Roots: African Hip-hop and the Sounds of Cape Town

Written and compiled by Rebecca Herpin

Original artwork by Amelia Edwards

Hip-hop has always been one of the more politically expressive genres of music. The poetry of rap in combination with the consistent beats of hip-hop allows the artist to express every inner sentiment rhythmically, giving life to the lyrics and content. It is impossible to separate a person’s heritage, strife, and position in society from their beliefs, and the music of South Africa, especially hip-hop, is saturated with messages of love, loss, and political dissatisfaction. Furthermore, what is interesting about African hip-hop is the opaque difference between female and male rappers. Both sexes tackle difficult social issues with the same lyrical expertise. However, many female African rappers flow in a nasally tone, perhaps to contrast the traditionally masculine production style or to over-feminize their voice in a hegemonic industry.

Proper context for the music of lesser known hip-hop artists, such as those featured in this mixtape, can come from understanding the more popular hip-hop styles, which many of these underground acts seek to distance themselves from. The raving anger of famed South African rap duo Die Antwoord, for example, is contrasted by the emphasis on lyricism and freedom of self-expression found in many of these acts. Burgeoning rapper AB Crazy is an example of the younger generation of African rappers, who make use of autotune gratuitously. Jam Jarr self-brands as “glitch rap,” a lively and inventive sound. In general, the artists featured here are marked by a piercing attention to their own race, political opportunity, and artistic individuality.