"Rap for abokhokho nelokishi nabantu bonke" : language choice in hop hop music from KwaZulu-Natal : a sociolinguistic approach.
Gross, Anna J.
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The main focus of hip hop music is on the beats and the lyrics. Hip hop lyrics. performed as 'rap' (fast poetic rhymes) address topics such as self-portrayal, roots, life, location, time and space. From its beginnings, hip hop music in KwaZulu-Natal has been bilingual with artists performing in isiZulu and English. In addition, expressions from isiTsotsi or other forms of youth language are used in performances as well as on records and mixtapes. Therefore, hip hop music from KwaZulu-Natal offers excellent material for the analysis of the relation between language choice and construction of identity amongst urban youth. This treatise investigates this matter, taking the question of ethnicity in post-apartheid South Africa into account. Five artists who rap and perform predominantly in isiZulu provide their lyrics for the sociolinguistic analysis which takes a close look at the content and translatability of each text. Certain topics addressed in hip hop lyrics in isiZulu are languagespecific and seem to be (almost) untranslatable. These topics may be related to cultural concepts and 'common knowledge' which are based in Zulu traditions. Moreover, the analysis of the lyrics shows that isiZulu-speaking hip hop artists from KwaZulu-Natal who rap in their mother tongue merge common hip hop themes with traditional concepts of Zulu culture.