“Born in Africa, brought up in America, hip hop has come full circle,” proclaims Daara J on the title track of the group’s American debut album Boomerang (Wrasse Records, October 19, 2004). Hailing from Senegal, the western-most country in Africa, Daara J must have caught some of the sound waves rolling over the Atlantic from the South Bronx in the mid-seventies, or was it the other way around?
Goree, an island just off the coast of Senegal, was the last bit of the motherland seen by the millions of Africans caught in the slave trade en route to America. What the proprietors of this grossly profitable injustice could never have imagined was the tremendous socio-political impact those slaves would have on the country they were forced to call home. Ancient rhythms, rebellion, and the ability to express pain, suffering, and triumph through art would later manifest in what we have come to know as hip hop.
Daara J’s Faada Freddy explains that tasso is the original form of rap, ancient rhythmic poetry passed down from father to son. “Historically, people in Senegal would use tasso to talk about their environment, their living conditions, the situation of the country and their hopes for the future.”
“Daara J means ‘school of life.’ With every production, we want to give an education to our listeners,” says group member Aladji Man. In the vein of De La Soul, Public Enemy, and Blackstar, Boomerang strays from the typically machismo and materialistic subject matter permeating America’s mainstream rap scene. Joining the likes of Positive Black Soul and MC Solaar as one of Senegal’s elite hip hop crews, Daara J uses their words as a positive force. Proudly earning their name, the trio focuses on the ills of globalism, the perils of a traditional society, the threatened environment, and on spirituality. “To the end of our pains we will always build. My generation wants to come up for air,” say the lyrics of “Esperanza.”
During Senegal’s 2000 presidential election, Daara J was hired to edit speeches and promote the anti-corruption political campaigns. Successfully bringing new voters to the polls, they were able to share in the defeat of a corrupt regime. The same power can be found within the rhymes and rhythms of their first album to hit American shores. Stirring the senses with raga, jazz, and Cuban and Caribbean sounds, Boomerang is how hip hop was meant to sound, a canvas upon which styles of artistic expression create something which has never been discovered. Winners of the BBC Radio 3 World Music Award for ‘Best African Act,’ Daara J has spent months atop the European world music charts. Daara J’s Boomerang proves to be as universally relevant and appreciated as it is unique to its creators. The album melts borders with touches of English and Spanish peppered among the courses of French and Wolof, a prominent native Senegalese tongue, uniting the international hip hop community. Never before has a non-English hip hop album sounded so natural. Boomerang just might give the impression that French and Wolof are rap’s lingua franca, and Senegal, its birthplace.