Journal of Hip Hop Studies

Journal of Hip Hop Studies


This article examines the linguistic and cultural tensions in global Hip Hop culture through an analysis of the performance of Gsann, an emcee from the Tanzanian Hip Hop crew X Plastaz, at the 2009 Black Entertainment Television (BET) Hip Hop Awards in Atlanta. Gsann's rhymes in Swahili, his emphasis on religion, and his global travels distinguished him from his African American colleagues in the cipha. At the same time, the decision by the BET producers to translate Gsann's Swahili rhymes into English has to be seen within the longer history of cultural and linguistic politics in Tanzania and the United States. Thrown into the primetime spectacle of the BET Awards, Gsann's African roots became quickly incorporated into American Hip Hop culture, dominated by African Americans. As this case study of an artist from Tanzania shows, Hip Hop's global journey has brought together artists from around the world without eliding their cultural and linguistic differences.






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