Hip hop and the lovers of this genre of music, from way back, are inseparable; at least that is what a close observation of the entertainment scene in Rwanda reveals.
But does the genre still have its glitter?
In Rwanda, only a few artistes stage solo shows. Among these, it is hard to come across hip-hop musicians. In fact, the few shows organised in recent years have turned out a flop.
In recent years, other genres have risen, with Afro-R&B, pop, Reggae and Afro-beat capturing most FM radio playlists.
Rwanda’s Hip-hop culture can be traced to around 2003, with pioneers such as MC Mahoni Boni of Turi kumwe fame,
“By then Hip-hop was marketable with companies paying artistes to push their campaigns,” recalls Jean Paul Gatsinda alias Producer JP, one of the pioneering Rwandan audio producers.
With just a handful recording studios — Cool Stuff, SH Records, and TFP — rappers like Big Dom (based in France), Inspector Lewis, MC Bashir, DMS, Neg.G, P-Fla, Bull Dogg, Bably, Fireman, Ridderman, to Bac T, Diplomate, K8 Kavuyo, AmaG the Black, Angel Mutoni, True.D rose.
From 2006, other genres like Afro-R&B picked up, with musicians such as Miss Jojo, The Ben, Meddy, King James, Tom Close, Miss Shannel, Yvan Buravan, Mike Kayuhura, and Naleli Rugege taking over the scene.
Gatsinda recalls how the decline of Hip-hop was partly sparked by broadcast media. With few radio stations like Radio 10 and Contact, a few people in the media took advantage of the industry’s evolution by siding with new genres.
“In the rise of Afro-R&B, Hip-hop artistes saw a threat, and began rising against it,” he explains.
To Vj Nano, a prominent broadcast media person and event organiser, things have changed: Africa is embracing Afro-pop and R&B.
“It is not known where the Hip-hop has gone,” he explains.
Joshua Tuyishime alias Jay Polly, explains these changes through his his sixth music album, Nta Mpaka. According to Jay Polly, the album is an awareness project lyrically explaining the changes and challenges that have been faced by Rwanda’s music industry in the past few years.
“The downfall is mainly attributed to us for we slide from our initial goal into fighting, and rivalry,” he explains
The rapper, who is also the Primus Guma Guma Super Star 2014 winner, says music released is full of hate directed to each other, rather than inspiring generations.
“Broadcast media can be blamed less, since it can barely promote music, with lyrics filled with hate,” he explains.
However, as the local music scene evolved, musicians entered into collaborations, hoping to keep the genre alive. There have been various collaborations between Afro R&B, pop and Afro-beat artistes with Hip-hop musicians.
But the Hip-hop story can best be told through Lionel Karangwa alias Lil G.
Lil G has risen with the genre, starting at age 12, when he captured the imagination of the industry, hitting the playlists.
Now 24, Lil G’s music has taken a turn from just plain hip-hop to incorporating Afro-R&B.
“I haven’t quit the genre, but I realise how R&B is more lucrative. So I decided to integrate it with my music,” he explains.
According to Mr Gatsinda, there is a need for a new definition of Rwandan Hip-hop genre. To get to this, he adds, artistes must get more creative,
“They just need to re-unite, and do it as a sole passion as before,” Gatsinda said.