Get a Headby Tala Leratadima / 27.08.2009
Hip hop in this country lacks inspirational foot soldiers. The majority are all boys in their mid thirties who act and look twenty two and hang out with every wave of youth that comes through, but are still living at home with their parents, with a couple of baby mamas around town. Their primary conversational topic usually comprises of blaming the system for all their plights. I ask myself frequently what system these grown men are complaining about – the system of get a freaking job? For people intelligent enough to memorise long complex rhymes it sure is hard for them to realise that your skill is your income generator. Duh. Dr Dre is rich, you have no excuse. Expand your horizons people, think out of the box and don’t be stuck in keeping it real. Real is being a productive member of society and getting the hell out of your mother’s house.
The first rap track that I remember taking notice of was Tupac Shakur’s ‘Dear Mama’. I owe that memory to the fact that the cutest boy in school performed it at the open day concert, and Tupac, although a rapper, had a melodic delivery that I hadn’t heard before. Perhaps it was the fact the track was an ode to mommies and their infinite dopeness. To cut a possibly long spiel short, ‘Dear Mama’ switched me on to hip hop. The first hip hop music I owned was The Fugees’ The Score. I bought that album with tuck shop savings (a commendable feat for a person who starts hallucinating when they miss the meals between meals) because ‘Killing Me Softly’ was a mega hit and waiting around for Radio Metro or Zero Hour Zone to play it wasn’t enough. It was imperative to have my own copy so I could annihilate that o o o o o o la la la la oooooo la la la laaaaaaaa bit at the end, at my whim. The acquisition of that album wasn’t driven by a particular fascination for the rap, or what the group stood for. The motive was purely a fixation with the biggest song of the moment. It wasn’t until I made my yearly trek to my cousin’s house for Christmas holidays that I met hip hop. My one boy cousin freaked out at my cassette. His excitement didn’t wear down after a couple of days, it intensified into an obsession. It’s a wonder that cassette didn’t detangle and snap from being played every day all day for the entire vacation. It was then, that I got my education into what hip hop truly stood for. It felt good hearing these boys and girl from so far away speak about things my young rural mind had never thought of.
So in as much as my brothers have been hanging at the same club since 1998, hustling beer every night, even amongst all that stagnancy I still wish I was a head. Going out to hip hop nights and seeing those cats get real nostalgic with every track that comes on and they know all the words. It’s priceless and enviable. Their stagnancy becomes immaterial. Through the smoke filled room and the sweet, foul smell of alcohol I see camaraderie, a prolific oneness. On the periphery I stand in awe wishing I could spit along, be part of the movement.
A good hip hop track always makes me feel dangerous and about to explode. I get that promising feeling that maybe somewhere between all this procrastination, ambivalence and whisky tainted blood corpuscles lies talent that should be utilised to create something significant.
As the beat circumnavigates me and the word play makes me flip out, I bop my head, mumble along and I wish I was a head. I flip out higher when the heads create a cipher and take each other on. It’s all off the cuff, on the spot, unrehearsed, pure improvisation. As the mike passes from one MC to another I walk to the bathroom to make room for another drink muttering to myself that I wish I was a head.
In my sometimes mundane existence, when I feel no different from the heads who seem headed nowhere in life, I get excessively self piteous because at least they always have the air about them that they are part of something bigger.
Now I’m going to behave in totally bad faith and pick only those that have touched me recently and give a big up to Khanyi, Tumi, Zubz, X-the 24th letter and Jimi Flex for living up to the calling of the bigness. For making us feel good about the moment and hopeful for the future. Special mention to that guy called Johnny somebody who is a mean beat boxer.
It seems when you are a head, you are aligned to some high order of purpose. The young men and women who have something to live for even though to the outside eye and to the worlds’ expectations its nothing but to hip hop, it’s something. Something big.