The second half of the first decade after the millennium saw Hip Hop take airwaves and dominate the scene here in Uganda. Rap music had been around but consistently covert, need I add.
Notably, Lyrical G, a veteran rapper had dominated the first half of that decade with a few rap songs and was unarguably the only mainstream act of that time. He owned the ‘game’.
Navio came in around the same time with a few songs but were too not enough to get the genre widely across. At least after that, rap music started its way to radio and television and by 2007, the culture had taken firm root here and everything changed.
If you asked any Ugandan music lover or not, they would not fail to recognise GNL Zamba, Navio and a few others. However, it’s also true Hip-hop as a genre has not grown to the tip here in Uganda! Let’s accept that and we shall further discuss.
But what is the problem? Why is there a feeling that the genre is stagnated? Why is their not notable advancement anymore?
Why is it that for the last more than one decade, hip-hop has had only two faces; Navio and GNL?
Back to 2007-9: In around that period, Hip Hop experienced the biggest stride in growth; it was almost not possible to listen to any radio stations and not hear GNL’s Soda Jinjale! That song ushered in a new era of music.
Of course, this is not to say that it was the only song, The Hot 100( a radio station which I want to believe played the biggest part bringing local rap music to the scene, up to now) literally had Ugandan rap music on an ‘abnormal rotation’.
WBS’ J Kazoora and Racheal K on their show Jam Agenda added voice and helped give exposure to some rappers. Navio and Babaluku enjoyed the biggest of this opportunity. It was almost impossible to watch the whole show and not watch a Babaluku or Navio’s Burn with the Blu 3.
The scene was still fertile and hungry for more work and it was not surprising that GNL started Baboon Forest, Navio’s Klear Kut showed more face, Urban Aksent, Bataka Underground, Bavubuka Allstars and a few more labels and camps sprang up. Least to say, there was a revolution during that time.
The following years saw acts like Atlas, Big Tril, Mun G, Lethal, T Bro, Ruyonga, The Mith, J Baller, Patrobas, Keko break ground and make a stance.
Inevitably, with the growth, problems arose! Problems, real problems! Remember the rope GNL and Navio were pulling on what name Ugandan Hip Hop should take? Is it Lugaflow or is it Ugaflow?
And that beef between Babaluku and GNL? Weren’t these people almost cutting the biblical child into parts? But that said, we can’t say that’s Hip Hop’s biggest problem here! No! Let me create a theory here: When you start supplying indigenous mangoes to a supermarket and then change to exotic types because the guy supplying them is making more sales, and you maintain that for a while, what happens when you try to dive back? The buyers won’t easily move back with you, trust me. Okay, let’s say some do, won’t you have lost some too?
What am I saying?
You see Hip Hop evolved from the days the notion was that it was only supposed to be done in English, the American style to the birth of the indigenous-language style and the day it was heaped onto dancehall beats! That’s the day Ugandan Hip Hop died!
Of course, there is always been an argument on whether Hip Hop has a sound.
One day, on SNMS, a show hosted by Mister Deejay on Radio City, Navio was asked the same question and his answer resonated with my thoughts at the time. He said though I can’t remember his exact words, that Bad Man From Kamwokya, song he did with Bobi Wine isn’t necessarily a Hip Hop song just because he rapped on it! So is it bad that people rap on dancehall beats? No, actually not.
What is bad is that ‘dancehall rappers’ like Gravity Omutujju, Fik Fameica, Da Agent and others are confused for Hip Hop artists. How bad is that? Do you know it becomes extremely hard for whoever does genuine Hip Hop to appeal to the same audience because they are fed on different stuff in a similar package?
Is it over over, though?
A few months back, there was hullabaloo over who really is big in the game at the moment; a few young boys jumped on a Nas beat and stirred the waves with hateful lyrics! That was unfortunate!
Fortunate about this, though, was that debate about Hip Hop re-awakened. The bigshots, Navio, Babaluku, GNL who were all ‘stung’ stood again! GNL even did a sequel freestyle and released it in reply.
Again, real underground Hip Hop was put on the spot and I can reliably say that the revolution has started again.
At least, the hope is alive, once more.