Rap: Not Just an African American Music Genre Anymore
By B.L. Barbour
It’s no longer just the east coast versus the west coast U.S.A.; rap is now performed and produced internationally. Rap music has been adopted by musical artists from Australia, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Denmark, Egypt, English, Germany, Ghana, Iceland, Lebanon, Kenya, Morocco, New Zealand, Nigeria, Peru, Philippines, Russia, Serbia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Syria and Sweden. In Asia rap is exploding. Nearly every country has embraced the hip hop lifestyle: Bangladesh, Burma, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Nepal, Pakistan, South Korea and Thailand. It’s amazing how rap music has taken hold of the youth throughout the world. It is such a strong genre that it has famous artists in many of the above listed countries with international followings. And many of these rappers have recorded with artists of other nationalities.
The most popular artists are seen performing with their international counterparts. Robert Fitzgerald Diggs better known as RZA and Mobb Deep have performed with the German rapper, Kool Savas. Japanese artist, Jun Seba, known as Nujabes worked with many American acts including CYNE, Apani B and Cise Starr and The British rapper, Funky DL.
Naturally, Canadian, English, New Zealand and Australian rappers have the greatest chance at gaining popularity here in the US because we share the same native language. Cyrus Malachi, a solo artist from the U.K. who has performed with Melanin 9 or M9 along with Nasheron and other artists. Che-Fu from New Zealand records in English and he’s a current artist with some top rap hits. King Kapisi, born Bill Urale is from New Zealand also. He won the Australasian Performing Rights Association (APRA) Music Award for songwriter of the year in 1999. His first two albums went gold and his single, Reverse Resistance won the Silver Scroll Award that same year.
Sarkodie, a Ghanaian rapper won the Best International Act: Africa at the BT Awards in 2012. E.L. or Elom Adablah is another award winning Ghanaian who raps and produces his own music. South Africa is another African country burgeoning with hip hop artists. Tumi is one of South Africa’s contributions to hip hop. His Tanzanian parents gave him the name, Boitumelo Molekane. His family was exiled and took refuge in Soweto, South Africa. His family suffered the classic struggle of the down trodden. His rap music is performed alongside mainstream artists and he is a published poet. The self appointed king of East Africa is Shukid, a rapper from Kenya. The Ice Prince, Panshak Zamani from Nigeria has won a number of awards including a BET Award for his rap music releases. His first very successful single was Oleku, a Nigerian favorite for remixing.
Looptroop Rockers are a four man rap group from Sweden formed in 1991. It’s one of the few European groups that have gained international acclaim. Guess what? They speak English, so Americans can enjoy the music thoroughly. A thumbs up to their 2009 release, Feel So Good. Beogradski Sindikat, an eleven man Serbian group from Belgrade started in 1999. So far they’ve released three albums in their native tongue, so no English is spoken. Their sound is loud and brass, unlike American rap.
Asia has also produced a number of hip hop artists. Nujabes was only actively producing music from 1995-2010, when he died in a car accident at 36. He was a very celebrated artist whose death was mourned internationally by his fellow artists and fans. He produced three albums and the soundtrack for a Japanese anime production called Samurai Champloo. Nujabes was the most famous Asian rapper, but he was not the only one. In Pakistan, the artist Bohemia created a new version of rap called desi hip hop, which appears to combine the influences of the East Indian music with American rap. Hang Lam Trang Anh, known as Suboi is from Saigon Vietnam and she started her career rapping with Vietnamese pop star Ho Ngoc Ha at age 20. Suboi is now 27 and after seven years is often referred to as the queen of hip hop in her country.
What you’ve read so far is only a sampling of what’s going on in the world of hip hop at large. There are so many new artists and so many new takes on the sound that was originally exclusive to the African American culture. Now it’s been adopted by the youth of the world and adapted to their unique circumstances and issues and made to be (or soon will be) their own version of rap.