‘Hip hop and hymns: the two would always go hand in hand for me. My life would always straddle both. The sacred and the profane, all living on the same block, all divine in the end.’
Mawunyo Gbogbo is a church-going African Australian girl growing up in the sleepy mining town of Muswellbrook, NSW. At home, her parents argue all the time, and sibling rivalry runs deep. At primary school, Black Is Beautiful until a racist bully dares to tell her otherwise. But at high school, she falls in love with two things that will alter the course of her adult life: the seductive thrill of hip hop music and charismatic bad boy Tyce Carrington. Tyce also feels like an alien in Australia, despite his Aboriginality – or because of it.
When Mawunyo’s offered a chance to further her budding media career in New York City at the Bible of hip hop, The Source magazine, she throws herself headlong into the city’s heady buzz and hustle – but even as it lures her in, it threatens to derail her dreams.
Hip Hop & Hymns is a tussle between the search for belonging and ultimately accepting who you are, and a clear-eyed, heartfelt story about daring greatly and what it can mean to be Black in Australia.
Plus ça change
Ghanaian-Australian who came to Australia with her parents and grew up in a country town in the Hunter region of NSW. Her interest in writing and hip hop eventually saw her work for The Source, the magazine of hip hop, music, culture, and politics in New York before returning to Australia to work in radio and television production. She is currently music & pop culture reporter for Double J and ABC News.
After a brief description of what she remembers and has heard about life in Ghana, the author tells what it was like as the only black kid at NSW primary school, the influence of Christianity of her and her family, the transition to high school, discovering what would now be called old skool hip hop, and a life long (so far) obsession with an Aboriginal boy she knew was bad news but could not resist. I was impressed as much by how familiar her coming of age in rural Australia felt, as I was by the differences resulting from her race. The books of Angie Thomas and others taught me more about the role of hip hop in black culture in the US, but I found the author’s insights interesting. I like old skool too! I’m old. What else would you expect?
Well-paced, repetitive at times although at least some of that was probably deliberate.
Plus ça change