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DAVEY D: Remembering How Hip Hop Took On the Issue Of Apartheid

Source: Davey D / The Huffington Post

One of the most underappreciated and least talked about collaborative efforts that involved hip hop was the Artists United Against Apartheid and the the boycott of Sun City. For those who don’t recall, Sun City was this ultra lavish resort in this “phony” country set-up by the South African government called Bophuthatswana. This was like a country inside a country, kind of like an Indian reservation of sorts. Sun City was basically South Africa’s version of Las Vegas and was set up to be this place where rich folks could go play and get decadent and then return back to SA proper.

Here are two land mark songs from the landmark Sun City album where hip hop left its footprints. Props out to the pioneers who really put it down especially Mele-Mel and Kurtis Blow. What I like most about this joint is hearing Gil Scott Heron who was an obvious precursor to modern day rap doing his thing along side them. His commentary underscored everything that was happening. I was impressed with the way he paralleled the struggle for equality here in the U.S. along with what was going on in South Africa.

In order to fully appreciate this other cut “Revolutionary Situation” — which is basically sound clips and samples over hard hitting beats — is to hear it in full stereo. That wasn’t fully captured during this particular recording. Produced by drummer Keith Leblanc who did the song Malcolm X on Tommy Boy record, the entire song has sounds coming out of left and right speakers. They range from Nelson Mandela’s daughter, Zindi, Bishop Desmond Tutu, Alan Boesak, and Steve Biko and Ronald Reagan. You get this sense of urgency that at any minute South Africa is gonna explode if the walls of Apartheid don’t crumble. Hearing Ronald Reagan inside this song makes you realize how utterly out of touch and mean-spirited we sounded as a country. Sadly it was because of this exposure of Reagan’s insensitivity that ‘Sun City’ got limited airplay and PBS refused to air the documentary that went alongside making this album.

Coming off the Sun City album, which raised about a million dollars, many in hip hop kept the message alive. There was the big divestment movement at UC Berkeley. Myself and my crew did an anti-Apartheid song that was played during rallies. Others like Afrika Bambaataa whose pioneering Zulu Nation organization was named after the South African tribe who fearlessly fought the British, took it a step further and started doing concerts overseas where he raised money for the African National Congress. Bam will be the first to tell you that he was inspired after seeing the movie Zulu to form his organization and later adapt certain things including battle strategies from them. Hip Hop had been acknowledging South Africa and her freedom struggle from day one.

To read this article in its entirety visit The Huffington Post.

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