There is a general consensus among local hip hop artists that their genre has made strong, evolutionary strides.
The Namibian music industry in general is often accused of being stagnant, and its genres are not spared the accusations, save for a couple like kwaito and house.
However artists said that they believe the hip hop genre has come a long way in the last year, although it is not as big as they would like it to be.
The footsteps of its evolution can be linked to the growth of both mainstream and underground hip hop. However, the only thing it has not managed to do is create its own sub-genres.
Multi-award winning hip-hop artist D-Jay believes that although the industry has become better, it has somehow managed to slow down. “Hip hop has become 10 times better than it was a decade ago. The quality of our songs, the lyricism has significantly improved, however I say it has slowed down because there are genres such as house which are ruining it for everyone else,” he said.
The acclaimed artist explained that because genres like house have become so popular, artists abandon their chosen genre to get on the bandwagon which is selling the most. “Hip hop is about storytelling, it’s about telling your pain, however people seem to be into the whole up-tempo music, the whole club scene and no-one is listening,” the young rapper, who is considered among the most successful commercial rappers lamented.
Underground rapper Harry Msimuko, who has been in Namibia for about 8 years concurred with D-Jay saying that hip hop has evolved over the past few years. “I cannot speak for the entire hip hop community but I think that when it comes to the mainstream genre, hip hop has evolved. When I first came, a lot of people were trying to sound like Tupac or whichever artists they admired. They copy and pasted, but contextualized it to Namibia,” he said.
The evolution of hip hop
Msimuko pointed out that the underground scene has grown to become bigger than anyone imagined it would become, as there are cyphers constantly being held. On top of that, each neighbourhood in Windhoek has produced its own breed of underground hip hop artists. “The hip hop industry has managed to evolve in that it has started building an autonomous identity for itself, and the underground scene is bigger than what we know. That says a lot,” he said.
To drive home his point, he referenced the Facebook group ‘We Are Hip Hop Namibia,’ which he predicted would reach a following of 9000 people by the end of the month as it is in the 8000s right now. This he said was a sign of the genres growth in the country.
“There are no sub-genres which have emerged, but there are singular tracks because of collaborations which are different. For example if a hip hop artist collaborates with Jackson Kaulinge, it would be different because no one else in the world has done that,” he said.
Msimuko previously worked on one of these outstanding tracks with Tswana folk singer, Elemotho. Hip hop artist, Joe Black, said that he believed the style and influence of hip hop has gradually changed over the years. “Namibians are mostly doing hip hop and not rap. Hip hop has to do with rhythm and no message, whereas rap is more like poetry,” he said, evidently insinuating that hip hop has not evolved.
His argument was that Namibians followed popular culture, being influenced by other countries and not having a sound of their own. However is definition differed from that of Msimuko, who said that hip hop is not an industrial part of rap. “Hip hop is a movement that is autonomous to rap, it existed before rap,” he said.
He added that hip hop’s origins were rooted in DJs, where as rap is rooted in MCing. Graffiti, breakdancing are all part of hip hop. Msimuko however agreed with Black, saying a lot of mainstream rappers want to be recognised by making that will become a hit.
Black said Namibian hip hop does not have its own identity or its own sub-genres because it is not versatile, unlike South African hip hop. This is why they are ahead in the music industry. “Namibians don’t have pride in our own culture and sound. We are more American than we are African,” he stressed.
Black-A-Moor on the other hand agreed with his two counterparts that Namibian hip hop has evolved; however, he said that it could always get better. “Namibians do not support the hip hop genre like they do in other countries. Other countries support their artists regardless of the genres,” he said.
The seasoned rapper noted that he believed the skills of local hip hop artists have evolved but the support had not. “People would rather listen to Meek Mill as opposed to listening to D-Jay,” he said, adding that there was nothing wrong with the former, merely that there is a lack of support amongst Namibians.
To those people who argue that Namibian hip hop artists merely copy and paste work, Black-A-Moor finished saying, “No idea under the sun is original, so it’s not a copy and paste. People should listen to the message, regardless of genre.”
by Faith Haushona-Kavamba