Biography of X Plastaz

X Plastaz is a hip hop group from Arusha, Tanzania, consisting of six members; the brothers Nelly (aka Ruff-Nell), Gsan, and Ziggy, Maasai singer Yamat Ole Meipuko, and two teenage siblings of the brothers. The group was formed in 1996 and has had the aforementioned line-up since 2001. The X-Plastaz is one of the most successful groups out of Tanzania, with a unique twist—they have a traditional Maasai singer wearing traditional Maasai clothing. They focus their sound and style on the Maasai tradition, which is a new path for Bongo Flava. Their main vocals are largely based on Maasai sounds and deep a capella chanting, with rapping in Swahili and Haya languages . This type of music is slower paced than other hip hop in Africa. One of their more famous songs, Aha!, is about life in a traditional Maasai village, and the music video of this song was the first Tanzanian hip hop video to show traditional village life and the customs of the Maasai people. The song's rap is in Swahili and Haya, while the chorus is actually a traditional Maasai chant. In their musical and stylistic embrace of both traditional Maasai culture and American hip hop, the X Plastaz are a prime example of the issues that arise when hip hop, an originally black American musical form, travels around the world to different locals. The X Plastaz must make conscious decisions, as artists, about how to navigate what could be seen as an imperialist or colonial musical form, and how to incorporate their own cultures into that. As Sidney Lemelle writes, post-colonial African nations such as Tanzania, must deal with the realities of post-colonialism and economies that may still largely be dependent on colonial aid, while at the same time struggling against those very powers. "Developing a nation-state and a 'national' culture became a major imperative" for the post-colonial Tanzanian government. The X Plastaz, in their affirmation both of American hip hop and their attempts to empower the authenticity of their local culture, are navigating this post-colonial imperative as well. For example, their website makes reference to the American magazine National Geographic, which did an article on their music, but is also careful to explain what the magazine is. The X Plastaz may use American musical forms as a vessel for their ideas and values, but they will not assume that anyone should or would know. This shows a sort of navigation, or perhaps resistance, of simply mimicking or imitating American hip hop. Instead, they actively pursue Maasai hip hop. Although their Maasai culture and sound gives X Plastaz a hook, their lyrics and their messages are quite important as well. For the members of the group, rapping is an outlet for rebellion that they do not have through any other medium. Their music is a way to act out against the Tanzanian system that they could, under normal circumstances, do anything about. They rap about common Tanzanian issues such as poverty, AIDS, and war. They are spreading a political message through their music that youth around not only the country, but also the world, can relate to, making the group so appealing to an international audience. They have gained an international popularity, performing at venues such as World AIDS Day in 2002, making a European tour in 2003, and appearing on the Bongo Flava compilation CD. This spreading recognition allows for their message to be spread throughout the international youth audience. Their 2004 album Maasai Hip hop, released by German label Out here records, has earned them status as the best known Tanzanian hip hop artists internationally. The album includes "Msimu kwa Msimu", their biggest hit to date, as wells as older tracks like "Bamiza" and "Aha!". Nelly (Nelson Chrizostom Buchard) died of injuries 29 March 2006 after being stabbed. Born 1976, he was the oldest member of the group. In September 2009, Gsan traveled to Brooklyn, New York to participate in this year’s BET Cypher, the annual gathering of America’s top hip hop emcees. He was joined by Dj Premier, KRS One, Wale and Nipsey Hussle. The Cypher was first broadcast on October 27th on BET.

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