Presenting the song ‘So what’ in honour of Aretha Franklin, U.S-based hip hop group, Rhyme Like a Girl [LiKWUiD, Toni Blackman, Sincerity Garcia, and Polaryss] had it as a tribute to a lady who had not only inspired millions across the globe, but them in particular. Prior to them performing the piece at the Bedstudy Rock Festival Toni Blackman explained that they see hip-hop as a tool to make the world a better place, contrary to the perspective given by the media. That was a few years back.
This time around, they used the same song to make a statement for girl empowerment and emancipation in Cameroon, where 43% of women have been victims of domestic violence, and 14.5%, victims of sexual violence (SVRI, 2020).
A call for disregard for stereotypical chains that hold back women and girls from living up to their full potential, the song was one of many the group used to thrill hundreds who turned up at the Siantou University auditorium over the weekend in Yaounde. The show, of the American Music Abroad Initiative, with the backing of the US Embassy in Yaounde was the group’s second in Cameroon, after another in Douala two days earlier.
The group has been touring Africa, and had made previous stops in Botswana, and Equatorial Guinea. Cameroon too got its turn.
Prior to them mounting the stage in Yaounde, the floor was given to other young Cameroonian slam and hip-hop talents. These included the likes of King Sawa who borrowed Mbole rhymes to spice his flow, and Rocke Trbisback who sampled Bill Withers’ timeless classic, ‘just the two of us’ to serve as hook for his intriguing bars.
Cameroon’s spoken word queen, Lydol also left her mark. Mounting the stage in traditional barefoot manner, she connected with her ancestors and from them, drew the strength to keep the crowd glued to every word from her lips. From ‘Ndolo Bobe’ to ‘Ndolami’, there was not a single dull moment with her.
And then came the moment of truth. Rhyme Like a Girl kicked off with their groovy piece, before introducing other pieces such as ‘energy, ‘invisible woman’, and their indelible piece, ‘so what?’
Performed many times over with a different twist at every stretch, the eager crowd could not hold themselves back from singing every line they could pick. Other performing artistes would later join the performance for a freestyle. The performance closed with a cypher.
Connecting the dots
Understanding Rhyme Like a Girl’s trajectory alone, gives a broader picture of why their story is a source of inspiration for young girls across the globe. Emerging from different backgrounds with different upbringings, they have been able to unite for a single purpose, under a single umbrella. Their formation alone, is a testimony of women lifting women and leaving a commendable trail for girls through hip-hop.
While Cameroon is no stranger to hip-hop and rap music, the reception of works produced by lady singers in the category is still to become a thing to envy. In most pieces, (including those produced by ladies), females are still very much portrayed as sex trophies, and stage props.
Hip-hop being a culture open to others, emulating the example of other climes, notably, those that valorize women and the girl child, would forever remain a step in the positive direction. The bright smiles that filled the faces of hundreds – girls and boys alike – as they watched Rhyme Like a Girl perform, could as well be the wind to fan the flames of change of perception of girls and women in society.
In one way or the other, the crowds were touched and someone had it registered in their head that they too can rhyme like a girl and be proud about it. They too can someday break the yoke of unquestioned submissiveness and stand for what they chose, be it in sports, education, career, or social life.
And if four amazing ladies can do it, you don’t need an entire army to make a change. One girl is enough.