Duggy Tee, pioneer of Hip Hop Galsen
New album, Fit
An icon of the Boul Falé* generation along with Didier Awadi in the 1990s, Duggy Tee launched into an on-off solo career in 2005. After six years off the scene, he’s now back with a new album, Fit (“courage” in Wolof), marked with a more diverse style but just as committed.
Son of a manager with the defunct airlines Air Afrique, Amadou Barry grew up in France before joining his Dakar mates at the Lycée Maurice-Delafosse. At college, the young man got into break dancing and planned to work as an architect or run a hotel. But during 1988, when long strikes paralysed his school year, Barry spent his days imitating his idols from the old school of rap – bands like Public Enemy, Gang Starr and Scarface – and found himself, almost by accident, as part of a militant hip hop movement performing under the stage name Duggy Tee. He partnered up with his cousin, Amenophis, and they became major rivals of Syndicate’s Didier Awadi.
After puffing and strutting for a year, the rivalry abated, and Awadi and Duggy Tee realised that they shared the same tastes and fought the same fights. Both of them were diehard Pan-Africans and admirers of the ideas of Martin Luther King, Malcom X, Julius Nyerere, Patrice Lumumba, Thomas Sankara and Franz Fanon.
To transmit their own militant message, the two friends founded Positive Black Soul (PBS) in August 1989. "We were very pro-black,” Duggy Tee now remembers. “Black was always associated with negative things and that bothered us: we wanted to show that all that’s black is not negative”. But at the time, hip hop was still associated with an idea of violence and gangsta rap, and the twosome set out to avoid copying that style. Duggy Tee and Awadi battled against Afro-pessimism. To set themselves apart from other groups, they used African instruments (kora and percussion) and highlighted their “Africanness”.
Boul Falé generation
In 1994, the album Boul Falé shot PBS into the limelight and opened up the way for a whole generation: people started to talk about “Galsen” rap. “Boul Falé was: ‘Don’t worry, be happy’,” analyses Duggy Tee. PBS encouraged young people to put themselves forward and not give up in the face of everyday obstacles – and the attitude quickly spread. Their hits kept coming. PBS did several tours, released a total of nine albums, and produced other groups. “A lot of bands got known through the compilations Sénérap 1 & 2 that PBS produced,” observes DJ Alla, from Youkoungkoung studio in Guediawaye in Dakar’s suburbs.
“With its style, PBS left a mark on its times and influenced several artists on the continent,” analyses Docta, one of Senegal’s graffiti pioneers. Docta, like several other artists who move between music, graff and slam, sees the “Boul Falé” concept as a driving force in Dakar’s urban culture. “They were good times: we were young and fresh… our parents didn’t understand us. It was an era when you went for it; with hardly anything you could do some good stuff, and looking back on it now, it made us what we are.”
In 2002 came the split. Their disagreements had started to dominate and the pair admitted that they had “different artistic ambitions”. Awadi set off on a solo career, and Duggy Tee disappeared from the scene to "focus on his family", including his newborn daughter.
Duggy Tee made a discreet return to the hip hop scene in 2003, with a first solo album that he did nothing to promote. Then silence. The artist confirmed he was in “hibernation”. In 2005, he released Ngëm (faith), voted best album of the year in Senegal. The new focus for Duggy Tee was human values. "Whatever you do in life, if you don’t believe in it, there’s no point,” summed up Duggy Tee, who encouraged his compatriots to “build something”.
Then on 14 October this year, the willowy artist with his long crown of dreadlocks returned to the scene after a six-year absence to present his new album, Fit, the second instalment of a trilogy: Ngëm (faith), Fit (courage), and Jom (honour) currently being prepared. A total of 23 tracks that call on individuals to “dare to look at yourself in a mirror to see your faults and move forward”. Apart from human values, Duggy Tee sings of his new found strength: "the king is back" is the title of the album’s second track. Fit is a composite album, mixing reggae and soul with hardcore rap, clearly influenced by Youssou N'dour, Baaba Maal, Omar Pène and DJ Montana, and all in all, well worth a listen to.
*"Don’t worry about it", in Wolof
Duggy Tee Fit (autoproduit) 2011
Translation: Anne-Marie Harper