Not too long after bagging two Grammy Awards for Best Rap Song and Best Rap Performance for his lead single i, Kendrick Lamar released his second single (or statement as he prefers to call them) entitled The Blacker the Berry and no, it wasn’t a song about overripe fruit.
To say this is an angry song would be an understatement. Kendrick is clearly vexed as he fires lyrical shots at ‘the powers that be’ and challenges the status quo of white supremacy in a country that is fast becoming a militarised police state. So much for that change, Obama. I remember the first time I heard this song as if it were yesterday. (It was in fact 3 days ago) It generated feelings of rebellion against the proverbial system, it made me feel like setting things on fire and chanting on the streets like our forefathers did in the wake of South Africa’s political revolution.
Heck, when he compared Zulus and Xhosas to Crips and Bloods going to war, I couldn’t help but feel included somewhat. I felt like this guy knows my story. Except he doesn’t. Because what Mr Lamar is protesting with his music is a problem that only he and others that look like him are dealing with, IN AMERICA!
This forced me to ponder something, something I have not yet considered as a fan of local and international hip-hop… Why do we not have revolutionary rap here at home, in sunny South Africa?
I mean we have rap. We have some really, really good rap (I’m looking at you AKA, Reason & K.O) but we don’t have any rap that inspires this kind of emotion. Music that influences a need to better ourselves and better our situations. Our airwaves are filled with jingles about turning up, Nigerian currency and Volkswagen people carriers. And that’s fair play to the artists out there on their grind, feeding their babies. I salute your hustle.
But it irks me to realise that we have to look 15 000 kilometres across the Atlantic to find a powerful message within urban music. As controversial as the aforementioned track is, I understand that what is happening in the United States right now in the black community is abysmal to say the least and for that reason I understand where Kendrick Lamar was coming from.
But we have our own problems this side of the pond that aren’t being addressed by our entertainers. Despite what our Honourable President
Jay-Z J.Z would have you believe during the State of the Nation Address, this country is in a shambles. Unemployment is sky-high (particularly youth unemployment), there are rampant xenophobic attacks and looting, the economy is rocky and crime, well, I’m preaching to the choir here.
I can’t help feeling like it would generate a lot more political interest in our youth to have a public figure that is admired by the young music fans procure a song or two with a serious message and positive connotations. We all know the power of music. We all have that one song that makes us feel a certain way every time we hear it. What we need in our society is relatable artists with a positive cause who will utilize this powerful tool called music to help educate, empower and encourage the masses to do better and to be better. I’ll even start by giving two of my favourite local artists a challenge: iFani and K.O must make a feature track entitled “Load Shedding /Noooh!” (And Nomuzi Mabhena MUST be in the video because she is my boo).
So what do you hip-hop heads out there think? Do we have a need for positive influential hip-hop in Mzansi or should we be content with importing it (at R11 to the Dollar)? Do we even need to have positive messages in music or are we content with Anacondas that don’t want none unless you got buns hun?
Where to find Mfingo Ntaka, the blogger behind this article
Tanduxolo Mfingo Ntaka is a British educated entrepreneur and I.T. guru. He likes reading, intellectual debates and Bacon. This is his first article as ZAlebs Street Blogger; look out for the next one coming up very soon! In the meantime, follow him on Twitter @NtakaTanduxolo