“We can all say there is a need to have more women in the electoral process; we want to have more women in leadership; we think women can do better,” said iCampus Manager Luther Jeke.
But the question is, how do you get more people to hear what you say?
That’s where Rap2Rep, a music competition run in partnership with Accountability Lab and iLab Liberia, comes in.
Rap2Rep is a one of a kind competition that provides a platform for performers “to shape the future of the country through song.” It began on a small scale in 2016, and has since evolved into a sizable network of musicians, filmmakers, DJs and media professionals advocating and inspiring social change through their artistic skills.
Structured as a talent hunt, the competition connects underground or unknown hipco artists with socially-conscious industry leaders to make great music, and positive impact. Hipco is a well-known musical genre or style that combines local languages and colloquia with rap, R&B and Afrobeat. Rap2Rep offers an extra dynamic – skills to add trending social and political issues to the musical mix. Mentorship sessions and skills training on topics such as social advocacy, stage management, content production and brand marketing, give the up and coming young stars something more to work with.
“We explain the concept and the annual theme, then publicize a call for demos and auditions. This year, over one hundred artists came forward”, Jeke said.
This year’s theme was electoral reform; more specifically, women in the political system.
Interestingly, the theme implies both the fact that increased opportunities for women’s representation is an electoral policy reform; and the idea that, as Jeke put it, if more women are involved in elective leadership, “massive social reforms” are sure to follow.
Out of 112 initial contestants, seventy (70) were auditioned in the first round. A second round of performances before the judges follows, leaving twelve artists standing, then five. The final five receive further, intensive training and mentorship by popular artists Lady Skeet, Amaze, JB Soulfresh and CIC, as well as professional studio production of their songs. The competition concludes with a grand finale – this year at University of Liberia’s main campus – that features established artists/performers and a live audience.
Zubin Cooper, Rickslyn Myers and Beat Master decided on the 2019 winner, with input from approximately 500 audience members, who voted their choice by text messaging. Stella Okai, one of the three female finalists, was the final victor.
Cooper, the head judge, said selecting Okai was not a difficult process because she ‘’more than showcased’’ her skills in key criteria such as stage appearance, lyrics and voice craft, soon winning over the judges and audience alike.
Okai is still moved by her win, and even more committed to furthering her skills as Liberia’s newest artist-advocate for gender equality.
In the words of her song, “We Have the Power’’: We are one people oh, we need to stand for our people oh. Educate a woman oh, include a woman oh, support a woman oh. We can work inside our govern-ment, work for our mother-land, bring peace and develop-ment, for all our country man.