Peter Scholtes always brings the depth and detail with his pieces, this time covering his town's African hip-hoppers, and whether hip-hop's ties to Africa are sometimes over-mythologized.
Also check Keith Harris' "Africa's Ultimate Beats and Breaks" on the same page (shoutout to Ben Herson), and Peter's exhaustive collection of African hip-hop links here.
PAYBACK IS A MOTHERLAND
... [Faada] Freddy, whose Senegalese rap trio Daara J performs for free in Loring Park on Monday, is a foremost advocate for the theory that, by finding embrace in Africa, hip hop has "come home." Collaborating freely (the crew recently recorded with Malian legend Salif Keita) and inflecting their tassou with dancehall toasts and R&B melodies, Daara J's sales pitch nevertheless relies on their association with the oldest of old schools.
"The storytellers used songs to say, 'This is how we should act,'" says Freddy. "It was a way for them to remind us that socially, politically, we have to be involved. Back then there were no TVs, no Internet neither. The only way for people to communicate was through the griots. Pop music was a way to know what was going on in the countryside."
These days, rap music has become a way for African immigrants, including thousands of Minnesotans, to connect with their home countries. No longer just black America's CNN, hip hop is a griot for a black planet.
Which is why I'm surprised to learn that Freddy, who grew up speaking Wolof, has never heard of the theory that "hip" originated from xippi. At the mention of this, the expert rhetorician nearly leaps through the phone.
"And xeupp [pronounced 'hop'] means 'to pour something,'" he says. "When you're just full of something, you pour it. Like when you're full of emotion, you give it to the people."
Most African rappers hesitate to claim hip hop for Africa. "It's a good story," says Ghanaian-born M.anifest, smiling in a way that suggests he thinks Faada Freddy is full of something, all right (though he admires Daara J's live show). "Plus they named their CD Boomerang. Very smart marketing..."