Marginalised Hip-hop

This image forms part of my cultural observatory journey in the world of rap music and hip-hop in underground Kenya, Eastern Africa. I took this image on July 18, 2020 at Kabiro, a showground in inner Amboseli 46 – “46” because the area neighbours Kawangware (denoted as 46), one of the urban informal settlements in Nairobi, Kenya. I took this image during a local show that cast an open call to musical artists to showcase their gifts and talents in the form of performances, rap battles, spoken word, amongst others.

In the picture is Matata and fellow band members of Chaka Rappers hip-hop/rap crew. Matata can be seen soulfully articulating his lyrics with a distinct bag fastened at his waist. The bag contains “Miraa”, globally known as Khat, a substance that’s legally farmed and consumed in Kenya. Mainstream misperception is such that it is rather inherent for a marginalized hip-hop/rap community to use and/or abuse drugs, whilst completely ignoring and overlooking the demographics of a given community.

The prevalence of drug use and/or drug dealership is but a reflection of the economic opportunities those in poverty see as a means toward living well. One artist may decry the use of drugs whilst to another, it is simply a reality they find themselves in.

Hip-hop’s utility lies in its understated capacity to render powerful the African girl and boy by spreading their message, sound and experience to a broader trans-national and international audience. This is in order to foster understanding of the complexities of hip-hop ethos, thereby bringing a steady decline to socioeconomic stereotypes re-inscribed upon anyone who shows up in the name of hip-hop in marginalized Africa.

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