New American Songbook: Nu Africa

Sep 10, 2018

The West, and America specifically, has a long-standing problem of confusing the vast and diverse continent of Africa for a homogeneous country called Africa. There are, of course, reasons for this, many of them racist, but some are more literary. African American narrative has often used “Africa” as a device to indicate and imagine both an inspirational past and aspirational future, and in hip hop there are many notable examples of this: Nas’ “If I Ruled the World”, for one, and more recently, the fantastic 2017 track from southern rapper CyHi the Prynce called “Nu Africa.”

I first heard this song a few weeks ago, just after President Trump tweeted a racist canard about eminent white genocide in South Africa. Like so many things in America, our greatest aspirations always seem to carry with them the stain of a bleak and unforgivable past. My pairing of CyHi’s song and Trump’s tweet isn’t arbitrary: the dark double of positivist diasporic imagination is the racist paranoiac fantasy of white genocide. It makes sense in a sad way: after all, the ascendency of white colonialists was bought directly from the subjugation of those who were not white settlers, so to the racist mind, turnabout is indeed fair play. But we don’t have to carry this fearful thinking with us.

We can take our cues from “Nu Africa,” where Africa stands in for a place beyond racism, precisely because our social and economic relationships will have fundamentally changed. Rather than compromise with white supremacists, or cynically dismiss them, the remedy is to believe them--yes, your supremacist values are in danger of being eradicated, and this is how we are going to do it! A “Nu Africa” that’s neither a country or continent, but the entire world.

Tags: