Hip-hop gets cred in fight for freedom

13 January 2014 - 02:00 By PHILANI NOMBEMBE

Hip-Hop often conjures up images of baggy clothing and foul-mouthed youth.

Yet one of the country's top universities will host a series of public lectures on how the genre has helped in the fight for freedom of speech in South Africa and how it is pivotal now that this liberty is under threat.

As part of its summer school this month, the University of Cape Town (UCT) will explore hip-hop's role in stimulating citizens politically and creatively.

The course, titled "Hip-Hop activism", is the brainchild of associate professor Adam Haupt, of the institution's Centre for Film and Media Studies.

Haupt uses Prophets of da City's controversial album, Age of Truth, to show that hip-hop is as pertinent today as it was before the dawn of democracy.

The outfit expressed "a deep suspicion of the emerging new South Africa" in 1993, along with calls to "forgive and forget".

"The reason hip-hop is relevant today is that, 20 years after the first democratic elections, the country is facing key challenges in the face of politicians' seductive calls for the public to support their parties," said Haupt.

"Much like in the 1990s, free speech is being threatened by the Protection of State Information Bill. Critics say we are going back to the apartheid era of censorship, police brutality and protests.

"Prophets of da City's banned album gives us a point of comparison between apartheid and post-apartheid South Africa," the academic said.

Some of the issues up for discussion include hip-hop's political orientation in relation to debates about censorship, gender, race and identity politics.

There will also be a panel discussion with former Prophets of da City member DJ Ready D.

The lectures start on January 27.