THE 80s and 90s rap universe was home to the one-hit-wonder, pop-rap, fast-rhyming and No Half-Steppin.’
In this golden era of hip-hop, political rap cut across the national, cultural and socio-economic lines to urge us to fight the power. Then gangster rap emerged to bring light to life on the streets of inner-city America. And then, suddenly, everyone wanted to Fuck The Police!
All the while, LL Cool J and Fresh Prince remained apolitical and impossibly law-abiding. That’s why many considered them as sell-outs as rap, like porn, was divided along the fault-lines of hardcore and soft-core lyrics.
Still, we all had ‘high-top fade’ haircuts like Play of the rap duo Kid N’ Play. And again, like them, we danced the kick step and running man like we were trapped on an invisible treadmill.
In the midst of this exciting new era, Ugandan teenagers came late to the party. However, when they did get their rap on, Kampala spawned some memorable hip hop talents.
Most notably, MC Afrik (real name Jimmy Bageire).
Afrik, as he simply known, brought a lot of energy to the stage with a natural, unaffected air which leaned heavily on his charm and Matinee Idol looks.
With a skills-set that would require a Nation of Millions to Hold Him back, his resonant voice was like the ice cream man’s siren blaring down the street as children followed this Pied Piper of Ugandan rap wherever he went.
Unlike many acclaimed Ugandans, this didn’t go to his head: he had an engaging, off-center rhythm to him that suggested that even though he was the proverbial bird that flies from the ground onto an anthill, his feet remained firmly planted on the ground.
Still, I don’t think he ever got used to not being MC Afrik.
Years after he had retired the microphone and was working at McCann Erickson, an American global advertising agency, he didn’t seem to have the same easy energy as what we had witnessed on the hip hop stage. A patch of real estate upon which he reigned like good weather in an oasis of opportunity.
Sure, he was still gregarious, humble and free-spirited, but there were signs that he was starting to take himself dreadfully seriously in the way Kampala’s corporate class often does.
The 90s were long since dead and buried, so his name was no longer up on any marquee. Incredibly, as well as tragically, MC Afrik was mortal and no longer the ‘future of the funk.’
Many didn’t know he suffered from epileptic fits, brought on by a neurological disorder. So they were understandably stunned when they heard he got an attack while swimming and subsequently drowned.
As a rapper, his legacy can best be appreciated in the words spoken by Uganda’s premier rapper Navio when he said MC Afrik inspired him to start rapping.
And, with those words, the 1990s were back and trending again.