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Hip Hop Fridays: Ludacris Celebrates Africa's Image by Otika Okema


Musicians of all racial backgrounds around the world have used their music the change the world. Bob Marley used his music to fight racism, apartheid, cultural imperialism and colonialism. Lucky Dube in South Africa condemned the racist apartheid regime until it fell. Even Bono, the Irish singer is taking the lead to pressure the world to pay attention to the HIV Aids pandemic in Africa.

Rapper-turned-actor Ludacris hopes his new video Pimpin' All Over The World inspires other African-Americans to visit Africa because he loved making the promo there. The Roll Out hitmaker became the first US rapper to shoot a video in South Africa when he shot the promo in and around Durban - and he was amazed with the beauty of the people and the countryside.

As well as filming scenes on safari and in Durban's markets, Ludacris also filmed at a Zulu heritage centre, which made him feel very emotional about his roots.

He says, "I want people to pick up a book, learn more about Africa as a whole, and, if you get the chance to come out here, you come out here and realize and see it for yourself exactly what I'm trying to show you."

Hip Hop music and culture in America has always been described by many as a culture that promotes violence, gang lifestyles and obscenity. The very same way that many mainstream media outlets in America have always portrayed the continent of Africa and its people as primitive, hopeless and diseased.

But rapper Ludacris is bringing a positive face of Africa on the television. Ludacris, the Chicago born and Atlanta based rapper whose true name is Chris Bridges recently surprised the Hip Hop world and shamed the mainstream media when he flew to Africa to shoot his hit music video. Luda, as he is commonly known, flew to South Africa to shoot the clip for his new single “Pimpin’ All Over the World” to portray the positive side of the African continent always negatively portrayed by the mainstream media.

Talking to MTV news after shooting the video, Luda explained that his intention to shoot is video in Africa was to show the world the beauties of Africa that American media does not want to show. "People just think it's all jungles and flies and poverty. It's nothing like that. I had to show the beautiful side of what Africa as a whole is all about. So I felt I needed to do it,” Luda explained. "And we're the first rap artists from the United States to shoot a video in Africa so we made history."

Unlike many other hip hop artists who have made millions and thousands of dollars singing about shootings, “bling and booties” in big cities like New York, Lost Angeles and Philadelphia, Luda wants to bring his fans to where the music came from. Luda believes it’s important to understand the African roots where he comes from and from where hip hop originates. "It's just about the history of music, so it's important that people know where all this stuff comes from and where it starts," he told MTV news.

“Pimpin’ All Over the World” as the title of the video suggest, may sound gangstarist. But if the ‘pimpin” is for a good cause, there is no problem with that. If the “pimpin” is to bring positive change by bringing the beauties of Africa to American and international audience, then there is nothing wrong with that.

Africa and its people have shared lot of their culture, natural wealth, human resources, talents and civilizations with the rest of the world especially in the Americas. But ironically, Africa is always portrayed by American and European media with racial tones and ululation of hopelessness and desperation. Historical books, newspapers, video tapes, still hanging in the bookshelf of dusty American and European libraries portray ugly images of Africa. Little will you see any positive presentation of the continent.

Even educated writers, journalists, professors in universities in the USA and Europe shamelessly continue to portray the continent as evil, dark and hopeless. It’s funny that some of these so called American and European journalist, writers or historians travel to Africa and live in nice hotels in Nairobi, Kampala, Harare or Johannesburg and yet what they write about is completely different from what they are enjoying in Africa. They never write or show the video of the nice food they eat the hospitality of the people and or even show anything good they have seen in the continent.

A rational reader wonders how they managed to travel to Africa, where they slept and why they never died while I Africa? This is why rappers like Ludacris have taken it in his own hands to straighten out a perpetuated distortion of Africa’s beauties. Ludacris’ initiative shows that Americans of African descent are not happy with the way their roots are portrayed in books and on television. He should be applauded. Many people will argue and try to question Ludacris’ credential and authority in regard to correcting Africa’s image.

But all critics including the media houses, university professors, and historians should first ask themselves what they have done to positively portray Africa. Luda is an entertainer but also an educator. This gives him the credibility to change the society he lives in and the minds of the people around the world.

Music is definitely a tool for change. It will take sometime before the negative media stigma on Africa can be completely erased. But each little step like Ludacris is doing should be encouraged. For now, Luda should be given thumbs up for a job well done. Surely, Luda will be remembered in the books of history in regard to his fight to bring a better image of Africa to the world.

Otika Okema is Coordinator for The African Peace and Human Rights Education. He may be reached via email at peter@blackstarnews.com. This editorial appears in Black Star News.




Otika Okema

Friday, June 24, 2005

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