From the first ever rap by the Sugarhill Gang back in the 70s to Drake hitting over a billion views for ‘Hotline Bling‘, rap has evolved dramatically. Now, the music genre is crossing language borders. Here is a list of eight non-English rap music videos by artists that you should be listening to…
Indian Rapper Divine was the first Hindi rapper to appear on BBC Radio 1’s ‘Fire in the Booth’. Divine was signed by Sony Music and was also awarded Best Video by Rolling Stone India in 2015. Often drawing inspiration from local life in Mumbai, the rapper makes real music about Indian communities, claiming he has never lied in his rhymes because he lied too often to his mum when he was young.
Brazilian rapper Karol Conká combines an old school flare with modern rap, afro-Brazilian and baile funk (Brazilian funk music) influences to create a massively colourful sound. The tone of her music is also reflected in her dress sense, making her videos exciting to watch and listen to. She flaunts her alternative style with her choice of quirky costumes, particularly in ‘Boa Noite’. Conká has decided her ‘protest is against sadness’, and this makes her sound uplifting and all about raising self-esteem – well, only if you can understand Portuguese.
This is a brilliant example of how rap has woven its way into the most unexpected places. ‘It G Ma’ by Korean rapper Keith Ape sounds a little like American trap, but it’s not – it’s Korean trap. Due to copyright issues, Keith Ape later released a remix of ‘It G Ma’ featuring American and Korean-American rappers A$AP Ferg, Father, Dumbfoundead and Waka Flocka Flame. Most of his videos are pretty trippy and fun to watch, but this one is the most popular on YouTube, with over 36 million views.
This song went viral on social media recently, with some saying Ace Tee reminded them of something they might have heard on a TLC album. Since this song became popular, Tee has now been featured in Vogue, Vice and MTV. It seems no matter how far forward we move, we’ll always look back to 90s Hip Hop and RnB as the high point of the genre. Ace Tee seems to use this era as her inspiration for ‘Bist du down?’, creating a video with a chilled 90s vibe.
This particular track is quite long, but the bass in this tune is insane. Factoring in the speed and ease of how they switch between the Ghanaian language, Twi, and English, the song has even more of an edge. Sarkodie’s talents have been recognised by a large number of international organisations and channels including Forbes, e.TV Ghana and the BET Awards, so it’s about time a western audience gets the chance to hear his music in mainstream media.
This is perhaps the ‘Marmite’ of the batch, but a winner if you like the baile funk style. The beat MC João raps over makes this one ridiculously catchy – or perhaps slightly annoying depending on your mood. This song also has over 150 million views, so it’s safe to say more than a few people can’t get this out of their head.
No non-English rap list can be complete without at least one French offering. MHD grew up in Paris, but has Guinean and Senegalese origins. This mix of influences encouraged his creation of a seemingly alternative sound – Afro trap, a mixture of African music (afrobeats) and American trap… yet rapped in French. That’s a ridiculously high level of musical fusion. In any case, it all blends flawlessly with this video, giving the audience the sense that MHD and his posse just came to freestyle and have fun.
Riky Rick (recently changed to King Kotini) is signed to his own independent label and has gained international acclaim, winning awards from MTV Africa and peaking at number three on the South Africa Hip Hop Top Ten List. In ‘Boss Zonke’, Riky Rick blends English and Zulu together seamlessly –it’s this and the addictive beat that makes this a tune that should only be played at the highest volume.
Featuring in the film No One Knows About Persian Cats (2009), the video for Ekhtelaf by Hichkas uses English subtitles, which is just as well, because it means we can understand his strong message about Persian life and oppression. As well as a great backing track, the song seems to give us an insight into Persian street culture. Rap is often an artist’s interpretation of problems they see within their local communities; this is a non-English example on a similar theme.