CIAfrica CIAfricaDJ /rupture presents CIAfrica: Clan Des Indigenes Accables Of United States Of Africa
The stream of African-influenced, or Africanised, releases has been pretty constant over the last couple of years. World music affecting a particular part of the musical scene is usually a cyclic process; while a couple of years ago it was Asia – Punjabi MC, the first M.I.A. album, a Bollywood series at your local library, your mother attending belly-dancing classes– Africa has been the main protagonist of the last couple of years. If we attribute these fluctuations to the global sports calendar, we are now at the end of a cycle, with the World Championship Football as the final stage of the hype. So, enough of Africa, let’s change the theme. And that theme, if we stick with the sports calendar, will surely be batucada, samba, thigh-shaking, Cansei de Ser Sexy, Jorge Ben reissues and your mum going to capoeira lessons. Río de Janeiro 2016. However, if we leave aside the dark strings pulled by COI and FIFA and look at the musical and tangible only, this record might be the beginning of the end, the decline of a (perhaps short but) brilliant and lucid era.
The latest Dutty Artz release is everything but brilliant and lucid. It’s dark, cutting like sandpaper, tenebrous, violent, inconsolable. And I’m not referring to the quality, but to the attitude. CIAfrica, the label and collective based in Abidjan, picks up and tries to show to the westerners a handful of African MCs, most of them from Côte d’Ivoire. Manusa, Barboza, Prince Abraham and the only female of the pack, Nasty, apply their voices to the beats of Green Dog, who is some kind of messiah of Ivorian rap, and head honcho of CIAfrica. In short, these people are the happy few who start a scene in their city; those who import, promote, personalise and exploit a genre with more or less care and/or the goal to get rich and famous. Those who are afterwards remembered as “the first who.” It happens everywhere and at all times, but always with different results. The where and when define the how. And Abidjan in the 21st century is close enough to the Western world (it has skyscrapers and a business district) to be aware of its underdevelopment, but far enough to not leave it. In short, these people are fucked and angry. And in music they’ve found the way to express all that rage. “ Muzik, muzik, du libre expression / Muzik, muzik, la bonne expression,” sings Barboza on “ Muzik”, so I’m referring to the lyrics.
To listen to this latest outing by DJ/rupture one has to forget about the arsenal of friendly, shiny and colourful rhythms of good vibes that have lately been coming to our ears. Forget Amadou & Mariam, Culoe De Song, Magic System, Shangaan Electro; Maybe “Township Funk” by Mujava comes somewhat close because of its laconic production and desolate melody. The CIAfrica productions are like that, only as a hip-hop/dancehall hybrid. Laconic, stripped, apocalyptic and based on the lower frequencies. The distortion is present in the bass drums, the effects and the vocals; the snares sound militarist, the plain details that are added smell of laser arms, of assault rifles recharging and of retro-futurist apocalypse. Except on “ Guetto Players” and “ Imagine”, where the chorus somewhat soften the blow, the rest of the album seems to lead to the nuclear collapse and, as a consequence, the end of the world. The MCs’ words don’t bring too much hope, either. Governmental corruption, democratic aspirations, drugs traffic with the musicality of French lyricism or, which is the same thing, how to make French sound like German: by rapping. The prize for the best flow is for Nasty who, though sounding as corrosive as her colleagues, shows she has mastered the rhythm both in French ( “J’Reste Une Hard”) and in English (“ Cash”).
Maybe this wave of African and Africanised music has exposed us too much to its sunny side. At the end of the day, if you want to sell anything you’d better do it with a smile. Or maybe the developed world has already had its moment of hardcore rap and radical rhymes, the common factor in the births of local scenes. Here we have a scene being born which is praiseworthy and gratifying, but we can barely identify with what these artists are telling us. It’s a bit late for us to get with the hardcore stuff. We cross our fingers for this scene to grow, develop and mature, something that won’t happen without these kind of compilations. Which is why the initiative and intention get a ten out of ten; but the record itself gets a high pass.