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Opinion : ZimDancehall versus Zim Hip Hop the raging debate

Made by Kuda (MADE IN ZWE), a gift to Plot Mhako and the earGROUND vision.

Opinion : ZimDancehall versus Zim Hip Hop the raging debate

Growing up in a small town, the urban setting was a haven for dancehall music. While hip hop also had a presence, it was dancehall that truly dominated. Despite hip hop’s cultural reverence and its shiny allure of ‘swag,’ dancehall was considered the ‘realest’ music by many, myself included. This belief fostered a perceived divide between the two genres, creating a serious indifference altogether.

By Takudzwa Kadzura

Fast forward to 2024, and both Zim Hip Hop and ZimDancehall are competing for mainstream attention and VIP seats. However, some argue that hip hop has yet to achieve the same level of dominance. Dancehall boasts the biggest artist in Zimbabwe, who consistently draws massive crowds. Meanwhile, hip hop artists who once peaked—like Jnr Brown, Tehn Diamond, and Maskiri—are no longer as active, and their careers don’t compare to new dancehall acts like Enzo Ishall or Tocky Vibes. This comparison is subjective, of course, but my aim is not to disparage a genre I now love. Instead, I seek to explore how these two genres are inextricably linked, despite their differences.

Urban culture encompasses the education and experiences of a society, shaped by institutions like schools, stadiums, and community halls. For those born in the late ’90s, contemporary art, literature, and music played a significant role in our lives. Legendary artists such as Culture Kid, Potato, Major E, Sniper Storm, Winky D, Templeman, and King Labash paved the way for dancehall, with their work passed down through oral history. Dancehall’s roots in black communities worldwide and Bob Marley’s revolutionary art influenced many, including those in Zimbabwe.

Hip hop, which evolved from Reggae and Ragga, became part of the American dream and achieved global dominance. By 1989, a hip hop movement had begun in post-independence Zimbabwe, blending various cultures. Co-existence isn’t an ideology; it happens naturally as people with different lifestyles live side by side.

However, this discussion isn’t about which genre is superior but rather understanding their relationship.”

A Peace of Ebony (Metaphysics, Tony Chihota, Keith Farquharson, and later Laygwaan Sharkie and Chiwoniso Maraire) were Zimbabwe’s first hip hop group to gain regional and international recognition. As Chengeto, daughter of the late Chiwoniso, asserts, ‘a few or none of these kids can out-rap my mom.’ KingPinn, another prominent figure, left a lasting legacy despite his short-lived career. His political messages can be compared to those of Winky D, though Winky D employs more subtlety in his approach.

In 2024, much has changed since the 2010s when I first started listening to music influenced by my urban environment. Both hip hop and Zimdancehall are now popular genres in Zimbabwe.

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While hip hop’s market share is debatable, it benefits from decades of investment by pioneers who may be forgotten in a culture where today’s tragedy becomes tomorrow’s memory. We continue to learn from Western influences, but Zimbabwe has a rich musical history of its own. This analysis advocates for healthy competition, cross-genre collaborations, shared stages, and the recognition that the lines between dancehall and hip hop are indeed blurry. Urban life blends both genres in fashion, street lingo, and hustle methods, driven by a desire for relevance and creative expression.

In 2024, it’s common to hear playlists transition from hip hop to dancehall without anyone frowning at the DJ!

Share your views in the dialogue box below as we await the second part of this analysis.

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Made by Kuda (MADE IN ZWE)
A gift to Plot Mhako and the earGROUND vision.
Truly, for the culture.

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