You can’t take the ghetto out of me!
“You can take me out of the ghetto, but you can’t take the ghetto out of me!”
Sounds familiar, right?
You wouldn’t be wrong for saying that it does. It is, after all, what the famous South African rapper, KO, says in his hit song “Cara Cara”.
But what we may or may not agree about is what he meant when he said this. Did he perhaps mean that you can take someone out of the ghetto, but you can’t take tsotsi-taal and kasi style out of him? Or did he simply mean that we can even take the person to New York or Paris, but we can never make him forget about his neighbourhood and its people?
I grew up in an age where we constantly had Zola, Arthur Mafokate and Mandoza on TV and on the radio. They were the faces of Kwaito. But even more than that, Mandoza and Zola (especially the Zola in “Yizo Yizo”) represented what was known as being “Ghetto Rough” or being a kasi tough guy.
This meant you were a kasi guy who knew the ways of the ghetto and you survived no matter what difficulty you faced. You were a no-nonsense kind of guy who got respect from all circles of the neighbourhood, but you also knew how to have fun and enjoy yourself with those around you. Seeing all of that, other guys wanted to drink, smoke, hang out and be seen with you. Girls saw you and blushed. They were attracted to you. You were the MAN!
That’s the kind of guy we saw when we grew up. And that was what being ghetto or kasi meant. Back then if you told someone “you can take me out of the ghetto, but you can’t take the ghetto out of me”, it meant that they can put you in fancy hotels and dress you up in suits, but they will never make you forget tsotsi-taal, your kasi friends, and the kasi’s style and the toughness it needs from its men.
The interesting question is: what does it mean now, in 2015, to be ghetto or kasi?
Does it mean wearing leggings or skinnies with Carvelas, Lacoste ankle-boots or even All-Stars?
Does it mean having a weave, a gold-tooth and drinking beer at the local shebeen?
Well, if you ask Masixole, a close friend of mine, he will tell you that he’s not even kasi or ghetto. In fact, he’ll tell you that he wants to move to a different area – a fancy apartment somewhere in the city to be specific. But what he doesn’t want to forget about the kasi when he moves is his family (his mother and two younger sisters), amagwinya (vetkoeke or fat cakes) and umbengo (braai meat).
Personally, I’m not sure if I also want to move away from the kasi, but one thing I do know is that I agree with Masixole about not forgetting my family and kasi food if I do happen to move to the suburbs. I love amagwinya, umbengo, umngqusho (samp and beans) and pretty much every other meal prepared in the kasi. And that is what it would mean if I said to someone that they can never take the ghetto out of me.
#ChatBack: But what does it mean to you?
What does it mean to be a kasi guy or kasi chick?
Is it about the food, the fashion and the tsotsi-taal?
And would you be willing to leave all of that behind and go live in the suburbs, for example?