Much of the praise this Senegalese rap trio has received from western critics seems to stem from admiration for the band’s socially conscious worldview and the (mistaken) assumption that all other hip-hop was violent and misogynistic. Daara J coalesced at the beginning of the 90s when accountancy students Faada Freddy and N’dango D met DJ Aladji Man at the Metropolis club in Dakar. The former duo worked together under the Lion Clan moniker but was astute enough to recognise the skills the DJ could bring as a collaborator. As explained by Freddy, the trio’s band name refers to the Daara, a traditional school where children learn the Koran and ‘how to become men’, while ‘the J means to sow something’. According to the trio it was particularly difficult for them to get involved in music, since in their home country such a vocation is generally considered unacceptable to family members if you do not belong to a griot caste. Rather, the trio was expected to follow their studies. Nevertheless, they released their self-titled debut in 1994 and Xalima in 1998, with both albums covering social, political, and spiritual issues. Tellingly, Daara J say they had to convince their parents that they could rap and still abide by their roots, asserting the importance of deriving their inspirations from African music and the attendant lifestyle. Such an aesthetic was made apparent in their take on hip-hop on 2003’s Boomerang, that drew on influences from both sides of the Atlantic. Daara J explained the origins of Boomerang as ‘We’re saying that rap was born in Africa and had to travel on the slave ships to grow in the plantations of America before coming back to Africa’. Despite such convictions, and while Boomerang was undoubtedly an important album in the context of Senegalese hip-hop, it undeniably lacked the sonic inventiveness of much of the hip-hop coming out of the USA at the same time.
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