriving in a genre of music that can be considered highly abusive to his lived experiences. In a recent interview on the SABC 1 youth show, Expressions, Gyre pointed out that he saw the queer community as being an evolutionary leap, “like the mutants on X-men. We’re like those people.” He believed that being a queer individual is something to embrace, and being a rapper who is unabashedly queer contributes to his mandate of being disruptive in spaces that have grown far too comfortable in their bigotry and abuse. On the TV show, Gyre gave a live performance of his most recent song, called Premium Bottom, wearing the most beautiful pair of tight jeans I have ever seen, and a headwrap. In his song, which has been dubbed a #BottomsAnthem, Gyre effectively addresses not only homophobia and exclusion, but even bottom shaming within the gay community. Gyre serves, and exists as a grand antithesis to the rejection that the queer community faces at the hands of society by making a bold reclamation of his and the identities of a proud community.

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10th Apr2017

Seeing the Remy Ma/Nicki Minaj Feud through a Feminist Gaze

by admin

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On February 26 Remy Ma released the diss track, Sh-Ether,  which was targeted at Nicki Minaj. The seven minute song is based on the rhythm of  Ether, Nas’s diss track about Jay-Z . With the release of Sh-Ether, Remy officially announced the beef between herself and Nicki Minaj. Long before Remy and Nicki positioned themselves as each other’s rivals, there was  Lil Kim vs Foxy Brown, Queen Latifah vs Foxy Brown and Trina vs Khia. Fortunately for us, these battles existed before the days of Instagram and Twitter. When a beef has reminents of internalised misogyny, slut shaming, and body shaming, someone has to say something. This is particularly the case given that the participants have a combined Instagram following of 81.1 million .

The first shot Remy threw at Nicki (in Sh-Ether) was about her alleged plastic surgeries and her body. In my opinion, this was Remy Ma’s first wrong move. Not only is body shaming simply not cool; it also perpetuates the idea that women should only be valued based on their physical appearance. Remy then slut shames Nicki by listing all the men Nicki had allegedly slept with, who include Lil Wayne, Gucci Mane and Trey Songz. This is a weak attempt at devaluing Nicki and promotes stigma against women who do not conform to normative ideas around female sexual behaviour. Nicki is no saint either; she also threw in lines regarding Remy’s body and alleged plastic surgery in No Frauds, her response to Sh-Ether which features Lil Wayne and Drake . No Frauds is just as problematic with Nicki referring to Remy as “Sheneneh” (a character from the 90s sitcom Martin). This term has been used as a slur to ridicule dark-skinned women in the African American community.

Competition is healthy and women certainly do not have to all get along under the name of feminism. My question is when two black females with so much influence involve themselves in such a vicious battle; should it then be viewed as any other beef? Nicki Minaj and Remy Ma have not positioned themselves as either role models for black women or the ambassadors of black feminism. However, that does not mean their work and actions are exempt from feminist critique.

20th Mar2017

Chicken or Beef: Nicki and Remy

by admin

Does my womanhood take away my right not to like you?

Remy Ma Nicki Minaj

Following the flurry of commentary around this beef and how Remy was wrong for ‘slut shaming’ Nicki Minaj and vice versa, I am left with one question: Does the fact that I am a feminist strip me of my right not to like you because you are also a black woman? Yes, we are all women and yes, we need to uplift each other and reconstruct the patriarchy thrusted upon us. However, some things should be taken at face value. Nicki and Remy, have got nothing to do with me and my struggles as a black woman.

Remy’s personal and professional views on Nicki Minaj have nothing to do with women in general. The idea that all feminists, or all women for that matter, ought to get along is one that I find highly ironic considering that all of us know people, men and women, we don’t like. We might share the same values but if I don’t like your behaviour and I feel like you need to get checked, why not? This is hip hop; tracks and whatever is said on them ought to be viewed in that context. The patriarchy that we are trying to prevent is the patriarchy that you are perpetuating by not allowing these women to openly challenge, and destroy their direct line of competition. The release of ShEther, is a play on one of the most famous beefs in hip hop- between the New York giants, Nas and Jay-Z who later settled their difference after many fights, war of words, and the release of Ether by Nas. It is with this in mind, I feel people should listen to Nicki and Remy, the battle between two New York giants, going at it. In my opinion, their gender has no bearing in their lyricism. It is fun and it is what hip hop is all about.

I know some might be thinking that if this is a pure hip hop battle, why post it on social media, and why the release of intimate information by both parties.  Well in response to that I say that all is fair in Love and Hip Hop. It is a battle and it is not going to be pretty, something must get beaten, besides their make-up. Dirt was dug and mud was slung from both sides, some more than others, but that is the nature of the game. Only the best will survive: it is eat or be eaten, killed or be Nicki’d. For every punch that was thrown in ShEther, there was a comeback in No Frauds. Where Remy referred to Nicki’s surgery, Nicki did the same. When Remy came for Nicki’s brother, Nicki came for Remy’s children. It was blow for blow, grimy and ruthless on both sides and this brings me to my point; Remy does not like Nicki, Nicki doesn’t care, and the audience is entertained.

This is all that there is to it. To assume that empowering females in all spaces relinquishes my right not to like you is not only patriarchal but it’s a bit naive. As feminists, we are not in the position to judge every situation based on gender under the assumption that all females who believe in a free, equal and non-sexist world need to love and support each other at all times. It is in cases like these where I think that we should truly consider what feminism means not only as a movement but for all women; Black, White, Asian, Indian, Mexican, Latin, and all other shades of womanhood. If these two rappers weren’t female, would there be so much fuss about what was said and how they said it, and would we even be discussing how objectified and disrespected the females in their lives must be feeling. Equality and justice are not the same things and as feminists we need to ask ourselves as to whether we are fighting for equality or Justice? These are all important questions that we need to address however, in a hip hop battle, I find it more helpful to ask: Who won? Who came out on top? In this case, who was the better rapper?

 

13th Mar2017

Why Every Young Kid in South Africa Needs to Listen to Okmalumkoolkat’s ‘Mlazi Milano’

by admin

Okmalumkoolkat

Okmalumkoolkat is one of South Africa’s talented artists who is not only a rapper but is also a dancer, fashion influencer and all round creative genius. One look at his Braam-kid-ville aesthetic will give you a sense of what I mean. There is a futuristic element about him and that is present within his sound that has influenced a lot of South African hip-hop artists. Mlazi Milano is a 17-track album featuring the likes of award winning Ricky rick and member of Boyz N Bucks; Mashayabuqe Ka Mamba; Mr. Digital Maskandi; the highly acclaimed the Brother Moves On; as well as young and upcoming musos like Shomadjozi, Reba Red and Amadando . The reason why every young kid needs to listen to this album is because it is pro-South African, it both celebrates and aims to promote our multilingual, diverse and culturally rich nature in a manner that speaks to the youth. The album addresses issues like isintu- the African way of doing things like praising the gods or serving a higher being- which lies beyond the confines of the western conceptualization of religion. In this album Okmalumkoolkat addresses the trend of South African youth looking down upon their cultures, religion and traditions. He smoothly does this by rapping mainly in Isizulu as well as collaborating with Mashayabuqe who has successfully merged maskandi music with trap music and Shomadjozi who raps fluently in Xitsonga. This demonstrates that one does not need to be a pure imitator of mainstream American hip-hop culture. It is obvious that hip hop is at its most successful period in the country. Because it is part of the mainstream, most artists have become monotonous producing music of a lesser quality with everyone adhering to the winning formula. It’s time South African hip hop becomes more inclusive and celebratory of South Africa’s diverse cultures. In our social media-driven age, it is refreshing to see artists who are genuinely making music for a certain cause and act as an inspiration to the youth. One needs to listen to this album to get a sense of what I am talking about.

09th May2016

The Positioning of Women in the Rap Industry or Hip Hop Culture

by admin

Hip hop has a very deep rooted and highly defined culture which defines its identity. If you try to stand apart from the rest you are automatically rejected because of your not appealing to the larger market.  Brands oftentimes struggle with the idea of working with someone who is not going to bring in the big bucks.

We’ve had a couple of conscious artists in this life time to grace us with their lyricism and conscious message but their careers are usually short lived. This is because the demand for their music is apparently not that high enough and the people in decision making positions are driven by the business making side of creativity. This makes it difficult for artists with something positive or something that has a powerful message to gain wider recognition in the mainstream music industry. We regard talent and hard work as being essential to a successful career. Those two elements may get your foot through the door but considering the business-side of the music industry, as well as being able to reinvent yourself, are also essential for having longevity. Creating great music is of course crucial to the winning formula.

I grew up listening to almost all genres of music and I have a pretty sound knowledge of the dynamics involved in each genre. The hip hop industry can be described as a male dominated industry where women simply have no place except for when they are half-naked whilst gyrating and shaking their hips. Strong female hip hop artists are an anomaly, much like peace in the Middle Eastern region.  As a born free, the music I grew up listening to was from the early 2000’s and I often wonder how it would have been to have attended either Lauryn Hill or Erykah Badu’s concerts. I also think of how it was to have lived in that era where women had claimed a sit at the oppressor’s table and yet had also had the opportunity to have expressed themselves without relying on their sexualities.

I look at all the female rappers from then and how their rap careers penned out and the successes gained during their run. Female rappers have had to rely on their sexuality in order to garner attention or build some buzz around them . Although most have had to look a certain way and conduct themselves in that manner, there have been a few female rappers who have forged their own paths and we do commend them.

We are living in an era where men still have so much power in influencing how women think and behave. This phenomenon seems to be worse when considering the music industry. It seems to me that as a female artist you do not get taken seriously if you have something valid to say unless you present yourself a certain way. I have been amongst people who simply wanted me to look pretty and be seen and not heard.  This experience is a reality for most women as they navigate schools, the workplace, government and almost all other spheres.  I am a very opinionated person and I say what I want. The fact that I am very tomboyish and I have spent a lot of my time within those masculine circles has resulted in people telling me to be less forward and to know my place as a woman.

If you are a female rapper you have a choice to be feminine or to play the game like your male counterparts.  This is not to say that female rappers should not be proud of their sexuality. I believe that that one should own their sexuality. Your sexuality is something you were born with and you can use it to your advantage.  Rap is a genre of music like any other. It is a form of expression that has become hyper-masculinised and a female presence always makes things interesting. As a woman, I feel really empowered when I see women holding their own and representing the masses whilst expressing themselves- and doing it even way better than their male counterparts.

The South African hip hop industry has been under the radar for a long time. Many critics claimed that the genre would never gain mainstream attention. These critics are probably singing a different tune as the past two years have been a period of immense growth, success, and increased international recognition. We have had quite a few female rappers who make you sit up and listen to what they have to say. These new female rappers are not merely imitating Nicki Minaj which is something I truly really appreciate as someone who has been following the growth of the genre. We live in an era which is celebrity-obsessed.  If we only have images of women in distasteful positions does it not say that it is okay to treat women like sex objects with no brains? Considering that women give birth to nations and help build the world and continue to love unconditionally despite their struggles, I find this to be highly problematic.

As a woman, I feel that we will continue to be treated in this manner unless we decide to stop allowing men to treat us the way they do. It is always up to the oppressed to fight for what they believe in. Change is always resisted but it often brings good. The more females are seen in a positive and encouraging light, the more the older generation will support the female movement. We need to have a united voice as we aspire to be positive role models for young girls. Young girls need to know that there is more to life than being seen on a man’s arm.

I see movements like feminism trying to correct the injustices women have experienced as result of patriarchy.  Different movements aim to empower the disempowered by getting the marginalised to reclaim their power through rethinking the status quo. My message is this: women have their own resilient power and the ability and capability to be almost anything they choose to be. Young women should not allow any men tell them that they are incapable or that they are not better suited for something because of their gender. As women we need to start believing that we are more than that.

Thabisile Miya

13th Apr2015

Kendrick Lamar & J Cole: Our Modern Day Pac & Biggie

by admin

Jeffrey Motlhamme speaks about the hip hop culture and some of its influential contributors.

 

Hip hop, as a culture, is known as a movement that was born out of a struggle and serves as a tool to communicate messages that appeal to society in general. However, throughout the years there has been a transition within the hip hop culture. We had rappers focusing more on talking about what they have as well as crime. Yes, it is understood that the whole idea about the hip hop culture is self-expression, but this should not shadow the fact that rap is meant to instil hope in the hearts of the emotionally broken and hopeless. With the racial violence that is taking place around the world, especially in the United States, there is a need for rappers to focus more on the topics, like, racism. Luckily we have saviours in the rap industry, for example: Kendrick Lamar and J Cole.

1

Looking at Kendrick Lamar’s sophomore album, “To Pimp a Butterfly,” there are some songs that provide hope for the followers of the movement who wish to address the main problems affecting society. For instance, in this album, Lamar constantly addresses the issue of racism; the track list says it all. By rapping about such issues, Lamar is touching on and bringing awareness to what is currently considered one of the most sensitive issues around the world – race – unlike those rappers who are disrespecting the art of hip hop by painting negative images for society to look at.

2

On the other hand, J Cole is doing a great job of painting some vivid pictures of the society we live in. He puts his best efforts into addressing racism and stereotypes that different parts of society have about different cultural or racial groups; particularly, black culture. J Cole offers us a piece of his thoughts about racism by taking us through the crimes committed to black young men by white policemen as well as the stereotypes people have about black young men. This can be seen by J Cole’s famous song, “Be Free,” which he wrote soon after the tragic and unlawful death of Michael Brown. J Cole also demonstrates the need to defend black culture in his new music video for his song, “GOMD,” from his third studio album, “2014 Forest Hills Drive”.

j cole

Therefore, J Cole and Kendrick Lamar are what we can call the modern day ‘Pac’. Some of the followers of hip hop culture might not agree with the aforementioned ideas of what rappers should focus on because, yes; sometimes hip hop is purely about fun and entertainment. However, at the end of the day these are the issues that deeply affect society and what rappers say contributes to the ways in which society in general view black culture.

4

2Race is an important issue and it is a problem that every society faces. Web Dubois accurately predicted this situation when he declared that race would be the biggest problem of the 21st century. Therefore, J Cole and Kendrick Lamar are touching on important topical issues that other rappers are perhaps too afraid to rap about. This is a lesson to other rappers because rap, in practice, should be the voice of the voiceless. These two rappers are important to hip hop because of the realism they offer. They reach out to all the rappers and hip hop lovers out there to stop disrespecting the art. They also call on black communities to stop the black-on-black violence experienced around the world. To understand what these two great thinkers communicate with their music, you first have to understand the forms that racism takes around the world; particularly within black communities. But nonetheless, there you have it: Kendrick and Jermaine, our modern day Pac and Biggie.

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