Meaning and Multiplicity

Complexity and Play in Tanzanian Hip Hop

Authored by: David Kerr

Routledge Handbook of African Popular Culture

Print publication date:  May  2022
Online publication date:  May  2022

Print ISBN: 9780367483869
eBook ISBN: 9781003080855
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter examines the creative linguistic practices of the Tanzanian rapper, Hashim Rubanza. Despite having made few recordings Hashim is a significant field in Tanzanian hip hop culture, revered by fans for his lyrical skill. The texts analysed in this chapter are part of a previously unpublished archive of recordings co-created during an artistic residency that Hashim undertook to the UK in 2010. Using Henry Louis Gates Jr’s concept of ‘signifyin(g)’, I seek to show how, by reading the referents in his texts, we can understand Hashim as riffing on, a range of popular, intellectual and religious discourses. I argue that Hashim’s lyrics engage with practices of hip hop signification as well as Swahili traditions of linguistic play. By drawing on the multiple meanings of Swahili words Hashim consciously opens his lyrics to a multiplicity of meanings

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