Précis for “The Struggle for Hip Hop Authenticity and Against Commercialization in Tanzania”

As a prelude to the précis, I will just include a brief description of the process I used here, in case anyone is interested, since it’s the first week for LEAP papers:

For the week of September 24th, our reading assignment was chapters 1-3 in Michael Serazio’s Your Ad Here: The Cool Sell of Guerrilla Marketing.

Your Ad Here: The Cool Sell of Guerrilla Marketing, by Michael Serazio

Looking to select an article that is relevant to this reading and fits with my interests, I narrowed my search down to articles related to Kalle Lasn’s Adbusters magazine, discussed in chapter 3, and Lucian James’s “American Brandstand” list tallying all the brand mentions in top Billboard songs.  Both of these topics interested me, but I settled on the idea of hip-hop because James’s statement in chapter 2 most closely related with ideas I’d like to study: “Hip-hop talks about the here and now.  [It] can be very reflective of what’s going on in current culture” (Serazio, 2013, pp. 46-7).

Using EBSCO, I searched “hip-hop” in all marketing journals, and made a list of articles that looked promising.  After reading the abstracts of the top few, I selected one with a close connection to Serazio’s themes of commercialism and “selling out” while offering a cross cultural, multiple perspectives bent.  From there, I followed the criteria for evaluation posted on the class wordpress site.

The précis is as follows:

Clark, M. (2013).  The Struggle for Hip Hop Authenticity and Against Commercialization in Tanzania.  Journal of Pan African Studies, 6(3), 5-21.


In “The Struggle for Hip Hop Authenticity and Against Commercialization in Tanzania” (2013), Msia Kibona Clark describes a debate about the authenticity and commodification of hip hop in Tanzania.  Authentic hip hop music is defined by the emphasis of the emcee’s role as a storyteller and a celebration of the power of words, while commodification is described as a commercialization of hip hop into a pop culture version called Bongo Flava that emphasizes hyper-masculinity, aggression, extravagant consumption, and consumer capitalism.

Through interviews with Tanzanian artists Sugu, Zavara, JCB, Coin Moko and Ehks B, Clark provides a history of Bongo Flava and a portrait of its departure from hip hop, including the introduction of talent agencies and radio stations that created a formula for turning music into a money making industry.  Alternatively, artists Godzilla, Mangwair and Witnesz recognize the financial benefits of performing Bongo Flava music and offer a view of Bongo Flava as a proud, indigenous music style.

Clark references a similar split that occurred in the United States in the mid-1990s, when the American hip hop community criticized commercial rap for its lack of authenticity and a turn toward profitable formulas over creativity and social consciousness.  In the current American music industry, Clark points to independent labels and the benefits of new media, such as internet, podcasting and file sharing, as ways in which authentic hip hop artists continue producing music on non-commercial platforms, and cites an Okoa Hip Hop (save hip hop) movement in Tanzania that seeks to similarly maintain space for authentic hip hop.

[End of précis]

If you are like me and would like to hear some of this Tanzanian hip hop and bongo flava music after reading about it, you can check out this example of “authentic” hip hop by JCB, mentioned in the text:

Or you could listen to the 3-hour long sampling of bongo flava that played in the background as I wrote this post:

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