Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home

Love, Struggle, and Compromises: The Political Seriousness of Nairobi Underground Hip Hop

  • RaShelle R. Peck
  • Please note a correction has been issued for this article.

Abstract:

This article explores the characteristics of Nairobi underground hip hop that fit under a common theme of what I term as the music’s “political seriousness,” which is the common notion that the music must be substantive, thought-provoking, socially critical, and never vacuous. This political seriousness is composed of four characteristics: Mau Mau gendered legacies, political love, a reliance on neoliberalism, and a critique of the state. Hip hop’s goal is to make a political space that both proves its worth and remedies Kenya’s flawed polity. This is an imperfect endeavor, as its dependence on late capitalism, normative gender constructions, and conventional understandings of the Mau Mau war contribute to rap’s troubling tendencies. Nonetheless, these artists regard hip hop as authentic or real music because it advocates for the economically disenfranchised, contributes to Kenyan social commentary, and participates in an imagined global hip hop culture.

Cet article explore les caractéristiques du hip-hop underground de Nairobi qui s’inscrivent sous un thème commun de ce que je nomme le « sérieux politique » de la musique qui est la notion courante que la musique doit être substantielle, susciter la réflexion, être socialement critique et ne jamais être vide de sens. Ce sérieux politique se compose de quatre caractéristiques : un héritage Mau Mau sexospécifique, un amour politique, une affiliation néolibérale et une critique de l’État. L’objectif du hip-hop est de créer un espace politique qui prouve sa valeur et remédie au régime politique imparfait du Kenya. Il s’agit la d’un effort discutable, car sa dépendance avec un capitalisme tardif et ses constructions normatives entre les sexes ainsi que ses compréhensions classiques de la guerre Mau Mau contribuent aux tendances troublantes du rap. Néanmoins, ces artistes considèrent le hip-hop comme une musique authentique parce qu’elle défend les individus économiquement marginalisés et contribue au commentaire social du Kenya tout en participant à une culture hip-hop mondial imaginaire.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Love, Struggle, and Compromises: The Political Seriousness of Nairobi Underground Hip Hop
      Available formats
      ×

      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Love, Struggle, and Compromises: The Political Seriousness of Nairobi Underground Hip Hop
      Available formats
      ×

      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Love, Struggle, and Compromises: The Political Seriousness of Nairobi Underground Hip Hop
      Available formats
      ×

Copyright

References

Hide All
Anderson, David M., and McKnight, Jacob. 2015. “Kenya at War: Al-Shabaab and its Enemies in Eastern Africa.” African Affairs 114 (454): 171–74.
Ards, Angela. 2004. “Organizing the Hip Hop Generation.” In That’s the Joint: The Hip-Hop Studies Reader. Eds. Forman, Murray and Neal, Mark Anthony. New York: Routledge.
Atieno-Odhiambo, Elisha Stephen. 1991. “The production of History in Kenya: The Mau Mau Debate.” Canadian Journal of African Studies 25 (2): 300307.
Atieno-Odhiambo, Elisha Stephen. 2002. “Hegemonic Enterprises and Instrumentalities of Survival: Ethnicity and Democracy in Kenya.” African Studies 61 (2): 222–49.
Basu, Dipannita, and Lemelle, Sidney J.. 2006. The Vinyl Ain’t Final: Hip Hop and the Globalization of Black Popular Culture. London: Pluto Press.
Brown, Wendy. 2009. Edgework: Critical Essays on Knowledge and Politics. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Chapman, Dale. 2013. “The ‘One-Man Band’ and Entrepreneurial Selfhood in Neoliberal Culture.” Popular Music 32 (3): 451–70.
Charry, Eric S. 2012. Hip Hop Africa: New African Music in a Globalizing World. Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.
Clark, Msia Kibona. 2014. “Gender Representations among Tanzania Female Emcees.” In Hip Hop and Social Change in Africa: Ni Wakati. Eds. Clark, Msia Kibona and Koster, Mickie Mwanzia. London: Lexington Books.
Clark, Msia Kibona, and Koster, Mickie Mwanzia. 2014. Hip Hop and Social Change in Africa: Ni Wakati. London: Lexington Books.
Comaroff, Jean, and Comaroff, John. 2002. “Alien-Nation: Zombies, Immigrants, and Millennial Capitalism.” South Atlantic Quarterly 101 (4): 779805.
Eisenberg, Andrew J. (2012). “Hip-Hop and Cultural Citizenship on Kenya’s ‘Swahili Coast’.” Africa 82 (4), 556–78.
Foucault, Michel, Senellart, Michel, and de France, Collège. 2008. The Birth of Biopolitics: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1978–79. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Gathigi, George. 2012. “Inventing East African Hip-Hop: Youth and Musical Convergence in East Africa.” In Music, Performance and African Identities. Edited by Falola, Toyin and Fleming, Tyler, 3548. Vol. 3. New York: Routledge.
Gilroy, Paul. 1993. The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.
Greven, Katharina. 2014. “Hip Hop and Sheng in Nairobi: Creating Identity Markers and Expressing a Lifestyle.” In Hip Hop and Social Change in Africa: Ni Wakati. Eds. Clark, Msia Kibona and Koster, Mickie Mwanzia. London: Lexington Books.
Harrison, Anthony Kwame. 2009. Hip hop Underground: The Integrity and Ethics of Racial Identification. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
Harvey, David. 2005. A Brief History of Neoliberalism. New York: Oxford University Press.
Jeffries, Michael P. 2011. Thug Life: Race, Gender, and the Meaning of Hip-Hop. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Kagwanja, Peter. 2009. “Courting Genocide: Populism, Ethno-Nationalism and the Informalisation of Violence in Kenya’s 2008 Post-Election Crisis.” Journal of Contemporary African Studies 27 (3): 365–87.
Kanogo, Tabitha. 1988. “Kikuyu Women and the Politics of Protest: Mau Mau.” In Images of Women in Peace and War: Cross-cultural and Historical Perspectives. Eds. Macdonald, Sharon, Holden, Pat, and Ardener, Shirley. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.
Kelley, Robin. 2006. “Forward.” In The Vinyl Ain’t Final: Hip Hop and the Globalization of Black Popular Culture. Eds. Basu, Dipannita and Lemelle, Sidney J.. London: Pluto. Dipannita Basu and Sidney J Lemelle. London: Pluto.
Kitwana, Bakari. 2002. The Hip Hop Generation: Young Blacks and the crisis in African American culture. New York: Basic Books.
Koster, Mickie Mwanzia. 2013. “The Hip Hop Revolution in Kenya: Ukoo Flani Mau Mau, Youth Politics and Memory, 1990–2012.” Journal of Pan African Studies 6 (3): 82105.
Light, Alan. 2004. “About a Salary or Reality?—Rap’s Recurrent Conflict.” In That’s the Joint: The Hip-Hop Studies Reader. Eds. Forman, Murray and Neal, Mark Anthony. New York: Routledge.
Lonsdale, John. 1992. “The Moral Economy of Mau Mau: Wealth, Poverty & Civic Virtue in Kikuyu Political Thought.” In Unhappy Valley: Conflict in Kenya and Africa. Eds. Berman, Bruce and Lonsdale, John. London: James Currey.
Lusane, Clarence. 2004. “Rap, Race, and Politics.” In That’s the Joint: The Hip-Hop Studies Reader. Eds. Forman, Murray and Neal, Mark Anthony. New York: Routledge.
Morgan, Marcyliena H. 2009. The Real Hiphop: Battling for Knowledge, Power, and Respect in the LA Underground. Durham: Duke University Press.
Mose, Catherine. 2013. “‘Swag’ and ‘Cred’: Representing Hip-hop in the African City.” Journal of Pan African Studies 6 (3): 106–32.
Mose, Catherine. 2014. “Hip Hop Halisi: Continuities of Heroism on the African Political Landscape.” In Hip Hop and Social Change in Africa: Ni Wakati. Eds. Clark, Msia Kibona and Koster, Mickie Mwanzia. London: Lexington Books.
Mũngai, Mbũgua wa. 2007. “‘Is Marwa! It’s Our’: Popular Music and Identity Politics in Kenyan Youth Culture.” In Cultural Production and Social Change in Kenya: Building Bridges. Edited by Njogu, Kimani, Oluoch-Olunya, Garnette, 4762. Nairobi: Twaweza Communications.
Mũngai, Mbũgua wa. 2008. “‘Made in Riverwood’: (Dis)locating Identities and Power through Kenyan Pop Music.” Journal of African Cultural Studies 20 (1): 5770.
Murunga, Godwin R., and Nasong’o, Shadrack Wanjala. 2007. Kenya: The Struggle for Democracy. Dakar, Senegal: Zed Books.
Musila, Grace. 2009. “Phallocracies and Gynocratic Transgressions: Gender, State Power and Kenyan Public Life.” Africa Insight 39 (1): 3957.
Mũtonya, Maina wa. 2007. “Ethnic Identity and Stereotypes in Popular Music: Mugiithi Performance in Kenya.” In Songs and Politics in Eastern Africa. Eds. Njogu, Kimani, Maupeu, Hervé. Nairobi: Twaweza Communications.
Mũtonya, Maina wa. 2013. The Politics of Everyday Life in Gĩkũyũ Popular Music of Kenya (1990–2000). Nairobi: Twaweza Communications.
Mwangi, Evan. 2010. “The Incomplete Rebellion: Mau Mau Movement in Twenty-First Century Kenyan Popular Culture.” Africa Today 57 (2): 86113.
Njogu, Kimani. 2008. Getting Heard: (Re)claiming Performance Space in Kenya. Vol. 3. Nairobi: Twaweza Communications.
Njogu, Kimani and Maupeu, Hervé, 2007. Songs and Politics in Eastern Africa. Nairobi, Kenya: Mkuki na Nyota Publishers.
Ntarangwi, Mwenda. 2009. East African Hip Hop: Youth Culture and Globalization. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
Nyairo, Joyce and Ogude, James. 2005. “Popular Music, Popular Politics: Unbwogable and the Idioms of Freedom in Kenyan Popular Music.” African Affairs 104 (415): 225–49.
Osumare, Halifu. 2010. “Motherland Hip Hop: Connective Marginality and African American Youth Culture in Senegal and Kenya.” In Rhythms of the Afro-Atlantic World: Rituals and Remembrances. Eds. Diouf, Mamadou and Nwankwo, Ifeoma Kiddoe. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Pardue, Derek. 2008. Ideologies of Marginality in Brazilian Hip Hop. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Pennycook, Alastair. 2007. “Language, Localization, and the Real: Hip-Hop and the Global Spread of Authenticity.” Journal of Language, Identity, and Education 6 (2):101–15.
Pennycook, Alastair and Mitchell, Tony. 2009. “Hip Hop as Dusty Foot Philosophy: Engaging Locality,” In Global Linguistic Flows: Hip Hop Cultures, Youth Identities, and the Politics of Language. Edited by Samy Alim, H., Ibrahim, Awad, and Pennycook, Alastair. New York: Routledge.
Perkins, Williams. 1996. Droppin’ Science: Critical Essays on Rap Music and Hip Hop Culture. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
Perry, Imani. 2004. Prophets of the Hood: Politics and Poetics in Hip Hop. Durham: Duke University Press.
Perry, Marc D. 2008. “Global Black Self-Fashionings: Hip Hop as Diasporic space.” Identities 15 (6): 635–64.
Potter, Russell A. 1995. Spectacular Vernaculars: Hip-Hop and the Politics of Postmodernism. Albany: State University of New York Press.
Pough, Gwendolyn. 2015. Check it While I Wreck It: Black Womanhood, Hip-Hop Culture, and the Public Sphere. Boston: Northeastern University Press.
Presley, Cora Ann. 1992. Kikuyu Women, the Mau Mau Rebellion, and Social Change in Kenya. Boulder: Westview Press.
Rabaka, Reiland. 2013. The Hip Hop Movement From R & B and the Civil Rights Movement to Rap and the Hip Hop Generation. Lanham, Md: Lexington Books.
Rose, Tricia. 2008. The Hip Hop Wars: What We Talk About When We Talk About Hip Hop—And Why it Matters. New York: BasicCivitas.
Saunders, Tanya L., 2015. Cuban Underground Hip Hop: Black Thoughts, Black Revolution, Black Modernity. Austin: University of Texas Press.
Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky. 1985. Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire. New York: Columbia University Press.
Speers, Laura. 2017. Hip-Hop Authenticity and the London Scene: Living Out Authenticity in Popular Music. Basingstoke: Taylor & Francis.
Shipley, Jesse Weaver. 2009. “Aesthetic of the Entrepreneur: Afro-Cosmopolitan Rap and Moral Circulation in Accra, Ghana.” Anthropological Quarterly 82 (3): 631–68.
Spence, Lester K. 2011. Stare in the Darkness: The Limits of Hip-Hop and Black Politics. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Agano, hip hop artist, Nairobi, December 10, 2011.
Amora, hip hop artist, Nairobi, November 20, 2012.
Demaine Jabez, hip hop artist, Nairobi, December 10, 2011.
Esen, graffiti artist, Nairobi, July 15, 2010.
Evaredi, hip hop artist, Nairobi, November 20, 2012.
Judge, hip hop artist, Nairobi, November 16, 2012.
Karpchizzy, hip hop artist, Nairobi, December 10, 2011.
Lness, hip hop artist, Nairobi, November 20, 2012.
Nafsi Huru, hip hop artist, Nairobi, December 10, 2011
Sue Timon, hip hop artist, Nairobi, November 20, 2012.
Wise, graffiti artist, Nairobi, July 20, 2010.

Keywords

Love, Struggle, and Compromises: The Political Seriousness of Nairobi Underground Hip Hop

  • RaShelle R. Peck
  • Please note a correction has been issued for this article.

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed

A correction has been issued for this article: