With his gravely flow, gliding over foreboding beats, Art Melody has always been one of the more commanding voices out of, and for West African Hip Hop. And with his latest “Wagare hip hop” off of his recent album Moogho, this tone serves to deliver his message well. However, this time the message isn’t the explicit political messaging we’re used to from Burkinabe MCs. That’s because Art Melody is tired of politics. He just wants to talk about music. But as things go in Burkina Faso, a political strain isn’t too far behind any message, perhaps especially when it comes to music.
“Wagare hip hop,” explicitly sends out a message to fraudulent music producers in Burkina Faso, who try to take advantage of “the movement” for their own monetary gain. The chorus says, “Park my hip hop if you don’t have a license to drive it,” and the verses serve as a warning to those who use hip hop solely to make money or garner fame. For Art Melody, hip hop is a philosophy, one that can’t be sold out for fame, money, or even politics.
A contact in West Africa told me that in Burkina Faso, an unfortunate trend has developed where artists, producers, and promoters are all ready to snatch funding without providing any overall vision or plan to further the cause of the people, the youth, or the movement. So the fact that this message against corruption in the music industry is coming from an artist, from a country where hip hop is intertwined with national politics, one could infer a thing or two about the state of things on the ground. On the recent revolution in his home country, Art Melody states:
I am very proud of my Burkinabè people. A lot has changed, the recent elections are a complete novelty for practically all of us in Burkina Faso, and it went incredibly smoothly. For this I am so proud of my people. But we must remain vigilant, particularly because those who won the elections are familiar faces. I will talk about change when I see a real change in the way people act, when all the bad habits left behind the Compaoré system start to dissolve, all the bribes, the self-censorship.
It is this exact relationship between music and politics that creates a difficult conundrum for the revolutionary artist in Burkina, as well as for ordinary citizens.