What does a neglected neighborhood of the Boogie Down Bronx have in common with the wild and desolate steppe of Central Asia? Perhaps it is their rugged spirit that ties them in, or the unsettling nature, or the survival-of-the-fittest attitude
What does a neglected neighborhood of the Boogie Down Bronx have in common with the wild and desolate steppe of Central Asia? Perhaps it is their rugged spirit that ties them in, or the unsettling nature, or the survival-of-the-fittest attitude.
Regardless, Hip-Hop, invented by Bronxites, instantaneously resonated with my Kazakh temperament. Inspired by its minimalistic approach, I scribbled down my first rhymes as a teenager and have been into rap music ever since. Today though, to my dismay, once so down-to-earth and real, mainstream rap has turned into a materialistic pop puppet dictated by commercialism. Fooled by this anomaly Kazakh Hip-Hop performers tend to copycat. However, Central Asian rappers need not to follow the western trends, we could rather develop our own style within the genre by holding on to the aqin tradition.
Reviving aqinship via Hip-Hop not only has a strong and appealing potential but also may contribute to rap music overall. The American Hip-Hop scene, a major player by default, is desperate for novelties. Rapper Ludacris went so far as to say “nothing’s been new since Big Daddy Kane; Flows will get recycled passed around to different names” (2011). With this state of affairs it might as well be reasonable to bring refreshing wisdom of aqins to the table and blend it in with hip hop. To illustrate, one of my works mimics the following poem by Shangerey Bokeev, written around the time the lightbulb was invented:
Having mastered disciplines the likes of chemistry
Decrypted mysteries, discovered seas of knowledge
If we sojourned our earthly life like Edison
The angels would have grown astonished (1989)
Mirroring Bokeev I tried to accentuate enlightenment:
And those who read will always see Goliath, the naked king,
The heist, the plot, the liar. I spit saliva at the false Messiah,
Connect the dots, align them. Think outside the box. Better look inside
the books. Inspire! (Jezovski, 2012)
Education brings up another point why we should cherish and develop the Turkic poetic heritage. Kazakh literature is saturated with poems such as Bokeev’s “Edison,” which places emphasis on learning and self-development. This goes hand in glove with the fifth element of Hip-Hop: knowledge. One of its founding fathers, Africa Bambaataa, pointed out that knowledge holds other four elements (MCing, DJing, B-boying, Graffiti) together (Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap, 2012). Neoteric rappers, nonetheless, seem to be completely ignoring this fact. As a consequence, ignorance took over the industry and devoured the minds of listeners around the globe. Thus, Hip-Hop nowadays serves as a brainwashing machine fraternizing with institutions aiming at degrading society. By jumping on the “swag/gangsta” bandwagon, Central Asian rappers, for the most part unknowingly, stimulate the corruption of our people, instead of reclaiming aqinship and, as a result, enriching the entire rap genre.
The following quote by the critically acclaimed hip-hop veteran KRS-One concludes my message perfectly: “Everything I do, I say, and wear, and everything is teaching the future who they are… the first performance of an MC is to history” (2010). Aqins behaved befittingly with regard to the generations ahead, and for that reason we will incessantly hold them as role models. They passed on and entrusted us with poetic treasure galore. We take colossal pride in this legacy. Now, the question that we, the Central Asian rappers, need to ask ourselves is: are we following their footsteps to make sure the future generations take pride in what we are now?
Story by Almas “Jezovski” Alibekov
Bokeev, Shangerey. “Edison.” Baydildayev, Mardan and Mukhtar Maghawin. Bes Ghasyr Zhyrlaydy. Trans. Almas Alibekov. Vol. 2. Almaty: Zhazushy, 1989. 2 vols. 190.
Jezovski. “Jezovski – Atoms Of Utopia.” 8 September 2012. YouTube. Junky Skull (The instrumental was originally used by Sagopa Kajmer and samples “Mien Da Eli Nesyik” by Nancy Ajram). 30 March 2013 <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dbzbbXQ3UdE>.
KRS-One. KRS-One talks about rap battles, Lil Wayne, Jay Z, Nelly, Hip-Hop with Omar Starr (OD). 13 March 2012. All Hip-Hop All the Time. 2 April 2013 <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xaIVGO-wCk8>.
Ludacris. “Badaboom.” 1.21 Gigawatts: Back To The First Time. Prod. Wonder. Disturbing tha Peace/Def Jam Records, 2011.
Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap. Dirs. Ice-T and Andy Baybutt. Perf. Africa Bambaataa. Prod. Paul Toogood. 2012.Share