The connection that I have with global hip hop is not necessarily embodied in the work of one artist, but rather in my experience with hip hop in an unfamiliar culture. Last spring, I lived in Tanzania (East Africa) for a little over 5 months, and it was during that time that I truly realized the extent that hip hop stretches across the globe. The following are a few examples of what I came to understand about global hip hop in a Tanzanian context:
- Within one of the first nights of being in Tanzania, my friends and I went to a night club/bar in the "town". Obviously I had no idea what to expect, as I had only been living in our small village for a few days, but as soon as I walked in I knew what was up. The DJ was bumping African hip-hop and everyone was into it-- and I mean into it. It was the most natural, flowing, up-beat dance I have ever seen by a group of people, and it was then that I realized that I was literally immersed in the culture that hip-hop was born out of. The "African aesthetic" that we refer to in a historical context was the only aesthetic in Tanzanian context, and this was evident in every way that they enjoyed experienced hip-hop.
- There was a TV station that was the old school MTV of Tanzania: they actually played music videos all the time. My host father would watch hip hop videos in our tiny house in our tiny village every morning, dancing along enthusiastically while he cooked breakfast. He would always point out his favorite songs to me, in broken English, reminding me that to him, this music was more about the music, rhythm and flow than the rap. Listening to traditional African music with him, it was easy to see how similar the styles were and how hip-hop was a genre that he naturally appreciated.
- As I became closer friends with a host brother of mine (he was 21 at the time), I realized how much he related to the lyrics of hip-hop music that I had previously associated with being so American. He had a handful of Tupac songs that he had acquired from friends on his computer, and he loved to play them any chance he got. If we were in the right mood, we would talk about the messages of the songs and then he would write his own poems about the injustices of his own country. As much as I appreciated Tupac before, seeing how someone across the world had such a strong connection to his songs enabled me to see the effect and potential that global hip hop has across the world.