The death of basketball legend Kobe Bryant was felt as far away as Zimbabwe, where fans mourned his passing along with billions of others across the world. The Black Mamba, as he nicknamed himself, 41-at the time of his demise – was among nine people killed Sunday when a helicopter crashed into a hillside in Calabasas, California. His daughter Gigi, 13, also died in the crash. Tragedy!
Within hours of his death, Mamba’s death became one of the most-searched topics and trending on Twitter, where he had over 15 million followers worldwide.
A true global superstar, a beloved, at times a frustrating yet greatest basketball player of all time who mesmerised the world for his 20 legendary years as a Los Angels Laker, the world is to this day still processing its messy feelings about Kobe’s life and death, even though most of us have lived through the sudden deaths of Oliver Mtukudzi, Mac Miller, Biggie, Tupac, Aaliyah, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Prince, Avicii, Chester Bennington, Paul Walker and other celebrities that had an impact on us.
But, one iconic person, percase, who was struck the most about Kobe’s death – besides his immediate family of course – is Zimbabwean sensational gospel rapper, Mudiwa Hood, who wasted no time to tweet that he had loved to meet Mamba in person because growing up people used to tell him that they were lookalikes, and he even has a picture to prove it, or say pictures. Sigh!
Wud have loved to have met you in person champ, grew up being told we look alike… RIP King😥… You left a huge mark on this earth! pic.twitter.com/9GMvMTWP1C
— Mudiwa Hood Snr🐐 (@MudiwaHood) January 26, 2020
Although some salty or really pissed sosho-media users were quick to check the rapper for his ill-advised decision to package heartfelt sincerity and his barefaced quest for somewhat unwarranted attention, it was only a matter of hours until the #MudiwaHoodChallenge hashtag took over the interwebs with so many users posting their pictures and those of the high-profile individuals who they claim to be their lookalikes.
As is the pattern in their usual rap petty fights, another hip-hop Stunner seized the opportunity to taunt his long-time nemesis in a Facebook post, casting a huge shadow to Mudiwa’s lookalike claim, before he goes on to take part in the challenge. The irony of celebrity life.
“Mainzi makafanana nhai ? Ah ndasarenda newe ini,”(loosely translated, “You were told you lookalike? I can’t with you,”).
Imprudent as it was, the challenge went insanely viral across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, and I hate so much to say this, but we gotta take our hats off and give some respect to Mudiwa for harvesting clout off Kobe’s death. In fact, with his latest commiserative stunt of Mamba, I have chosen to term him a Clout Machine for he has proven time and again that he has mastered the art of drawing people’s hype and attention, sensitively or insensitively, consciously or accidentally.
Now, to my unversed companions who are curious and too old to grasp the use of the term clout in relations to its use in pop culture or say in relation to Mudiwa’s case, let me attempt to give some background even though I must admit the meaning of the word is quite porous.
The word clout is everywhere. Over 1.8 million Instagram posts have been tagged #clout. On TikTok, a video-sharing social networking service, videos tagged #clout have been viewed more than 1.5 billion times. Other popular tags include #cloutchaser, a derogatory term for someone who wants clout too badly, and #cloutcheck, a tag that precedes a boast about owning something expensive or knowing somebody famous. The word has even transcended beyond the digital space. There is now a whole category of self-help books that are dedicated to acquiring and wielding clout; i.e. Clout: The Art and Science of Influential Web Content and Clout: Finding and Using Power at Work and Clout: Discover and Unleash Your God-Given Influence.
In hip-hop, there are at least dozens notable clout anthems released, although the songs flip and flop on what clout is and what it’s good for. Rap couple Cardi B and Offset in their 2019 joint single “Clout,” — the chorus of which is “They do anything for clout,” repeated seven times — put an elder scold’s emphasis on clout-chasing “blogs,” as well as “the IG disease” and “weirdo[s]” who “talk crazy on tweets.” In a different vein, Ty Dolla $ign’s 2018 “Clout” is about bonking, so is Lil Uzi Vert’s 2017 “Clout” jam. However, Young Thug’s “Gain Clout” is very distinctly about murdering people, while Denzel Curry’s “Clout Cobain,” is about crying. It’s some level of semantic labyrinthine, right?
So, what is clout then and what is that it is not, therefore?
Clout, as it is today, wasn’t always called clout. Its origin is amorphous, and there isn’t a clear unifying theory. It’s a debate that will rage humanity until the sun envelops itself in darkness after burning through all its hydrogen, or at least until cool-headed-linguistics finds a better word.
I asked a friend for a definition and he offered that it is “usually short-term hype, attention and fame“. But, if were are to revert back to archaic, boring-ass English, clout once meant “a lump of something” or “a patch of cloth” used to mend a hole. Later, it was more like rag—used to refer to handkerchiefs or early sanitary napkins, but the 14th Century saw the word taking a different meaning, as it then meant some kind of punch or blow or beating.
It wasn’t until the middle of the 20th century that it came to refer to political influence, particularly in the US. In a 1973 column “What Clout Is and Isn’t”, a Chicago Daily News political reporter Mike Royko used it to refer to political influence as exercised through patronage, fixing, money and favours while criticising murky dealings in local government. In the piece, he gave examples of the word in use including, “Nah, I don’t need a building permit—I got clout in City Hall” and “My tax bill this year is $1.50… I got clout in the assessor’s office.”
Summing things up, he asked,
“Clout is used to circumvent the law, not to enforce it,” Royko wrote. “It is used to bend rules, not follow them.”
Note that Royko defined clout as influence being used for nefarious purposes.
With hip-hop emerging on the scene, the word was later used by Chicago drill rappers in the 1990s, often in reference to the particular political climate of their Chi-raq home city. In the past decade, it’s shown up in all kinds of rap music and in the tangential world of online menswear discussions, championed by the Complex blog Four Pins and its semi-anonymous Twitter account.
Three years ago, Garage.vice.com labelled 2017 a “Year of Clout”, defining the word as a type of “flippant, nerdy one-upmanship,” expressed best in “memes, tweets, and Instagram captions.” The article put an emphasis on clout goggles, the much-hyped remakes of Kurt Cobain’s famous white sunglasses, worn by Wiz Khalifa, Lil Yachty, and then resurrected by designer Christian Roth in 2017. The glasses eventually made their way to Acne Studios and Urban Outfitters, and onto the face of every buzzy young rapper.
Now multiple branding and marketing agencies have taken the word clout as part of their name. The US-based production studio Pomp & Clout chose the name because of the “arrogance and swagger it suggested,” with the Creative director Aaron Vinton saying the name was chosen during a free-association doodling exercise, and that it predated the company’s involvement in rap videos by a decade. Ryan Staake, the owner, said the traditional meaning to them was “power and influence“, but in modern times it has evolved into ‘digital cultural currency’.
The question that begs thus becomes how did a word once reserved for union bosses get co-opted by anybody with a viral tweet?
A few years ago, an app called Klout was launched whose whole thing was measuring one’s social media influence by aggregating data like faves and RTs. Tech journalists treated Klout as a joke while Silicon Valley in its true fashion pushed Klout like something that actually mattered. According to CrunchBase, by the time the company was acquired in 2014; it was worth $200 million. In 2012, a BuzzFeed piece traced the origins of #YungKloutGang, a scattering of online cool kids who took their Klout rating seriously, but like, not seriously.
Apparently, the Klout app was its own inside joke, but it was on Twitter and Instagram that clout assumed a most specific definition. Here, it often literally means tweet stunts or retweets which can result in likes, new followers and new trends. Because most users thrive on it, all sorts of things can be done “just for clout” in the eyes of a doubting audience. This includes and is not limited to photoshopping your picture with a celebrity, say you look-alike a certain high-profiled person (ding dong), joking about self-harm, purporting to understand the term queer-baiting, pretending to be “poor,” claiming that getting a tattoo doesn’t hurt very much, attending a funeral, and eating sushi. There is always a ready audience for such.
Thus, an overview of what clout is in the digital spaces is it is like a millennial version of popularity + notoriety. It’s like being popular and cool, all at once. It is just another colloquialism for influence. This can manifest in a few different ways: money, followers, actual fame, some combination of all of the above. And because this is a deservedly cynical generation that deplores self-seriousness and obscures anything that might even begin to resemble sincerity behind a thin veil of sarcasm, rarely is clout used in total earnestness. It is like middle-sarcastic and is best deployed that way.
So, where does Mudiwa Hood’s conduct and this special pop-culture commodity called clout tally that he deserves the sole Clout Machine crown?
In order to set fitting precedence for this conversation, it must be dyed in the wool that Mudiwa claims to be a preacher who happens to rap. He is the mic checker who has been accused of having similar rap and timbre patterns with Stunner. To the Christian community, he is the euphuistic young man with First Class degrees in Economics who sings the gospel of prosperity and does not feel any type of way about it. When his hit “Ndaita Mari” floated down from the heavens several years ago and stayed on local charts for over sixty weeks, there was a palpable cultural shift in the urban music landscape. The song culled the feelgood elements of new-age Pentecostal church music that most fellas would bog to – the vibe, God, money and blessings.
Pause that! His music career since then has been shaped by the conflict that the majority of Christian rappers face today…the quest to remain relevant as a rap artist, shrug off competition and pushing the Christian community’s efforts to become more culturally progressive, of course for a lack of a deft-ier explanation. Thanks to his blue-sky thinking and quirky manoeuvring on the digital spaces, the rapper has mastered the art of staying relevant and creating his own clout (or stealing other people’s), even if his musical catalogue does so little to that effect.
Since 2015, Mudiwa and Stunner have engaged in a lowkey rivalry over who makes better music, who has a better taste of fashion and who has a fat bank account as well as who rides flashy whips among many other petty show-off stunts. Both artists have however adopted a professional stance saying it is all music, not war, although they continue to take swipes at each other occasionally, the #Mudiwahoodchallenge exchange being the recent case. As Stunner has been in the game for a minute and is quite seasoned, Mudiwa’s actions towards the Godo hitmaker actions have been interpreted as a streak of clout-chasing stunts that “Young Lils” rappers pull on older OG’s, like Lil Pump saying “F*ck J. Cole“.
Besides his never-ending feud with Stunner, Mudiwa is also a gift that keeps on giving and a rapper who never misses an opportunity to announce his presence. He proved that at the 2016 Style Oracle Fashion Awards (SOFA) when he volunteered to receive the Most Stylish Video award on behalf of Jah Prayzah. After indications that the Watora Mari hitmaker was not around and there was no representative to take the award, Mudiwa seeing an easy way to glean some clout for himself, opted to represent his fellow artiste. But his good gesture backfired as he became the highlight of the ceremony for negative reasons after he tragically broke the gong on stage. It was one of those clout stunts that made him the sole holder of one of the most embarrassing celeb moments in awards history, according to Zimbuzz.
As it appeared, that was not Mudiwa’s only induction into the Hall of Shame, especially the one associated with standing in for fellow musicians at award ceremonies without consultation with the award winners. Earlier that year, he collected Trevor Dongo’s Best RnB Zimbabwe Music Award accolade on his behalf. The gesture sparked controversy after Trevor’s camp publicly lambasted Mudiwa for rushing to take the award without their grace when they had a representative for that role. He became a punching bag for it on social media, even though I’d wager that a significant number of people clowning him could have done the same if we’d put them in Mudiwa’s shoes.
Anyway, back to some good stunts that wielded good clout, suppose clout is a good thing. In October 2019, the rapper pulled another one when he officially changed his name from his government name Mudiwa Ian Mtandwa to Mudiwa Hood. He said the change was necessitated by the need to use his real surname after discovering that “Mtandwa” was not his family name. In his explanation, Mudiwa Hood was not just a stage moniker and it was an “insult” for anyone to claim that because his great grandfather was actually called Mr Hood.
Now, fast forward to 2020… and the Kobe thing happened. Guess who opened a digital portal for Twimbos to create lasting memories of themselves, at the same time diverting their attention from processing the passing of an all-time NBA legend? Well… you already know who it is. Mr Mudiwa Hood did that. While I’ll leave it to you, dear reader, to debate how you want to word it, I’m sure whatever this was, it is in the vicinity of attention-seeking and clout-chasing. But one would ask, do they somehow lookalike anyway? Kindof! I mean the outrageous and savagery netizens could be salty and dismissing but I’m sure that none of them could throw in a name of a contender who can really lay a claim to looking close to Mamba than Mudiwa, if their lives depend on it. So, whether he’s chasing clout or not, just let the boy have his moonwalk moment.