By Kenneth Matimaire – Zimbabwe is one of the African countries where hip hop music is making a profound influence and following. Emcees such as the legendary Mau Mau aka Mwanawamayi, the late King Pinn, Metaphysics and Mizchif are one of the greatest names ever to emerge from the local rap circles.
Over the past decade, hip hop has been overshadowed from the mainstream music circles with other genres such as sungura, gospel, dancehall and urban grooves music. It is against this backdrop that rap fanatics are mobilizing the hip hop community to form the Zimbabwe Hip Hop Association, whose core objectives is to elevate the internationally acclaimed genre to greater heights locally.
Shout-Africa Arts and Entertainment Correspondent Kenneth Matimaire caught up with the association’s interim chairperson Black Bird to shed more light about where they are coming from and heading as a body.
KM: Who came up with this idea?
BB: The idea of a hip-hop Association has been floating about for some-time and over the past two years I have had more than a dozen conversations with rappers, producers and other industry cats who were all suggesting we do need a structured entity to represent us. I’m a full-time rapper and don’t have a day job, so the issue of structure and lack of benefits was becoming a more and more of a problem for me. I got kids and I need medical aid and funeral cover like all working mothers. My industry doesn’t provide for such a structure. As a member of the National Arts Council I can access some benefits, but I know that there are other concerns that only fellow hip-hop artists share. Towards the end of last year, the need for the association became obvious and so I decided that instead of just talking about it I was going to co-ordinate it into fruition because no one else was taking the initiative and getting it done. It’s like the association was everyone’s idea, but not everyone wanted to get down and do the dirty work, that’s where I stepped in.
KM: Who is spearheading this development?
BB: Like I mentioned above, I am currently doing the co-ordination and administration for the association, but we do have some key hip-hop figures in our interim committee, these include legendary Chitungwiza emcee Munetsi Matambanadzo and Animation whizz Nqobizitha ‘Enqore’ Mlilo. Right now we are at the foundational stage and a lot of the people who should be here building this thing with us aren’t. I think everyone is waiting for a personal invitation, but I think it’s every hip-hop head in Zimbabwe’s responsibility to get involved and ask what needs to be done.
KM: When and where exactly is it the association going to be established?
BB: We are hoping to have our first AGM within three months-time and that event will be followed by an official launch and after-party to celebrate the association’s formation. We are still in the process of recruiting members and making the associations existence known. We also want to sort out our National Arts Council registration before officially launching the association. At the moment the association has no fixed office, but we hope to get one soon so that upon our launch we will be in our new offices. I have basically been working from home on my laptop, but it would be nice to have an established association, with a business premises so I have more administrative staff to share the workload with. I never realized how much of a response we would be getting and of late, a lot of my phone calls and emails are related to the association. Hip-hop heads from all over the country are getting in touch with us and that’s great.
KM: What propelled you (hip hop heads) to come up with this association?
BB: When making music in a studio you don’t realize the importance of structure within the production and distribution chain. After recording and releasing our products, most of the hip-hop music in this country doesn’t go anywhere. The market dictates that sungura and urban grooves have more of a demand and hence the investors don’t really give us light of day, yet internationally it is well known that hip-hop artists are some of the highest paid in the industry. We needed a body to help Zim’s hip-hop industry get to that point, by improving on quality through training, providing benefits for our members and also by getting government, civil society and the corporate world to see that hip-hop artists are professional musicians with branding power.
KM: What are the objectives of the association and how will it benefit MCs and the hip hop community?
BB: The Zimbabwe Hip Hop Association has been created to represent all hip-hop artists and practitioners. The aim of the organization is to take up the hip-hop community’s concerns with the relevant stakeholders, whilst also developing its members to an international level. The association is there to serve as an umbrella body that will protect and develop the local hip-hop community, in order to make it available industry that creates employment for youths across Zimbabwe. Membership is not only for artists, but to all supporters and lovers of Zimbabwean hip-hop. Companies that are service providers to hip-hop artists are also welcome to join.
KM: What are the association’s internal structures?
BB: At the moment I am the head of a six member interim committee but at our AGM we hope to vote the Executive Committee and the Board into office. We plan on having the standard posts found in organizations of this nature, but we do need to also have a Rap, Production, DJ, Dance, Graffiti and Fashion representative in the Executive Committee, making sure that none of the elements of hip-hop are neglected.
KM: Anything else that you feel people should know?
BB: We will be publishing an annual Zim Hip-Hop Directory with information on studios, artists, producers, graphic designers, music video directors and all other members of our association. We plan on providing it for free online and printing a limited number of copies for sale. Every-day I get lots of questions from upcoming rappers looking for producers or artists to work with. I think this database will be an important part of growing the local hip-hop industry and making people aware of the options that are out there. Please get in touch if you would like to be in the directory and to become a member, as we will only publish registered association members details.