Will Mozambican Hip-Hop find its Identity?
Our latest guest on The Gusto Project was Laylizzy, a Mozambican pioneering Hip-Hop artist and a legend in the making. The common thread in Laylizzy’s life story was breaking barriers and the glass ceiling for himself thus inspiring other Mozambicans to do the same. He did this incredibly, through Hip-Hop.
His breakthrough into Mozambican Hip-Hop reminds me of when South Africa officially claimed its place as part of the Hip-Hop nation. That is when groups such as Skwatta Kamp arrived onto the scene. What made this group big is not only the fact that they were South African Hip-Hop pioneers, but that they created a form of Hip-Hop that South Africans specifically, could identified with. This is also similar to Laylizzy’s breakthrough.
He shared with the Gusto Project that while he was in the UK, he only rapped in English and did not feel supported by many of his fellow Mozambicans for it. He continued by saying that he went back to his country and was inspired to start rapping in Portuguese again, understanding the importance of making music that your own country can identify with. In turn, that authenticity will attract masses from international spaces as well.
Another Hip-Hop artist who went through the same experience is Akala, a grime artist from the UK. He stated that when he first started rapping, he did so with an American accent, being influenced by the likes of Wu Tang Clan. This was until his older sister and well-known grime artist, Miss Dynamite, encouraged him to find his own voice and continue on the path to becoming a great Hip-Hop star. Laylizzy mentioned something interesting in his story that was similar to the path of many rappers all over the world: Making Hip-Hop one’s career and not being American was seen as impossible. That is why breakthroughs of many Hip-Hop stars from outside America are sweet victories to witness.
Laylizzy added that he also rapped in English because he wanted to appeal to the international market and be represented by labels such as Def Jam. But, the fact that he got discovered by a label of his home country called Geobek inspired authenticity in his work.
Speaking of authenticity; it is true that the lingua Franca of Mozambique is Portuguese. However, I have always wondered what the pre-colonial languages and dialects of Mozambique are, and whether or not they are still alive. With Portuguese rap, having been around in Brazilian Funk, and now in African Hip Hop, one can only imagine how exciting it would be if the native Mozambican tongue would be incorporated in Hip Hop as well.
Laylizzy’s approach to his music and his entire vision also goes hand-in-hand with his love and passion for “a better Mozambique”, hence his breaking the ceiling. He holds a Master’s degree in Business law and plans to use that to expand the music business in Mozambique. That way, he already exemplifies that an artist can both be creative and knowledgeable, thus empowered.
The fact that Hip-Hop has technically (and aesthetically) spread across the globe and formed new sounds in the process shows that there is no limit for this world-dominating genre. Because Laylizzy’s attitude is positive and about exceeding limits, he could not have chosen a better platform than Hip-Hop to make that message heard (voice his message). With pioneering artists like Laylizzy, this is only the beginning of great things for Mozambican Hip-Hop. As the rapper and interviewer concurred, “the future is very bright”.