From The Motherland – Zimbabwe Legit
December 31, 2006, 3:35 pm
Filed under: Album Reviews

And we’re back! Hope everyone has had an enjoyable festive season; I know I have. Still recovering somewhat from over-eating but that can hardly be construed as a complaint. Have had a great week or so catching up with family and relaxing with the girlfriend (who presented me with this here selection: well done Samantha), hit the sales and picked up a bit of music although Oxford Street is not a pleasant place to be at this time of year. Starting to feel the January lull kicking in already but still one night of celebration to go. Have a good one!

Zimbabwe Legit could have been a gimmicky disaster but in fact this release fits in well with other works of the era. Drawn to hip hop via their older sibling, brothers Akim and Dumi involved themselves in as much as the culture as possible in their native Zimbabwe although accessibility to the genre was limited in Africa in the early ’90s. Still, through a passion and hunger for the artform as well as the dawn of the afrocentric era they made it to New York in 1990 and hooked up with Dave Funkenklein who was writing for The Source at the time as well as holding connections with the Native Tongues collective. Recognisng their skills, he worked hard to set them up with American producers including Mr. Lawnge and a little known Bay Area DJ who called himself Shadow. The result was a four track EP that was critically acclaimed but a commercial flop due to a lack of marketing and publicity. Sadly, Funkenklein passed away in ’94, but this and other works make for a legacy of a man who had a passion and understanding for hip hop that is rarely seen in the culture nowadays.

The commercial failure of this release was a real shame because the ‘Brothers From The Mother’ were charismatic MCs who had skills and a clear affinity with the Native Tongues sound. Drawing on their African roots as fodder for their rhymes, Akim and Dumi boast and brag with intelligence and insight, even utilising their native language on a couple of cuts. The production is solid, although there are a few joints that are easily skipped over. Favourties of mine are ‘Straight From The Mothership’ with its crisp snares and juicy horns; ‘Doin’ Damage In My Native Language’ which sees the pair rapping in (you guessed it) their native tongue and ‘Shadow’s Legitimate Mix’ which is nothing short of sensational, employing horns and pianos to create an atmospheric and laid back joint that will have your neck aching by the end of its six minute duration.

As far as I am aware this was never conceived as a full length album and this reissue seems to simply draw together the group’s work from that era including all the songs that appeared on the original EP. This goes some way to explaining why this is not perhaps the most coherent or consistent of works, but it is still well worth a purchase. It is also yet another example of a record label not understanding the potential of the artists under their control and the subsequent lack of success being an inevitable consequence of a failure to deliver the vital promotion needed at the final hurdle. As a finger up to all those record company execs who wouldn’t know real hip hop if it bit them in the arse, put this album in rotation and pay your respects to a group who can genuinely claim to have helped open the door for international hip hop.

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