Samora ‘MonoRac’ Nthobatsang and company are looking to bring the local game back from oblivion and turn Phase 2 into a hub of Hip Hop culture and talent search. Through the Asylum Nights initiative they hope to create a platform for freedom of expression while also cultivating raw talent. “We felt that the local Hip Hop culture needed a stronger but flexible institution that will help grow, mold, and develop it into future currents of opportunities for Batswana,” MonoRac says.
The initiative, he says, is a stamp of unlimited creativity in and around the Hip Hop culture. Asylum Nights takes place every Monday at Phase 2’s Razmatazz complex and the activities involve, among others, Hip Hop battles between aspiring emcees. “We had a successful opening night on June 1st,” Monorac says. “We had among others battles between female rappers, poets, and a guest appearance by Touch Motswak.” He says the event will go on every Monday for the rest of the year, fusing various elements each night. Hip Hop battles, he says, will especially take centre stage among other activities such as dance competitions, album launches, fashion shows, performances by various artists ,open mics and more. “We hope to create a place where creative minds can collide to invent, innovate and produce trends that can help grow the Hip Hop culture in Botswana. Hip Hop battles have for a long time been the foundation from which some of the biggest talents in the industry both locally and internationally sprouted. They have at times brewed beef between artists the results of which, more often than not, have seen the industry grow both in terms of attracting a well needed fan base and quality lyrical content.
The word beef is without doubt one of the most familiar terms in Hip Hop culture. It is almost synonymous with Hip-Hop itself. Beef is usually the determinant factor for who is the most skillful and lyrically gifted of the emcees. It can make or break a career. It can determine the survival of a Hip Hop artist. It is an instrument for measuring greatness in Hip Hop music.
One of the most notable beefs locally has to be the one between Scar and Zeus. It’s not clear how it ended but it was one of those beefs that brought life into the local industry and kept the public talking. Some of the fiercest of Hip Hop beefs have to come from the US, which has to a very large extent influenced the culture everywhere else (including here in Botswana). It is safe to say every rapper here in Botswana and anywhere else was influenced in one way or the other by the American Hip Hop culture.
One of the most notable beefs in Hip Hop involved rapper 50 Cent and Ja Rule. The latter performed here in Gaborone recently (2014). Theirs is proof of just how beef can spell an end to one’s rap career. 50 Cent literally tongue lashed Ja Rule out of the game and turned the whole industry against him. Despite an attempt at a comeback Ja Rule failed to resuscitate his career. Jay Z and Nas also had a go at each other. The Jay-z versus Nas beef boasts at least 20 diss songs between them. Although Nas whipped Jay Z in a poll to determine the better of the two, they eventually reconciled. Before these two there was the mother of all beefs in the history of Hip Hop; the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ of them all.
The one that ended tragically for both rappers: 2 Pac versus Notorious B.IG. Theirs began when 2 Pac publicly accused B.I.G and Bad-Boy records owner Sean ‘Puff Daddy’ Combs of facilitating an attack that saw the former being shot five times at a recording studio in 1994. It would mark the beginning of what was to become the locus classicus of all Hip Hop feuds. B.I.G got the ball rolling with a track called ‘Who Shot Ya’ and prompted a retaliation from 2 Pac with his own ‘Hit Them Up’. Pac’s would become the biggest diss track of all time. Although there is no proof it was connected to their beef both Pac and B.I.G were shot dead in 1996 and 1997 respectively. They had made and continued to make millions in record sales thanks to their beef. However one looks at it, beef is an essential part of Hip Hop and hopefully, the Asylum Nights battles will awaken the competitive spirit that breathes life into the game.