When you speak of Hip Hop in Tanzania, you are speaking about a social movement. A movement that has faced a lot of challenges, especially with the stereotypes relating Hip Hop and rap music to drugs, violence and hooliganism. This hustle has been led by numerous artists, and among them Professor Jay is a name that rings in people’s mouths.
Joseph Haule aka Profesa Jay, or Jay wa Mitulinga is a prominent hip hop artist in Tanzania. With his rap debut in 1994, he was part of part of Hard Blasters, a “conscious” rap group, but went solo in 2001, after which he became more popular. He started off as “Nigga Jay” but was later named “Profesa” Jay in respect to his efforts in educating youth and the society through his music.
Known as one of the pioneers of Hip Hop since its rise in the 1990’s, since then he has helped change society’s view of hip hop, especially rap music by bridging the gap between the youth and the elderly generation. Based in Dar es Salaam, Prof Jay is known for his Chemsha Bongo, street style rap and he is known to represent Songea, his city of origin, and Tanzania as a whole by rapping in Swahili.
Professor Jay’s music is driven by the current social and political situation in Tanzania which he aims to improve through his music and also the political realm. He touches upon issues affecting a majority of Tanzanians, especially those of lower income status who do not necessarily have a voice in society. After his rise in hip hop, Profesa Jay got involved further into politics through CHADEMA, the main opposing political party in Tanzania. After running campaigns in 2015, he got elected as MP representing Mikumi through his party.
One of the main hits that introduced Prof. Jay was called J.O.S.E.P.H, a song which is an acronym of his name and stands for learn, see, speak, educate and motivate, which are qualities that he wanted people to know him by. This song set a standard for people to remember him by and gained him a lot of respect from the youth to the elderly. Other following tracks that received positive reviews from people of all ages are:
Ndio Mzee is one of the tracks that gave him popularity, especially with its short and catchy phrase. This song was released in 2001 from the album Machozi Jasho na Damu (Blood Sweat and Tears), representing his musical struggle to reach where he is. The track mocks political leaders that promise to do a lot during the election campaigns but do not deliver once they are elected, hence the phrase “ndio mzee” (yes, elder). It starts off with the candidate giving promises, all to which the people reply “ndio mzee”, and in a consecutive song the now elected leader is changing his statements, to which the people reply “sio mzee” meaning no sir.
Mtazamo, a track in which he collaborated with Solo Thang and Afande Sele, is another example of Profesa Jay’s hip hop successes. This song means opinion/point of view and was released in 2004. The track talks about speaking up against the inequalities in society without fear of conviction from the more powerful people
Another famous and conscious track is called Starehe, meaning “pleasures”. This track from the 2005 album Safari is written by Ferooz, who acts as the HIV positive man in the video and Profesa Jay plays the role of the doctor checking up on him. The song is about a HIV positive man who is now singing in regret, as he was influenced by “starehe” and worldly pleasures that ruined his life after contracting the disease. This song received a lot of controversial reviews for stereotyping HIV positive people and how they look “sickly”
Another major track is called Nikusaidiaje, from the 2007 album called J.O.S.E.P.H. This song is about a woman from the village who came to town with her husband, but then became a “town girl” forgot her values, left her husband and ended up stranded. This song delivers a message to all the young women who are usually awestruck by fancy cars and luxuries from men that end up destroying their lives.
Profesa Jay has written raps about corruption, AIDS, education and other socially relevant topics that people know and appraise him for. With these songs in mind, it did not come as a surprise when Profesa Jay announced that he will run for parliament in the 2015 elections.
From rap to the parliament
In 2015 Profesa Jay was elected as PM representing Mikumi for the CHADEMA opposition party, and is so far representing the voice of the community well, according to most of his voters in Mikumi. He started his political career as a member of CCM (Chama Cha Mapinduzi), which is the ruling party in Tanzania, however moved to CHADEMA in 2013. This is because after years of singing songs about politics, he decided to be a part of them so he could have a more direct role in creating change for his community, and he believe that CHADEMA would be the best place for him to do so. Alongside Mr Sugu who is another politician rapper, Profesa Jay is famous for constantly speaking up during parliament debates, representing both his people and Tanzanian artists.
Aside from being MP and creating music, Profesa Jay now has his own recording studio called Mwana Lizombe, which is a name derived from a traditional dance from his tribe. Professor Jay also has a foundation called Professor Jay Foundation, through which he helps with activism and empowering youth in different socioeconomic sectors
With more than 15 local and international awards to his name, Profesa Jay is one of the stellar examples of how youth can use rap music to not only entertain, but to also educate and raise social and political issues that most individuals would be afraid to bring up. With the level of media censorship and restrictions within society, Profesa Jay has successfully brought rap music into the limelight despite the opposing powers, and also introduced Swahili rap to the rest of the world.
(This article was written by Aurelia Haule as part of the Global Hip Hop Cultures class at Trinity College Fall 2016 semester.)