was banned from performing in China last year because of his distasteful
lyrical content, two artists in Bushbuckridge debated the merits of the case.
What was to be a drastic culture probe took a quick controversial turn
when the mic-ripping local artists decided to brew an intellectual storm
on the immorality of American hip-hop versus the morality of African pop.
The former is said to be down-right dirty, if not demonic and
disrespectful across global moral lines, while the latter enjoys the stamp
of approval from culture pundits all over the continent. Piet Rikhotso, whose Shangaan pop debut album is called Vanu se Hadlayana
– (We are killing one another) – set out to lecture young Surprise Mazibila,
a budding hip-hop flame, about the senselessness and tastelessness of hip-hop. This is the music that American gender activists such as the late Dolores
Tucker have labeled inciting violence and degrading women by
calling them names and treating them as sexual objects.
“I think when any person enters a studio to cook an album, he or she must
make sure the dish can be eaten at any table without some people getting
offended,” Rikhotso said, mentoring the rebelling singer sitting a few
feet away from him, thumping at the sound of his demo track called
Sgebhengu - (Thug). Rikhotso argued that his music could be listened to by people of all ages,
whereas hip-hop was for a select group of ill-cultured young people who
have lost touch with their roots.
His stance is that any type of music should be entertaining and building
at the same time, not causing chasms between parents and their children.
“I dare you to say that you can sit down with your mother and listen to
the kind of music that you are doing,” he belched out a laughter,
signifying wisdom and superiority. His roots. However, 18-year-old Mazibila, who prefers to be known as Trippe B, took
the inflammatory lecture with a pinch of peri-peri.
The young lyric-spitter bluntly faced the Shangaan king in the eyes and
told him that there was actually no difference between hip-hop and African
music, except for instrumentals, language and audience.
Without citing any ancient history of African poets standing atop of
Kilimanjaro spilling their guts in rhythm and rhyme as common from
hackneyed Mzansi rappers, he explained the consciousness behind hip hop.
“There are more feeling rappers all over the music scene crooning the
plight of the poor than there are African pop artists doing the same,”
said Tripple B, mentioning renowned rappers like the late Tupac, Nas,
Talib Kwali, Mos Def, Zola, H2O and Eminem.
“The only reason we end up cussing is because nobody listens to us when we
try to be real in conveying the struggle of the young. What's worse
between a cuss word spoken by a rapper and a bomb manufactured by a
government?” He said the vulgar lyrics, which denied Jay Z the chance to perform in
China, was a tool carelessly and rebelliously utilised to express
incontrollable anger, a symptom of social injustice plaguing South African
youth, even in the reign of freedom.
In his song Redraft the Freedom Charter, Tripple B argues that the
contents are nothing but stale pages needing to be refreshed, because in
his “dictionary democracy/ isn't spelled as hypocrisy.”
Besides a few signs of insanity on his part, global capitalism is the
ghost he is fighting with every “insult” he jots from accusing the
government with “gross insensitivity” to calling some women “bitches.”
“The word bitch means a female dog. Now if a sister goes sleeping around
with every man isn't she acting like a female dog?” he asked. This culminated to Rikhotso agreeing with the young man, the reason being
that his CD, which independently sold over two thousand copies, is also a
heavy sermon about women who disrespect themselves.
In track number 6, Vasati vamasiku lama – (women of these days) – he accuses
women of being good-for-nothing lazy bloodsuckers who love nothing but money.
As a constructions worker, he uses his music to complain that he pushes a
wheelbarrow all day while these evil women (which he never calls bitches)
laugh at him, yet always pitching on payday like a mashonisa – (loan shark)
– with an open palm. The whole debate became hot when Tripple B attested that rappers were
being crucified for calling a spade a spade while African musicians got
away with it. For example, Pencil, a Shangaan Muzo from Mpumalanga has accused women as
well in his music, claiming that, “When the month is over/ she wants it in
an envelope.” Same story. General Muska, a veteran in Shangaan music has charged women with joining
life cover insurances intentionally with intentions to kill their husbands
and pocket the money. Another Shangaan artist, Ma-Dice, has said, in his music that “a woman
should not belong to one man/ if you enjoy her love alone you will die
from overdose.” This echoes the hip-hop/rap de ja vu's, where the “immoral” rappers rhyme
about sexual orgies, with Snoop having said in one song that “I can't have
some if my homies can't get none/ you gotta suck me and suck my homies too.” Some rap fans have argued that even the holy book itself treats women as
treacherous second class humans who were created for the sole purpose of
pleasing a man. Recording artist Budhaza wrote that men
should marry wives who are willing to sleep with the people in power in
order to make the family rich. In his song Lekhokhoma, which has
featured on SABC television, he said “When you marry a woman, marry good.
So that when the chief visits, you can go to the kraal and let your herd
go grazing. And later when you come back, whistle a little, so the chief
can hear that you are coming back home.” According to some elders who didn't want to be named, it is within the
Basotho cultural practice to respect, indeed revere, the chief. Meaning
the chief can just mate with another man’s wife for the sake a good life
for the family.
American rappers have been known for their “balling” and “pimping,”
selling women for gain.
These mc's, as they are called, picture themselves as kings donning “black
culture” and the hip hop throne, thus entitled to sex and more sex.
Ironically, that's the stance of African culture. While these “thug”
rappers have been known to spend money on parties and expensive wines, the
Africans have been known for their imbizos and umcomboti-drinking bouts. Hip-hop culture has led many rappers to being accused of sexual assault
and rape because of their fame, mirroring the rape case that mudded Zulu
culture stallion, former deputy president Jacob Zuma, also known as JZ.
Surely, a closer look exposes more than similarities, perhaps even
hypocrisy. Many songs buzzing the airwaves from Mungana Lonene and Thobela
FM are about men telling a woman what and what not to be, while accusing
her of witchcraft and too much whining. One musician by the name Khomrade Xigebenga, which means Thug Comrade,
called his wife a mosquito, saying she is always on his case about where
he has been or what he has been up to.
Maybe Tripple B was right, although nothing justifies the foul language
employed in his music, except for the Sotho proverb that says “Sesotho ga
se roge se a reta” - (“Sotho is never vulgar, instead, it praises.”)
With such idioms as “Mosadi ke kgano, o nona ka tlase,” meaning (“a woman
is a wild monkey, she grows waste down”) taught SePedi learners at school
primary years ago, it is hard to find fault with hip-hop. At the end of the day Rikhotso said he believes it depends on which culture
a person belongs.
“Apparently, the messages behind the music are the same, but maybe we just
don't feel comfortable with each other's use of language,” Rikhotso
Maybe China would also ban South African artists like Bhudaza, Spokes H
and Raymond Nyathi if they were to translate their lyrics and pin them on
a Jazzy-Fizzle beat.
For now, Jay Z isn't off the hook