The oral traditions of the griot originate in 13th-century West Africa. Often accompanied by musical instruments like the kora or balafon, griots are storytellers, witnesses, poets, historians, genealogists, musicians, and keepers of the culture. Today, the griot tradition has long inspired the origins of hip-hop, making its way from Africa to Jamaica, where toasting (chanting/talking over rhythms) thrived in the 1950s, via the Caribbean immigrants living in the Bronx. The artist Afrika Bambaataa calls rappers "postmodern griots."
On the continent, hip-hop is thriving and though many artists may not be as well known here in the States, they are making huge impacts not only in Africa but around the globe. For resources, check out The Hip-Hop African Podcast, the longest-running podcast on African hip-hop culture, which shares in-depth conversations about African culture, activism, and artists. You can also visit the website African Hype to read about what's happening in music on the continent, where we found this list of the Top 10 Best Rappers in Africa. With all the world's information at our fingertips, from Apple Music playlists, podcasts, books, websites, our friends at KEXP, and more, there's no excuse not to find, listen and support the modern-day griots of Africa. Show some love as we celebrate 50 years of hip-hop!