I have lost count as to how many times I have gone back and forth in my mind when it came to writing the following analysis on Lesotho Hip Hop. Granted it’s been something I have wanted to do for quite some time, I have just never felt compelled enough to finally do it, but I guess one can only flirt with an idea for so long. This is my earnest attempt at giving Lesotho Hip Hop some form of back-story from a neutral non-affiliated point of view, with hopes of getting some form of traction in diagnosing why Lesotho Hip Hop is what it is and/or where it is.
First things first though, who am I and why have I tasked myself this ‘trivial’ task? I am Sekese Rasephei, rap alias Futuristic. The first local Hip Hop song I ever heard was Skebza’s Lumelang circa early 2000s. At the time I never fancied myself a rapper, instead I was just an avid consumer of music in general. I only became aware of local Hip Hop in the mid-2000s, courtesy of airplay on local radio stations such as Joy FM and PC-FM. However, right before I turned 15– May 2006 Ultimate FM got on air. This is the first time I heard Nuch on ‘The Backdoor Sessions’ hosted by Mr. Maps. After hearing Nuch rap, I decided I wanted to rap. ‘The Backdoor Sessions’ opened a can of worms when it came to local Hip Hop for me, only these were sweet edible worms which I gladly gobbled down. I made a decision that I wanted to be a part of this world that I had no idea existed, LESOTHO HIP HOP.
By now you’ve established that I am quite a late-bloomer and because I was never exposed or even aware of earlier movements and scenes such as your Sprite Hip Hop show on PC-FM or the Africa Movement back at Roma-NUL, my credibility of Lesotho Hip Hop may be questionable, fair enough, but I will never claim to know everything about it or to have always been there. Nonetheless, I believe I have a little bit of credibility, if anything, to make legit commentary on it.
I love Hip Hop. I love Lesotho Hip Hop but unfortunately it is the most stagnant Hip Hop scene I have ever come to know. There are so many things wrong with Lesotho Hip Hop than there are right with it. The saddest thing is that we’re contributing immensely to its immobility. With the odds already stacked against us in that there isn’t a proper music industry in Lesotho to begin with, one would think we’d be savvier in trying to architect an industry conducive to our art, considering that we have raw talent in immeasurable amounts.
Among other things, my biggest gripe with Lesotho Hip Hop is that everybody wants to rap. I don’t know if this is the biggest case of FOMO or people just genuinely believe they rap that good. A viable Hip Hop industry is not built on rappers alone. I wish some people would INVEST the same amount of time, money and passion they do in rapping to other essential elements required to have a fully functioning industry.
An industry needs more serious radio jocks, serious promoters, serious record executives, serious video directors, serious photographers, serious writers (of Hip Hop) and less MC’s that happen to produce, make beats, direct videos, makes album art, is a promoter, is so and so’s manager and pretty much everything. The problem with this sort of set up is that people don’t fulfill their roles effectively because there’s always a conflict of interest as a result of being committed to too many tasks. Assuming that every one taking part in Hip Hop shares the same passion, when there’s an excess of rappers, other equally important roles suffer; roles which could have been filled by all these excess rappers. It also creates a situation where there are way too many ‘average to wack’ rappers saturating the industry, as it is now, and ultimately giving it a bad reputation.
I don’t know if it’s just me but we are one of the most pretentious and disillusioned lot. The fact that we’d rather portray a life of having already made it (with our lyrics) yet there are so many existent loopholes that prove the contrary. It’s almost as though we have dismissed totally the logic of creating a foundation on which to build from first. We are so quick to want a life of glamour that comes with Hip Hop and being a rapper yet not know the hard work that comes with the reality and manifestation of that. This is why so many new rappers come in every single year, jumping on the trend band-wagon of that particular year, then quickly burning out because they have not put in the work of truly being an artist with longevity.
Maseru is so small but one wonders why it’s so hard for us to have established a fully fledged Hip Hop industry by now, working with such a small demographic. Why haven’t we set up record companies that have proper A&R departments? Why don’t we have councils and syndicates that work towards establishing policies that would see artists registering their music and being paid royalties? These are not impossible avenues, we have the brains and the MONEY TO MAKE all these possible— we are just investing them in the wrong, or rather unnecessary aspects of the game.
If we took the time to study how they made it in the States and even in S.A, we’ll see that there were people who loved Hip Hop so much that they were willing to be behind the scenes and build it from the ground up; your Russell Simmons, your Rick Rubin, your Steve Stout, your L.A Reid, your Jimmy Iovine etc… these are people who INVESTED lots of time and money to build the Hip Hop industry in the States from behind the scenes. We can’t all be in the limelight. We can’t all be rappers. Take Puffy and Dre for instance, much as they try to spit- the bulk of their money is made from behind the scenes work. We’ll always suffer because we’re not learning the basics of building an industry. This is how it has always been, since my first exposure to Lesotho Hip Hop 8 years ago, until now, and regardless of how much progress some of you may think Hip Hop in Lesotho has made— the truth is we are stagnant and we have no one to blame except ourselves.
I always tell people that if Glory, Skebza, Nuch, L-Tore , Po’… hell, even Papa Zee never ate well off rap then no one will. I say this because the aforementioned artists were/are the most talented, most commercially viable rappers to ever come out of Lesotho, who according to me, ought to have been being eating well off rap in Lesotho. This is not an unfounded pessimistic view of Lesotho Hip Hop but rather a realistic one. I have been in and around the game long enough… and oh, I use the word ‘industry’ in this entire piece very loosely because the industry is non-existent.