AG: Tell us a little bit about you.
NDK: My real name is Mor Talla Gueye. I grew up in Louga, Senegal and spent my entire childhood and adolescent years there. I got into Hip Hop as an adolescent and used to break dance with a group of friends. We went by the name BMG (Bokk Mboloo di Gestu). That was the time RapGalsen was starting to gain momentum and most breakdancers started rapping, myself included. We used to participate in national competitions and even won a couple of them. Over time, we dispersed and in 1999, I traveled to France to join my father (my father and brothers were all pretty much abroad).
I spent 14 years in Paris. There was a period of time I traveled back and forth from Paris to Senegal but officially decided to launch my rap career with my first album in 2007. I kept up the momentum and released by second album in 2009 and started Show of the Year, which is an annual event for all hip-hoppers in Senegal. I released by third album in 2013 and a double album (call it my fourth and fifth) in 2017. I went international in Europe and can always looking for ways to produce new music, increase my fan base, and do more for the community. With the current situation, a lot of things are stalled but we’re continuously working on additional projects. I stared a record label and am producing other rappers as well.
Outside of my music career, I use my voice in the political realm and in Pan-African conversations to share my humble point of view.
AG: If you had to summarize the challenges to development in Senegal, what would you say?
NDK: My opinion is we had a terrible start at independence. When we “got independence,” it was just a “flag independence” but we didn’t gain economic independence. We had a “faux depart.” When the French left, they left behind pro-colonial personnel who were supposed to basically continue the French agenda. Then you had folks like Mamadou Dia and Ousmane Blondin Diop who were discredited, imprisoned, fatally silenced because they spoke out against this behavior.
The first presidents (Senghor and Diouf) weren’t what we would call corrupt today but they didn’t have the vision, patriotism, Pan-African mentality, and wherewithal to remove colonial stains and implement their own, Senegalese agendas that benefited the Senegalese people. We lost about 20 years where we were just pleasing the French still – it showed in our contracts and economic engagements at every level.
Their replacements and their respective entourages were even worst. Liars. Thieves. Misappropriation of funds. Nothing moved us forward. They aren’t even political actors who have the knowledge and expertise. Some were former teachers who were just given posts by incumbents.
We missed the mark early on. There was no investment in research and development, fueling the youth to be prepared for a bright future and be autonomous, investing in engineers so they are the in-house producers in our country! Universite Cheikh Anta Diop was a great university but there wasn’t enough investment to maintain that excellence so that leads to students with diplomas not having jobs to show for it. There is no support of our people so that we can stand on our own and not depend on others.
We’ve had terrible leadership. We are a small country with a lot of richness but we didn’t invest and take advantage of that. 60% of the population is young! Water outages. Power outages. We should have been past this but leadership has failed us. Senegal today is a victim of all of that lumped together.
AG: Give one suggestion of a realistic solution that could be implemented in Senegal to get us one step closer to a more developed state.
NDK: It’s good leadership. We need a real leader with morals, ethics, good ideas, God-fearing characteristics, and conviction. We don’t have leaders with integrity. We need to get rid of corruption, of leaders who misappropriate funds, of throwing things under the rug. We can win back 50 years of loss with one solid, good, exemplary leader/presidential term. The population is easy to guide – we have religious leaders who have a voice and can influence the people. But for the right messages to go through, we need that leader. Someone who isn’t’ afraid to say no to external forces who try to take advantage of us. Someone who takes education and agriculture seriously! We can leverage our natural resources to benefit us, once and for all, before opening our doors to the rest of the world.
AG: Some observations about the COVID-19 situation?
NDK: It’s worrisome. There is fear. Not only because of the current situation but because of what it could grow into. Until we find a solution (cure, vaccine, sustainable method of preventing further spread, etc.), it’s going to be like we’re sitting on eggshells.
If another World War was to happen, it would be economic. There are different speculations but there are a lot of things going out and we don’t have all the answers. The world is surely overpopulated and with every crisis that comes up, we are left with two choices: (1) the naive approach where we just say this is a natural occurrence or (2) the more curious approach of asking “what’s really at play here?”
In Senegal, people are still out and about during the day. Giving out aid is a good initiative but it’s not enough to combat everything. During the day, people are out as if nothing is going on. We don’t have masks, antiseptic gel, etc. so it’s scary.
I salute our doctors, Minister of Health, and everybody working hard to fight this virus. Personally, I am scared it will spread even more and we as a nation cannot handle that. We don’t have the infrastructure but I pray we don’t even get to that.
AG: Responsibility of rappers/influencers/singers/public figures in informing the public?
NDK: That is God-given and it’s important to understand that and be humble about it. God will ask you how you used your voice and gift. Did you use it to do good? To educate others. To guide others who listen to you and are following you?
My opinion is that with a gift and a platform, our mission is to serve God and serve the people. And be aware of the impact we have so we can use our voice/gift to do good in the world.
Some people use it in a bad way to just get money. No matter the cost or sacrifice. Taking positions that they don’t believe in. Acting on behalf of others who aren’t courageous enough to do it themselves.
How we use our powers matter.
AG: Influence of Hip-Hop in our society?
NDK: Hip Hop Galsen is known for the messages we put out there. We are known to be “too Hip Hop, not commercial” and that’s a point of pride for us. We strive to send good messages out there that are relevant to our people. AIDS epidemic. Fighting corruption. Family relations. We talk about current events and educate people.
Students listening to Hip Hop reminiscence about how it helped them get through school by re-energizing them. Empowering them! That’s amazing.
We don’t talk about drugs, alcohol, trash talking or disrobing women in our videos. We pride ourselves on uplifting and not tearing down. It’s the soul of RapGalsen.
We are known for being honest beings. Even if it’s undervalued here in Senegal, RapGalsen has proven to be multi-dimensional. Rappers are generally well-traveled and very educated and use their voice to talk about issues that matter.
I respect the industry. The movements we have created. The education we’ve shared with the population. The positive changes we have imparted.
AG: Who is your role model?
NDK: There are many I could list. I look up to people like Thomas Sankara, Patrice Lumumba, Amilcar Cabral, and Malcolm X.
But my ultimate role model is my father. He influenced me the most in my life. Before he passed and up until today, he’s on my screensaver! He taught me a lot and helped me to know who and how I should be. He’s always been my point-of-reference, my superstar, and my role model. I know I can’t be like him but he’s someone I strive to be like. We had a powerful relationship. Hard-working, family-oriented, discreet, forgot about himself for the sake of his family, modest, honest, didn’t let his kids do whatever, he raised us with integrity. He’s a respected man. He never had a life because he was so focused on giving us a good life.
When I grew up and went to France with him, I saw how he was living just to maek sure we had a comfortable life back in Senegal, it reinforced my love and respect in him. I knew then that that’s how a man is supposed to be. If you want to be respected, you have to be this person of integrity!
While I can list many people today, I will say with pride that my father is the one. He’s my everything.