Hip-hop culture has had a huge impact on society. Whether you enjoy it or not, it is difficult to deny its power to bring change to the world we live in.
The latest example of its positive influence comes from Senegal, where an all-female collective of 70 artists and musicians have formed the Genji movement which draws attention to the various issues faced by women in West African society.
Hip-hop in Africa
Africa has always enjoyed a uniquely powerful relationship with hip-hop. Many of the biggest global stars over the years have African origins, and Senegal in particular has produced some of the most popular artists in recent times.
However whilst rappers based in France like Booba or MHD enjoy the biggest audience, local talent has also been central to Senegalese popular culture.
In a country where the average age of citizens is just 19, underground rap movements have thrived and spread powerful messages. For example, ‘Journal Rappe’ is a news broadcasting programme where current affairs stories are rapped by artists in French or the local Wolof language.
Rap music was also used in last year’s presidential campaigns by politicians looking to engage the country’s youth. This has all helped foster a culture of activism in Senegalese hip-hop.
Where does Genji Hip-hop fit in?
Mina la Voilée is just one of more than 70 artists that have introduced a female voice to this thriving hip-hop culture. Their Genji movement started as a Whatsapp group in 2017, attracting attention over social media. Now it is a fully-formed organisation which has held its own concerts and events.
On stage, rappers address social taboos such as relationships, family-pressure, and rape. Such issues are rarely talked about, and the female perspective on them is often unheard. The artists themselves have faced backlash, especially from the more conservative members of society.
Therefore, the ability of Genji artists to support each other has been central to their ability to withstand pressure and inspire change.
How have they made an impact?
The ability of hip-hop to encourage discussion and provoke thought is one of the reasons why it is so valuable to society. One issue which Senegalese society has traditionally found difficult to discuss is rape, which affects a worryingly large proportion of the population.
Genji artists passionately address this in their music, empowering women to stand up for themselves. Recently, Senegal amended their rape laws to finally make rape a felony, as opposed to just a misdemeanour.
This means offenders will now be charged with adequate punishments of at least 10 years in prison.
Although reform of this kind is a consequence of many different factors, music and art certainly has its role in changing the cultural context in which these issues are discussed and understood.
Genji’s growth shows how Africa’s social media boom is providing people with a unique opportunity to inspire change in their societies and find the voice which they previously never had.