Maya Wegerif is an eighteen-year-old South African poet and Spoken Word Artist currently living in Dar es Salaam. Informed by what she terms an Africanist perspective, her writing aims to challenge sexist, racial and political issues that plague our societies. She was first published at the age of eleven when her mom found a poem of hers and entered it into a local poetry competition. Later, Maya’s poems were published in the Timbila Journal of Onion Skin Poetry, an anthology collection by African writers. She recently collaborated with other artists in Dar es Salaam to create the multi-media exhibition, The Roof of Africa. She was also part of a group of East and Southern African artists who produced the Climate Change Song ‘Ain’t Got Nothin.‘
She recently took the time to share with us the story of how she came to fall in love with Hip hIp and picked five cuts that have come to influence and shape her artistic sensibility.
“When [did] I f[a]ll in love with Hip Hop? It could have been when Lauryn Hill’s proud voice announced her law of physics, ‘two emcees can’t occupy the same space at the same time.‘ Or maybe it was when she warned that though she was ‘sweet like licorice’ she could be ‘dangerous like syphilis.‘ Either way, my rather public love affair with the Fugees began. I was taken aback by this seemingly invincible genius that was Lauryn Hill and taken further aback by this unapologetically audacious force that is Hip Hop.
Her Top Five…
With Lauryn Hill’s daring voice, Wyclef’s outlandish style and Pras’ deep mysterious air this trio had me hooked. And even after having listened to the CD enough times to memorize every lyric (including the brief skits between some of the tracks), I find a renewed love for this album each time I hear it.
I always liked Mos Def. I always liked Talib Kweli. When I heard “one two three! Mos Def and Talib Kweli” bless my eardrums, I immediately got the album. That is when I heard their other tracks such as “Brown Skin Lady” in which the black woman was praised for her beauty, her genius and her blackness. Since most modern Hip Hop portrays women of color as sex symbols only complete with Western features such as long straight hair and light skin, Mos and Kweli painted the black woman that I knew.
In my mind Spearhead was the man who introduced Rock, Reggae and Hip Hop. A mutual friend. He plays guitar and rhymes over it about social issues as well as groove music that makes you want to, in his words, “put your arms in the air, let me see your armpit hair!” His playfulness combined with his social consciousness made him a winner. I currently have 3 of his albums.
Kanye had us all shouting “Jesus Walks” and then yelling “I ain’t saying she a gold digger” all in the same breath. Versatile, Kanye is blantantly arrogant but not without reason. I was fascinated by his manipulation of word pronunciation. He refused to accept that certain words didn’t rhyme, he bent and flipped them so that “Amen” and “a man” sounded like the same word and convinced us that “Hell yeah” rhymed with “hell here.”
The Last Emperor and Masta Ace sound very different from each other; however the thing I love most about each is something they have in common. Now a favorite technique of mine, they both use strong concepts. Masta Ace talks of drug dealing using the concept of a football game in his song “Unfriendly Games” where “the only white lines are the ones niggas sniffin’.” In his song “Cat People” the Last Emperor describes himself as a cat saying “I’m part man and part jaguar, the Em”purr”or.” These concepts are explicit, clever and effective.
(Photo: Maya Wegerif)