DC Artist Kokayi Visits Dakar for Cultral Exchange #DC2DK
In July 2013, DC hip hop artist Kokayi began the DC2DK project, an arts exchange between sister cities Washington DC and Dakar, Senegal. The trip was facilitated by Africulturban, a Dakar-based urban youth organization who also produce Senegal’s largest annual hip hop festival, Fest2H.
While in Dakar, Kokayi performed a the festival, recorded music with some Senegalese hip hop heavyweights – Keur Gui and PPS the Ghost Writah – for a mixtape (download here free). The whole project was produced into a mini documentary (see above).
Kokayi gave World Hip Hop Market an interview to give us his impressions of the project and his time in Senegal.
WHHM: How did this project come about?
Kokayi: I applied for a subsequently won the Sister Cities Grant as offered by the DC Commission for the Arts and Humanities.
What did you find interesting about Senegal and hip hop there?
Being exposed to the music of both Keur Gui and PPS when both were in the US, i was able to see how content differentiated the groups. The appreciation and adherence to boom bap was present more so with Keur Gui as the poetry of language was present with PPS. I was exposed to Keyte and Xuman’s Journal Rappe and Keyte’s work with Nomadic Wax prior to visiting Senegal. Upon arrival however the vast styles, influences and interpretations of hip hop were all amazing. you could see the influence of Americanized mainstream “rap” music with some of the groups but what was very present were the groups that called people to action.
What was it like working with Keur Gui and PPS?
Working with those brothers was fun. Life is more than a stage name and music is universal so the collaborations went deeper than a check and a 16. We built on common themes and ideas that we had discussed far away from beats and a studio. In doing so the actual recording process just felt like a continuation of a friendly conversation as opposed to a forced collaboration.
What did you learn from them?
I learned to not take this gift for granted. Given the social impact and at times repercussions from delivering your message in Senegal, one can either ignore the actual impact that was seen or take heed to the examples being laid before them. I have chosen to do the latter. To quote Dead Prez: “it’s bigger than hip hop”
What part of DC did you take and leave in Senegal?
Having lived in a 4 quadrants of the city but being reared in primarily one, I think I took my SW on the SE side Ward 8, give love and show respect to earn respect upbringing and mixed it with some uptown NW flair and East of the River NE hustle, providing a well rounded glimpse of what it is to be from this city. Senegalese crowds will boo you, they want to know where you are from and how you handle yourself on and off the stage, in Dakar they are not easily impressed. DC is the same way, so I felt at home.
Why do you think exchanges like this are valuable?
True cultural exchange is key. On the ground, face to face, hustle to hustle work is key in helping people not to generalize and make assumptions based on media misgivings. Seeing the excellent work going on at Africulturban, hearing from PPS about opening his own center for art and Keur Gui’s never ending push to call out the fake and right the wrongs, grants hope to the voiceless and underserved. When you see things in action, oft times started with little to no financial support, turn into bustling creative and positive groundwork , you have no choice but to be inspired to do work. DIY mentality is alive in Senegal, the true spirit of hip hop, making something out of nothing and innovation is alive and breathing and doing in Senegal. To be part of that on a small level is major. To leave what you know, how you feel things should be and go to a place where some of that is turned on its head is major. To actually put on another souls proverbial shoes and walk about in them is needed in order to collectively steer or spurn humanity toward a more global path to understanding.
For even more insight, read Kokayi’s journal of his exchange to Senegal.