Photograph: DefeatHate Photography
We have streets with black names but only white residents
Me and my ancestors, we all deserve cheques
The world around me disappears and my limbs are governed by a subconscious energy, my attention solely reserved for the alternate reality in which I now find myself, walking, my head nodding in rhythmic sync with the beat over which Namibian Hiphop group Black Vulcanite deliver their Afro-futuristic, poetic, hiphop genius!
I can imagine what the rhyme books of Black Vulcanite would look like in this alternate reality, lines and lines of braille which you’d have to feel with your fingers, your eyes closed to really be able to read them, the kind of lines that would make architects second-guess themselves, imagery that is fit for fictional novels.
“But beyond the facade, he lives in a simple garage
with a bed, and a stove and a tribute to God, in the form of a cross”.
“Black Colonialists”, Black Vulcanite’s first studio album is a melange of stories about real, contemporary issues that are rooted in a distant past for which from the beginning, you become nostalgic albeit having never known it.
“Orishas, show us the way to Ori, because black people, they have forgotten you.”
Time travel is not just the stuff of Sci-fi movies, I’ve been led to believe; this album guides you across defining periods in African history and into an imagined future for the African continent where black people are limitless in what they’re able to achieve artistically and technologically. It is important to keep in mind the issues that seem to be in the way of this ‘future’, obstacles that are the result of ignorance on the part of Africans and systematic misinformation from the part of Western powers.
“Right before the Germans came and changed Abantu surnames
we was out in Timbuktu, believed that we was learning
believed that we were turning metals from the ores…
They took the image of our God and placed Him in a white cathedral”.
On ‘Playing with Dolls’, Black Vulcanite tackle the increasingly troubling problem of colorism and racism, an issue that has recently inspired poems like ‘Pretty for a dark skin’ by Princess Latifah.
One thing to appreciate about Black Vulcanite is their versatility stylistically and thematically. They’re able to handle political themes with the intellectual clarity of a scholar and emotional themes that are tied to the African political and economic contexts. All this done through raw hiphop bars reminiscent of the hiphop era that birthed classics like Illmatic; Ali switches his accent occasionally to Jamaican patwah and Nikolai’s slam poetry stuns and stings with its truths told unconventionally.
Binyavanga Wanaina, the author of the sarcastic analysis of the western perception of Africa cleverly titled ‘How to Write About Africa’ would be flattered by Black’s Vulcanite’s “How to Rap About Afrika”, a track that was undoubtedly inspired by his book. The track sharply takes apart cliches and misconceptions about Africa that Western media continues to perpetuate. The protest-like chant bridging the verses spells out these cliches boldly. “Black, Genocide, famine, war, civil war…”
This album could very well have parts of it adapted into plays, essays and films. The language used is metaphoric but precise and serves as the perfect wrap for the many complex problems conveyed by the hiphop group. Echoing the philosophy that the blind pursuit of money leads to incompetence, the track ‘Kaneda and the Youth’ which serves as the album’s interlude speaks on human limits and the shortsightedness of creating for money. “Money makes no sense, it literally dumbs down our ability to reach our highest heights.” It came as no surprise later when I learned that the group made their album available for free streaming on Soundcloud, an unusual but noble gesture.
Black Vulcanite are Afro-futuristic activists. They have since their ‘Remember the Future’ EP been champions of black renaissance by weeding out the negative traits that resulted from Africa’s colonial history like “black narcissism”, corruption and hypocrisy. “There is no reason why we can’t colonize our piece of history in this game of life”, Mark Mushiva says on the track ‘Kaneda and the Youth’ and that statement is the core on which the album pivots. To be a black colonialist is to take advantage of the fertile continent that is Africa and confront the ignorance that runs deep throughout our history. Afro-futurism seems to be waiting on a post-racism and post-capitalism world to take shape because the two seem to be the driving forces behind African underdevelopment.