|Hip hop in the motherland has a history of over twenty years, not counting the lineage of rap as a form of oral tradition which can be traced back to precolonial Africa. Only in recent years has some of the huge amount of rap produced throughout these two decades started to surface on the international level. At last in 2004 the first truly pan-African rap compilation cd becomes available as the Rough Guide to African Rap drops on 2nd February.
Over the past ten years or so we have been blessed with a handful of international album releases of artists who usually represented the tip of the iceberg of a lively hip hop scene. But it's taken remarkably long for the pattern of hip hop developing across the continent to be noted by record labels in the west. Labels specializing in hip hop for long have been focusing mostly on English or French spoken raps recorded by western artists.
Typically it's not a rap label which has come to release the first pan-African hip hop compilation cd but World Music Network, an English label responsible for the eclectic Rough Guide series of compilations. Related to the travel guides under the same brand, the Rough Guides are more or less authoritative introductions into musical styles such as highlife, rai and soukous. There's also a number of Rough Guide books giving an indepth introduction to reggae and other styles.
Rough Guide to African rap: the tracks
Fortunately the Rough Guide isn't just another collection of diluted rap or dance tracks sold under the hip hop moniker to please an at times conservative world music audience - there have been some good examples of those in the past.
This collection does have a broad focus which is not strictly African hip hop: it includes music by Mozambique group Mabulu who play a fusion of rap and marrabenta music, and Cameroon's jazz musician Manu Dibango who teamed up with British rapper Mc Mello in 1991.
But most of the tracks take root in the hip hop traditions of their countries, with a number of legendary groups such as Kenya's Kalamashaka whose revolutionary lyrics of 'Ni wakati' stand alongside Senegalese rap classic 'Boul Fale' by Positive Black Soul, presented here in the very rare promo-only Yard mix. The selection gives a historic and cross-genre insight into the diversity of hip hop across the motherland. Old school tracks like Prophets of da City's 'Township dwella' (1993), 'Blast nuff' by Tanzania's Hardblasters (1996) and more recent ones like Angolan Das Primeiro's 'Liberdade' or 'Msimu kwa msimu' by X Plastaz from Tanzania (see our other news for their video) make for diverse listening.
Liner notes and the compiling were done by Graeme Ewens, a seasoned English music journalist who wrote a number of books on African music. The track listing and liner notes received much attention, with over half of the tracks previously unavailable on cd. We're proud to say that Africanhiphop.com was involved in the research for this compilation, searching for tracks, info and contacts. Five of our proposed tunes made it to the final cut, including the all-time favorite 'Eye Mo de Anaa' by Ghanaian hiplife icon Reggie Rockstone.
Because this is the first pan-African rap compilation released in the west, we expect this album to have a lot of impact in terms of artists being invited over to tour or to get record deals with bigger labels. While the ground work has been done by releases such as last year's Senegambian compilation 'Africa raps' and by websites such as our own, it's high-profile releases such as this which can really break the ice with journalists, promoters and the audience.
Since the Rough Guide is not exclusively targeting a hip hop audience, there will doubtlessly be other releases this year which will go even deeper and focus on more hardcore or old school tracks. Obviously with 14 tracks, this cd is only giving a quick look at what's happening on the continent, and omissions such as any music from Nigeria, Algeria or Madagascar leave room for a second volume or another compilation to be put out. The idea is to let the library grow, and hopefully availability of the music will include the far corners of the continent. As we speak, at least three labels are working on their own African hip hop compilations and in the future we will also release an Africanhiphop.com mix cd.
Competition: win a free copy!
Update: the competition is now closed! We will select the best entries and publish them on the site. The question was:
Why do you think it's important for African hip hop heads to know what's happening in the hip hop scenes of other African countries?
Order the album
If you want to be sure to get a copy first, you can pre-order through the web from:
Amazon America ($14.98)
Amazon UK (£7.99)
Amazon Germany (€ 15,99)
Amazon France (€ 10,45)