Various Artists

Africa Raps

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For many Americans and Europeans, West African music means Youssou N'Dour and Baaba Maal; the existence of a vibrant Senegalese rap scene has generally escaped the notice of the rest of the musical world. This excellent compilation should help to remedy that. Culled from the cassette releases that drive the music business in West Africa, Africa Raps consists primarily of French-language material by Dakar legends like Positive Black Soul and Da Brains, but a fair number of the raps are delivered in other local languages (and, in at least one case, in what sounds like Arabic) by artists less well-known, even in their native regions. For the most part, the music itself is fairly derivative of standard U.S. hip-hop (of the dark, slow-rolling variety), but there are notable exceptions, such as Gokh-Bi System's "Kaesal," which incorporates traditional Senegalese music into the mix, and the Malian crew Tata Pound, whose "Badala" is a thrilling combination of speed rap and local pop sounds. The album's high point is the absolutely brilliant "Libre Ego," a freestyle rap recorded live by Didier Awadi in collaboration with a bunch of his Dakar colleagues. Anyone with an interest in hip-hop in general and African hip-hop in particular should snatch this one up.

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