Africa is a highly musical continent, with genres spanning from Afrobeat, Ndombolo, Rhumba, Bongo, Benga, and Kwaito, to Reggae, Hip-hop, and R&B. From traditional and cultural events to modern concerts and bus rides, music is often a key feature of life in Africa.
But like every form of art, music is best conceived by the listener, and personal tastes vary. While music preference is diverse across the continent and even across one country, there are perceivable patterns based on location and culture.
Hip-hop emerged from the economic paralysis of New York City, especially the neglected black and Latino neighborhoods in the Bronx.
However, while hip-hop music was born in the Bronx, it is part of and speaks to a long line of black American and African diasporic cultural traditions. Much of what is written about hip-hop traces this culture through a series of stages, from a music and dance focused phenomenon created for and by people to a dominant global youth culture.
Hip-hop music and culture landed in Africa between the 1980s and early 1990s. Since then it has spread with the energy and passion of a musical and cultural revolution. The frustration, anger, poverty, joy, and spirit which young African American rappers expressed transformed the minds of millions of African youth, who related to the messages and stories being told.
One of the many influence of hip-hop culture is the competitive oral competition called “playing the dozens,” which combines humorous insults and oral skills in a battle to shock and ultimately silence one’s opponent. A famous practitioner of this oratorical contest was Muhammad Ali, who used short rhymes to belittle his opponents. American rapper 2Pac became a legend across the continent precisely because of the social importance of his lyrics. There was no major city in Africa one could go to in the late 1990s and not see images of 2Pac or hear youth reciting him.
Hip-hop includes Africans who are making it their professions and who are involved in recording, producing, marketing, and distributing to an increasingly influential and profitable market.
Hip-hop is more than just another form of music, the fact that it was also its own subculture and a transmitter of political and social commentary was absorbed by African youth who related to all aspects of this new musical revolution.