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"This is Africa" - According to Your Favourite Hip Hop Artists

"This is Africa" - According to Your Favourite Hip Hop Artists
Donald Glover inspired African rappers to creatively address societal issues in their respective countries.   -  
Copyright © africanews
Chris Pizzello/2018 Invision

social issues

This is Africa

Politics in Africa are often very complex as many nations struggle to reclaim their true national identities and find their footing on solid — and recently-independent ground, after the long, tumultuous and traumatic colonial years.

Numerous diverse ethnic groups find themselves having to coexist within a somewhat unnatural national territory — oftentimes created by a European entity, for the self-serving purpose of using the natural resources of these African lands to develop their own economies abroad.

The colonisers left — in theory but not necessarily all the way in practice economically and politically speaking, many of Africa’s countries pick up the scattered and confused pieces as their populations also navigate post-colonial stress disorder.

Hence, many African nations — like all other nations all over the world, still have their share of issues and injustices to balance and overcome.

‘This is America’

In 2018, the African-American Hip Hop artist Childish Gambino — also known as Donald Glover, released a song on May 18 that went viral on social media. As of today, the track which was heavily inspired by Afrobeats (in rhyme and dance choreography) and showcased the harsh realities of US society against the instrumental of a trap beat, sees around 756 million views on YouTube alone.

The monumental impact of the song and its artistic approach to social commentary that encouraged reflection about the society it critiqued, inspired numerous artists around the globe to make remixes and covers of the track. Versions that focused on the challenges within their own respective societies.

Many African artists jumped on the opportunity to highlight issues in their countries by way of their national remixed adaptations — with lyrics and visuals in line with the original format, but with an authentic African twist unique to each country.

Here is a list of some select ‘This is America’ remixes to give a brief musical glimpse at the various issues that the African nations being explored in song are still working to overcome.

1.) ‘This is Kenya’

Released on July 17, 2018, and performed by the Igiza Dance Crew, this rendition calls out dishonesty amongst the country’s main political parties and demands to know where all the money is being put to use by government officials.

The song also refers to economic challenges within the country such as the lack of financial means to purchase food or afford decent shelter that some Kenyans still grapple with.

Lyrics go: “Where is the money? Where is the money?”

2.) ‘This is Nigeria’

Released on May 25, 2018, and performed by popular Hip Hop artist Folarinde ‘Falz’ Falana. The song explores the violence in the North — from the some 200 school girls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram in 2015 to Fulani herdsmen slaughtering locals.

Falz also touches on deep corruption in all aspects of society and even called out the SARS (Special Anti-Robbery Squad) police unit that saw the country’s unprecedented largest youth-led and international attention-grabbing social protests last year.

Lyrics go: “This is Nigeria. Look at my nation, oh! SARS stop you fo’ road any explanation you go talk am for station oh!”

3.) ‘This is Angola’

Released on June 2, 2018, by Look Cem. The song explores police brutality, colourism amongst Angolan men and an unhealthy power dynamic that can exist between young Angolan women and men of financial means who purchase their companionship.

Lyrics translate to, “This is Angola. Everyone is rich here. Singers exhibit money and clothes and yet they don’t have a good bed to sleep in.”

4.) ‘This is Tanzania’

A version of the song released on June 9, 2018, by Tanzanian singer-songwriter and entertainer Whozu.

The artist uses slapstick comedy in the visual presentation and vocal delivery of his thoughtful lyrics as he explores the challenges within the country’s social and economic frameworks.

5.) ‘This is Congo’

A song that was released by Bob Elvis the year after the viral moment and was its own unique track — although the theme was similar in exploring the perceived challenges within the framework of the Democratic Republic of Congo and its people.

The song calls on the Congolese to change their supposed collective mentality and encourage the people to own their collective responsibility within society.

The lyrics describe the believed behavioural shortcomings and the paradoxes of the Congolese i.e. people who claim to want change but are not willing to change themselves or people who claim they want democracy but are themselves intolerant.

Bob Elvis takes a strong position and boldly denounces the tacit complicity of the Congolese in wanting to accommodate anti-values and mediocrity in the song.

6.) ‘This is Ghana’

A version released on June 8, 2018, by the Ghanaian music group Kobo Afrika. Group members Mr Wilson and Sharkysona created a witty version of the song to show the complex dualities that exist within Ghanaian societies.

Lyrics go:

“This is our Motherland, Gold Coast, Ghana! We’re lovely, we’re peaceful, we’re black and we’re proud — everybody loves Ghana!

You mean this be your Ghana? Politicians dey chop una money and elections they come with the same voice!”

7.) ‘This is Zimbabwe’

A version by Outcasts ZW released on July 28, 2018.

The song reflects on the state of affairs in Zimbabwe - as well as Zimbabwean culture, in a comical manner.

Lyrics go:

“This is Zimbabwe. What is you saying brah? Thinking that they’d be change, huh? And the only change that you got was coins?”

8.) ‘This is Sierra Leone’

A remix by Xzu-B released on June 7, 2018. The rising Sierra Leonean had a mouthful to say about certain harsh realities and problematic mentalities that exist in his beloved country.

Lyrics go:

“This is Sierra Leone. Opportunities no easy for see if you get na for capture am one time.
This is Sierra Leone. Some man go see am as criticism.
It’s just a fact foreigners get too much advantage over the citizens.”

9.) ‘This is Burundi’

Alvin Smith released this version on June 24, 2018. His remix is more of a national love song that social commentary. The visuals in the video showcase Burundian food, happy-go-lucky dancing with a subtle encouragement to the youth to not smoke in-between.

Lyrics translate to: “This is Burundi, I am proud of my country. My country is great! I am proud to be Burundian!”

10.) ‘This is Namibia’

Released on July 1, 2018, by Jyz Yorke, the song calls out corruption in national politics and the empty promises of government officials while also mentioning gender-based violence.

A trending topic last year as thousands of young Namibian women staged social protests for this cause several times during the year across the country.

Lyrics go:

“Government Government Government,
We wanna see the Youth in the Parliament.
Government Government Government,
We are the future! You know what I mean.”

The Next Fifty Years with Africa's Millenials

Only a few countries and a couple of minutes of a song are not enough to adequately explore the complexities of each issue raised within each national track to get a true understanding of the collective current state of the African continent.

However, moves like these can be encouraging for Africa’s majority-young population whose voices have gradually gotten stronger since these songs were shared on social media. And many of the issues highlighted within these videos have since culminated into full-blown (and in some cases unprecedented) youth-led social movements in recent years.

Steps towards progress and a better future for the African continent.