Ready D on Prophets of da City,
the "Understand Where I'm Coming From" video and hip hop culture.
Saturday 1 February 1997
Hip Hop Matinee at Angels Nightclub, Cape Town
reviewed by Chippie for The Argus Big Noise
Ready D is sitting on the pavement next to his rally-styled yellow Ford
Cortina with some neighbourhood brothers. Bass-heavy hip hop pulses from
the Angels nightclub, Sea Point, during one of the hip hop culture's
Saturday afternoon jams.
Big Noise: "Understand Where I'm Coming From" winner of the international
Midem Best Video, was banned from the SABC playlist and has recently been
unbanned. How has this affected Prophets of da City?
Ready D: We're still trying to recover from the shock and the controversy.
Suddenly everyone wants a piece of the action, saying they produced, or
directed or worked the camera. The lyrics have a lotta political
connotations. The song is four years old, but we still stand by it. It
should be played on South African TV. There's political documentary footage
on the video and people need to know that the struggle continues. The song
is about empowering yourself as an individual and moving forward as a
community. [The banning] indicates how backward mental states are. SABC is
trying to hide information from people. It have confused people: when POC
came out, there was lots of attention. People believe what they see in the
media and they didn't know if POC still existed because we disappeared off
the media. Now they know. POC is still at the forefront of hip hop in Cape
BN: Tell us about your new album, "Ghetto Code"?
RD: The material was recorded in London and South Africa one and a half
years ago. It's POC's funkiest project. It was delayed for a year and a
half because of finances and problems with the label and the cover. Now
we've formed our own label, Ghetto Ruff, and will distribute through
BN: Give us a rundown on "Ghetto Code".
RD: People were asking us to make something easy on the ear, something they
could relate to. So we're presenting hip hop on a level they can get into.
It's designed for a booming system, it's heavyweight funk. We're not
selling out -- there's a lotta issues on the album. "Wild Styles", the
single, is just displaying vocal skills. There's a surprise on the album; a
POC love song, for everybody who's in the mood for smooching. "Roots
Resurrection" is a spiritual song. "Planet Cape Town" is a tribute to Cape
Town and Afrika Bambata, the godfather of hip hop. "Motherland Funk" is
just what it says. "The Struggle Continues" just shows that POC don't budge
-- ons het nie daai gedagtes gelos nie. And DJs don't have to worry,
there's a lotta scratching and a lotta scratching techniques.
BN: Talking about hip hop generally, American rap is strongly aligned with
"gangstaz" and gangsterism...
RD: Mainstream media always concentrates on hip hop being about guns and
women shaking their asses. That's not hip hop, that's the watered down hip
POP version. There's a deeper, more spiritual side to hip hop. You have to
remember, gangsterism was around in South Africa long before hip hop.
Definitely hip hop has taken people of the street and given them something
positive to focus on. We have the street-jams and the do-for-self concerts;
we're showing kids how to make a living; there's information passed around.
Hip hop encourages people to educate themselves. We need doctors and
lawyers, it's a bigger picture than POC, it's bigger than hip hop. If we
can create a lucrative industry, we can start ploughing money back into the
ghetto, build our own recreation centres. We can build our own parks and
our own discos, so the kids don't have to come through to Angels in town.
We can create a safer environment for our kids. It might not happen in our
lifetime, but there are people who will carry on and and accomplish it.
See also www.mg.co.za/mg
for the Mail & Guardian's (short) report on the Midem Video controversy
in their Friday 24 Jan edition.