The future of hip-hop: Black Bird

Black Bird (BB) is one of Zimbabwe’s greatest female hip-hop artists. With a successful debut album under her belt (Tha Rappetizer), the rhythm and poetry goddess has worked with local and African hip-hop heavies. Yeukai Moyo (YM) caught up with her to hear her thoughts on the future of hip-hop industry.

Hip-hop legend, Black Bird.
Hip-hop legend, Black Bird.

YM: Tell me more about your background, and how you fell in love with music.

BB: I began listening to hip-hop as a little kid because my brother loved Tupac, Wutang Clan, Guru, Nas and all the other greats. I ended up getting drawn to the hip-hop game. The female rappers especially appealed to me. Da Brat, MC Lyte, Left Eye and Queen Latifah are some of the women that made me want to rap. In form three, I started performing at church and youth camps and from then on the stage became my home and hip-hop kind of took over my life.

YM: How do you feel being part of a male-dominated music genre?

BB: Well it’s not just in Zimbabwe that hip hop is male-dominated. The American scene has very few women who are successful. I used to stay in South Africa and it’s exactly like that. I find it interesting being in a male-dominated field because the majority of people have misconceptions about me. There is also a lot of support, though, because people love hip hop and it fascinates them that I have gone against the grain and gone where very few women have gone.

YM: What specific challenges do you face?

BB: Being a woman in music comes with the usual set of complications and societal taboos, but I keep going regardless. Like most female musicians, I do face challenges, but most of them seem to come from rapping in English. A lot of people in Zimbabwe believe that using English means I don’t value my culture, but it’s exactly the opposite. I love Zimbabwe and Africa so much I want the rest of the world to hear my story about this continent without language being a barrier.

Many stakeholders tend to be unsure of how to deal with me. They usually tell me they like my drive, my style, but they worry that it isn’t viable in Zimbabwe if it isn’t in Shona. I end up missing certain opportunities and investors become hesitant because I have used English. Now this opinion really disturbs me, because we say we are in a global village. Music is about communication. How do you communicate with people who don’t understand what you are saying? If you want Zimbabwe specifically to understand your message, then Shona is fine. But if you want people in Iraq, Germany or Alaska to get it, then English is a much better tool.

YM: How do you view the future of female MCs in Zimbabwe?

BB: I think the future for Zimbabwean hip hop is very bright. We have a unique combination of excellent education and a unique Zimbabwean experience. We have an advantage over other African hip hop artists because of this county’s focus on education and Zimbabwean rappers have a vocabulary and English proficiency that most Africans can’t compete with.

The future for female MCs is also looking great, and I am confident that the next few years will see a new breed of girls who aren’t afraid to step up to the boys. When I released my debut album last year in October, I was the first woman to ever release a hip hop album in Zimbabwe. Since then there has been an increase in the number of female MCs and radio attests to it daily.

Post published in: Entertainment

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