“Instead they waste lines thinking they’re hip
They make an ass out of themselves for thinking they on some shit”
That quote is one of my favourite lyrics from Tebogo ‘Proverb’ Thekisho. The double entendre is superb and I agree with him when he implies that fellow rappers too often waste great opportunities to make a lasting, positive impact in their communities; opting to just be cool instead. Proverb’s song ‘Head To Toe’ is an analogous use of human anatomy to describe the physiology of an emcee. He cleverly slots in some social commentary between the bars too.
But it isn’t just because he’s a dope rapper that I single out Verb for this post, it’s actually for what he represents in African hip hop terms. The trajectory of his life has been altered incredibly by his love for hip hop culture. His story is one shared by many of us who by falling in love with hip hop and becoming active participants in the culture have changed the very definition of what it means to be African in 2016. The way we see ourselves with respect to the rest of the world is atypical to our circumstance. How we defined personal ambition, set about realising our dreams, interacted with our communities, all became informed by the collective psyche of hip hop culture.
Here’s a quick illustration:
A boy from a small corner of Kimberly in South Africa has a profile similar to many others like him. He might see himself as different, but in no way special. He might struggle academically, but still make it past high school going on to acquire a technical qualification that places him in a position to get a job in Kimberly. His firm grounding, strength of character and solid up-bringing may prove to be enough to see him succeed along this path.
In an alternate reality, the same boy in the same environment has one key differentiating factor; he loves hip hop music. He loves it so much, it gives him such a penchant for words that he becomes astonishingly confident in expressing himself. This confidence gives him an edge socially that he couldn’t get from excelling in the classroom. This social currency leads him to like-minded individuals who nurture this love for hip hop, exposing him to an incredible network of folks driven by the same passion that drives him. A new world is now available to the young man, one which could see him reach heights beyond his wildest dreams growing up.
The alternate reality is the one Tebogo found himself in. This is the world many of us in the hip hop community still live in today. This is the world of Proverb.
Who’d have thought a rhythmic boom and bap from the inner city streets of New York would change the lives of so many in Africa in such a profound way, simply by being heard?
The details of Proverb’s story are fascinating to say the least. His is the story we look into in depth on episode 7 of AboveGround. A new episode of AboveGround is on ETV every Saturday at 18:30
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