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30 Jan

ARTICLE: Does South African Hip Hop Lack Identity?

“Top 5, top 5 my nigger, you know I body all these rappers, jokes aside my nigger” – Shane Eagle

As a rap fan I can remember distinctly that the first South African rap song I recognised as being hip hop was Proverb’s ‘I have a dream’ off his debut album “The Book of Proverb” where he describes his wishes for the local hip hop scene. Unfortunately, none of them came to fruition but here we are at a time where hip-hop seems to be running the airwaves. Local, young, upbeat hip-hop.

Many could argue the point of what exactly hip-hop is (and that’s a topic for another write up) but locally South Africa has gone from the days of Amu and Proverb getting heavy rotation on the airwaves, through to the current state of variety, with local hip-hop ranging from OKMalumKoolKat’s mix with Gqom, to AKA on auto-tune even at live shows, not forgetting Sjava with what Ambitious Entertainment call ‘African Trap Music’ or ATM. In short there’s a lot we call hip-hop locally it’s almost as diverse as the languages found within our boarders. So why don’t we try to see if we can group the different since the idea of identity is about belonging, as well as trying to find the poster child for the different sub-genres.

Commercial Hip-Hop

Money, sunglasses indoors, and big name brand alcohol that no one drinks throughout the whole video. This is the music you hear all over the radio. The major artists. AKA, Anatii, Cassper Nyovest, Nasty C…they don’t have a major ‘niche’ following as such. They just need to hop on a track and say whatever but because of the brand they have built around the name, they basically become a major billboard for anything they’re associated with…(Yes…I know ‘they have the Midas touch’). Understand that this is not bad, as it has put hip-hop on the map for South Africans, but how many people can relate? Mind you, we not making any definite distinctions about this type of music…it’s laid a major footprint for hip-hop locally, but the irony is how one of the above mentioned rappers took at a shot at rappers sounding American…while he said this in twanged, auto-tuned English.

Hood Rap

No, this has nothing to do with clothing, this is merely those who rep their hood, kas’ lami. People who will do anything to shout out whenever they’re from. This would be people like Kwesta, OKMalumkoolkat, definitely YoungstaCPT. Whoever you pick to fit into this category, you most likely know where they are from. They tell you stories from where they grew up, they’re people repping their home ground. The pros here are that you cannot tell ‘em how to rap, they are telling their stories, which essentially is what Hip-Hop is about. One example off the top of my head is how I was once in UMlazi, Durban, home of OKMalumKoolKat, when I bumped ‘Mlazi Milano’, the guys I was with lost their minds cause they knew of all he places he mentioned…let’s just say, there was no other song played for about 3 days after. The point is, most of the time the artist does blur the lines and makes a pop song to reach a wider audience, but they forever home grown.

Battle Rap

I don’t think there’s a reason to explain this type. Bars, Punch lines, Yo Momma…nothing is off limits. Some won’t even know where to find such rap on the local scene. To those who remain unaware, stay watching this scene something might be posted for you. Rap veterens like Cerebro, Pava Gunz, Funguz, Snazz D, Gin-I-Grindith…many more could enter this list. ‘Word play’ being the word of the day. Going in depth with making you look bad…8 Mile without the beat, DJs and no white guy with the ridiculously sad back story (unless you’re Jake Baker). Many subscribe to this type of rap, but few actually know how to access it. Especially locally. Tumi(Stogie T) is 1 W and 3 L’s if you include his international battles…incase you wanted to know.

Look there’s a lot more, and the nice thing is that all rappers spill over into other categories as we have a very diverse industry. This is 3? You got any you wanna add? Hit us up in the comments.

Written By: Asanda Africander

  • Zinhle Nkwanyana

    If I new as much about rap as I did in my day, I’d probably have sumthing to add, but you’ve taken me down memory lane to when I was once known as D-Factor (name came up in a maths class), and taught me more. Never really new that there was such a difference.
    Great write up kid.
    Looking forward to more.

    January 31, 2018 at 2:08 pm
  • Nozipho

    Asanda Africander’s article is exceptionally good. There is a lot I didn’t know thanks for the insight boy

    January 31, 2018 at 10:05 pm