Rwanda: Gender Equality Through Hip-Hop
Hip — Hip hop music was regarded as a man's thing. Today, women rap and sometimes do it better than their male competitors.
It all started as early as the 1980's when African-American diva, MC Lyte emerged as the first lady rapper. She was then signed to an upcoming label, 'Def Jam'. Then her hip-hop journey began.
She paved way for other sensational female hip-hop stars including Da Brat, Foxy Brown and Queen Latifah plus the super EVE in 2001.
Rwandan singers adopted the hip-hop genre as late as 2007 when 'Gangster G' recorded her first rap song. She was joined by Ado Pacifique (Paccy) in 2009 and then newcomers, like Young Grace, El-Poeta in 2010.
At 21 years Paccy inspires a growing number of younger rappers. One special thing about her is that she has a delightful singing voice, yet she prefers to sing in less smooth hip-hop, as a loyalty to the gender equality movement.
"I couldn't utilize politics to preach equality because I am not a politician. That's why I use my talent to try and inspire as many other women as I possibly can," she says.
Joyce Namande, commonly known as Kitty is also an upcoming singer and she is a fan of rapper Paccy. She is proud of how Rwandan girls rap.
"Though I sing R&B, I love hip-hop more than anything," she says. "I am inspired to work harder in my R&B by women rappers who have a successful hip-hop career."
Sebahire Severan (Seb's), an audio music producer says that he promotes women musicians in his 'One Way Studio', because he believes in women empowerment.
He explains: "Women have what it takes to speak to the public through their songs. That is why I give priority to women and encourage them to take up music as a career."
Seb's recorded songs for free, for many female upcoming rappers.
Paccy also uses hip-hop to spread practical message including the 'equality talk'. Unlike other music styles like Pop and Rock, Paccy says the message carried by hip-hop songs is easier to deliver. She exploits rap to maximum.
She is sometimes accused of using complicated lyrics. She defends herself by saying that the 'complicated' components are real life problems which some listeners are never willing to listen to.
"Sometimes people enjoy party or love songs. When you sing the sour reality of real life, only a few are willing to take in your message," she says. "As someone dedicated to delivering message, I am not scared of losing out on party or love songs."
She however keeps a distance from explicit or controversial lyrics in her songs. This is one reason why her music is never too mature for young ones and never too young for mature ears.
Apart from the choice of lyrics and the competition from male rappers, the "Umunsi Umwe" singer still finds it hard to join the trust of her fans.
Hip hop artists worldwide have a bad reputation. Some have criminal records for unlicensed guns, drug deals, murders and thefts. Even an innocent woman who joins the industry is regarded as a bad character because of the terrible reputation rappers have.
Like any other rapper, Paccy often finds it hard to inform her listeners through music because rap stars are branded criminals.
In a society with cultural values, a girl rapper doing hullabaloo on radio does not communicate easily to older listeners
Female rappers have to perform better than men to make it. They are not society's regular feminine female which brings them to confrontation with families or even boyfriends.
Paccy recently gave birth to a baby girl. She will need time and energy to get back to the top spot in the rap industry. Her optimistic personality and determination will get her back on her feet.
So far, the tough rapper is considered successful because most of her songs are appreciated by music lovers. This deems her as capable of breaking the male dominance in hip-hop.
She often quotes seasoned writer and republican politician, Clare Boothe Luce's, 'Because I am a woman, I must make unusual efforts to succeed. If I fail, no one will say, "She doesn't have what it takes." They will say, "Women don't have what it takes."