Album: Various Artists

Africa Raps, Trokont
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The Independent Culture

Given the West African griot tradition, the rise of rap music in Senegal and Mali shouldn't come as much of a surprise, though, as Africa Raps shows, the genre's local (Francophone) proponents have sensibly refused to buy into hip-hop culture wholesale: instead of the back-biting, immorality and violence of American rap, the form is used here almost exclusively as a platform for political grievance and social commentary. Gokh-Bi System's "Xaesal" decries the use of skin-bleaching agents by African women; Abass Abass's "Urgence" offers a nightmarish account of an accident victim's poor treatment by the Senegalese health service; CBV's "Art. 158" attacks the section of the country's criminal code that penalises possession of "yamba" (marijuana) and even Rizlas; and rappers such as Omzo, Sen Kumpe, Da Fugitivz and DaBrains criticise political corruption. The standard of chatting is generally high, though not all of the rappers have voices as appropriate to the task as the gruff, guttural tones of BMG 44. While most of the Senegalese contributors opt for the international rap style of breakbeats allied to acoustic guitar loops, string pads and keyboard figures, a few, such as Gokh-Bi System and Positive Black Soul, along with Malian rappers such as Tata Pound and Les Escrocs, bring the region's native kora music into the new world of breakbeats and banter. A fine compilation from a German label whose splendidly diverse catalogue covers everything from rembetika to reefer songs. See www.klang-records.co.uk

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