Hip-Hop Colony

We chubby Americans don’t know nothing about Kenya. We may hear the country’s name flash in a news report and dismiss it as another poor war torn East African country. Most will not even realize that the culture and music coming out of this third world spot on the map has more integrity than the mass-plastic-produced tunes that represent American popular music. Image Entertainment’s documentary, Hip-Hop Colony (Image) directed by Michael Wanguhu broadcasts Kenya’s rap scene loud and proud to the rest of the world. The film follows local artists as they politic on the thrills of the industry and the ills of the in the streets.Hear it here first: Bamboo is a nice emcee and Harry Kimani is a one of a kind soul singer. Although Kenya may be mostly known for its long distance running records and its tiffs with British colonialism, Hip-Hop Colony looks at Kenya from the fresh new lens of its contributions to international Hip-Hop. The documentary showcases Kenya’s local artists, Nazizzi, Bamboo, Prezzo, and many others from Nairobi to the countryside as they break down Kenyan Hip-Hop’s mission to combine Hip-Hop English with Kenya’s various dialects into a movement known as Genge, “music for the people.” The film’s first scene features Bamboo and a couple of his emcee buddies freestyling to the tune of Harry Kimani’s guitar. From the playful yet intelligent bars they spit, viewers can tell that they are definitely hip to the technique of rhyme.This film points out that Kenya’s emcees are suffering just as rappers in the States. They go through the same struggle to save their craft from succumbing to a watered down mainstream market. They beg for royalties when their songs play on the radio just like American rappers. However, Kenyan rappers treasure their pioneers. Americans like to think they do. Kenya’s version of Afrika Bambataa is the local group Kalamashaka whose countrywide hit “Tafsiri” inspired many Kenya rappers to build upon their ambitious and unprecedented mélange of Hip Hop accompaniment and Swahili lyrics.Hip-Hop Colony interviews a diverse cast of characters to get to the core of the Kenyan Hip-Hop scene. Everyone from Hip-Hop legend Hardstone to members of the Ogapa DJs and Mau Mau clique drop their two cents on the future of this burgeoning regional genre. The video has a grainy VHS home video quality at times but the content of the video is precise nonetheless. Image Entertainment has successfully put Hip-Hop in a global context and shows that Hip-Hop, unlike many of world’s forces, does not discriminate. 

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