June 1, 2006

Hip-Hop Citizen of the World

Hip-Hop Citizen of the World


Graffiti from Mikko’s album [mikmikko/Flickr]

Few people embody hip-hop as a global phenomenon better than blogger Mikko Kapanen. He was born in Helsinki, Finland, studies in Birmingham, UK, and DJs for a community radio station in Cape Town, South Africa. Corresponding with him, it quickly became clear that he is passionate about the distinct flavors that each local community adds to global hip-hop mix.

The idea of my show is to prove that, regardless of its American roots– and it would be very easy to argue against [hip-hop as American music], as musicology sees different styles as a continuation, so supposedly Africa would be the birthplace for it as well– hip hop and rap can be done in every culture. The beauty of it is when people take something of their own and then add it up on this global framework of what we know.

Mikko Kapanen, Welfare State of Mind, in a letter to Open Source, 3/21/06

Every week, Mikko records Welfare State of Mind in Birmingham and sends it via email to Bush Radio in Cape Town.

I think it is important to show that the music most radio chooses to play is not of superior quality; arguably, it is more of the opposite. To me, American music sounds rather boring right now. And although there are dozens of exceptions to this rule, I rather enjoy British rap, or African, or South American, or French…you name it.

Mikko Kapanen, Welfare State of Mind, in a letter to Open Source, 3/21/06

We asked him for his current playlist and for some recommendations. He says that Grime, a strain of hip-hop from the UK led by Dizzee Rascal, may have found its new hero in Sway DaSafo, a Ghanaian who represents London and pokes fun at American 50 Cent. (“The pound is stronga than the dolla, holla!”) Mikko also plays X-Plastaz, a Tanzanian group that celebrates Maasai culture, and South African classics like Black Noise and Prophets of da City.

His favorite group right now, however, is Looptroop, a Swedish crew that he says makes “political music with quite commercial beats, but completely independently. Some of their songs, especially earlier, had that Scandinavian melancholy which exactly was what I talked about – taking a global idea and implementing that in your own social context.”

Check out Mikko’s radio show blog for a complete and constantly updated list of international hip hop.

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