Kwanza Unit


Kwanza Unit (KU) was an early Tanzanian hip hop group. Its name means 'First Unit' and it was formed in 1993 by a merger of several groups and solo artists. They started rapping in English, but later used Swahili as well.

Founding members of Kwanza Unit included three of the main hip-hop crews at the time - Villain Gangsters, Raiders Posse, and Tribe-X. According to Rhymson, the founding member of Villain Gangsters, the goal of creating Kwanza Unit was to establish Tanzania as a 'hip hop nation.' Kwanza Unit's plan was to follow in the footsteps of Afrika Bambaataa, the African-American hip-hop innovator who built the universal Zulu Nation. Just as Afrika Bambaataa had done, Kwanza Unit wanted to promote 'Kwanzanian Nation' and ideals.

The group created their own ethnic group they called Kwanzanianz which was supposed to be made up of artists, fans, and anyone else who were supporters of their ideas within and outside of Tanzania.

Kwanza Unit represented a form of hip-hop nationalism. Just as Afrika Bambaataa tried to inspire efforts to respond to racism and class oppression in the United States, Kwanza Unit wanted to become 'heroic warriors resisting oppression'. They placed their emphasis not so much on fighting racism but more on recognizing and resisting working-class oppression.

During its popularity in the 1990s, Kwanza Unit spoke out against class oppression (specifically working-class oppression), instead of focusing their music solely on fighting racism, as was the common trend . Kwanza Unit tried to develop their music without stories of violence, vulgar language, and images of excessive fame, even though these themes are prominent in the rap music from the United States from which they drew their influences. The language they develop in their rap reflects their particular social and ideological position within Tanzania.

Kwanza Unit was able to achieve international status. They performed twice in Nairobi, Kenya and in 1998 they were invited to Nigeria but couldn't make it because of some problems.

Kwanza Unit's self-titled debut album was released in 1994 and second tape, Tropical Techniques, followed the following year. Third album, Kwanzanians was released in 1999, both tape and CD.


TZDar es Salaam, Tanzania
In operation since: 


Kwanza Unit
Profile added by Stanley Gazemba on 14 Oct 2014