Zimbabwe’s Huby Blakes is taking Shona to the world

Zimbabwe’s Huby Blakes is taking Shona to the world

Huby Blakes/Instagram

It’s the night of 14 November and a fleet of tanks is seen rolling through the streets of Harare. There have been talks of a possible coup after Vice president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, was fired a week earlier.

Soon after, news breaks that long-standing president, Robert Mugabe, has been put under house arrest by the military and dozens of his people, who the military called ‘criminals’, have been hunted and charged, mostly with corruption. But the Military bosses won’t call it a coup de’tat, despite what it actually looks like.

The world, and most importantly, the people of Zimbabwe are tense. That tension soon turns into jubilation as Zimbabweans take to the streets of Harare and Johannesburg to celebrate long-standing President Robert Gabriel Mugabe’s resignation a full week after the military came marching in. But pundits question the end of Mugabe’s reign, and the beginning of Mnangagwa’s. The uncertainty of Zim politics, at least to outsiders, continues.

This is not the sort of politics 25-year-old Zimbabwean hip-hop and Afrobeat artist, Huby Blakes, would ever speak on. Instead, the politics close to the 2016 Zimbabwe Hip-Hop Awards’ Best Newcomer award recipient’s heart are that of hip-hop and culture.

After years of drawing inspiration from American artists such as 50 Cent and Lil Bow Wow, Huby Blakes broke into the still-growing Zim rap scene just a few years ago. Now the super confident rapper, who is also a fashion designer and music video director, is ready to take on the world.

We caught up with him just days be Zimbabwe’s regime change was made official.

What’s the hip-hop scene like in Zim…how’s the overall music scene that side?
I can say the Hip-Hop scene this side is growing because there are now so many artists who are putting in work and investing in the culture through good quality music and videos and growing the culture’s influence. I think the music scene this side is really growing ‘cause we have a few Zimbabwean artists breaking into regional and international markets.

In terms of Zimbabwean music, particularly hip-hop, who are some of your idols? 

I have respect for Zim music legends…the likes of Bhundu Boys, Simon Chimbetu and Thomas Mapfumo. There’s no one yet in terms of Zim Hip-Hop…maybe myself?

Mizchif (RIP) made it a point to try and make it in SA as a rapper. Is that a mission for you as well or nah?
I’m not only trying to make it in South Africa but to the whole wide world, even though there will be stages to me accomplishing this dream.

Your sound is very interesting. There are a lot of different elements that make it up. How would you describe your sound?
I call my sound Hip-Hop — I’ve commercialised it and fused my raps with afrobeat. It’s sort of how these popular American rappers are doing it — the likes of Drake and Jay Z have fused their sounds with pop and jazz, respectively. So, being that I’m African, I’ve decided to fuse my sound with afrobeat because those two sounds represent where I come from.

Why do you feel it’s important to rap in Shona?
It’s very important for identity’s sake. I’m trying to prove that I’m the best in the country and the best way to do that is rapping in Shona. That’s the language the people [of Zimbabwe] will understand most. But as my career grows from the regional to the international level, I’ll use less Shona and more English [in my songs] for the rest of the world to understand my story.

With the political climate in Zimbabwe being the way that it is, do you feel a need to speak about it in your music or are you not that type of artist?
They are some political precautions were I come from plus I’m not that type of a musician, my art is based on our [collective] social life and my life. I really want to inspire the youth and give them hope.

You recently put up a scathing post on social media criticising the organisers of the Zimbabwe Hip-Hop Awards for nominating you in the ‘alternative’ category. What was that about?
Honestly, I’ve lost respect for the Zim Hip Hop Awards organizers because they have shown me that they don’t really understand what hip-hop is. On the other hand, I think they’ve done that to sideline artists who they don’t control, artists who they [the organisers] know had the potential to scoop an award. I won ‘Best Newcomer’ last year and now I’m ‘Alternative’? What happened [laughs]? And I have the biggest song in Zim Hip Hop — that’s the truth they are trying to hide!

Deep…So, 2017 is a wrap, what’s Huby Blakes plotting for 2018?
I’ll be working on my album. I’m ready to take the whole industry by storm! I’m about to set some new records in Zimbabwean music. Not only Zim Hip-Hop but Zim music as a whole. I want to accomplish what was never accomplished before in the history of Zimbabwean music.

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