Riky Rick. Photo by Sabelo Mkhabela.

Why Do We Act Shocked When Rappers Live Up To Their Lyrics?

Either we are not listening, or we don't take rap or rappers seriously.

South African rapper Stogie T got dragged on Twitter last week Tuesday for a "mean" tweet. The rapper tweeted, "Young dude stopped me by the car, said 'wanna hear the bars,' nah go get a job." Twitter wasn't pleased. Other users wrote T off immediately, and expressed how they missed the old Tumi of The Volume. A few blasphemers even called him a trash rapper… *laughs in "Going Gorilla*

Later, T tweeted that the previous tweet was actually an excerpt from a verse (from a song he would go on to release later), which quelled a few Twitter users' anger, while others claimed he was just trying to do some damage control.

So, we are okay with a rapper saying mean things in their rhymes, but as soon as they tweet them, we play moral cops. T, like many of his counterparts, is a cocky rapper, and there's nothing either new or wrong with that. What's a rapper without ego, cynicism and crassness?

Stogie T isn't the only rapper who has gotten into trouble for their mean Twitter fingers. AKA has been infamous for tweets that rub South Africans the wrong way, mostly for calling himself the greatest to ever do it—something he does all the time in his music. At the height of his beef with fellow rapper Cassper Nyovest, he was vilified as the bad cop, while Nyovest, who was then a newcomer, was always applauded for being humble.

This didn't make sense to us who pay attention to rappers' lyrics. Cassper Nyovest, just like AKA, has spat some of the cockiest lines this side of the equator. To this day, the man reminds us he is filthy rich and owns two Bentleys every chance he gets. He has rapped "How you balling when you living with your mom?" Imagine the furor that would follow if he had tweeted that.

These reactions somehow make sense, though. Rap is tricky. It's a sport of some sort. As much as there are a lot of truths that rappers share in their rhymes, they don't always literally mean every line of their verses. We as fans never know where to draw the line. But the moment it's in a tweet, we always take it at face value, and immediately associate it with the rapper's persona.

Just like you, I don't have the answers. I don't know where to draw the line between fact and fiction when it comes to rap songs. But I know one thing, even if a line is exaggerated for dramatic effect, the sentiment is always an extension of their real life persona.

For instance, when I was growing up, I didn't believe every tale of raping women told in D12 songs. But now that I know a thing or two about rape culture, I can't separate the rappers from those sentiments.

Last year, the rapper Riky Rick made headlines for shaming a young fan for wearing fake Balenciaga sneakers and tweeting the video of that incident. Riky, in his hit single "Sidlukotini," rapped about us wearing fakes and wearing Jordans, which are now below him as a style icon who rocks Gucci he doesn't even pay for. I didn't necessarily expect him to shame me in real life for wearing Jordans or fake sneakers.

But when I read about the incident, I wasn't shocked at all. Not to say I was for him shaming a teenager who was his fan and had asked to take a photo with his idol.

But it's an interesting dynamic how we always get shocked by rappers who choose to be themselves in all the different platforms we interact with them on. We prefer two-faced artists, who preach one thing in their music, and another on social media and in person.

To each their own, a rapper can be vicious on wax and choose to be "humble" in real life, that's their choice. A great example of that is the rapper Reason. On "The March Freestyle," he rapped, "I'm humble in life, but as soon as I write it feels like I'm chopping their foreskin."

Reason is one of the most honest rappers in South Africa, and I'm always tempted to take everything he raps as fact. Of course with a history in battle rap, when he releases a song like "Freestyle Emasepa," where he expresses his views on other rappers, I don't always take every line literally. But deep down, I know the sentiment holds. So I would never be shocked if he would tweet something along those lines.

YoungstaCPT, another vicious MC, rapped on "Come to my Kasi" by Priddy Ugly: "Rappers need to get jobs and stop saying they slept on." Which is pretty much the same thing Stogie T said. But clearly tweets get more attention than raps. It's weird that we hold rappers more accountable for tweets than for raps.

It's either we don't take rap or the rappers we claim to love seriously, or we are just not listening.

I'm not for Riky Rick shaming a teenager for wearing fake sneakers, it's distasteful, but after listening to his music, I am not shocked by his actions—if we're to play moral cops, we should have started by criticizing that line. Same goes for every rapper who tweets the same sentiments they have expressed before in their rhymes.

This piece is part of Sabelo Mkhabela's South African hip-hop column. He's happy to debate you on Twitter: @sabzamk

Portait by: Bamby Diagne

Spotlight: Bamby Diagne's 'Afrogile' Is An Ode to The Beauty of African Hair

Through a series of portraits, the project celebrates Afro hair and the beauty of the Black woman.

In our 'Spotlight' series, we highlight the work of photographers, visual artists, multimedia artists and more who are producing vibrant, original work. In our latest piece, we spotlight Bamby Diagne, a Paris based Senegalese portrait photographer channeling his own process of growth, self-discovery and a lifelong alliance with Black women through his art. The name 'Afrogile', stems from a wordplay between "Afro", "Agility" and "Fragility". Framed as 'An ode to the beauty of African hair', Bamby and his talented team have created a projected bathed in optimism, African resilience and identity. Read more about the passion and importance of his work below, and stay up to date with the artist on Instagram and on his website.

Responses have have been edited for length and clarity.

Describe your background as an artist and the journey you've taken to get it to where it is today.

I was born and raised in Dakar, Senegal before moving to Paris at the age of 8. As long as I remember, I have always been attracted to images, whether it be drawings, sculptures, photos, videos, basically anything visual. My mother was a painter and an interior architect. Some of my most vivid memories from my childhood and adolescence are those times when she used to come back home with a new piece of art she had drawn. I'm also a huge fan of manga, I used to draw a lot in my teens and all these inspirations ended up rubbing off on my digital work. I progressed to photography and video after initially starting out in graphic design at the Internet and Multimedia Institute. I fell in love with my first camera through urban exploration 4 years ago and from then I never left it.

What are central themes in your work and how have you told the story this time around?

As an artist, it is now more than ever, a critical time to engage and start speaking out on subjects that matter to me. Black women have always been an inspiration to me. Growing up in Dakar, where most of the social decisions within the family were made by the mothers and grandmothers, I always had the utmost respect and admiration for their role even though it is not as recognized and highlighted on a bigger scale. Image and representation plays a big part in the way we perceive ourselves and our place in society because we compare ourselves, whether it be consciously or unconsciously, to the people we see. Photography is a portal, and I am fully aware of its powerful influence on perception.

I never really had a central theme on which to base my visuals and that's something I tend to want to change. For a long time, I have explored myself through photography. I liked what I was doing and I didn't really wonder why this or that visual spoke to me, I let myself be carried away by what I saw and what my instincts dictated. Visualizing my creation beforehand now helps me get more satisfied with the final result. It is only in my last few series that I have been trying to bring more of a social dimension to my work. Whether it's diverting current events and making them a subject of discussion, or doing a more introspective work in relation to my own perception of the microcosm that surrounds me.

Can you talk about your use of colours, hairstyles and jewellery in this project?

I had the chance to work with the talented Oldie Mbani, Shenna Rochas and Aurore Jorgensen on the make up, hairstyling and accessories respectively. It is in consultation with them that I created the overall aesthetics of the project. The whole concept of Afrogile revolves around hairstyles and the use of objects as accessories on them, that's why the rest of the tones had to be neutral enough, close to the body colours. We were looking for an elegant aesthetics and it is quite naturally that we chose for each model, clothes which corresponded most to their identity, to the aura which they exude.

Aurore Jorgensen did me the honor of lending me the handmade jewels of her brand Soleils d'Afrique for the occasion. 'Cauris' are one of the most famous symbols of Africa. They represent power, prosperity and fit perfectly with the positive and enthusiastic note I wanted to bring to the project.

How has the pandemic affected you creatively?

The pandemic as well as the multiple confinements were a wake-up call for me. For a long time, I have taken in the things of daily life, the will to want to gain an audience, develop a certain clientele as a self-entrepreneur, improve my visibility etc... Paradoxically, it is this planetary event that is supposed to be anxiety-provoking and the source of many economic problems that took me out of this survival mentality. I was brought back to myself, forced to refocus and redefine my goals, my passions, my life choices. That's when I decided to see things differently, to change my priorities and focus more on my well-being instead of betting my future on decisions with arbitrary consequences. It is precisely at that moment that I shifted my thought process, both in terms of my vision of the profession I practice but also in terms of the time and energy I would devote to myself, which inevitably led to new inspirations and a rebirth of my passion for photography.

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