A humble analysis by Black Bird
African Hip-Hop is often considered a counterfeit of African-American culture and music. It is however very incorrect and the misconception that Hip-Hop is American needs to be redressed. Africa has more than enough historical evidence to claim ownership of the sub-culture and Hip-Hop’s African roots can be traced much further back than it’s supposed birth in New York back in the 1970’s. A simple look at the history books will show that all four of the primary Hip-Hop elements (Emceeing, Deejaying, Break-dancing and Graffiti) have been prominent in Africa for centuries.
The art of Emceeing or Rapping has it’s root in the praise-poetry that was executed by well respected orators who would sing the Chief or Kings praises whenever their procession was in motion. Deejaying began with the production of basic drum and bass beats and then these were eventually mixed together with recorded vocals. The oldest form of long distance communication on this continent consisted of drum messages being composed and played to neighbouring villages. Drums and other instruments were also a central part of all celebrations and no wedding, funeral or festival was complete without the inclusion of musical production.
Break-dancing (and in recent years Crunk dancing) has always been the hallmark of hip-hop but a careful look at these dances shows how similar the movements are to traditional African dances. A documentary released in 2005 called “Rize”, was a study on the impact of Crunk dancing in Los Angeles, USA. It was interesting to watch a comparison between library footage of Masaai dancers and urban American youths. Their Crunk moves were compared specfic Masaai moves and it left viewers wit no doubt on the origins of the dance. The final element of Hip-Hop, which also happens to be illegal in most countries, is the visual art of Graffiti. Now this is clearly a descendent of the cave-paintings of The San people, who documented their history by painting stories throughout the Southern African region.
Looking at the facts stated above, it is only natural to realize that Hip-Hop is actually African. However just as water consists of 70% of the human body and two thirds of the earth’s surface, Hip-Hop’s African origins are hidden despite the enormity of their nature. I celebrate the beauty of African Hip-Hop and encourage Africans to recognize the beauty of this sub-culture.
As it stands, the African Hip-Hop community is generally labeled as unoriginal and ‘wanna be’ American, but the truth is we should embrace Hip-Hop as a prodigal child that was born of the same womb as the rest of African culture.