Ratchet Vs. Righteous South African Rap

When I heard South African rapper Blayze’s song, “Hammer,” I swore he was an American artist and whoever classified him under “South African hip hop” on YouTube had been (un)clearly misinformed.

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So, I looked up more Blayze songs, like “Light it Up,” and “We Get it Poppin’” and noticed the same Auto-tune attempts at singing, Southern beats with annoying futuristic beeps repeating in the background, and lyrics void of substance that I hear in various mainstream US hip hop songs. “Freeze and Pose” was Blayze’s only song I could actually halfway listen to all the way through without wishing it would just end.{youtube}{/youtube}

But I am so serious. Blayze sounded so much like an American artist that I had to do additional research on a few different sites just to make sure he was actually South African. No joke, no lie.

To me, this is somewhat sad. I feel like artists from various parts of the world should incorporate their native cultures into their music instead of becoming a carbon copy of some of the US filth that is quickly spreading overseas. Particularly in Africa’s case, as an African American myself, I feel like hip hop artists who come from the Motherland should provide some sort of positive image for us Black artists. They should give us another reality, showing us a place where we might have come from, might have belonged before slavery. They should not reflect some of the same negativity that we have experienced as a result of centuries of forced enslavement.

Of course, not all South African hip hop artists are like Blayze. There is also Cape Flats, who spits in both English and Afrikaans—or Cape slang—in his song “Cape Town,” his video providing images of everyday South Africans, particularly children. This imagery accompanied with the repetitive lyrics in his chorus, “Liberate yourself,” are a refreshing contrast to the  images of nightclubs and high fashion partiers present in Blayze’s videos.

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Now, I know that I sound something like a party pooper at the moment and no, not all of you will understand where I am coming from. I get that and do not mean to turn anyone off with my “turnt up,” passionate ranting. I just find it extremely ironic that there are Africans wanting to be like African Americans who were stripped from the very continent those Africans call home.

When thinking a bit more deeply, though, Blayze’s desire to reflect American hip hop artists could be justified. With South Africa having experienced apartheid, as well as the capitalism that exists in most countries, there are likely Black hip hop artists hailing from South Africa who experienced similar discrimination and poverty that African American hip hop artists historically have. While their struggles are not identical, they are similar and could, thus, breed similar results, problems.

Blayze’s desire to be in the club and exhibit his bling could be less of an attempt to sound like his American counterparts and more of a testament to the fact that he is very much like them, whether he wants to be or not.

Big ups, though, to Cape Flats. His videos do not leave me guessing about the reality of what life can be like in South Africa, as he directly shows me a Cape Town version of North Philly. It was a beautiful sight to see all those children smiling and spitting his lyrics, lubricating their minds for freedom, for a better future.

Maybe Africa’s other children, her diaspora, will do the same.


Ness White is a 26-year-young Black, lesbian, journalist, writer, poet, musician living in Philadelphia, PA. Born and partially-raised in Southern California before living in Washington State and Upstate New York, she has been something of a traveler her entire life, readily observing and striving to connect with anything and everything on her journey's path. So far, no connection has been as intense, as indelible as hip hop. For Ness, hip hop is more than a genre. It is a way of living with the body, emotions, mind, spirit all experiencing its core. In essence, it is a way of being in the world. Through her writing—using the page as a stage—she performs like an MC, capturing your attention with style, swag before touching your soul with the heart of her words. Read them and go where she has been, then take her with you on your own journey.

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