Congolese hiphop enthusiasts have flocked to Kinshasound, one of Kinshasa’s few local recording studios at the heart of a wave of new rap music
It is a conflict at once cultural, generational and political: rap music in DR Congo is staging a frontal assault on rumba, accusing its ageing stars of only singing of love and other banalities.
DRC’s growing army of rappers say their urban lyrics reflect a gritty realism edged with angst as one of Africa’s biggest and most unstable nations heads towards a troubled presidential election.
At the back of a courtyard in Bandal, a popular and trendy district of the capital Kinshasa, a DJ called DDT has opened Kinshasound, a recording studio which is about the size of a toilet.
At the mixing deck, beat maker Kratos is playing around with a mix of ethnic rhythms caught somewhere between the big sounds of the Bronx and the driving drumbeats of Afrobeat or Afro-Trap.
This tiny studio has attracted rap artists like Sista Becky, Alesh and Magneto, who electrified the crowds at last month’s Red One urban music festival in Kinshasa.
But Kinshasound has also attracted other visitors — among them officials responsible for music and events at the national censorship board who shut it down in August, DDT explains.
It was eventually reopened after a series of negotiations, which involved handing over some cash.
And their complaint? That DDT was producing “obscene songs which were an offence to common decency” and violated a law on censorship dating back to 1996.
– ‘The boss got no heart’ –
“I asked them which (lyrics were problematic) and they didn’t know what to tell me,” DDT said — although he himself has a pretty good idea.