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Edutainment mix: Hip Hop: A culture of evolution

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Simba Chikonye ‘Da MC’

Hip hop is a musical journey which is global and is now lapping on every shore, and it has even reached our Zimbabwean locale.

To me the sound of hip hop is the synonym to a chest thumping beat with rapid fire lyrics which are rapped into handheld microphone.

The dances and the movements are gravity defying, while the consciousness in the lyrics depict creativity which becomes a canvas in our imagination.

 Hip hop is a culture and hip hop is a vibe.

Simba Chikonye also known in the hip hop circles as Da MC is one such rapper who is in a quest to promote Pan-Africanism and ubuntu using hip hop as an apparatus of change.

 He has recently released his new album titled Evolution  which is inspired by the aesthetics of using rap lyrics as a means for seeing, celebrating, experiencing, understanding, confronting and also commenting on life and the world.  

Chikonye highlights to Standard Style how hip hop embraces many different artistic elements, making hip hop become more of a culture.

 From a whole lot of nothing; and a whole lot of imagination, hip hop has taken the centre in also influencing the local trends, and quite a lot of dynamics in terms of fashion and even the socio-linguistic aspect.

While explaining the use of the moniker Da MC, in his music, Chikonye said:

“My stage name is Da MC. I was initially Lamborghini Da MC but I dropped the first part when I started getting heavily influenced by Pan Africanism. I could not reconcile promoting a European car with Pan African ideals at the time. So, I simply became Da MC short for the (Da) microphone checker or the (Da) master of ceremonies or (Da) microphone controller.”

One of the crucial aspects of an MC or a rapper’s flow is something that is fundamental to his or her performance.

 What is of importance is understanding that the flow is supposed to be the combination of excerpts of rhyme and rhythm which enhance the creation of the rapper’s desired effect.

 These aspects have to be fluid and soothing so as to communicate the message that the artist or the creative is delivering. 

 Chikonye said that he had produced albums such as Sin offering 1 and sin offering 2 which were gospel rap albums, as well as Conversations with Africa which was a Pan Africanism themed album.  Another album, Hustle in my city  was a collaboration EP with an extremely talented artist and producer called “GiENic” from Bulawayo.

“My latest offering is titled The Evolution. This album describes the different stages of my career. I describe it as the life of a butterfly, which depicts my beginnings as a novice, to turning into a Christian rapper, then into a Pan African artist, and now I am a little bit of all those elements that influenced me and more. 

“It is a beautifully crafted project that shows all the different sides of me. A lot of vulnerability is in the album as I talk about the grief of losing my parents within two weeks of each other and discussing their influence on how I became me. I also praise the Almighty, discuss my ambitions, touch on the struggles of being African and black, and also discuss romantic themes that all people can relate to,” Chikonye said.

 When listening to the album by Da MC, one can deduce on the centrality of the importance of the fifth element of hip hop which is premised on knowledge.

In the context of hip hop, it is of note that knowledge teaches the hip hop community about its identity and the many different ways in which the identity can be expressed.

Listening to the songs in the album, evolution is premised on knowing where one comes from and knowing what one wants to learn as knowledge is something that continually reigns supreme in most of the songs in the album.

The songs in the album also remind us that we can all take control of our lives through processes of self knowledge and self expression.

 Knowledge is a facet that influences style and techniques and connects us all through the power and influence of Hip hop.

The album evolution also brings into context the shared experiences of a world which is enshrined in uncertainty when people are facing socio-economic challenges, mental health related stress and frustration, and innate emptiness where music has a soothing effect.

“I touch on many different themes in the album Evolution. On the introduction, titled The Evolution, I describe my life like the stages in a butterfly’s life. On the song Child of a King, I declare that I am a child of the most high God. On Guluva, I am braggadocios and discuss how hard I hustle to put food on the table, which speaks of the everyday life of us as Zimbabweans.

“Call is a love song talking about balancing love and hustling. Bambelela is about the struggle of day-to-day life in a poverty-stricken society. Kill Goliath discusses Pan African themes, and how unity among Africans can help us get out of the terrible position we are in. The song They Said is about all the things my parents said to me that helped me grow and be a productive part of society,” Chikonye said.

He also articulated on how he was a big believer of using a formula in approaching his music that worked for him.

 In explaining this he also gave reference to how artists in Bulawayo and the vast expanse of Zimbabwe as a whole were trying to navigate in a tough economy.

The many artists are viewed as too broke and being seen as “Wanna Bes” is something that is not a fair take as every one was trying everyday to make their ends meet, and hence the need for artists to push their passion and the quest for creativity.

“I strongly believe hip hop has a bright future. The waves being made by artists in Harare will eventually reach Bulawayo. The talent here is immense, it is just a matter of time for Bulawayo hip hop to grow not only nationally but regionally,” Chikonye opined.

The month of February celebrates international mother languages day on the 21st. It is also National Youth Day in Zimbabwe.

The rap culture predominantly loved by young people has been dominated by the use of English or American slang, and in the recent years particularly in Bulawayo, the Kasi rap scene has begun to grow.

 In Bulawayo, many rappers use Ndebele, Nde-Nglish which is a fusion of Ndebele and English, and “Tsotsi Taal” a form of slang originating from South Africa. It remains of importance to also strengthen the importance of different languages as enshrined in the constitution of Zimbabwe even within the rap scene.

Da MC says that he used a lot of IsiNdebele in his album, in particular through the use of hooks and choruses in isiNdebele.

 He also highlighted that he is rapping mostly in English as it is important to resonate with a wider and more internationalised audience. A point of note is how nothing touches a person more than hearing music in their mother tongue.

Chikonye says that while the fusing of English and local languages is a good move, he is not against artists who do not use local languages as music is something that moves the soul and hence artists must not forget their target  market.

 Raymond Millagre Langa is a musician, poet, orator, independent researcher and founder of Indebo edutainment Trust. You can follow on Facebook @Millagre Ray Langa, on X you can follow on #Millagre Langa, email. [email protected] or [email protected]

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