Save the SAMA drama
First things first: I am enough of a hip hop fan to be able to tell my Eric B. from my DJ Premier, but not enough to know who first coined the term “hip hop and it don’t stop”. Well, whoever it was, in the local context, they are about to stand corrected.
The SAMA Awards’ body has got local music fans, artists and folks on twitter (yes, another twitter reference) abuzz about a reported decision to amalgamate the Kwaito and Rap categories into one genre in future SAMA Award ceremonies. This decision, as one can imagine, has been met with much chagrin and outcry from those who consider themselves to be hip hop fans (or heads, as they refer to themselves).
Anyone who doesn’t know two drips about Kwaito or Rap would not understand this outrage from Rap fans and artists. That’s not to say such people are ignorant. As a hip hop listener myself, I can tell you first had that the benefits of abstinence from hip hop far outweigh the benefits of the indulgence thereof.
This brings me to the issue I am attempting to address. Are the South African Music Awards and their top board, RISA, making the right decision, or are they simply going batty?
Firstly, Rap is not the only category under the SAMA’s getting the amalgamation treatment. The category list is reportedly slimming down by almost least half from 57 to 30. Let us be frank. As diverse as our country is, in terms of cultures and even music, not every genre and form of music has a firm enough basis to stand as a valid music genre. One needs to take into account sales, performance turn ups and numbers. It makes no sense having genres for some music when it is not being adequately supported. A lot of categories are on their way out. Particularly the deadwood.
Now, before I get spat on and burnt at the stake for blasphemy, dear rap fan, answer this question for me. Would you rather have the music that you and I love so dearly shunned by a trade association that does not even appreciate it for the art it is, or patronized and rewarded for underachieving as it has for years now? The rap audience and community of South Africa has yet to speak with one voice on the matter that is local rap music. After every SAMA award ceremony the winner in the Best Rap Album category, more often than not, has to defend the merit as an award winning artist to some ticked off Rap listener that expects Flabba to sound like Hymphatic (that was just a hypothetical comparison, by the way).
A pet peeve for hip hop and rap listeners in this SAMA drama is the fact that the SAMA’s are now putting rap music in the same category as kwaito music as it is now. Could one see the nightmare of rap consistently losing awards to the Big Nuz’s and L’vovo’s of SA music year after year after year? That is not what I’m saying will happen, by any means, but it says a lot about the confidence rap listeners have in the music they listen to and enjoy.
The trouble is, other than the platform to expose rap to a foreign and potentially receptive audience through performance, the Best Rap SAMA Award has not done much to the benefit of its genre. Last year’s (2010) Best Rap Album was Teargas’ Dark Or Blue, which I believe was well deserved for the rap trio. Many of my fellow rap listeners would beg to differ. But other than Tuks Senganga’s Mafoko A Me, I don’t recall a single classic hip hop album that won the Best Rap Album SAMA and undeniably deserved to. Can you? Don’t worry I’ll wait…
Truthfully, I have yet to find a friend of mine who is, in any way, chuffed about Amu winning the Best Rap Album SAMA for 2011. If every SAMA winner grants a rap listener grounds to moan, why then, is it such a problem to scrap the hip hop genre? You can’t stop the SAMA judging panel from making the “uninformed” decision they have been making concerning rap for nearly ten years.
Instead, why not send the heat the industry’s way? This is a sobering reminder that we need to expect more from our musicians. The fact that platinum status in South Africa has been dropped to below 25,000 copies and hip hop artists can’t even meet that quota is absolutely unacceptable. Piracy can only do so much, so that excuse simply won’t fly. Say what you will about Jack Parrow and Pitch Black Afro, but they are the only local rap artists to date that have gone platinum. Because they’re gimmicks? No, because they’re doing something two thirds of the industry isn’t. They are listening to listeners.
I myself, have never regarded the SAMA Awards as an authority on rap music. I am altogether indifferent about who wins the Best Rap Album SAMA year as, most usually, it’s someone I don’t like. But I am concerned about the state of local hip hop and how we, as listeners, interact with our artists.
I am all for Shuggasmax’s idea of boycotting the SAMA’s should this proposal be approved and made official. If we want to feel catered to, we should strike out and do it our way. As a hip hop head why take to heart the sentiments of a trade association that hasn’t done right by the likes of Goddessa, Black Noize, Prophets of Da City as well as Tumi and The Volume?
I say, let them have at it! It’s their right and privilege after all. And while a rapper may lose to Professor at the SAMA’s, local hip hop will have won something much more important: it’s own identity.