The Sprite Obey You Collective video series on The Fader website have been profiling some young South Africans doing great things. I liked the idea. I saw the Okmaloomkat clip. I liked the one about Lenny Mogoba (a female basketball player from Wits) one. With a lot of things happening on the internet and my life (which revolves around the internet anyway), and me being the scatterbrain I am, I somehow lost track of the series.
A friend of mine emailed me a link to the most recent episode in the series about the Cape Town music scene.
The first few minutes of the series reminded me that electronic music has a strong presence in the Cape Town music scene and that hip hop is not just about rapping and that the beat scene in Cape Town is at a great place right now. Coincidentally, I am currently (listening to) Christian Tiger School and PHFat. It also reminded me that gone are the days when hip hop in Cape Town was just a black and coloured thing (yes, some coloured and blacks view themselves as different races in South Africa).
There’s a lot of white participation in the genre now. Which is a great thing. Marc of Oh! Dark Arrow, Das Kapital, the Christian Tiger School duo (all white) appear in the first minute of the video saying great things about how the great place the Cape Town music scene is in. They are followed by Cape Town’s hip hop golden boy, Youngsta. “Hip hop started in Cape Town. First place it started was here–Mitchells Plain. We almost 20 years later, and now it’s being started again, by this generation now, the Y? Generation [his crew],” he states in his trademark bravado. I agree with him. South African hip hop pioneering crews Black Noise and Prophets of the City are from here. And the momentum at which Cape Town hip hop is growing in is impressive and quite fulfilling. Cape Town hip hop is very exciting right now.
Youngsta continues: “When we rap, we not gonna rap the same thing as an African from the townships ’cause he’s growing up in a different place. We rap about what we know – our lifestyle, the way we live. And they rap about what they do. Cape Town is starting to finally take pride in that.” Wait. What is an African? I’m discerning a sense of “them” and “us” – them being the “’Africans’ in the townships” – the blacks I guess. Yes, I agree that coloureds and blacks in Cape Town live completely different lives and that is reflected in the music, but I didn’t know that coloureds were not Africans. I’m confused. What is an African really?
Seeing that the video was less than 5 minutes long, I was expecting to see Ill Skillz or Driemanskap or Khanyi in the following 30 seconds representing, umm, African hip hop. Soon after them, I was expecting to see Jaak or Blikmenstraal or Jean Pierre or Jitsvinger repping Afrikaaps but alas I saw DJ Leechi, Haezer, and oh wait, in the midst of the performance shots which were generally white-dominated, I saw E-Jay (finally a black rapper, even though he’s not Capetonian but Angolan). I was a bit relieved but wait, just as I expected his soliloquy on the issue, Push Push (female DJ/ rapper) who is–yes you guessed it right–white and appeared and spoke about how hip hop is doing great in Cape Town now. Basically.
“We are such a diverse country in terms of people and it’s so clear in the music,” says Das Kapital in the concluding minutes of the short clip. It may be clear in the music as he says but this short doccie falls short in capturing that. According to what’s shown here, EDM (electronic dance music)–which is white-dominated–is the sound in Cape Town. What about spaza? What about Afrikaans rap?
The video was dominated by “white” shows – with a lot of electrocentric music and flashy strobe lights. It is blatantly biased and saddens me deeply as a lover of Cape Town hip hop, who has equal amounts of respect for Driemanskap, Youngsta, Ill Skillz, Christian Tiger School, and PHFat, just to mention a few. Total fail.