Championing hip hop for positive change

Imagine, a young star in the ‘Ghetto’ calling himself a gangster and spending his precious time drinking the popular midori or terrorising their neighborhood and families with petty thefts of decoders and radios? What about those who spend their time chasing women and answering to such tags as ‘Bae killers’ or womanisers?

Not only boys are caught in the mess of reckless lifestyles all in the name of leading popular cultures. Girls too are embroiled in a similar trap with some dressing in erotic attires that make them look like zombies ready to attract the attention of every loose man on the street. They are busy riding uncle Baes’ cars and patronising night clubs anyhow.

Fredokiss performs to young people during one of his shows

In same vein, the young are increasingly becoming self-possessed with the popular urban culture to the extent that discipline is lacking among them.  To them, they have a right to behave the way they want.

Activists argue that most young people today copy bad lifestyles from the media such as music videos. For example, when one watches a character that is depicted as a womaniser in a movie or music video, they tend to copy such behaviour and apply it in their real-life experience.

“It’s not normal at all because this exposes them to danger. Instead of consuming positive messages, young people today are increasingly exposed to immoral content which put their lives at risk of contracting HIV,” observed Chimwemwe Kaonga, a youth commissioner for the National Aids Commission (NAC).

Just like many artistic genres, hip hop is heavily connected to negativity. For example, some hip hop videos depict traits of ‘thuggin’ and drug-dealing’ as a way of life. This eventually imparts negativity on those youths that copy and try to apply it in real-life situations.

As a matter of fact, hip hop originated from the streets of Harlem and Bronx in the United States of America (US) and it has always been associated with street life. This culture has been spread over the world, including Malawi, where young people behave as if they are on the streets of Bronx and Harlem.

Historically, hip hop culture is connected with the majority of young people around the globe. It was a way for members of marginalised communities to express themselves on their own terms. But once hip hop went global, the capitalists caught on and started twisting it to portray a negative narrative, according to Hip Hop for Change (HH4C), an American initiative aimed at reclaiming hip hop and use it as a force for social justice.

“The mainstream music industry sells sexism, drug abuse and homophobia, materialism and gang violence as if these problems represent the cornerstones of hip hop culture,” states the HH4C mission statement.

“[But] hip hop stems from the roots of artistic, creative and militant demands for justice and the acceptance of diversity in all its forms. In this way, hip hop is what we, as individuals, want it to be.”

As young people continue to be frenzied by negative lifestyles that are mostly depicted in videos, some think Hip hop is a misleading genre which is igniting problems in the society. But not all is lost as some artists and organisations in the country have embraced the genre as a tool for bringing change.

HipHop4HIV is one of the projects—founded by Vida Germano—aimed at creating an HIV-free community.

“Expressing ourselves to what we feel or what we went through and what we are still going through because of HIV through music is easier than just talking about it. This is why we introduced this project which uses the power of hip hop to fight HIV,” he says.

Recently, HipHop4HIV organised a music competition in which Mlaka-Maliro’s song, Jammal, triumphed after composing a theme song for the project titled Love and Protect Yourself. He went away with K50 000 as a prize. The theme song is being used to raise awareness in youth programmes in different radio programmes and music shows.

“The aim of the competition was to bring together youthful innovative minds through hip hop which they love and deliver a compelling HIV and Aids message to create a genuinely informed and an HIV and Aids negative community. We are grateful to Jamaal Mlaka-Maliro for emerging the winner,” says HipHop4HIV countty director Victoria Masanje.

Rapper Fredokiss, who is popularly known as Ghetto King Kong, believes he has revolutionalised hip hop to address the needs of young people in the country.

He observes that majority of young people are swimming in poverty as well as facing all sorts of challenges hindering their personal growth.

“As a representative of Ghetto youths, I feel the need to compose songs that give hope to this group. There is no need for me to talk about lavish lifestyles or flashy cars while majority of young people are languishing in the Ghetto,” says Fredokiss, whose real name is Penjani Kalua.

He emphasises that young people need employment and positive lifestyles in Malawi; hence, the need for artists to embrace hip hop for change.

“We need to preach hard work and advocate for conducive living conditions for the country’s young people. We need to inspire them to be go-getters and hard workers who can make it through amid the crisis,” says Fredokiss, reiterating that his music represents the struggles of Ghetto youths. n

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