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Image courtesy of MDQ.

​Muthoni Drummer Queen's 'She' Is A Spirited Celebration of Womanhood

MDQ's new concept album is a true Afro-feminist record and a victory for herself and Kenyan music in general.

Muthoni Drummer Queen has been paving the way for "alternative" artists in Kenya for years. The multi-talented artist and entrepreneur has always pushed boundaries for the non-conformists to exist and find a way to prosper in a country where gospel is arguably still the most popular genre of music.

A spirited celebration of womanhood from different perspectives, She is a 12-track concept album that has been produced, packaged and wrapped ready to cross-over to the rest of the world.

Musically, it is bolstered by the signature style of Swiss producers GR! And Hook who teamed up with MDQ again for the full length of the album. Together they were able to cultivate a contemporary sound that flawlessly blends elements of hip-hop, blues, dancehall, retro-soul, future R&B;, as well as distinct African rhythms.

Kicking off the LP is "Million Voice," a powerful single dedicated to the millions of ordinary, everyday people doing whatever it takes to put bread on their table and create a meaningful impactful life. Her reggae-style delivery on the chorus is hard-hitting. Singing loud and clear, MDQ has arrived. One couldn't ask for a better way to start the album.

The follow up track is the bouncy socio-politically charged "Kenyan Message" which served as the debut single for the album. Not only does this track stir up a discussion about the incompetence of Kenyan leaders, but it also showcases her laudable skill as an emcee.

"Suzie Noma" is where the fun really begins! The dancehall flavored tune is a feel good jam that celebrates the beauty of female friendship and empowerment all over the world. The party spills over into "Lover," a bubbly, synth-heavy tune about coming into fullness of sexual expression as a woman.

"To be a woman is a full time job for half the pay and even then, not always." This quote from "Dear Mathilde" addresses double standards that women are objected to. In this engaging spoken word manifesto, she shatters the traditional social constructs and expectations that come with being a woman, especially in Africa. In summary ladies: be you, and fearlessly so.

She pays homage to the iconic Maya Angelou poem with "Caged Bird," a poignant femme chant tackling the inter-generational struggle.

Image courtesy of MDQ.

Although initially unintended, MDQ realized mid-production that she was in fact "channeling a prismatic array of stories about women."

This album isn't just a victory for MDQ, it's a victory for Kenyan music in general. For the local scene, it's two steps in the right direction. It continues to prove that with good branding and the right resources, Kenyan creatives are able to produce world class level work which can be on par with the rest of the world.

It illustrates the level of mastery that can be achieved when Kenyan artists are given the opportunities to express themselves fully and unapologetically.

Though it carries a substantial message with each song, She still manages to be optimistic, playful and radio-friendly. The balance of fierce and fun, perhaps, is what makes it a true Afro-feminist record.

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The Best African Memes of 2018

Laugh with us into 2019 with OkayAfrica's best African memes of 2018.

Meme culture has become a mainstay on these internet streets. It's essentially an alternate form of communicating, of commentary and of simple laughter. 2018 had its fair share of highs and lows, and young Africans continue to utilize memes to celebrate or to cope with the nonsense.

To reflect on the African memes that broke the internet this year, we tapped contributors and African meme tastemakers to list the best African memes of 2018.

Laugh away below.

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The Black Women Who Made Big Strides in France in 2018

Yes, this was a bad year for many reasons, but we can still celebrate the black women who rose to prominence

Back in 2015, a group of Black women activists appeared in the French media: les afrofems. They were and still are, fighting against police brutality, for better inclusion in the media and to destroy harmful sexual stereotypes surrounding black women among other worthy goals. Since then, more influential Black women have gained a bigger representation in the media. And, even better, some of the afrofems activists, like Laura Nsafou and Amandine Gay, have made films and written books to bring more diversity to the entertainment industry.

2018 has, in many ways, been a year where black women made strides in France, at least in terms of culture. From winning Nobel prizes, to having best selling books and being on top of the charts, Black French women have showed that, no matter how much France wants to keep them under the radar, they're making moves. And, no matter the tragedies and terrible events that have shaped the year, it is something worth celebrating.

France's New Queen of Pop Music

We begin with Aya Nakamura, France's new queen of pop music. Her song Djadja was a summer hit. Everyone from Rihanna, to the French football team who successfully won their second world cup, sang it. Her sophomore album "Nakamura" has been certified gold in France and is still on top of the charts. She is the first French singer to have a number one album in the Netherlands since Edith Piaf in 1961. The last time a black woman was as visible in pop music was in 2004, with Lynsha's single "Hommes...Femmes".

Nakamura has received a huge backlash, mostly due to misogynoir—misogyny directed towards black women where race and gender both play roles. From a French presenter butchering her African first name despite the fact that he can easily pronounce words like "Aliagas", to online trolls calling her ugly and manly when a picture of her wearing no makeup surfaced, to people complaining that she is bringing down the quality of the entire French pop music industry, Nakamura responds to her critics gracefully. Her music is not groundbreaking but her album is full of catchy songs with lyrics using French slang she masters so well that she came up with her own words like "en catchana" (aka doggy style sex). And most importantly, many black girls and women can finally see someone like them in the media getting the success she deserves.

The Nobel Prize Winner

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Another Black French woman has broken records this year: the Guadeloupean writer Maryse Condé who won the Alternative Nobel Prize, a prize meant to replace the Nobel Prize in Literature, after the scandal that the Swedish Academy of Literature faced last year. Condé wrote her first novel at only 11 years old and has been prolific ever since. A former professor of French literature at Columbia University, she has published more than 20 books since the 1970s, exploring the complex relationships within the African diaspora. "Segu", her most famous novel, is about the impact of the slave trade and Abrahamic religion on the Bambara empire in Mali in the 19th century. Condé's work is radical and she remains committed to writing feminist texts exploring the link between gender, race and class, as well as exploring the impact of colonialism. Condé is a pillar of Caribbean literature and it's taken long enough for her work has been acknowledged by the Nobel prize committee.

The Children's Books Writers

From Comme un Million de Papillon Noir

And finally, 2018 has been the year where France's children's literature industry has finally understood how important, for the public, writers and publishers, being inclusive and diverse was. From Laura Nsafou's Comme un Million de Papillon Noir, a best selling book about a young black girl learning to love her natural hair which sold more than 6000 copies, to Neiba Je-sais-tout: Un Portable dans le Cartable, the second book of Madina Guissé published this year after a successful crowdfunding campaign, there are more and more children's and young adult books with non white protagonists. In France, there are still no stats about how diversity is doing, but in America, in 2017, only 7 percent of writers of children's literature were either Black, Latino or Native American.

There's still much to accomplish in France for the Black community to have better representation in the media, politics and all walks of life, but important strides have been accomplished this year, and it make me hopeful for what 2019 and the following years have in store.

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J Hus Has Been Sentenced to Eight Months in Jail for Knife Possession

The rapper has been convicted following an arrest in June.

Gambian-Biritish grime rapper J Hus has been sentenced to eight months in prison for knife possesion, reports BBC News.

The artist, neé Momodou Jallow, was arrested in Stratford London in June when police pulled him over near a shopping center, claming that they smelled cannabis. Police officers asked Hus if he was carrying anything illegal, to which the rapper admitted that he had a 10cm folding knife in his possession. When asked why, he responded: "You know, it's Westfield."

Hus pleaded guilty at a hearing in October after initially pleading not guilty.

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