Where Hip-Hop Brought Down a Government

In Senegal, hip-hop artists have gained exceptional political influence.

ByABC News
February 19, 2009, 6:51 AM

DAKAR, Senegal, Sept. 1, 2008 — -- In a country where journalists are banned from saying or writing what they want, hip-hop artists have stepped up to speak for those who can't.

Moussa Lo, a.k.a. Waterflow, is one of Senegal's most famous hip-hop artists.

He said he became a hip-hop singer not for success or his own glory, but to be "the voice of the voiceless."

"Hip-hop in Africa needs to grow," Waterflow told ABC News, "because we are the journalists for the people."

While Senegal's daily papers praise the government's action – new roads being built for a recent summit, urban renovations -- Waterflow denounces the corruption and the poverty that plague his country.

"Most people," he said, "the masses, don't have everything they [need] to live a normal life. They don't have running water, often they don't have electricity."

With more than 2,500 groups that enjoy increasing popularity, the hip-hop scene has gained exceptional political influence.

"Senegal, for the past 10 or 15 years, is really one of the best examples of how hip-hop can be used not just to create jobs, but also for political action," said DJ Magee, a New York-based produced who with Nomadic Wax records put together a documentary called "Democracy in Senegal."

Many political observers agree that hip-hop artists influenced voters to oust President Abdou Diouf in 2000, who had been in power for almost 20 years, and elect President Abdulaye Wade.

"The election of 2000," said DJ Magee, "is the only known case in the world in which hip-hop has been seen as one of the main reasons behind the change of regime."

Wade's election prompted great hope in Senegal, especially among young people who thought that poverty would finally be reduced.

But according to Waterflow, with Wade at the helm, the country's economic and social situation has not improved.

Waterflow, along with other hip-hop artists, have lost faith in the politicians they helped get into power.

"There was so much hope that Wade would bring hope," said DJ Magee, "and that was crushed."