It’s that time of the year where excitement, controversy and criticism surrounds the music industry. No matter how many of us act the same way we do when people are making new year’s resolutions, a lot of us simply claim that we do not care and subliminally make fun of those who bother, but deep down there is that little curiosity.

Once a name we are familiar with or a category we are interested in has a juicy piece of info in there, the least we will do is turn an ear but we will most likely chime in and give our opinion. Like Lady May’s epic good night that translated into a good amount of time away from the Namas. Or the dude that no one seems to know stole the mic and stage. Le Sean’s Kanye rant. Gazza and Dogg’s first colab performance in many moons.

Whether you watched them live, on TV or just heard it through the grape vine this platform has a way of reaching people who have the slightest interest in music. Simply put, in Namibia it is a really big musical platform and if you have any ambition in music, this is a place you would want to perform… Or better than that, getting nominated… or much better than that, win an award or a bunch of them.

As a person involved in hip-hop by means of various capacities, I have to ask the question ‘what are the major hip-hop platforms in Namibia?’ Something like the Namas. Where you can try and ignore it but the news will still get to you cause it is just that big.

Yes, there are a variety of platforms:

 What if hip-hop sessions

 Namibia Rap League

 Freestyle Friday

 Watagwan

 The cypher

 The Namibian Rap battle

 And more…

Let’s not forgetting publications, radio shows, CD launches, events and parties. Now which of these is so big that they unapologetically snatch your attention like the Namas even if you try to ignore them? The truth is you can look at this list and say ‘I’ve never heard of that!’ or you can even say to me ‘you did not mention this, that and the other’ and that proves my point. Hip-hop in Namibia is a small niche and yet we cannot put together a platform that makes us aspire the same way the Namibian awards do.

Should we blame show organisers? The lack of sponsors? The disparity in the caliber of rappers?… we can make a long list but I would like to give my list of the top three culprits for keeping Namibian hip-hop platforms small:

Critics:

Opinions are like *caugh caugh cause everybody has one (shout out to those who know the bars I refer to). The easiest part of any show, even the Namas, I having something negative to say. I remember one of the most disappointing things from one of the past Namas, and I quote

‘It was uneventful cause there were not blunders.’

I too looked forward to a youtube compilation with blunders like the winner of female artist of the year winner saying,

‘Wow, I did not expect that! I thought like ugh… Exit is going to take it.’

I know us common folk can’t walk up to the organisers of the Namas and offer our assistance or opinion with the hopes of being heeded, but those of us that have good advice to offer can step up to almost any of the hip-hop platforms and help step the game up.

You know the saying, ‘if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.’ And in this case I agree cause it also ties in with the quote ‘the only thing that needs to happen for evil to triumph, is for good men to do nothing.’

In terms of hip-hop, if you want poor quality shows determine the reputation of our industry, all it will take if for people with good ideas and advice to just make fun of how it is all being done wrong.

Fans:

Oh yes the fans… me, you or anyone who claims they love hip-hop or rap, whichever terms you prefer to use. Here is the thing, when we decide to not support live shows, a few things happen to set the industry a few steps back. The organizer does not make enough money to do it again, sooner rather than later which will ultimately grow the platform that will attract A grade artists.

The other thing that will happen is that venues that give room to hip-hop will be under pressureto choose if they should keep getting underpaid to host hip-hop shows or just continue withother genres with bigger followings, sponsorships and so on.

Sadly most unsporting fans fall in the category of the critic mentioned above. If you are truly a fan, you look for the good, no matter how rare and do your part to support and nurture it until it cannot be ignored. Until the events are well attended… but without the initiating crowd and die hard supporters, whatever gets started will struggle and eventually close, and in the end so called fans will say things like;

‘yes many have tried building this platform but failed. Good luck anyway.’

How insensitive and detached can a fan be? Fan, is short for fanatic, and the way most ‘fans’ act we got to question if they are really fans in the first place or just likers of things. I know I am speaking in 3 rd person, but I am talking about me and you. Are we really supportive in a way that we can make a hip-hop platform really grow? And finally…

Artists:

A platform is not an entitlement ticket but more of an opportunity to get to the next door you are going to open to reach the next level. But before I go there let me say this, we are fooling ourselves if we think that hip-hop is going to have a big platform where people scramble to spectate or participate we are highly mistaken! As long as rappers who have a buzz and videos believe they are too big for ‘humble event such and such’ and only go to established platforms they will not support hip-hop platforms that will one day become a giant.

If I am right and that is the case, it is safe to say that those came into the industry through hip-hop are more interested in growing ourselves and not the industry. This is my humble opinion and I would love to be corrected if I am wrong.

The other side of the same coin is the point I made before, once we get on a big platform, we have a tendency to get gassed up and overlook our peers and the hip-hop movement itself.

Firstly, getting on a big platform, like winning SA Idols for example, is not your free pass to fame, wealth and success. It could be, but that depends on what is done with the opportunity to go to the next level. But too often setting foot on those platforms a few times we become hubris (a nice word to look up), even if we exclaim ‘this one’s for hip-hop!’

I use the word hubris because the attitude that these three groups of people (of which I too am part of) think we have won when we tweet a comment that gets tons of retweets when we make fun of a badly organized show. Or as a fan I say the artist doesn’t need me (but the platform does) and then complain about the low standards. And finally the artists who will burn the bridges from which they came before they got some recognition. As long as these things happen, we will not have a hip hop festivals like NamRock, where rappers will also perform.

International music day, Windhoek Jazz festival and others where rappers will go to be infront of big crowds, but none of them are platforms where hip-hop is at home and not a guest.

I say all that to say we are enough heads to make a big hip-hop platform. Big enough for corporates to want to pour money in just to be part of it, where government would look for ambassadors, companies would look for spokes people… in other words they will jump on board when the train is moving, but that train won’t start moving unless rappers, fans and organisers that collectively have the power to move the people are not supportive, hip-hop will only make big appearances as a guest on other platforms. Let’s really play our part in building the industry.

– Harry M.

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Author: monochromemag

Namibia's new Fashion and Lifestyle Magazine.

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