Rick Ross "Hold Me Back"

American artists have seemed to be making pilgrimages to the Motherland in record numbers. From 50 Cent and Beyoncé, to Solange, and now Rick Ross, Americans are traveling to Africa to both soak up the local culture and pass on a little of their own.

But as Africa’s own music scene gains more traction stateside, an interesting development has occurred: in some cases, African artists are beating Americans at their own game.

This summer Rick Ross traveled to Nigeria to shoot a video for the song, “Hold Me Back.” Instead of highlighting the beauty and resiliency of Nigerian people, the video showed the country as one big, poverty-stricken hellhole, not one of the fastest growing economies in the world.

As the video opens, we see several Nigerians with guns, in dire conditions, and with hungry kids as Ross chants, “These n—gas won’t hold me back.”

Hmmm. Word?

The Guardian chronicled some viewers’ reactions:

The capacity of Africans to beat Americans at their own game has not escaped the attention of US hip-hop’s megastars. Rick Ross, the prison officer turned rap phenomenon, recently filmed a video for his “Hold me back” single in Lagos. Realising that the ghettos of New Orleans – shocking as they are – seem pretty sterile compared with the likes of Makoko in Lagos, he put out six minutes of heaving crowds, filthy streets, and powerful poverty to accompany his record about, on one interpretation, triumph over adversity.

Nigerians were not impressed. “I hated the song because of the way he portrayed Nigeria as a hungry nation, a nation of war,” said Soso Soberekon, a Nigerian producer. “I didn’t like the fact that he had the licence to shoot in Nigeria. Right now we are trying to repair the image of Nigeria and someone else is passing the wrong message out.”

The Guardian article also discusses the rise of Africa’s energetic hip-hop culture, noting, “No self-respecting African country is without a homemade, distinctive hip-hop scene.” But while mainstream American hip-hop has influenced its African counterpart to be rife with materialistic images, it lacks one thing: African rap’s consciousness.

While bragging and bling is as deeply ingrained in African hip-hop as it is in American rap, African artists also address many of the issues their compatriots are facing.

Afua Hirsch of the Guardian writes:

Although African hip-hop celebrates excess just like its American counterpart, it is often conscious, too. In many countries African rappers have become the engine of social and political movements.

Take Angolan rapper Luaty Beirao, aka Ikonoklasta, who used his music to mobilise opposition against the 33-year rule of José Eduardo dos Santos during elections last month. Or Mali, which has been rocked by a military coup and virtual partition of the country by Islamists who have captured the north, where rap collective les Sofas de la république has provided the sounds and symbols of a nation’s defiance.

Perhaps it is this subtle dance between consumerism, consciousness, and culture that attracted Kanye West to Nigerian musician D’Banj, and drew Akon to Sarkodie, a Ghanaian rapper who’s won a BET award and is gaining in popularity.

Whether or not African artists continue to breakthrough stateside it’s clear their music, culture, and influence is having an affect on American artists. But it remains to be seen if American artists will simply take from African artists, capitalizing on their distinct sound, dance moves, and fashion, or if they will give credit to their influences and share something in return.

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  • Jinx

    Another artists that comes to mind is M.I.A. but I think she does give credit were it is due and brings light to world issues by doing videos in Africa, Asia and the Middle East and making music reflecting those issues.

    Quit exploiting the motherland!! And Beyonce……I can’t.

    • Yes! Glad you brought up M.I.A. but her lyrics also match where she shoots her videos. She also is from Sri Lanka so she knows that experience first hand (though she has managed to step on some toes) she ain’t perfect but she does genuinely try to convey the “3rd world” and not exploit them. And m.i.a. tries to put on lesser known artists from the so-called 3rd world as well; in “Mango Pickle Down River” she featured an aboriginal hip hop group and in “hussel” she featured Afrikan Boy.

    • apple

      but MIA was born in sri lankan poverty and her music isn’t about hoes and getting money, its usually with a deeper meaning .so i dont think it implies (paper planes,born free)

  • heide

    Ok this one was interesting. Kinda interested in exploring this more.

  • The Other Jess

    I don’t know, Rick Ross shot this video in horrible looking area of America too – the first version of this video is in some impoverished area of New Orleans. Plus, some of the guys in the American version of the video look ignorant enough to seem almost brain-dead and the women look trash. I didn’t get that from the Nigerian version. at leasttheyhave enough respect for their women to not class them as “ho’s”

    Rick Ross has always identified with the lowest of the low (not talking poverty here, talking mentality) and identified with rough, terrible-looking areas. He did the same in the Nigerian video as he did in the new orleans video version of the same song. Plus, the literal lyrics is how “these niggas won’t hold me back” and “these hos won’t hold me back”, with a bunch of Black people jumping around like savages but has a white man holding a Bible and cross (in the new orleans version). If the only problem you have with these videos is the fact that Nigeria looks poor, then you’re missing a whole lot.

    African countries should completely shut the door on some of these rappers coming to their countries – they do not need to be corrupted any further, or made as ignorant as the American Black populace. The U.S. version of this video looks so ignorant it is a shame. Hopefully, Africans can keep some sense of pride in themselves, and self-worth and not follow the paths of the utter fools of many in Black American music.

    At least Africans still have pride enough to say “this video is garbage”. Blacks in America have accepted all this garbage and are a mess because of it.

    • ?!?

      Black Africans who are trying to move up in the world know that image is very important. Black folks here don’t know anything at all about protecting image. Are white people perfect? No! But they try darn hard to present themselves that way. The majority of white people on TV are not Honey Boo Boos. Granted we don’t have much say in the way we are presented in the mainstream media, but I think even if we did it would be similar to BET. Some folks like Rick Ross take too much pride in being low class, and these idiots are the ones basically representing us around the world. I can’t think of another group that can even come close to African American rappers when it comes to destroying image.

  • Kamikak

    …Smacking my lips! Hip Hop Artists are followers. They don’t set the trends they follow them and allow themselves to be pimped out to the masses to perpetuate said trends. Nothing originates with them. Case in point, if you haven’t noticed, in the last 5-7 years there has been a big push to re-colonize Africa in the political world. Africa has always been a long term goal, but now it is ripe for the taking, hence the recent uprisings in Egypt, Northern Mali, Libya, etc. Hip Hop artists are just allowing themselves to be used as the soundtrack in order to misdirect the youth from seeing what’s really going on – re-colonization of the commonwealth.

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