The Real Hip Hop

1 06 2008

by Catherine Sackville-Scott


Nas was not entirely wrong when in 2006 he boldly proclaimed “Hip hop is dead”. In the song of this same name he conveys his disappointment at how the culture has developed:


Everybody sound the same, commercialize the game
Reminiscin’ when it wasn’t all business


Many established and respected hip hop artists all over the world have expressed similar feelings of disillusionment. The music that was once a powerful tool used in defiance of oppressive social structures, has now become a manufactured commodity in an industry where profit is the only objective. To maximise profit, of course, you should appeal to the desires of the consumer. Today it seems that consumers simply want power, sex and money.   


If we turn on a radio the lyrics of any hip hop song we hear are likely to be about a man (playa, gangsta, hustler etc.) “putting Lamborghini doors on an Escalade” or lusting after a woman (often referred to as a bitch, ho, lil’ mama, shorty etc.) wearing “Apple Bottom jeans, boots with the fur”. Viewers of television are sure to be lambasted with images of lavish lifestyles where men adorned with grillz, chinchilla and four-finger rings sip casually on Hennessey while scantily clad women “shake what they got” in the background. This is particularly evident in shows like “Pimp My Ride” and “MTV Cribs” where hip hop artists proudly show off their extravagant possessions.


So it is easy to understand where perceptions of hip hop as a misogynistic and materialistic genre come from. Some however, have not buckled under commercial pressure and continue to do justice to the music’s original form, even if this means being pushed underground in favour of the newer, more easily-consumable kind of hip hop. Emcees began distancing themselves from the industry around the late 80s. In 1988 KRS One released his album By All Means Necessary featuring a track called “Illegal Business” where he voiced a refusal to change his style:


KRS, I speak when I must
This that official underground rap, this you can trust
I stand outside the industry and there’s many of us
Talkin mad shit but for those who not bilingual, plenty of stuff
My whole crew is why you can’t get with any of us
Reason I’m not on TV cause I’m not sellin you nothin
I’m not rhymin for a Bentley or a house this plush
I spit for the conscious, what about us?


Like-minded hip hop heads, both international and local, have stayed true to the real hip hop, continuing to make politically and socially significant contributions. South African artists have stepped up in light of recent the xenophobic violence. Today, Sunday June 1st, the cream of the SA hip hop crop (think Jozi, Slikour, Tuks, Jub Jub, Koldproduk, Tumi, Zubz, Nthabi, DJ Kenzhero and others) came together at Baseline line in Johannesburg to perform at the Headz Against Violence concert to raise funds for affected areas.


Hip hop IS still doing good work, even in our own backyard. Just last month a group of Grahamstown hip hop activists, the Fingo Revolutionary Movement, in collaboration with the Gender Action Project, hosted a break-dancing competition where all funds went towards the building of a safehouse for victims of domestic abuse. Check out the full story on our news page…then go listen to some real hip hop!

activismhip hop


Deaf, dumb and blind

1 05 2008


By Jade Fernley

You only need to google the words “Grahamstown rape” in Google News to know that this is an issue. Maybe it shouldn’t even be labelled a “issue” because we tend to gloss over them and turn a blind eye to what is happening in our town everyday. It’s more than just something we need to find a solution to when people’s rights and bodies are constantly being violated. We know it’s happening. But I don’t know if the majority of us let this sink any deeper than a superficial : “Yah, it’s hectic hey.”

But there are those who do let this sink deeper. There are people who are refusing to turn a deaf ear or a blind eye (pick your preferred cliché). They chose to be dumb, in the ‘not speaking’ sense of the word. About 100 volunteers had their mouths taped shut from 07h00 to 18h00, willingly choosing to remain silent, without food or water in solidarity with rape survivors. “Because to respond with silence or indifference when an injustice is witnessed simply means you condone the actions of the oppressor” is the quote on Studentzone. This isn’t just a response by a couple of people passionate about activism and angry about rapes and assaults in Grahamstown. The writing on the back of the shirts worn during the day states that 54 000 rapes were reported in South Africa in 2007. Read that again: 54 000. One in nine rape survivors report their rapes and the other eight are silenced by sexual violence. Of those reported rapes, only 4 percent are successfully prosecuted. This is not something that is just limited to females though, as this year males also wore shirts saying that men should also speak out. The sexual offences bill is really clear on this. There is no gender when it comes to rape!

Breaking the Silence is one event of many for Rhodes’ Rape Awareness Week, just like a single rape or assault reported on campus is one of many that are reported around Grahamstown and South Africa. Our university has reported two sexual assaults in April alone, from people brave enough to stand up and put across the message that THIS SHOULD NOT BE HAPPENING TO ME, OR ANYONE! In 2007, The Times reported that, according to statistics released by the Safety and Security Minister, SIXTY FOUR children are raped daily in South Africa, and that a woman is raped every FOUR MINUTES and THREE children are raped every day. To say that rape is simply an issue would be an understatement.

I think it becomes all too easy to read the numbers and hear the news and become apathetic about this. When you get down to it, if you really let yourself think: more than two children are raped daily. Over 86 women are raped daily (and please remember these are just the reported ones). Just think about the effect that has on even ONE person’s life. 

Let us move away from seeing this as a problem that just needs a solution. Let us see that what happens on our own campus is only a microcosm for what is really happening in our province and our country. Let there be more than just One of nine reported rapes when over 86 women are being raped daily.

Let us stop being deaf, dumb and blind.


Could the real political leader please stand up?!

21 03 2008

By Jade Fernley

So it seems the more time you have to watch news, the more frustrated you’ll get. After being on holiday for not fewer than 3 days, I saw a story on Carte Blanche detailing a recent police raid at a Stellies club/pub which involved excessive violence on students, including policemen actually punching women, all in the name of a drug raid. I saw a movie about the Rwandan genocide; watched a news bulletin concerning the proposed 60 percent electricity price hike and following that, an insert on how “they’re not sure if we really will be ready for 2010” (but we’ve managed to triple the budget we thought we’d spend). I’m not listing this to tell you how news conscious I’ve been, although it is worthy to note I’m sure; I’m really mentioning these things because of one common theme through all of them. WHY isn’t ANYONE standing UP? And in the case of past events, such as those in Rwanda, why didn’t anyone stand up in time? I know there are various political reasons behind things like this, but more than anything I’d like to know why, if a large majority of us sit at home thinking “Gee, that should really be sorted out”, or “My my, electricity is getting expensive”, then shouldn’t the people in “higher places” be feeling it even more so? Do our rules (as good as rules are) seriously limit someone in parliament or in a 2010 committee saying, “this has got to stop!”??

But even if someone did say anything, will it be taken note of to the extent that things actually change? To the extent that the police are held accountable for their treatment of the Stellies students. To the extent that people who are going to be drastically affected by the electricity price hike stand together and someone speaks on behalf of them and says No. To the extent that someone, whoever really is in charge of the 2010 preparations, stops saying how we’ll never be ready and puts more energy into plans that can combat the probable issues that we may face. We are often silenced by that fear that one person can do nothing but I guess I’d like to answer that with a somewhat cliched, but true, statement: All it sometimes takes is one person, even a handful, and maybe if we all caught hold of that, things may start to change. I’m not saying overnight, and hey powers and authorities don’t always like to listen to the guy who’s opposing what is happening; but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.