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 Town.
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 Polygram.
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
for the Mail & Guardian's (short) report on the Midem Video controversy in their Friday 24 Jan edition.

©Chippie Waterman 1996, 1997. All articles by Chippie were orignally written for The Sunday Times Cape Metro Section or The Cape Argus Big Noise. Enquiries about Chippie can be directed to Evan Milton