I have seen a lot of complaints about the upcoming @CassperNyovest Bulawayo show on September 15, 2017 only having 3 ‘Zim hip hop’ artists billed for the event. If you go on Twitter and Facebook there are plenty of posts, from Zim Hip Hop artists stating that Zim Hip Hop is underrepresented. The promoter did get Cal_Vin on the supporting headliner ticket who is possibly the best rapper in Zim right now and is Bulawayo’s own which is a huge plus.
Considering the complaints, let’s look at the validity of the claims in a little more detail.
Obviously this show has touched a nerve about there being far more Zim Hip Hop talent to showcase than the lineup suggests and that is true. Zim has plenty of that talent. The rap scene is littered with so many acts to even begin counting them. With a headliner as huge as Cassper Nyovest is in Africa – especially Southern Africa, his star power alone is significant enough to pull whatever numbers you need. People would go to that show to see Cassper. The rest is marketing and promotion. The supporting acts don’t necessarily need to be the most popular acts around. It becomes a chance to slot in some local talent in that lineup (regardless of popularity) based on talent and being in the same genre. Zim Hip Hop acts have every right to question why there isn’t more representation for their genre out there on these platforms.
If only the economics of staging a show were that simple. The economics of hosting an artist of Cassper’s repertoire are unfortunately tougher than simply lining up other hip hop acts to follow ‘for the culture’. This is where everyone is taking different directions. The promoter has one main priority at this point: make the show financially lucrative. The money that goes into securing the Cassper Nyovests of this world is a big deal. Not only does Cassper expect payment, he also expects to stage a world class performance that aligns with his brand (and reputation) so everything has to be right or at least almost. Those preparations take more money. So when the organisers sit down to create a lineup to support Cassper, they will want a strong list to ensure that revelers are there for as long a time as possible which increases their chances of spending money on food and drink. They don’t want people to make their way to the venue only when Cassper is about to perform. That means supporting acts have to be some of the biggest acts around, to maximise on the opportunity. The market dictates that based on the music people like, not the promoter.
The Harare show with Cassper headlining is also showing no Zim Hip Hop acts as the main supporting headliners although Tehn Diamond, Jnr Brown, Ti Gonzi and Stunner will be performing. The supporting acts are also not necessarily within the same genre partly because of how the average listener takes in music nowadays. Genres are still a big part of music categorisation. The flip side is what would have been categorised as a Hip Hop show 5 years ago is now ‘a show with some good artists that so happen to rap’. Genre purists may feel quite hard done by that but more and more music lovers encapsulate good music as ‘good music’ more than strictly being a hip hop head. This means that whoever listens to Jah Prayzah probably also listens to King Shaddy and Cassper Nyovest and Cindy Munyavi etc. Just depends on their preference at any given time. For those people, the ones making up the numbers at these shows, it won’t matter as much that there are only a couple of other Zim Hip Hop acts. After all it’s not like they put Mai Charamba on the ticket. Remember, not all acts the organisers want will be available on that date or have reasonable terms, among other reasons to consider for how they end up with a certain lineup.
From this standpoint, it’s not at all unreasonable to have non-hip hop acts at the Cassper Nyovest show. To only bill hip hop acts because the headliner is a hip hop act might not be in the best interests of the promoter. If the promoter fails to break even nobody will then go on to say “Here’s some money to cover your losses since you put on more hip hop acts for us.” It doesn’t work that way.
The move to bill other artists from different genres is purely financial rather than an open insult to Zim Hip Hop acts. Zim Hip Hop at this point has taken a bit of a back seat after some amazing years (2012 – 2014) that saw hits such as MaDrinks by Jnr Brown, Happy by Tehn Diamond, Zvidhori by MMT, H-Town by Tatea Da MC, Hamuko by Team Bho, Zunguza by Marcques The Destroyer. Yeah I know there is Takura but generally as far as genres go, Zimdancehall is murdering everyone. EVERYONE.
As a genre, Zim Hip Hop can consider doing what the West Africans did, they fused their raps with Afrobeats to make their music more palatable to the average listener. It worked wonders for them. Case in point is Sarkodie, he always has stuff for the hip hop purists and for the other Afropop (African Popular Music) listeners which keeps him relevant in both markets. His biggest singles are usually the fusions anyway.
We can argue all we want but the promoters did what worked for their business. Zim Hip Hop is not where the money is right now. That’s music. It’s a business.
And money talks…