Some uncomfortable truths have got to be spoken before we can go back to pretending like the direction we are headed will get us any closer to the dream of an independent, self-sufficient, provincially owned and controlled yet globally viable Hip Hop industry in the Eastern Cape. The mask has to be removed from this hideous undergrowth of deceit, sabotage, stalling and pretentious activity which slows down what little progress we have as a province, while others thrive and entice our better talent in their direction.
The first of these truths is that as much as reppin’ your hood comes highly recommended, only reppin’ your hood to other neighbouring hoods of the same city will get you famous at sessions and cyphers and nowhere else. Its so easy to fall into the “hometown hero” death trap which has seen to oblivion, the potentially fruitful careers of many of our artists. You know some, I know some, we all know or are some to some extent. There is nothing better than a new audience, even on 200kms away from where you usually ply your trade as an artist. Yet in the Eastern Cape we have traditionally made it so difficult for one another to find suitable platforms in a collaborative effort to unify our province by sharing stages. To this day there are 3 main regions that are independent of one another in the Hip Hop sphere. Port Elizabeth (region), East London (region) and Mthatha (region). Viewed as strongholds and areas that churn out talent in great numbers, it is only recently that major collaborative efforts have been made to see a permanent unity gaining momentum. OG’s stand as gatekeepers to the high energy new sound that allows the new wave to work harder and faster than they did. With all due respect, there has to be better way for us to work together in the Eastern Cape than the way we are working now.
The second truth is that the majority of performance-ready acts would rather take a free gig than see another competing act get paid for the same performance. We undercut, sell out and back stab the hell out of each other for stages where we leave our blood, sweat and tears, yet leave the venue with sweet fuckall. Promoters are having the time of their lives pitting y’all against each other and enjoying watching their expenses go from R2000 to a couple of beers after the performance because they didn’t even have to fork out a cent for your performance. Stop this free performing. Ensure that something always exchanges hands and do not ever accept anything but cold, hard Madiba’s as payment. The industry we are trying to grow will than you later. If we can all commit to doing this for 12 months, you would see what would become of the value of a performance. It would skyrocket, and so would the quality.
The final truth is the worst. Most of you don’t have a sound o your own. Not even close. The worst part is that even in trying to imitate a popular trending sound, you copy so close to home that, sadly, you end up sounding like each other. Those with a broader soundscape are also of the view that its criminal to make music that appeals to the masses. Like its somehow offensive to have a lot of people enjoy your music at the same time. Why?
Regardless of how harsh the realities here may be, I would choose to be no place else. This is where opportunity and ambition will fight a never ending war. This is where even our wrongs are done with so much passion that they feel right. Where our playground is getting bigger, but the toys even more dangerous. But this is home. And we just wanna see it valuated and proclaimed by the world for what its worth. Lets just clean it up a bit. Paint it. Fix the yard. And open up the gates for the viewers to get a real glimpse of the home that is Eastern Cape Hip Hop.