chapter  12
13 Pages

Things Fall Apart: What Troubles Hath Hip-Hop In Kenya?


Since the late 1980s, Kenyans have acquiesced to hip-hop as part of the youth culture as manifested in the growing consumption of music, videos, fi lms, television programs and other related texts of this entertainment genre. Although most of these texts have diffused widely throughout the country due to availability of mass media, especially television, radio and the press (particularly magazines aimed at young audiences), it is the urban and suburban youth who are considered most vulnerable to the possible effects of the consumption of hip-hop and other “foreign” infl uences. Whether as a consequence of social developments and/or globalization of cultures, many “modern” and “sophisticated” young urbanites and suburbanites are seemingly resenting or even abandoning their beliefs, mores and value systems in favor of “sophisticated,” “modern,” “fashionable” and “acceptable” Western trends. These hip and modern trends are manifested in many ways. Flashy or “pimped” cars, bling or shiny jewelry and the latest gizmos are items of choice for the young and cool Kenyans. This in a country where the majority of the people live on less than a dollar a day, or in abject poverty, and youth unemployment is close to 40 percent.1 Concomitantly, emerging and highly popular versions of local hip-hop music and videos subscribe to the dominant alpha-male, uber-masculine images and common leitmotifs such as glorifi cation of violence, money, wealth, materialism, gangsterism, misogyny and consumerism.