Zim Hip Hop, The Bastard Child of The Music Industry
By Makhosini Mpofu, Entertainment Reporter
I was browsing the internet the other day and I came across a very interesting article. The article spoke about why Zim Hip Hop is dead and why it will not make money for its disciples and participants. Unlike other genres in Zimbabwe, Zim Hip Hop appears to the bastard child no one wants. The article raised some very potent and interesting analogies and I could not help but feel I had to dissect the article and come up with a solution as opposed to pointing fingers. Firstly I will start by saying I’m not sure I agree with the term Zim Hip Hop, yes it is music made in Zimbabwe or it is Music made by Zimbabweans but once we brand it or label it then it becomes tricky. It means we have put it in a box and we have branded it and henceforth we have certain expectations and the genre must live up to those expectations which is a bit premature and unfair.
So let’s drop the tag Zim Hip Hop and simply call it Hip Hop. Now the problem with Hip Hop from Zim is that for starters it seems people who love the music and who follow the music religiously do not believe in spending their hard earned money to support the artists and acts. In order for any movement or revolution to kick off it needs followers, It needs die-hard fans who will fight tooth and nail for what they believe in. It needs hip hop heads to come out in their numbers and support the movement and support the artists. If we take a quick look at ZimDancehall (I still prefer to call it Dancehall but I’ll let it slide in this instance), the preferred music choice of the youths they strongly believe in this music and they come out in their numbers to support it. They believe in the music, they support the movement and idolize the artists and they sacrifice their bus fare, airtime and lunch money to come and pay for shows as proof for their love and support for the culture.
Zimdancehall has become the voice of the youths and its artists have managed to irk out a living for themselves and make a few dollars unlike Zim Hip Hop. I believe this is mainly attributed to dancehall being relevant and the artists speak or say things that their fans can relate to and understand. They talk about issues that are potent and issues that their fans have come across and deal with on a day to day basis. Hip Hop in Zim needs to do the same thing and adopt the same approach. Rappers/MCs should not rap about balling in the club every weekend, popping bottles and driving their parents’ Benz, BMW, Jeeps or Prados because most people have no understanding and affiliation to that. They cannot relate.
So firstly they need to be relevant, they need to talk about things that the average man on the street comes across and can relate to and not some fantasy lifestyle they have no correlation to. The second point is a bit of sticky and tricky one, most critics of Zim Hip Hop say it has no particular sound or distinct sound which makes it different from other Hip Hop from other countries. They say most artists have simply “borrowed or copied” styles, flows, beats and all from the South Africa, USA, UK and other parts of the world and because of that it has no identity and distinct sound. This is one is a bit of a quandary because I know 50 guys who can argue in favour of this and I know another 50 who can argue against it. So let’s agree to disagree on that point.
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Most artists who do Hip Hop in Zimbabwe unfortunately do not do it full time and it is more of a hobby than anything else. The craft is simply not paying their bills and putting food on the table so most of them have day jobs or have side hustles. This is also another very sensitive issue. Very few corporates have come on board and support the genre and the movement. Unlike in Dancehall where we have seen a few artist get sponsorship deals but I feel from a holistic view Zimbabwe is still lacking in this area. The corporate community Zimbabwe has not got on the bandwagon and very few companies support the arts and the arts industry. I guess they didn’t get the memo or they chose to ignore it.
If you only make music over the weekend, or during in your spare time or when you are not busy doing something then you are not fully committed and if you are not fully committed then you will not make a concerted effort and give it your all. It means you want people to take you seriously but you do not take yourself seriously. We all know the 10,000 hour rule, so if you make music as a hobby and to please your friends and you do not take it seriously as a business and craft then the music you make will always be mediocre. It has to be an all or nothing mentality, as in I’ll get rich or I will die trying. People want to see passion and commitment. Talent these days is simply not enough you have to put in the hours and grind it out. Most people want to arrive at the destination but they do not want to travel there. They want the high life but they don’t want to work for it. Anything worth having you have to work hard for it.
The other problem with this point is that, it is hard to continue working on something or doing something and there are no results or you do not see any tangible results. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expect different results. I guess this is where passion comes in. If you are not passionate about something then you will easily and quickly give up. Once you come across some slight or small resistance you simply fold and buckle under pressure. It is at this moment or point when you need to batten down the hatches and stay committed and keep on working, composing, and writing and never give up on your dream and passion.
My parting message is surround yourself with the right kind of people and eliminate negative energy and negative stereotypes. There will always be people who will want to discourage other people and tell them what can and can’t be done. Those people are no good and they will simply wear you down. As an artist there will be dark days and even darker weeks, that is when you need to have the right people around you, people who will motivate you, encourage you and keep you in the right frame of mind so that you can keep making the right moves and doing what you love doing. So to all artists out there DON’T ever give UP, keeping working on your skills, keeping improving, keep working hard on your delivery and flow and master your trade and craft. Plus you must get put there and network, network and network no man is an island. That is the only way you will make it in this industry.