How to Rap About Africa: Remembering When Binyavanga’s Iconic Essay Was Turned Into a Scathing Rap Song By Black Vulcanite
In 2016, the Namibian hip-hop crew Black Vulcanite turned Binyavanga's iconic essay into a scathing rap song 'How To Rap About Africa.'
One of Binyavanga Wainaina's most popular essays, 2005's How To Write About Africa, which was later turned into a book, is one of the most effective pieces about the stereotyping of Africa ever published.
In it, the author, who recently passed away, gave a tongue-in-cheek guide to writing about Africa for foreigners.
"Always use the word 'Africa' or 'Darkness' or 'Safari' in your title. Subtitles may include the words 'Zanzibar,' 'Masai,' 'Zulu,' 'Zambezi,' 'Congo,' 'Nile,' 'Big,' 'Sky,' 'Shadow,' 'Drum,' 'Sun' or 'Bygone.' Also useful are words such as 'Guerrillas,' 'Timeless,' 'Primordial' and 'Tribal.' Note that 'People' means Africans who are not black, while 'The People' means black Africans," he wrote, adding, a few lines later: "In your text, treat Africa as if it were one country. It is hot and dusty with rolling grasslands and huge herds of animals and tall, thin people who are starving. Or it is hot and steamy with very short people who eat primates."
Eleven years after Binyavanga's essay, three Namibian writers—rappers Mark Mushiva and AliThatDude and poet Okin who are collectively known as Black Vulcanite—took a leaf from the author's book in their song "How To Rap About Africa," a title that's an obvious nod to Binyavanga.