Botswana Hip-Hop Has Evolved

Because there are no rules in the creative space, it seems Botswana’s contemporary rappers – like their counterparts around the world – won’t stop stretching the escape route offered by the genre, writes BONGANI MALUNGA.

Auto-tune and the new wave rap have, to conservative and conscious hip-hop fans, polluted the rap genre. The thinking of the older generation is that the new wave of rapping has no substance, glorifies drugs and is an all round carefree attitude. However, hip-hop has over the years glorified drugs, disrespected people of the female sex and promoted a carefree attitude through profanity and challenging the status quo, all in the name of creative expression.

In the new wave of rapping, pants and shirts are no longer baggy and hanging loose. The clothes are tighter and, in Jay Z’s words, “the voices are too soft”. Try telling the younger generation of hip-hop fans that their taste in music is suspect and they will shrug that off with a devilish smirk on their faces because that carefree mentality is a part of who they are.

While the new wave of rap is not sonically pleasing to everyone, it is still a form of artistic expression. The delivery may be different to what most music lovers are accustomed to but it has been in the game for the best part of 12 years and it seems it is here to stay. There are no rules in the creative space of hip-hop but is room for the conservative and the carefree fans to co-exist.
In Botswana, the likes of SCAR, Zeus, Orakle, Kast, Nomadic, Apollo Diablo, Foster Juliano (Mistah Doe) and Magosi, to name a few, led in the early years of local hip-hop. Although they had different styles, they all paid homage to the ethics of hip-hop by delivering great lyricism with clever rhymes for a well packaged rap product.

The younger generation has adopted a rather different approach with a lot of melody in their songs to sound better, in their opinion. Artists like Mane Dilla are a perfect example of the new generation of rappers who are versatile and creative enough to fuse melody with the spoken word and a little electronic assistance to achieve an enjoyable song.

The new generation of rappers is different in the sense that they take fashion risks for the sake of separating themselves from the older generation. While their predecessors had musical excellence, the new generation is looking at the bigger picture of being a brand for a much wider appeal.

The dress sense is much more in tune with what the large majority of youngsters wear. Another aspect that has improved significantly is the video production and quality. There is a story that fuses well with the music in every visual. As the rappers package their product better, they use different platforms to reach a broader audience.

And as they expand their reach, they are likely to attract the interest of their international counterparts. A case in point is Veezo View (although he cannot be classified as of the younger generation of rappers) who made a name for himself in South Africa earlier on.

After coming back to the local industry, he quickly became a household name and got to collaborate with South African rapper Gemini Major.
Ammo Ski Mask (now going by the alter ego of Balaclava Blanco) was also praised by South African hip-hop superstar Cassper Nyovest on Twitter a few years ago. Recently, Cybil Nite has teased what looks like a collaboration with highly rated SA rapper Reason, this will likely build excitement about a possible project from the artist.

The older generation of local rappers were well respected beyond Botswana. However, they did not have enough opportunities to collaborate with their international peers as much as they would have wanted to. The current generation of rappers has taken the baton and is trading bars with its foreign contemporaries.

This is much to their benefit because they are likely to get new audiences that way.
Generational gaps will always come with comparisons because the old folk will talk about the “glory days” while the younger one will face the uphill task of being mentioned in the same bracket as their predecessors. However, the fans will benefit as they reserve the right to listen to what they want without a care in the world, which in itself is the beauty of hip-hop. The much-celebrated genre was created to offer the youth an escape from the world as it is, and whatever world they want to inhabit is up to them.