THE godfather of hip hop in Fiji says the announcement last week that the Fiji Performing Rights Association (FPRA) will include the genre as a new category in the FPRA 2016 Music Awards marked a milestone for all local rap artistes.
Sammy G, the pioneer of local hip hop alongside sidekick Mr Grin, said the fact that hip hop’s struggle for recognition has finally been realised by the powers that be was a sign that the local establishment was accepting a global phenomenon that has taken social issues from the streets to the airwaves.
“Hip hop is not all about gangsters, money and girls,” Sammy G shared.
“We speak about the struggles of the everyday people. It’s not all lovey-dovey. There are a lot of stories to tell and local hip hop artists are emerging out of Facebook and other social media platforms to tell these stories.
“So we view the Fiji Performing Rights Association’s decision to include the genre in the awards as a huge leap forward for hip hop and for the social issues that are faced by people in Fiji.”
Sammy G said having hip hop artistes compete for recognition at the FPRA Music Awards could provide the catalyst for the creation of a unique sound that could take Fiji hip hop to the world.
“We’re almost there in terms of having our own sound and identity,” he said.
“I have been recording a number of local artistes who are fusing vucu (traditional iTaukei chanting) with hip hop and the sounds they are coming up with are nothing short of amazing.”
The tracks Sammy G is talking about brings back memories of Red Child’s Gone Sisi, the story of street kids trying to get by in a world that points fingers and judges those who may have been abandoned, abused or cast aside by their families and friends.
When hip hop first emerged out of suburban Suva early in the new millenium, the local establishment frowned upon the genre as an unwelcome intrusion in the “real” music world.
The elder statesmen of local music said hip hop was new and it was a phase that would soon be outlived by the next big thing. This did not happen because in retrospect, hip hop is not a new sound.
It has been around in some shape or form since the dawn of time.
In Rap: The Cry of a Rebuked People, a paper written by Willie Howard from Stanford University, he says that the origins of spoken word to music could be traced back to African tribesman chanting to the beat of traditional drums.
“A griot was an African storyteller. He related his tribe’s history through a story, which was accompanied by rhythmic beats,” Howard said in his paper.
More closer to home, the same could be said of iTaukei chanting known as vakalutuivoce or even extended to the various meke which retell stories of old — about significant events and people.
Contemporary music historians (www.history.com) make claim that commercial hip hop was born in the US on August 11, 1973.
They say it happened at a birthday party in the recreation room of an apartment building at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue in the west Bronx, New York City.
And the father of the American scene was a young man called Clive Campbell, better known as DJKool Herc.
Music historians in the US, however, say the creation of the term hip hop could be credited to Keith Cowboy, a rapper with Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five.
Grandmaster Mele Mel in an interview on http://www.thafoundation.com claims that Cowboy created the term while teasing a friend who had just joined the US Army, by scat-singing the words “hip/hop/hippity hippity/hop” in a way that mimicked the rhythmic cadence of soldiers marching.
The BBC says American hip hop was heavily influenced by deejays from Jamaica who used to rap or toast in the 50s over the latest tunes, ironically, from the US.
In the late 50s, Jamaican deejays such as Count Machuki, Sir Lord Comic and King Stitt emerged out of the underground scene and began to establish themselves as recording artistes.
They influenced the next generation of deejays such as U-Roy, Dennis Alcapone and Scotty, who are hailed as the toasters that revolutionised Jamaican music in the 60s.
Producers started leaving space in the mix to allow deejays to interact with crowds at parties called sound systems.
Later they took this sound to the recording studio. These recordings took Jamaican street music to the world stage and developed an industry for Caribbean artistes.
According to the BBC, these were the first recordings that first reflected in rhyme, life in Jamaica as the deejays saw it.
Their lyrics spoke of fashion, styles, dances, slangs and politics. They captured the essence of Jamaican life and the daily struggles of the common people in a way that songs could not.
This is what local hip hop artistes such as Sammy G, Mr Grin, Red Child, Pcuzz, Rabbit, Nemoney and a whole host of other lyrical twisters are trying to do.
Since 2008 and the release of the seminal Suva City and its accompanying groundbreaking music video, local hip hop artistes have recorded a host of tracks that tell stories of the issues facing the youth and the ever-increasing challenges they embrace every day.
FPRA executive and organiser of the FPRA Music Awards, music veteran Seru Serevi said adding hip hop to the list was a unanimous decision by the association hierarchy.
“They are an important component of the local music scene and cannot be ignored so we decided to add them because we want the FPRA Music Awards to be all-inclusive and all-encompassing,” he said.
This time around, FPRA has engaged three media outlets — Communications Fiji Ltd, Fiji TV and The Fiji Times — to create more awareness, raise the profile of the awards and build up towards the ceremony, which will be held on Saturday, May 14, at the Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva.
Serevi said since its revival in 2014, the annual awards night was gaining popularity and momentum.
“We are seeing more artistes coming forward to be considered for nominations for the 14 awards and we are also seeing more interest from people trying to book tickets for the night,” he said.
“So what we are going to do this year, which is a big change from last year, is hold pre-event shows at Damodar City.
“What will happen here is that nominees in the various awards will perform at Damodar Cinemas and people will also get a chance to meet and take photographs with their favourite artiste.
“We would like to acknowledge Damodar Events Cinemas and all our sponsors for coming forward to support the local music industry.”
Felix Chaudhary | The Fiji Times, Thursday, February 11, 2016