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Giggs. Image via artist's Facebook.

Giggs Is Grime's Chief Absurdist

Giggs' new album, Wamp 2 Dem, showcases his bizarre and captivating rap style.

Giggs is the chief absurdist of British rap and grime.

This was made most evident on "KMT," one of two guest features on Drake's world conquering More Life for which Giggs was roundly and wrongly criticised—mainly for many American listener's lack of knowledge of his "Batman / da na na na na" reference.

Also lamped was his line "Whipping that white girl, cooking that Cersei," which is no more outlandish than any other rapper who's used "white girl" as sland for cocaine.

Of the 13 songs that make up Giggs' new release, Wamp 2 Dem, six have no guest features. These six songs are variations of one another in character and content, typified by beats that are slow, stark and menacing. No two are by the same producer.

Each entry is perfectly suited to Giggs' tough talk and OG wisdom, delivered in a rich baritone which would make him sound monotonous if he didn't vary it with flow patterns and intensity.

"Gully Niggaz," "The Essence," "50 Cali" and "Ruler" are bar-fests over menacing beats essentially about street lore. The first two are co-produced by Cool & Dre and 808. The second by Zaytoven who's made hits for Migos, Gucci Mane and Future amongst others.

These well regarded American producers signify the bump in Gigg's profile since being featured on Drake's "More Life," and on two songs for that matter.

That's not to say that these imports are significantly different in template from those which Gigg's previously used, like on the majority of his previous album Landlord, which debuted at number 2 on the British charts last year.

Titling a song as "The Essence" raises expectations that are rarely ever met. Much less so when the writing could easily be dismissed as lacking as is the case in the second half of the song:

"I'm made for this, I came for that / I paid for this, I changed for this / I never left, I changed for this"

Rather than being a result of inattentive writing, it could simply be that in Giggs, musicality is prioritised over literal meaning.

Some of his similes are no doubt inelegant with no excuses to be made for them: "a man's just pussy like a black cat" and all this uncertainty and inelegance bannered under the grandness of the word "Essence" only exposes any weakness in his writing.

"Moist Pussy" is a problematic song. Only six out of 48 lines do not have the word "pussy" in them and it's mentioned 61 times in total.

On "Horror Movie", the word "pussy" is substituted for "man" and used as a leitmotif throughout the song, so that it becomes the hook on which it hangs, especially since it doesn't have a chorus.

The last couplet and outro on "Straight Lifestyle" may explain Giggs' rhyme scheme—even when it could have been staged.

"Then we quick linked up Brenda, Madeline and Marcy / hammer the courvoisier, straddling…"

At which point he breaks off laughing as he completes the bar with a word that rhymes with "Marcy" but is hard to pick out, further proving that Giggs' knack is less concerned with narrative coherence than it is with inducing a feeling—whether stark or menacing. He excels at this time and again, especially when added to his exaggerated bars rapped over steely beats.

A post shared by GIGGS (@officialgiggs) on Oct 22, 2017 at 10:28am PDT

Giggs hasn't cluttered Wamp 2 Dem with the many American friends he's made since finding new levels fame. Of the three features here, Young Thug and 2 Chainz make standout contributions.

Young Thug and Lil Duke add more life to "Gangsters & Dancers" with a chorus and verse that's full of play and zest, leaving Giggs with just a verse to deliver, which he does with gusto.

The second standout song here, "Outsiders," is produced by Footsie, who may have drawn the restless electronics from Drake's "Hotline Bling" to make his own confection, adding one drop guitar licks and thumping bass. It makes for a dope beat, made better first by Giggs, who rides in with tough talk and growl, while Footsie keeps up the pace with his own solid verse, leaving it to D Double E to round well with a snarly delivery which would have been sufficient without the bleak humour: "man a go Brexit on them, pull out the ting".

2 Chainz's delivery on "Ultimate Gangsta" may be a little sedate but in writing he's generally every bit as absurd as Giggs could be.

The cluttered percussion Fanatix has used to make "Time Talking" isn't too different from that which Dr Dre used for Stat Quo's "Here We Go," which Giggs reworked into "Talking The Hardest"—his first and most well known hit. Popcaan's dancehall growl adds real texture and is what takes the song in new sonic directions.

Not just a hook man for higher, Donae'o also produced "Linguo" here as he did "Lock Doh" from Giggs' 2016 album "Landlord." A big swinging synth is centered by unshowy percussion, making the most dance-ready song on Wamp 2 Dem, which is made even more memorable by Donae'o's big chorus.

With even more fans now paying attention, many may now realise that what they mistook for weak writing on "KMT" is actually a type of absurdism that may be unique to Giggs and his psyche.

Rick Ross's own overblown language: "I'm selling dope, straight off on my Iphone" or the even more preposterous "I think i'm Big Meech, Larry Hoover / whipping work, hallelujah" from "Blowing Money Fast" were ridiculed and not only because of his past as a parole officer—all of which has passed on into accepted hip-hop lore and been copied by many.

Giggs' past brushes with the law are not up for debate and his particular manner with language may well be absorbed into rap lore.



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From Chale Wote Street Art Festival 2016. Photo by Ofoe Amegavie.

5 Ghanaian Creative Spaces Doing Afrofuturist Work You Need To Know

These Pan-African outfits are actively visualizing and creating realities for black people that are better than the ones we inhabit now—get to know them.

In her praise for Octavia's Brood (an anthology of science fiction stories from social justice movements), filmmaker dream hampton quotes these words of adrienne maree brown, a co-editor of the anthology: "All social justice work is science fiction. We are imagining a world free of injustice, a world that doesn't yet exist." A respectable appropriation of brown's statement would be: all pro-Black/African activism is afrofuturism in praxis.

In that frame of social justice activism being twined with the useful framework that afrofuturism is—envisioning and exploring viable realities for black people all over the world—here are five Pan-African outfits out of Ghana who're doing advocacy work, and variously tasking our imaginations to visualize an existence for black people other—and better—than the one we inhabit presently.

Accra [Dot] Alt

Photo courtesy of Accra [Dot] Alt.

The "Alt" in Accra [Dot] Alt stands for alternative, which should say much about this organization's orientation: an invested interest in facilitating the alternative. To that end, A[D]A creates programs which provide spacial and other forms of support for the expression of alternative thought, and also for spawning boundary-breaking art. A[D]A's most popular initiative, the annual Chale Wote Street Art Festival, since its inception in 2011, has been thematically preoccupied with imagining and creating existences that are more humane and fulfilling—particularly for black people.

The African Electronics Trilogy exemplifies this. Between 2015 and 2017, the Chale Wote Festival's themes, African Electronics, Spirit Robot and Wata Mata—have altogether exhorted festival participants to "tap into a super power grid [and] create a new encounter with reality that is entirely of our choosing and construction." The theme for this year's festival, Para-Other, does not stray from this visionary mission. A[D]A partly describes Para-Other as an order "embracing of a black labyrinth and establishment of an aesthetic that captures our cessation of flight and transit into a non-contested existence."

Last time the statistics were checked, in 2016, over 30,000 people were at Chale Wote; which is a more than 6,000 percent increase from the number that attended the first edition of the festival. Talk about possibilities.

African Women's Development Fund (AWDF)

Photo courtesy of the AWDF.

This grant-making foundation, Africa's first pan-African women's fund, was co-founded in 2000 by three African women: Hilda Tadria, Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi and Joana Foster, who passed in 2016.

Since setting up, the African Women's Development Fund has funded and supported close to 1,500 women's rights organizations and women-led initiatives in countries all over the continent.

In April 2017, the institution launched their ground-breaking AWDF Futures Project. The initiative is basically composed of projections on the future of the continent as seen through an African feminist lens. These projections are based on a mix of data/trends analysis and sheer imagination.

The AWDF Scenario Stories is one aspect of the project. It comprises of four short stories imagining four different kinds of futures—desirable, undesirable, wild card, transitional—for African women, in Africa. The protagonist in each of these scenarios (set in August 2030) is Mariam; a queer, intelligent and free-spirited young woman in a wheelchair.

The full narratives of Mariam navigating each of these four futures can be accessed, in both text and animated audio-visual formats, on AWDF's website, together with the Futures Africa: Trends for Women by 2030 report.

What will Africa be like in 2030? What would we see if we looked through the eyes of a woman? The AWDF Futures page holds a number of possible answers to these questions.

AfroCyberPunk Interactive

Photo courtesy of AfroCyberPunk Interactive.

Sci-fi writer and self-proclaimed afrofuturist, Jonathan Dotse, created AfroCyberPunk in 2010. Then, it was a blog whose focus was on "exploring the creative potential of African science fiction and speculative narratives."

Almost a decade after running as a blog, AfroCyberPunk morphed into AfroCyberPunk Interactive—a digital hypermedia content developer and publishing house—in 2017. Still, the preoccupation with "exploring the future of Africa" (as went the blog's tagline) remains prime. A part of what could be referred to as their mission statement reads thus: "Our roots in afrofuturism continue to inspire the recurrent themes, motifs and aesthetics of our publications. We aspire to [...] address the global imbalance in the representation of marginalised peoples and perspectives."

Founder Jonathan Dotse is himself at work on his debut novel, a cyberpunk mystery/ psychological thriller set in Accra, Ghana circa 2060 AD.

All of the above certainly do echo these words offered by Jonathan in a blog post titled Why Africa Needs Science Fiction: "As Africa marches onward into the future it is important that we as Africans begin to critically visualize the development that will take place on our own soil, and our vision must be based on our own unique reality, cut from the cloth of our own societies and tailored to our specific needs."

Drama Queens

Photo courtesy of Drama Queens.

This feminist and Pan-Africanist theatre organisation optimally embodies the idea of Sankofa: an examination of heritage to select and use, presently, the positive and helpful values, in the ultimate service of creating the future.

Drama Queens is founded on the ancient Egyptian philosophy of Ma'at—which adjures for justice, balance and harmony as ways of being. The world being as it is now—generally unjust, imbalanced and disharmonious, against black people specifically, and more specifically against marginalized black communities—renders Drama Queens' work futuristic.

To ground this, they are avowedly working towards "a just, balanced and harmonious world where highest respect is given to nature and all nature creates."

This year, for instance, is Drama Queens' year of "contributing to an end to homophobia towards the African LGBTQ+ community" through various activities such as theatre productions, facilitating queer film production workshops, social media discussions and talk events.

Nana Akosua Hanson, founder and director of Drama Queens has said in an interview that her organization aims, ultimately, "to end oppression by changing mindsets through the use of cultural tools, to revolutionalize thinking and bring forth the existence of an Africa without heteropatriarchy, and a continent free from the exploitation and destruction of racist nations." Sounds about Afrofuturist.

Squid Magazine

Photo courtesy of Squid Magazine.

Comics, games and animation are probably the most popular media through which creators indulge in futuristic thinking. Add to this the truism that critical, intellectual engagement and documentation are of lifeblood importance to the efflorescence of a culture. Put together, it adds up to the fact that Squid Magazine (simply, Squid Mag) is doing essential afrofuturist work.

Started in 2015 by Kadi Yao Tay and Kofi Asare, Squid Mag is dedicated to the "exploration, critique, promotion and archiving of African creativity manifested within comics, games, animation..." As it happens, Squid Mag is one of the very few, if not only, platforms on the continent that wholesomely covers African output in the above mentioned media.

There's a rather poetic resonance as to why this outfit is named 'Squid.' Here's the import of the name, as explained on their website:

The name is inspired by squids, sea invertebrates that release ink as a defense mechanism. We find it poetic how such a mechanism can be a metaphor for painting a people's realities and dreams fluidly in an ocean of canvases. An ocean that is threatened to be overrun with narratives that exclude us.

So now you know, if you didn't know before, where to go in search of a sea of narratives—of realities and dreams—that include us.

*

There is a great deal more than can be said for the imagination—and exercising it. It begets creation, after all. Thus, what these and other entities are doing—engendering alternative socio-political imaginaries for all peoples of African descent—is such a needful venture. But after all is said and visualized, the ultimate challenge, most probably, is to act, to create. Blitz the Ambassador puts it succinctly on his afrofuturist song, "Africa Is The Future" (long since renamed "Africa Is Now"): There ain't no future unless we build it now.

moshood lives in Accra, from where he writes across genres. He has recently taken on painting. He tweets here: @thehamzay

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