hip hop papua, pace black family
Personnel of Pace Black Family hip hop group, Dimas Imam Syafanto, or Pace Mas EB, and Kurnianto Degei, pose in a cafe during an interview about hip hop in Nabire in January 2021. Credit: Jubi/Hengky Yeimo

The story of ‘Pace Black Family’, a hip hop Papua group from Nabire


West Papua No. 1 News Portal | Jubi


Nabire, Jubi – People in West Papua called hip hop music “musik bicara-bicara”, which can be loosely translated into conversational music or talks music, because it has spoken words.

In Indonesia rapper Iwa K from Jakarta introduced rap music in the 1990s. Later, the country had Saykoji, Bondan Prakoso, Fade 2 Black, Batik Tribe, 8 Ball, Tuan Tigabelas and Lipooz. The introduction to hip hop or rap arrived in Nabire, Papua province, in the late 1990s to early 2000.



According to an article by Kristianto Galuwo appeared in lokadata.id,  the earliest artists of hip hop Papua included Star East in Timika, founded in 2005, and then later, Peace Melanesia, Antrabes, Black Nation and Black Gangsta.


Now, newer hip hop Papua groups or artists spread in several cities like Waena Finest in Jayapura, DXH Crew, Phapin MC, and many more. Some of them voice their criticism towards inequality, poverty, the presence of the military, and natural resource exploitation. However, researcher Diana Pakasi from University of Indonesia has raised concerns for normalization of sexual violence in some of the lyrics of hip hop music in West Papua.


In Nabire, there was Pace Black Family, founded by Kurnianto Degei (Pace Black), and Dimas Iman Syofanto, or also known as Pace Mas EB.


According to Degei, hiphop in Nabire Regency was initiated by Karmul Satar and Rilex Calan, which were under NH2F. They released a single called Sepi Hati, or Lonely Heart. The single was uploaded on YouTube in April 2013.


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“Econ Conex RC, Juanno, Gilang RC performed that song. After it went viral, other groups emerged,” said Degei, who was born in Beoga District on Oct. 16, 1984.


In Nabire, there were several hiphop communities, he said. NH2F, DC Crew, End Totwn, and Pace Black Family. Newer groups were emerging, too, he said.


Members of NH2F, he said, were: Sven Start, XB (X Bobo), Karmul Star, Kaisar (KHC), AMS (Anak Mulut Sagu). DC Crew were: Bat Boy and Zomby Colony while End Totwn was manned by G Swag. Pace Black Family had Elgant Boys, Fifti One Area, Suanggi Rap HSC and Tuan Tanah Gang.


Pace Black Family said they were “street rappers” that talked about social commentaries and also love.


Their most popular song was called “Denda Adat” or customary fine, performed by Pace Mas EB, Noel, Pace Black, Noris, Febri Stel. On YouTube, the song, uploaded in May 2020,  was viewed 296,000 times as of Feb. 9. It got 3,900 likes and 166 dislikes on Feb. 9. Their channel, Pace Mas EB, had 29,800 subscribers.


“Denda Adat”, he said, was a song about young lovebirds who dated behind their parents back. The girl’s family later demanded the boy’s family to pay a fine as regulated in their customary law.


“In the music video we described the settlement process of the fine,” he said.


Degei said they called themselves Pace Black Family because they were Papuans. Pace is a generic call for male adults in Papua. But their YouTube account used Pace Mas EB, the stage name of one of the personnel. “It’s to show that one of our members is Javanese, so we want to show the diversity of youths residing in Nabire,” he said. “Mas” refers to a generic call of male adults in Javanese.


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He said, even though the name of the group had “black” in it, it did mean one had to be black to join.


Degei said he and Pace Mas went on as rappers even though many people called them useless. “We keep writing lyrics, we train ourselves to edit videos, to shoot images and to manage a YouTube account,” he said.


They worked on a team. When Pace Mas EB performed, Degei would shoot the video, and vice versa. But other than the two of them, they had a team that worked as a video editor, videographer, YouTube manager, lyrics composer, sound mixer, etc.


Dimas or Pace Mas EB said he learned how to shoot and edit videos on his own. Before he could do them, they would hire someone else to do it. He also learned how to mix the compositions himself.


They also collaborated with other groups and cafe businesses to give them a venue although they worked together to set up their own stage, too.


“When we performed we sometimes collaborated with Petra Chaniago, Fifti On Area, Novis Hsc, Noel Suanggi Rap, Febri Stel (Tuan Tanah Gang), Chalen (CJM), Viker Wisdom, Tegas Pace T,” he said to Jubi.


Pace Black Family drew inspiration from Jamaican reggae, R&B, Pacific reggae, but they infused local percussion tifa in their sound. Degei also inserted words from his language, Mee language in the lyrics.


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“Not all of us use Mee language but we use (Indonesian with) Papuan dialect, English, Indonesian. We write lyrics with love theme as well as social and culture and humanity,” he said.


Dimas said besides “Denda Adat”, the group’s other popular compositions were Margareta, Maria, and Mege Mumai.


Once in 2019, they performed in a concert for native Papuans traders, who were mostly female and called “mama-mama”. They said they did not take a lot of money from the concert, they donated some to “those in need”.


“We want to perform abroad, that’s our dream,” Degei said.


Reporter: Hengky Yeimo

Editor : Dominggus A. Mampioper, Evi Mariani

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