KINSHASA - In the Democratic Republic of Congo, rappers are getting involved in politics — including one well-known rap artist who hopes to fix the country's problems by running for a seat in parliament.
Lexxus Legal leads a group that gathers once a month in Kinshasa, calling for rap artists to get involved in helping fix the country's problems.
He encourages the musicians to run for office, either on the national level or in their local communities.
For 20 years, Lexxus Legal has built a career with his socially-conscious music, commenting on youth unemployment, corruption and other social ills. Now, he is running for a seat in the national parliament.
He says he wants his fans to know that he is not starting a new career, he is simply doing what comes naturally to him. He has always been political, he says, as his music shows.
Politics and music are intertwined in the DRC, with local musicians often making a living by supporting politicians. Jidogo Ekopo is one of the lead singers for the ruling party's music troupe.
"We are not musicians. We are not artists. We are politicians," Ekopo tells a group at the ruling party's office grounds. Ekopo says he supports the vision of President Joseph Kabila, who announced last month that he will step down after 17 years and has appointed Emmanuel Shadary as his successor.
"Clap for Shadary, clap for Shadary!" Ekopo rallies the group.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the ruling party is seen as stifling criticism. Six opposition candidates eyeing the presidency have been banned from running in the December polls. Bob Elvis, another popular rap artist, released a song lambasting such corruption of the political class.
The rapper's family told VOA that two weeks ago, Bob Elvis was picked up by state security forces and detained for days. VOA reached to him upon his release, but he is currently in hiding, though he reaches out to his fans on Facebook.
Such examples are why some musicians decide to play it safe.
Rihanna Prescott and her musical friends recently formed a band called Star Music. She says politics is too dirty, and avoids talking about it in her music.
Music should be fun, she says, and that is why they do it.
But for Lexxus Legal and other rappers in DRC, music and politics cannot be separated.
This reporting was supported by the International Women’s Media Foundation through the African Great Lakes Reporting Initiative.