Talking hip hop and women with Lee Kasumba
“In a few years when people flashback and look at what were people talking about and what was important, the Hip Hop Herstory will be a part of this particular generation’s [story] and [it will be] adding to the fact that women have always been here, they’ve always been involved…”
On 8 September 2018, Castle Lite showcased “Hip Hop Herstory”, a unique concert experience that highlighted and celebrated the role women have played in hip hop.
We had decided to have a chat with Lee Kasumba, who’s basically considered to be hip hop royalty in Africa. Lee has worked as a DJ and producer for SA’s Yfm and she has been the head of Channel O Africa since 2011. With her being the host and executive produce for this first ever all-female hip hop concert experience, we thought it would only be fitting to dig deeper about the event and women in hip hop in general.
M: Can you give us an overview of what went down at the event?
L: Hip Hop Her Story is almost like a theatre production. The best way I can describe it is as a hip hopera. We’ve incorporated the same aspects (as theatre). There’s a lot of performances. There’s dancers, there’s a live band that’s all female, but then there’s also the integration of all elements of hip hop. There’s beat-boxers, there’s VJ’s, there’s dancers and all of that. We’re also talking to people about their views and such so it’s also a very interactive session.
M: What’s the cause for celebrating women in hip hop right now?
L: I think hip hop never ever works outside of what’s going on in the world. My view has always been that hip hop gives you a worldview or if you listen to certain things or if you watch what’s happening in hip hop you can tell what’s going on in the world and I feel like globally everybody is talking about women having their own voice, about women’s world views being recognised and celebrated and I feel like hip hop is just reflecting the time and era that we’re in. In a few years when people flashback and look at what were people talking about and what was important, the Hip Hop Herstory will be a part of this particular generation’s [story] and [it will be] adding to the fact that women have always been here, they’ve always been involved,. The event is simply in line with what’s happening globally, I think.
M: Are there any stereotypes you think we need to bust about women in Hip Hop?
L: Personally, the only stereotype I’d like to remove from hip hop and from the world abroad and the world in general is that there is only one type of woman ad that there’s only one type of woman who can be the most copied at a particular point in time. That has been the danger and the narrative for a long time so if you look at hip hop way back then if you were not this type of woman then you couldn’t make it and now people say that if you’re not a certain type of woman than you can’t make it, but when you look at guys that is never the story. If you look at guys, there’s a host of different guys with different styles, different looks, and different stories and they’ve always been allowed to be who they want to be. Women have always had to play within the role the box. I think that whole idea that there can only be one woman at a time, that needs to be removed.
M: What challenges are women overcoming in hip hop?
L: The issues that women have to overcome in hip hop are similar to the challenges that women have to overcome in the workplaces. We get issues about equal pay and women being allowed to have their say and not always having to fight for a seat at the table, to be able to make the core decisions, to be in charge of who they wanna be and be able to tell their story.”
M: Do you have any defining moments in the industry while working with women?
“When I think of defining moments, specifically with women, I think of great moments that I’ve had you know. It’s been everything from travelling with artists like Godessa and seeing them do so well, that was for me like “What, are you kidding me?. We’re here for hip hop and Godessa is on stage and doing a phenomenal job!”, to witnessing [Miss] Nthabi battle people and seeing all the guys go crazy, to seeing people like Gigi and Nadia pushing numbers and units that people never thought were imaginable, that’s defining you know?