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Hip hop in The Gambia started in the late 1990s after the Gambia opened its National Television, Gambia Radio & Television Services (GRTS) in 1995. It started with groups such as “Pencha B”, “Dancehall Masters”, “Masla B”, “Da Fugitives”, “Born Africans”, “Black Nature”, “Inspecta Chow Panachie” and many others. These groups were among the most popular and most successful in field at the time. They were also famous for mixing the hip-hop with reggae, mbalax, salsa, dancehall and other genres of music which made their songs very distinctive. Even though most of these groups have been taken over by younger new artists, their work still reflects on the hip-hop industry in the Gambia today and groups like “Da Fugitives” are still active in the industry. In August 1999 after releasing their first album, they were invited to the Pop Com Musical Festival in Germany alongside hip-hop artists from all over the world. They subsequently won several music awards both nationally and internationally.
From beginning of the millennium to date, Gambia’s hip-hop scene exploded with new rappers like "Freaky Joe"; now better known as Singhateh and VYPA a hip hop artist. In the early stages, the hip-hop scene mainly comprised male rappers based in The Gambia but now both female rappers and Gambian rappers settled abroad are getting into the scene. "Nancy Nanz" a.k.a. "Gambian Beyonce", is one of the females who managed to make a breakthrough into the industry and is now well known in The Gambia. Among other upcoming young artists, Debbie Romeo who is a talented female hip-hop, R&B and Gospel singer/songwriter, is trying to make her way to the top as well. Still working on a compilation of her own, she has recorded singles with “G Baby”, “Nube” and other Gambian artists in the industry. She also works closely with Gambian-American upcoming singers especially “Ooz” and “Amie Dibba”. Debbie recorded a song called Black Beauty with a young and famous rap group in The Gambia, "PSG". This song got into the hip hop song of the year“Jabel” the logical Killer he is young talented Gambian [Musician,Producer,Logo designer and Dee-j. He promoted Gambian Music to the world on his showcase. Jabel got sign by Da Block Ent Stoudio.VYPA is a charismatic rapper making a lot of buzz in the Gambian hip hop scene, he has a growing following which he gain through the release of a clique mixtape and two solo mixtapes( voices of the ghetto, hustlematic scriptures and death of realism)a video(rock your world ft. snow)on t.v rotation and an album he is working on with SHY BOY ENT. category at the Gambian Talent Awards 2008.
One of the first recording studios in the Gambia called Yellowgate Studios, owned by Ellie Nachif, is where a lot of recording takes place. Among others, the newest studio The Block Entertainment Studio was opened earlier this year[when?] by a member of one of the pioneer rap groups, “Da Fugitives” called Mohammed Kah a.k.a. “Mo-Hawk”. Being the CEO of this studio, “Mo Hawk” ventures to inspire young hip hop artists like himself and give them some of the chances he never had when he just started. SHY BOY ENT. is a studio that brought new talents to the forefront with artists like VYPA, CYCO, BADIBUNKA, PRINCE MAKAYE and many other artists the studio has worked with. its the hit factory of Gambian music at the moment releasing the most hits in rotation on both t.v and radio, HANSSINTHEPRODUCER is the CEO of the studio. another studio putting out good work is the STATE OF MIC studio run by AND1.
Tha Basement is an exclusively local-music-oriented radio show that airs on West Coast Radio 1 (95.3 FM) every Saturday from 2100 hrs to 2300 hrs GMT. With music being the staple product of the show, it is partitioned into various interesting segments such as the following: News Updates – on artistes and happenings in the Gambian industry during the course of the week; The Microscope – in this segment, we feature songs with reflective qualities so as to put the spotlight on lyricism as it is a very essential ingredient of music; Step Ur Game Up – one of the deficiencies of our industry is telling artistes what our honest opinions are about their music especially when it’s not good enough, in this segment we however are defying the norm by telling them just that; Discussion Board – this is where we stir up discussion subjects that are very pertinent to the local industry’s growth and sustenance, we invite inputs from our audience through phone calls and sms; Fresh Out The Studio – as the name implies, we[who?] feature new songs brought in by artistes (we receive new songs every week!).
Having spanned a period of four and a half years and running, it is interesting to note[says who?] that tha Basement is the pioneering radio show on local rap music (which was a bold step then, since preceding ones shunned local rap but promoted other genres of music). The freshness in presentation coupled with the brand of promoted material gave the show its unique identity thus attracting a (still growing) mass street movement that had been long-starved of quality local products. These factors combined have provided the show with the much needed credibility as a stamp-of-approval type of authority on local music from the streets.
Spurred on by the love for music, our country, as well as enthusiasts of local material, our[who?] leadership role in promoting local music comes with a lot of expectations from the community and within ourselves as well. Such an overwhelming task however, requires a lot of consistent input from the artist community and the promotional fraternity.
The hip-hop scene in the Gambia is still young and requires a lot of work to help promote all the young talented artists endeavoring to make it to the top and “put Gambia on the map”! Award ceremonies were held occasionally to promote Gambian singers in the beginning. The first was the special Rap Award ‘99 ceremony held at Kairaba Beach Hotel on July 31st 1999, organized by a Gambian music promoter, Harona Drammeh who was a staff of (GRTS) at the time. Now there are various award ceremonies held to promote Gambian artists in the music industry. Many Gambian hip-hop artists lose the opportunity to showcase their talents because it is difficult to get the publicity they need to start their career. For this reason,in 2007, and Black Lynx and One Tribe Sound, the best known hip hop movements and promoters in the country, had an alliance--Afric Alliance, and came up with the 'open mic' show where every rapper is welcome to get on stage and exhibit their talent and hopefully make connections to start up somewhere.
The media, especially the Gambia Radio and Television Services does its best to support artists in the hip-hop scene. Apart from the normal broadcasts, Saturday nights are usually dedicated to showcasing the music scene of The Gambia and a show called “Extra Touch” was the first of its kind on GRTS to invite rappers to perform live in their studios. Websites like GambianTalents.Com have been set up to promote young Gambian artists. The hip hop/RnB section is especially quite dynamic, portraying the interest and energy put into hip hop by Gambians now.
Over the past two years, music made in the Gambia has been going through a renaissance with talented new acts springing up and earning themselves mass public appeal. This regeneration, which has ushered in an ocean of confidence in our young artistes, has been brought about by the introduction of activities and events that had been mere dreams to the average young person in the Gambia two years ago.
It has however taken a lot of selfless effort by Black Lynx Entertainment and its associates to make these dreams become reality. Their activities which include the monthly Open Mic, weekly radio shows (the Basement and X-Files) on WCR1 and most recently the FiiLa TV Show on GRTS stand testimony to Black Lynx's firm resolve to help build and support The Gambia's up-and-coming industry.
The resulting experience so far, is a newfound love for local talent that has ignited the music revolution and continues to enthrall countless devotees across the length and breadth of the country.
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