Alim (2009b: 16) has drawn critical attention to how the intricate interrelationships of language, multilingualism and identity serve as the discursive ingredients for the contextualization and recontextualization of voice in global Hip Hop. Scott (1999: 215), earlier and in a similar vein, has focused on the peripheral nature of marginalized voices, and how they are implicated in performance genres (see also Pennycook and Mitchell 2009: 40). In this chapter, I want to illustrate how, through a local scale-levelling of rap genres, global Hip Hop is reconfigured and recalibrated by emcees in the context of Club Stones. The emcees in this book, as I have demonstrated in the previous chapter, come from Hip Hop spaces and places now more than ever defined by new cross-cultural diversities and Cape Town from their perspective can best be understood as an urban network of intertextual diversities that yield different intercultural voices (Bauman 2004), such as new forms of migrant groupings in the township, the diversification of racially homogenous areas, new forms of mobilities and new modes of selves.
In this chapter, I argue that emcees draw on intercultural voices to represent a version of their own marginalized voice, as a consequence of being local and being a local multilingual speaker in a mobile Hip Hop community (compare Wünderlich 2006). I suggest also that by doing so, emcees are arguing on behalf of those multilingual speakers who need to be heard, who are not normally recognized in the mainstream: those (1) ‘self-aware voices – that are now beginning to discover their own collective power of analysis both within and across borders’ (Sarkar 2009: 142); and (2) ‘poetic voices . . . of a new multilingual, multiracial urban generation seemingly left out of the language planners’ calculations’ (Sarkar 2009: 153).
This chapter is an analysis of the intertextuality of the genre of rap performances referred to as braggadocio. The aim here is to analyse how MobCoW rap group members in Club Stones entextualize the genre of braggadocio and link local varieties of language and registers to an intertextual gap in the interests of ‘keeping it real’ (see discussion in Section 5.3). In the next section, I offer a brief definition and description of braggadocio, followed by a discussion of the practice of sampling and intertextuality in Hip Hop. This is followed by the presentation, description and analysis of a multivocal strip of a transcribed braggadocio performance that focuses on the stylization and multilingual ‘languaging’ by emcees affiliated to MobCoW. I conclude this section by attempting to draw out preliminary threads and implications about the enregistering of marginalized voice in the performance of braggadocio.
Suburban Menace was the first rap group out of the larger MobCoW rap group to perform every night during the Hip Hop shows. The MobCoW rap group was packaged and polished for a regular showdown in Club Stones. There, fans and Hip Hop heads were treated to new ways of using local languages and the expression of emerging rap styles and identities. Suburban Menace started releasing ‘Mixtape Volumes’ as the MobCoW rap group became more firmly established. These monthly releases by emcees of MobCoW secured a loyal audience of fans and Hip Hop peers, who were listening to and being influenced by the lyrical poetry of the rap group. Studio recordings had in fact predated their first performances at Club Stones, but the act of performing together, on a stage, in front of a local audience, had the unique function of representing the MobCoW rap group, who started to perform an authentically ‘MobCoW’ identity. To do so successfully, they had to keep it real.
One example of representation and keeping it real came in the performance of the rap genre braggadocio. In global Hip Hop, celebrating rap styles and boasting about success is a ubiquitous practice across many localities (see Rose 2008). An emcee performing on-stage would often key into their rhyme specific topics, such as their sexual exploits, physical attractiveness, accumulation of money, their swagger (coolness) or their linguistic skills. This genre of rap performance is known as braggadocio (bragging, or bravado). According to Smitherman (1997: 12–13), a prominent commentator on African-American English,
[braggadocio] is richly interwoven into the everyday (AAE) conversational context, and it is ritualized in the toasts, longstanding epics from the oral tradition. ‘Shine’, ‘Stage-o-Lee’, ‘Dolemite’, ‘the Signifying Monkey’, and other well-known toasts are rendered with clever rhymes, puns, and culturally toned experiences, and references from a fresh and new perspective.
Braggadocio requires creative and artistic skill, clever multivocal languaging (Higgins 2009: 112), and the ‘gift of the gab’ to brag about exploits, promote particular rap styles, and represent place and rap crews. It is, as Higgins puts it, a form of ‘self-praise’ which ‘[echoes] both local and global cultural practices at the same time’ (2009: 113).
In the performance of lyrical content and rhyming, emcees continuously use braggadocio to performatively index how they are keeping it real or representing; in other words, their authenticity. Emcees may use braggadocio to disrespect (diss) their fellow Hip Hop peers or relegate them to the margins by negating their ‘attributes [physical or otherwise] while praising one’s own’ (Keyes 2004: 137). Sometimes this leads to trouble with other emcees, especially between different rap groups.
Braggadocio draws on varieties of language, registers and speech styles originating in social aspects of life in the township. These socio-linguistic ingredients for staging voice in multilingual modes are used strategically to create relations between different performances of the braggadocio genre. The genre allows emcees to bend, blend and mix words, phrases and registers, with the polysemic features and salient socio-phonetic features of the local multilingual repertoires; in short, to remix their own multilingualism. The fact that performances of braggadocio employ highly heteroglossic forms of stylization is very suggestive of a process of social change; as Bakhtin observes, ‘the word in language is half someone else’s’ (Bakhtin 1981: 293–294).
In this process of making other speakers’ words their own, performers of braggadocio have generally employed a multivocal approach that draws on the personae and discourses of Hip Hop originating in and influenced by that of the United States. Commenting on the local appropriation of the discursive features of braggadocio, Pennay (2002: 124) describes how German rap crew Rödelheim Hartreim Projeckt developed their rap style by amalgamating braggadocio lyrics and rhyming with particular sound sampling to satisfy a German Hip Hop fan base: ‘Their sound is a mixture of rap braggadocio with laid-back grooves and slick production and makes use of their regional accents (a marker of class as well as geography).’ Similarly, Forman (2004: 209) describes how, during the urban genesis of Hip Hop, the rap style of emcee Mix-A-Lot was filled with braggadocio lyrics, the content of which articulates ‘a purely capitalist discourse of monetary and material accumulation, reproducing the terms of success and prosperity that conform both to dominant social values and to the value system inherent within the rap industry’. Present-day emcees seem to continue in this vein, perpetually developing and reinterpreting the genre.
For the purpose of this chapter, and specifically for approaching braggadocio as a performance genre, the notion of genre generally will be taken to mean a ‘complex of communicative formal features that makes a particular communicative event recognizable as an instance of a type’ (Blommaert 2008: 43). Genre also indicates ‘a social category . . . made up by people in their social encounters’ which at one point or another are formed into a coherent text that ‘gives us insights into the make-up of the social world in which it was made’ (Kress 2003: 100). The focus on genre as socially constituted and anchored in space and place, and subjected to the scale-levelling of performances, supports the conclusion that
all genres leak . . . [they] never provide sufficient means of producing and receiving discourse . . . [and because] elements of contextualization creep in, fashioning indexical connections to the ongoing discourse, social interaction, broader social relations, and the particular historical juncture(s) at which the discourse is produced and received. (Briggs and Bauman 1992: 149)
Briggs and Bauman suggest that genres are never complete when used in performance and talk. Genres are instead uneven, and therefore offer us an opportunity to approach braggadocio not only as socially constituted – that is, as shaped by the everyday languaging of multilingualism by emcees – but also as being a significant locus for studying and understanding multilingual practices, and their social foundations more generally. As such, an analysis of how braggadocio operates within the local context of Hip Hop also provides insight into how multilingual emcees go about sampling sounds and languages, and their varieties, registers and styles, and how keeping it real and linguistic virtuosity are used as metrics for evaluation of the genre in the local. While the data below demonstrate very little audience participation, as compared to the analysis of freestyle rap battles in the next chapter, what does become evident is that the sampling of texts in the braggadocio performed by each emcee are set up as intertextual dialogues, performative re-enactments of voice for interaction on the performance stage.
We will see presently how braggadocio unfolds among the emcees affiliated to MobCoW. But in order for us to move to that point, a discussion of sampling practices in Hip Hop and the intertextual nature of genres is in order.
Sampling and intertextuality are two important concepts to clarify in order for us to understand how the stylization of voice is accomplished in different varieties of language, and how voices become entextualized in performances of braggadocio.
Sampling is the meshing together of sounds and styles by selectively adopting various existing sounds, beats, styles and personae in order to produce mimesis and hybridity. Rap music, as it developed lyrically and musically, has always been about sampling, and emcees have customarily defined their particular artistic profiles in terms of their specific individual polylingual and polysemic practices. The manner in which sampling practices have developed since the inception of Hip Hop and rap music in the 1970s has changed significantly, with the speed of change fuelled by present-day globalization. With the development of technology, the internet and file sharing (see an excellent study by Haupt 2008), all neoliberal characteristics of global capitalism, what is digitally sampled became part of the local practices of ‘the relentless sampling of sonic and verbal archives’ (Potter 1995: 53). That in turn, according to Rose (1994: 89), has given rise to ‘a process of cultural literacy and intertextual reference’, which has lead Shusterman (2004: 530) to propose that
an informed and sympathetic close reading will reveal in many rap songs not only the cleverly potent vernacular expression of keen insights but also forms of linguistic subtlety and multiple levels of meaning, whose polysemic complexity, ambiguity, and intertextuality can sometimes rival that of high art’s so-called open work.
Taking this call seriously, Appert (2011: 16) demonstrated that developments in sampling allowed for the indigenization of global Hip Hop in Senegal, allowing ‘Senegalese youth [to] draw on both the social function and the performance style of the griot to create overlapping musical, social, and generic intertextualities’. This rings true for a number of other African localities (cf. Künzler 2011 on Mali and Burkina Faso; Mbaye 2011 on West Africa; and Mose 2011 on Kenya).
Haupt argues that, since the 1980s, sampling practices in Hip Hop have provided the means for marginalized people to claim some form of a mainstream voice, allowing them to ‘realise that any media representation could be appropriated and recontextualized in order to produce meanings that compete with hegemonic perspectives’ (Haupt 2008: 76). His argument is that the voices of the multitude – captured in the poetics of the emcee, the modern-day griot – are an assemblage of grassroots politics blended with new transmodal technologies. In a similar way, but specifically related to language, Roth-Gordon (2009) notes how conversational sampling among young multilingual speakers in a Brazilian favela occurred when they drew on familiar phrases of Hip Hop in their conversations, how they performed rap music and their accurate usage of famous lyrics. She defines conversational sampling as the ‘seamless integration of rap lyrics into everyday speech’ (Roth-Gordon 2009: 64). She describes how those speakers ‘recycle’ songs and lyrics by using language that recontextualizes global Hip Hop for local participation in their communities (Roth-Gordon 2009: 64). At its simplest, conversational sampling denotes the meshing of global texts about Hip Hop (and its elements) and how bits of the discourses of Hip Hop at different scale-levels are transformed into relocalized genres (following Pennycook 2010a).
In many local contexts, both in and outside of the United States, when emcees use different languages to perform rap genres, they generally sample an African-American voice through the use of African-American English (AAE) (Androutsopolous 2009: 58). This suggests that sampling practices operate at different scale levels, in various localities, and with various complexities as tied to the local Hip Hop community politics.
The way emcees display their voices and personae in braggadocio rests fundamentally on how they deploy creative practices of intertextuality. Sampling, and conversational sampling in particular, is one form of such intertextuality in the context of Hip Hop performances. According to Bauman, intertextuality is the ‘relational orientation of a text to other texts’ (2004: 4). The concern for Bauman here is about generic intertextuality as organizing principles for describing and illustrating how certain texts are taken on and manufactured. For Bauman, intertextuality does not simply mean the adoption or adaption of linguistic features of a language, but that texts and its features are historically traceable across cultures and to genres of those cultures (Androutsopolous 2009: 45). As such, intertextuality concerns the repeated citation of texts as well as how texts are reiterated in linguistic practices and performances such as parody and play. We find intertextuality at the interplay or nexus of dialogue that exists between texts. Texts are brought together and negotiated in specific contexts, and it is in context where they speak to each other in dialogic ways (Bakhtin 1986: 162).
The question I pose here is not so much whose voice is put on display by the emcee on-stage, but rather how the voice is enregistered as not necessarily a signifier of marginalization in the recontextualization of multilingualism and texts. In other words, a close study of the linguistic means for sampling should reveal to us how different forms of multilingualism result from the promotion of marginalized voices. Expressed differently, analysing how localization is managed and encoded in local linguistic resources yields insights into specific ‘local’ conditions for multilingual remixing.
In this chapter, the approach I take to the way emcees sample from everyday texts circulating in and outside of Hip Hop spaces focuses on how their performances may be indicative of intertextual sampling, and how they localize the space through sampling and the delocalization of genre. I apply the notion of intertextual gap to illustrate how the performance of braggadocio constitutes an incomplete genre relocalized from the global to the local. The notion of an intertextual gap, introduced by Briggs and Bauman (1992), aids in the analysis of how voice is structured in uncompleted genres, and of the process multilingual speakers undertake to break through into genre performance. As they define it, the uncompleted parts of the generic model of a genre make way for a process whereby ‘particular utterances’ are linked to that model and ‘thus necessarily produces an intertextual gap’ (Briggs and Bauman 1992: 149). In other words, for any genre an intertextual gap will occur, and will do so in the following manner:
On the one hand, texts framed in some genres attempt to achieve generic transparency by minimizing the distance between texts and genres, thus rendering discourse maximally interpretable through the use of generic precedents. This approach sustains highly conservative, traditionalizing modes of creating textual authority. On the other hand, maximizing and highlighting these intertextual gaps underlies strategies for building authority through claims of individual creativity and innovation (such as are common in 20th-century Western literature), resistance to the hegemonic structures associated with established genres, and other motives for distancing oneself from textual precedents. (Emphasis in original)
The processing of intertextual gaps is thus about what forms and functions of language and multilingualism fit, or do not fit, in the uncompleted parts of the generic model of a genre, and how speakers exploit the ‘inherent dialogicality’ (cf. Briggs and Bauman 1992: 150), or multivocality, of the model. This idea of an intertextual gap holds significant implications for how multilingual remixing is thought and studied. Thus, the questions I pose here are: How do emcees sample local varieties of language and registers to stage what they believe to be their particular stylization of voice and personae in their local context? And how can the genre notion help us understand the specific social dynamics at work in these contexts?
In the following section, I will demonstrate how emcees’ intertextual performance is indicative of everyday conversations about Hip Hop and the performativity of marginal voices as they perform the braggadocio genre. These performances connect global Hip Hop to the uses of language and voice found in the ‘everydayness’ of multilingualism in Cape Town. I demonstrate how emcees recontextualize the generic structures of braggadocio by maximizing its intertextual potential, and by linking local varieties of language and registers through strategic manipulation, and the exploitation of intertextual gaps.
At ‘No Stones Unturned’ on Wednesday, 19 March 2009, Lil Holmes and CC were the MobCoW rap group hosts. That night was a good example of how local emcees de-emphasize the use of English as a global language, one that has to a great extent defined braggadocio, using instead non-dominant languages, registers and varieties to produce a ‘secondary genre’ (Bakhtin 1986: 62) – a local intertextual braggadocio. This local braggadocio deliberately normalizes – that is, enregisters – their marginalized voices as they ‘absorb and digest various primary (simple) genres’ (Bakhtin 1986: 62). In their performance, MobCoW emcees linked particular forms of speech, registers and speech styles to the generic model of braggadocio, maximizing its intertextual gaps and recontextualizing the genre in the local.
The evening started with a set programme: booked rappers and emcees were scheduled to perform, drinking games and promotions were also slated. At about 9 p.m. Lil Holmes stepped on stage and opened the show. Deejay Earl Scratch faded the music and Lil Holmes presented the first act for the evening, quipping,
Once again Wednesday nights, Suburban Menace in the house. I got my boys Boesmankamp in the house tonight, some tight emcees. I want to give some thanks to Wendell, the main Hustler. Hy sponser vanaand se event vir ons [He is sponsoring tonight’s event for us]. His laces is 20 bucks, hey, and a mixtape is 30 bucks.
After Boesmankamp’s performance, Lil Holmes readied the audience for the performances by the MobCoW rap group, and the audience replied with loud cheers. He then turned to deejay Earl Scratch and motioned him to play the beats (the rap music base track). At that point, MoB and M.D.K. stepped onto the stage, microphones in hand, shaking their heads to the music, opening the performance. Emcee M.D.K.’s performance was largely inaudible because of technical difficulties; hurriedly, MoB continued the performance, with some lyrical bragging:
MoB prides himself on being a good lyricist, a good-looking rapper and someone who earns money (‘chases paper’) for Suburban Menace. His entextualization of braggadocio is based on a hustling style which can be grouped into three themes. He makes the body of a woman exotic in relation to his own, staging the local everyday heteronormative rules of masculinity in the Hip Hop space (lines 5–8, 31–34). He sings his own praises, as it were, focusing on his lyrical talent (lines 9–13, 20–3, and 36–39). He also boasts about the MoBCoW crew by ‘keeping it real’ and ‘representing’ the unity of the group (lines 14–19 and 24–30).
MoB uses English to make ironic statements that offer meta-commentary on the overwhelming dominance of men in Hip Hop culture. In his interpretation, women control the ‘universe’ that overwhelms his ‘man’s world’ (lines 5–6). Relations with women are as important to him as the recording of (sixteen) bars of music, as he explains, ‘and my verse every sixteen I call it universe’ (lines 7–8). After twenty-three lines of rhyming along this theme, MoB re-emphasizes the importance of relations with the opposite sex as a rapper. Although he asserts that it is ‘still a man’s world’ (line 31), he implies that men alone cannot manage it.
What we find in MoB’s performance is an emphasis on asserting in English his rap group’s (the ‘we’ he constantly refers to in the text) lyrical coherence, linguistic virtuosity, work ethic and Hip Hop cultural philosophy. He expresses the risk rival groups take in confronting MoBCoW rap group members by informing the audience present in the club that MobCoW will ‘slaughter’ (line 14) any emcee who dares to cross their path. ‘So don’t mess around’ (line 15), forewarns his audience that when MoBCoW rappers respond, it will be lyrically explosive: ‘we don’t drop bombs / we shoot mortars’ (lines 16–17). This is why MoBCoW rap group members are ‘lauded’ (line 18) and ‘applauded’ (line 19).
MoB’s performance then develops into boasting about staying consistent in the face of adversity, and the financial difficulties that plague rappers not signed by big commercial labels. By adopting an aggressive tone and body comportment, he dismisses encroaching adversity by means of commercial imagery. He and the MobCoW rap group members always find new ways to navigate the rough seas: ‘So fuck the tide / We stay above water / We deliver flawless shows’ (lines 24–26). They do this by producing ‘The best sixteen / And entertainment’ (lines 27–28). He is therefore able to dispense the following, somewhat hyperbolic advice: ‘Stay consistent / Stop all the payments’ (lines 29–30).
Part of rap braggadocio is the artful display of self-awareness in a rapper’s overall performance (Higgins 2009: 113). In the case of MoB’s performance, he asserts his rap and English linguistic virtuosity as a particular authentic style that stands out from the rest of the MobCoW rap group. Nobody can assail him lyrically because he is ‘hard to cross / like a border’ (lines 9–10). This is because he supposedly has a ‘bottomless’ (line 11) store of lyrics and rhymes. And if any emcee ascended to any rap or lyrical battle with him, they would probably lose: ‘Serving me / Kind of a tall order’ (lines 12–13). He compares himself figuratively to a race car that changes lanes quickly, and also to a rushing river: ‘Can switch lanes quicker / . . . / Can switch flows quicker / Than a river’ (lines 20–23). Importantly, he addresses both normal audience members and his Hip Hop peers when he positions himself as being part of a crew but also an individual rapper who is able to rap over any type of music (‘I stay behind bars’, line 36) for as long as it takes (‘Serve out my sentence’, line 37). And he reasserts this toasting of individual lyrical consistency and brilliance by inviting anyone of the emcees to ‘Hand me the pen’ (line 38) because, as he ends the performance, he’s ‘still . . . comprehensive’ (line 39).
MoB’s organization of his on-stage performance and lyrical content enacts the themes he boasts about. His performance emphasizes aspects of gender identification and lyrical creativity in English, as he ‘convincingly acts as though something were at stake beyond the entertainment of those who are watching’ (Goffman 1974: 125). MoB raps in English inflected with an AAE accent. By delocalizing the genre in an AAE accent, the emcee moves to promote how emcees and perhaps Hip Hop fans in general practice multilingualism in their (conversational) sampling practices in Club Stones. In other words, how they perform becoming and being Hip Hop artists and fans involves using both global and local Hip Hop culture and language. The use of AAE locally in Cape Town, whether to talk about Hip Hop as fans or to perform braggadocio as an emcee, forces an intertextual gap with other local varieties. Thus, for the emcee, keeping it real is to perform his lyrics in an AAE accent sampling from everyday talk about braggadocio that typifies emcee conversations. In other words, it is normative to use AAE accents in talk, and it is normative to see it unfold in onstage performances of braggadocio.
After he finished the last line, emcee Cole reframed MoB’s braggadocio performance by entextualizing the genre not through English, but through a local variety of Afrikaans: Kaaps, deregistering English in favour of a marginalized variety. But before emcee Cole came on stage, MoB’s performance opened to an intertextual link by sampling a text atypical of global Hip Hop braggadocio: call and response. M.D.K. (who remained quiet on stage) joins MoB:
This short section of call and response between emcees M.D.K. and MoB serves to introduce the upcoming performance by emcee Cole. This strategy features prominently throughout the corpus of data I gathered from on-stage performances of the MobCoW rap group. Firstly, M.D.K. affirmed the effectiveness of MoB’s performance in two turns with the verbal cue, ‘Yeah’. Then MoB immediately elicited ‘noise’ from the audience by way of welcoming emcee Cole to the stage. This interaction is accomplished in English; the audience plays their part by responding with cheers.
Call and response here serves as the generic framing for braggadocio, and it is significant that MoB opens his performance in a variety of English. The call and response initiated after his performance created certain expectations from the audience – and other emcees – that some of the same lyrical content might be performed or other types of intertextual relations introduced. The audience anticipates that emcee Cole will perform braggadocio lyrics that reveal his style, linguistic virtuosity, and much of the same sexual escapades mentioned by MoB. Furthermore, they anticipate that the call and response, as a relational aspect of the genre braggadocio, will prepare the way for emcee Cole to reframe his braggadocio performance, also through English, given his linguistic expression of ‘one two, one two’ which is the standard discursive move in Hip Hop that follows ‘mic check’. But as becomes apparent below, the emcee instead used the stage event to manipulate the intertextual gap by choosing to sample his braggadocio as a combination of everyday texts based on Kaaps: that is, by tapping into the local multilingual normativities of Kuilsriver.
Emcee Cole’s rap performance breaks with the AAE omnipresent in global Hip Hop to use the language variety spoken on the Cape Flats. In so doing, he paves the way for other local varieties and registers to be entextualized in braggadocio. Whereas MoB’s performance had a clearly organized group of lines that concentrated on sexual exploits, boasting of lyrical fitness and finesse, and celebrating the present and future successes of MoBCoW, emcee Cole used his opportunity to frame braggadocio in a far more locally relevant fashion.
He starts his performance with almost ten initiatory lines to acknowledge the call and response interaction with the audience (see lines 1–8). He then raps about what he has to do for money; that it is necessary for him to ‘hustle’ (work). He then compares himself to a piranha, a fish known as a vicious killer when hunting in numbers (‘parana’, line 9). Emcee Cole toasts his particular style of rap through the use of local words, such as dwala, which means to interrupt, to make quiet, to speak out of turn by interrupting others. The use of the form ‘dwala’ is a feature of local registers such as Tsotsitaal and Sabela as spoken in Cape Town. It forms part of registers that are shared among youth on the Cape Flats who encounter specific practices of multilingualism not only in Hip Hop genres, on-stage, but in their everyday language practices. The linguistic form that appears in Cole’s performance is linked to his further use of the word kroon (money). As the emcee toasts about his ‘impossible flows’ (line 13) and about building a hospital for all the injured emcees (line 14), he creatively employs the linguistic resources of Kaaps.
With further boasts, emcee Cole’s rap style is made to seem incontestable. Lines 22–23 are particularly forceful in light of local religious beliefs: ‘Julle kan my nie vriet / Ek’s soes vark vleis op Labarang’ (‘You can’t consume me / I’m like pork at Labarang’). Labarang is the local term (from Malay or Javanese) for the international Islamic Eid festival celebrating the end of the fast. Emcee Cole indexes Islamic ritual celebrations to liken his individual lyrical and linguistic creativity to the inedibility of pork. He thus registers his style as taboo, not to be copied. Lines 26–28 comment on rites of passage in the township: the emcee draws on culture-internal stereotypes (Agha 2007) through Kaaps and invokes adulthood (‘maturity’) and the physical changes linked to sex and stereotypical gender roles. He concludes his braggadocio by asserting to the audience members and his peers that they are privileged: ‘Dan staan my tande / Soe uit my bek / Dan ons move met respek’ (‘My teeth stick out / Like this out my mouth / Then we’ll move with respect’, lines 35–36 and 38). Thus, in the concluding lines of Emcee Cole’s braggadocio a link is made in Kaaps to performing local rap music intertextually, and at the same time, in the process of enregisterment, a deregistering of English takes place.
After Emcee Cole’s performance, MoB, who stayed on stage during his whole performance, initiated a call and response with the audience, giving time for the next performer – emcee Narc – to take centre stage, and start his performance:
The call and response in lines 1–6, initiated by the leading emcee, MoB, has a double function in that it holds the attention of the audience, wandhile introducing rap personae onto the stage. As MoB introduces the next few emcees to the audience, he realizes that Narc has already stepped onstage and so, instead of stopping Narc’s performance, they both engage in verbal cueing for the sake of stage continuity (e.g. ‘Yeah’ in lines 6 and 13–15, respectively).
Verbal cueing is an important performative strategy employed by emcees in rap performances. The purpose of verbal cueing in the performance is to structure the lyrics that Narc is going to perform. He eventually succeeds in doing so from line 16 onwards. Unlike the emcees that performed before him, Narc performs his braggadocio in a way that showed the ‘cool’ side of his identity (his ‘swagger’ or ‘swag’). According to Kearns (2010:1), swagger is the
From line 16 onwards, Narc promotes his rap authenticity in a localized form of swag, making a reference to the ‘Caped Crusader’ (Batman) that puns on the place, Cape Town, and could also be heard as ‘Cape Crusader’ (line 21). Although an under-researched performance genre, swag is often misunderstood outside the cultural world of Hip Hop as inspiring conventional differences and as enforcing seemingly simplistic stylizations among Hip Hop heads themselves. However, it is argued here that swag is a form of sampling that becomes decontextualized, is iterable and contributes to the overall coherence of braggadocio in local Hip Hop contexts. In Narc’s performance, for example, a variety of different intertextual relations are brought together in the sampling of swagger lyrics.
Firstly, his performance is in a variety of English which is stylized in accented African-American English (AAE), therefore providing linguistic evidence for the display of global Hip Hop authenticity. Secondly, the sampling of swagger lyrics in the broader structure of his braggadocio makes for an interesting reflection: the overuse of the verbal cue ‘yeah’ (seven in total) is usually not a significant feature of the braggadocio performance. This may indicate that Narc struggled to remember his ‘writtens’ – his written and rehearsed lyrics. He stylizes not only the verbal cue in accented AAE, but also African-Americanised lexical items such as ‘supaswag’ (line 17) and ‘muthafuckas’ (line 34).
One single intertextual theme runs through Narc’s lyrical content: the present or future jealousy of rival Hip Hop heads, labelled here as ‘haters’. The term ‘hater’ is linked to the celebration of commercial success among emcees in Hip Hop communities across the world. According to Perry (2004: 48), who comments on Hip Hop in the United States, hating is ‘thrown at those imagined to be envious of one’s wealth or abundant suitors’ (see also Boyd 2004: 114). Narc’s performance suggests that in order to prevent inauthenticity, i.e. to ‘keep it real’ (line 38), he and his emcee crew actually need haters, because without them the crew would not be able to ‘make [the] paper’ (i.e. money, line 25). To this end, Narc’s sampling of swagger lyrics, in a broader sense, recontextualizes the performance of braggadocio through the global language variety AAE.
In the context of the Cape Flats, because of the ubiquity of US Hip Hop, Narc’s performance in accented AAE would not necessarily be brought into question. However, in the local context of the Hip Hop show, his performance is an attempt to performatively link up with the other emcees performing braggadocio through language varieties or accented Englishes. We see that Narc’s entire lyrical structure is outlined by toasting his swagger intertextually. Although swagger is often understudied by Hip Hop sociolinguists, its history as a text set in global linguistic flows (cf. Alim, Ibrahim and Pennycook 2009) is important because emcees associate swagger with a kind of ‘coolness’ or with the pimping culture of American rap in the southern US states (Perry 2004).
Thus we see that Narc’s attempts to incorporate swagger lyrics and stylize accented AAE in his braggadocio taps into the processes of mainstreaming marginalized voices. The literature on the politics of English in the United States surrounding AAE has opened up a space for dialogue around the linguistic voice of previously marginalized citizens in that country. Researchers like Smitherman (1977, 2000) and Alim (2004) have shown that it is not enough to recognize the creative capacity of speakers in order to mainstream voice; we also need to recognize what these voices actually signify. In other words, we need to demonstrate how marginalized multilingual speakers challenge the linguistic imperialism of English and point to alternative, utopic scenarios of linguistic hybridity and diversity (Stroud and Guissemo 2016). Nevertheless, what we see Narc achieving here is a display of an awareness and recognition of language varieties in his surroundings and the semiotics of performing in a global language variety which, in the process, gives others a sense of what they can do phonologically or lexically in order to remix their multilingualism. What is remixed here is not only AAE but also a version of South African English that stylizes Narc’s local voice. As a consequence of finding himself in a local space, then, Narc chose to demonstrate to the audience that he is able to draw on different linguistic voices, which are tied to his rap identity and authenticity, in order to link up to other types of voices (e.g. country and black African-American voices).
After the end of Narc’s performance, MoB returned to call and response, continuing with his rendition of braggadocio in the local space. The last two emcees to end the performance were Chuck and Baza Lo. As they stepped onto the stage, they were cheered on by a highly expectant audience who knew that this was the first time they had performed together. Many of the MobCoW rap group members hoped the combination of Baza Lo (an isiXhosa/Sesotho/English/Kaaps multilingual emcee) and Chuck (an emcee with language knowledge of Kaaps/Sabela) would not only contribute to the racial diversity of the group but also complement the multilingualism of the group and the development of Hip Hop style. As with the previous rap, call and response prepared the way for the main performance:
Similar to that of Narc, the performance by Chuck presented here can be viewed as a combination of sampled texts as well as an attempt to absorb these texts into the generic structure of the braggadocio genre. Like the other emcees that went before him, the audience expects Chuck to draw on texts that have already been sampled (bragging, metaphors, idiomatic expressions, etc.). However, Chuck surprises by performing a very different form of sampling which impacts significantly on the intertextuality of the local braggadocio performance.
At the beginning of his performance, although it is not immediately clear, Chuck addresses either someone in the audience or somebody out of sight. He starts performing simultaneously with the end of the call and response, suggesting to the audience that he is not an emcee that dances to the beat of others (line 9). This proclamation of ‘not dancing’ is a sufficient segue into the entextualization of an incident which occurred in global Hip Hop. At the 1995 Source Awards in New York, amidst the East vs. West Coast rap battle, Death Row Records CEO Suge Knight (representing the West Coast) ‘dissed’ Sean ‘Puffy’ Combs, the founder of New York–based Bad Boy Records, for not only dancing in his music videos but also in music videos by artists signed to his record label. Knight had proposed that New York City–based artists defect from Combs’s label, saying, amongst other things:
Any of you artists out there that want to be an artist and wanna stay a star, and don’t have to worry about the executive producer trying to be all in the videos, all on the records, dancing, come to Death Row!
Knight’s statement was viewed as contentious and fanned the flames of the battle. To relate this back to the context of Club Stones, Chuck raps that he is not dancing in order to index his tough stance (Jaffe 2009). For instance, in lines 13–15, it is still unclear whom he is addressing, but what is clear is that he uses a number of Sabela phrases to suggest that whoever addresses him lyrically will have to speak up (line 14) if they want to connect to his braggadocio (line 15). Only after these lines have been performed do we understand that his intended audience is all the tough men in the crowd (line 16).
By opening his performance in Kaaps, and using the Sabela register, Chuck’s use of words such as ‘koppel’ sets the stage for a lyrical battle with an emcee in the audience, as he warns: ‘Sterk emcees moet kophou’ (‘Tough emcees need to keep up’, line 16). The sampling of these lyrics is set in the general structure of the local braggadocio, as Chuck raps that he is not a stereotypical emcee when it concerns representing his place because he is ‘strong for ghettos’ (line 17). He is also mindful of what is ‘verlap in die ghettos’ (‘downtrodden in the ghettos’, line 18), which invokes both his socio-economic condition and that of many audience members. In this way, Chuck celebrates a particular style of rap by referencing ‘ghetto’ and by emphasizing the inequalities in townships. According to Gerard and Sidnell (2003: 282), emcees ‘offer spatial descriptions that include place-names [which] are often received with expressions of appreciation (for example, applause), and as such these descriptions provide opportunities for audience members to engage as active participants’. Here we can clearly see how the emcee uses ‘keeping it real’ and linguistic virtuosity as metrics for evaluating what types of sampling (do not) fit in the relocalizing of the braggadocio, as the sampling of a different text is introduced in his performance.
In subsequent lyrics performed in Kaaps and Sabela (lines 21–31) Chuck samples in the genre of ‘beef’. According to Smitherman (2000: 65), beef can be understood as ‘conflict, squabble, a problem’ between rap groups or crews over one or several particular issues. Similarly, Fitzpatrick (2005: 6) states that ‘beef is a long-standing disagreement between individuals or groups. The different sides in a beef may use battling as a way to defame the other side, although this is not necessary.’ In our example, Chuck gives the impression that someone else started beef with him by saying he should shut up (line 21). To elaborate, we hear that ‘Ek moet my bek hou’ (I need to shut up), which is in fact a sample reference from an earlier performance by, Terror MC, a veteran emcee in Cape Town Hip Hop. This sampling is an indication that Chuck is infuriated because if there was any beef between him and Terror MC, they could have settled it on-stage in a freestyle rap battle – one of the more standard and agreed-upon ways of settling beef (see a detailed analysis of freestyle rap battles in the next chapter). However, because this has not happened, Chuck has to reply with battle lyrics in a braggadocio performative frame, using attacking rhymes with gusto (line 23) but refraining from any physical encounters (lines 25–26). Interestingly, by performing in Kaaps and Sabela, Chuck mediates his beef by sampling discourse aspects of tough masculinity in his lyrics. He subjects Terror MC to a vicious, emasculating attack by suggesting that he wears a brassiere (line 28) and has been castrated (line 29). Chuck then moves out of battle genre mode to perform braggadocio lyrics and suggests to Terror MC and the audience that he is the only true emcee (line 36) and that his style (of braggadocio) will remain (line 42).
Chuck is the only member of the MobCoW rap group who has had significant exposure to Sabela. His rap style incorporates the physical mannerisms and gesturing that is often associated with the Number gangs in Cape Town. His entextualization of rap braggadocio is unique in comparison to the more globally inflected performances of MoB and Narc, as it is relocalized to the ‘extreme local’ by being performed in Sabela, a register which shares a lot of vocabulary with Kaaps. This sets Chuck apart from the rest of the MobCoW rap group, as does the way in which his braggadocio lyrics overlap with his performance of beef which, on the surface, seems disorganized. However, Chuck seems to view this as an encouraging way of performing his braggadocio, linking Sabela and Kaaps to the local generic model.
What is clearly achieved by Chuck’s performance is the mixing of Sabela and Kaaps into the Hip Hop space of the show. Specifically related to his performance, he remixes multilingualism on stage by according strategic importance to Sabela, which is used here to perform beef lyrics. At the same time, Chuck also highlights the performative relevance of Kaaps. Given the history of marginalization surrounding the use of Kaaps (cf. Prah 2012), he stylizes (unintentionally and perhaps without a larger purpose) this Afrikaans variety for the purpose of mainstreaming his own linguistic voice and that of other audience members who share that voice.
Here, Baza Lo is performing in isiXhosa, English and Kaaps. He is the only emcee on stage who is able to perform lyrics employing these three linguistic resources. As his performance unfolds from line 1, it is difficult to discern whether he samples one or another intertextual relation absorbed in the braggadocio by his crew members. It is also unclear whether he samples swagger or beef texts. One could argue that he is performing a non-intertextualizable braggadocio, which perhaps would be the whole point of his performance. However, this is really just a surface appearance, as Baza Lo’s lyrics entextualize an eKasi style of rap (an emerging rap genre created in black townships across South Africa) that is strongly linked to the practice of Spaza Rap. He boasts about his masculinity, and his ‘supaswag’ is self-evident as he boasts not only to women but also to the ‘haters’ (line 8) that he has cheques (line 17). Spaza Rap uses isiXhosa, a variety of South African English, Kaaps and other language forms from various African languages, to comment on the realities of black township life. In addition, Spaza Rap celebrates and criticizes the politics of the new black middle class. Baza Lo, however, only seems to do the former. In doing so, he introduces into the braggadocio performance a stylization of isiXhosa, English and Kaaps as a way to resemiotize (Jacquemet 2005) the ‘gangsta-pimp-ho’ discourse prevalent in global Hip Hop (see Rose 2008; Sharpley-Whiting 2007). In its place, he samples an eKasi street-smart persona to entertain his audience.
The task Baza Lo challenges us with is to read his persona as an intertextual and interpersonal event. According to Agha (2007: 239),
like any semiotic activity, the activity of reading persons has a text-in-context organisation in any given interpersonal encounter; it is shaped by text-level indexical effects. But it is also mediated by stereotypes of indexicality, namely stereotypical social images associated with discrete signs that specify default ways of reading persons who display them.
The linguistic strategies Baza Lo employs in his lyrics are mediations about his persona, ‘Baza, Baza’ (line 1), a tough eKasi guy who is streetsmart about women and rap. Similar to Chuck’s performance, we find that Baza Lo metapragmatically suggests that ‘Baza, Baza’ is the guy that nobody should attempt to assail (line 5). Secondly, the emcee suggests that he does not necessarily feel out of place in the context of Club Stones and cares very little for being accepted because he owns the ghetto and the women as well as having money in plenty. Although he performs that he raps here, it is difficult for him to do so because nobody wants him in the place (lines 6–8).
In his live performance, Baza Lo reflects on some of his audience members not being able to understand him, not because he performs in isiXhosa, but because some may be jealous of him because he has all the women. Who ‘they’ are, as referred to in line 9, is an intriguing reinforcement of the challenge to haters. The emcee shrugs off his haters and suggests that he is made to feel accepted because of all the women seated near and around him (line 12). The celebration of money and success is a global aspect of Hip Hop, but in the case of Baza Lo’s braggadocio performance, we clearly see a number of intertextual relations of a locally scaled nature sampled into the generic model of that genre.
The remaining lyrics in Baza Lo’s performance (lines 15–24) are a reinforcement of stereotypical representations of women and a statement of his desire for them. In addition, these lyrics reinforce the eKasi rap persona. He toasts this style of rap as an enregistered ‘Ghetto Style’ in the performance. The reference to the ghetto reinforces the ‘gangsta-pimp-ho’ image and simultaneously recontextualizes the braggadocio performance space as one where ghetto style is allowed. Thus Baza Lo’s performance mediates a semiotics of feeling out of place, but we nevertheless see him remix his multilingualism in an attempt to open up conditions for an eKasi persona to be accommodated by the braggadocio.
In the beginning of the chapter, I organized my argument about the enregistering of marginalized voice around recent pronouncements in language and Hip Hop literature. I pointed out that the emcees above draw constantly on the cross-cultural terrains of Cape Town and its outlying townships to highlight the nature of marginalized voices, particularly historically marginalized ones. These are intercultural voices shaped by recent socially transformational politics in South Africa, and the performance of new forms of selves (see Jones and Dlamini 2013). Because of those diversities, the creative predilection of emcees is to create new spaces, sui generis, for marginalized voices in a transgressive semiotics almost never recognized in the mainstream. In this chapter, voice as performed through braggadocio centres on intertextual relations and personae. Those personae are exaggerated by the braggadocio and suggest that larger processes are drawn on to display them as socially constitutive of marginalized voices on the periphery of Cape Town, creatively assembled in the staged event.
I approached braggadocio as an uncompleted genre that is relocalized by emcees in the local. I introduced the notion of sampling, including conversational sampling, and of the intertextual gap as a way to account for the creative and performative processes emcees would undertake to enregister their voice. Specifically, in the multivocal performing of braggadocio, each emcee emphasized different but similar ways of doing so. They did so by sampling everyday texts, stylizing local forms of language varieties and register, and also resemiotizing the function of certain varieties of language (such as the use of AAE accent) and registers in the entextualization of braggadocio. This allowed them to relocalize the genre, but also to promote their authenticity by keeping it real, displaying unique linguistic virtuosity, and presenting metrics for evaluating the genre.
In the final chapter of this study, I will attempt to draw these aspects together to demonstrate the implications for the study of multilingualism. In the next chapter, I aim to present an analysis of freestyle rap battles and how a shared sense of locality emerges in the way emcees remix multilingualism.
 Club Stones management at times insisted on marketing the events with names that excluded any reference to Hip Hop.
 Smitherman states that call and response is ‘spontaneous verbal and nonverbal interaction between speaker and listener in which all the speaker’s statements (“call”) are punctuated by expressions (“responses”) from the listener’ (1977: 104).
 A local term for the Eid festivities at the end of Ramadan.
 The word Emcee Cole utters here is pikinini (meaning, boy, not adult) used in Bantu languages, the prison register Sabela and Kaaps.
 The form gazi is used in African languages across the sociolinguistic landscape of South Africa. The form is mostly present in the urban landscape. Gazi translates as blood and is present in the register of Sabela and Tsotsitaal used by the Number Gangs in South African prisons (cf. Hurst 2008). Gazi also has a closely related meaning; when used in a phrase such as, my gazi (in Afrikaans or English) or gazilam (isiXhosa), it means my brother. In the townships of Cape Town where it is most commonly used, the form circulates and recurs with ambiguous meanings. Emcee Cole’s use of the form relates to the second meaning, with positive connotations.