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SA hip - hop still moving millions

Image: Moeletsi Mabe

Brian Rose: "You are always encouraging people to use their own language when they make their own hip-hop… why were you such a proponent of people using their own language?"

Afrika Bambaataa: "Because many was trying to all rap American style and using the English language… so by telling them to rap in their own language and speak about their own issues, we understood that it will come out better. " - London Real Interview, 2016.

The first decade of the the 21st century dawned with a hallowing hailstorm of SA hip - hop , the culture and the genre made its presence felt and transformed South African popular culture in its entirety.

SA hip - hop was unapologetic of its existence, finding its own voice and identity through motswako, kasi rap, spaza, and later through skhanda.

The year 2012 saw the re-rise of women rappers in SA hip - hop , a baton that moved from rappers Yo Girls to Goddessa was now in the hands of meticulous MCs such as Ms. Nthabi, and Kany Mavi.

In a conversation with the ever dexterous Xhosa rapper Kanyi Mavi, she says: “There have always been women in SA hip - hop . I’m talking from way back in the ’80s when hip - hop first got to this country. The crew Yo Girls from Cape Town had eight members. The rate at which rappers are now showing up has definitely increased and that’s changing the dynamics of the industry for the better.

Male rappers have been the norm in the past, but a norm is not a measure of excellence or dopeness. Sex is not the competitive advantage – creativity, skills, passion, drive and talent are some of the attributes all dope MCs bring to the table.

"This idea of 'lack of female spitters' is an outdated way of thinking," Mavi says.

When SA hip - hop was becoming bigger than kwaito and house music in SA, rap/MCeeing became the only element to take the main stage, and the other elements went back into the fringe.

With the departure of most of those who laid the foundation for the SA hip - hop industry came a major rise of a new age of rappers, artists with an acute acumen for business.

These are the kind of artists who have proven that one does not have to choose between fortune and fame in the music industry as the two are kin.

“My journey is blessed. I’ve learnt a lot about myself and the world I live in, thanks to hip - hop . I started performing at open mic sessions around Cape Town, meeting the Cape Town hip - hop scene, sharpening skills and inspiring each other. There have been various challenges of course – mainly around financing projects. However, I have been surrounded by people who believe in me and my vision.”

The question of whether hip - hop is dead or dying is a redundant one, from it’s original meaning the role of the rapper/MC is to “move the crowd”, SA hip - hop is moving millions across the African continent, it has found its own identity and keeps morphing, as any growing thing should.

One would have imagined that with the advancement of technology and easy access to music downloads, album sales would decline tremendously, but never before have SA artists constantly sold as many records as SA rappers have in the past eight years, and never before has corporate and government invested in the value of SA artists as they have SA rappers in this decade.

When Senyaka Kekana was rapping franticly on the first SA hip - hop song, African Rap, in 1986, I don’t believe he imagined how far the hip - hop genre would travel.

SA hip - hop is a force that will influence the whole country for generations to come. We salute Prophets of da City and all the other pioneers and the fallen legends.

RIP to Mischif, Ben Sharpa, ProKid, and Jabba.


Prominent Groups:

Teargas | Die Antwoord | Driemenskap | Last Days Fam

Prominent Solo MCs:

Tumi (Stogie T) | ProVerb | PRO (RIP) | Tuks | JR | Reason | Ms. Nthabi | Khuli Chana | AKA | KO | Cassper Nyovest | Kwesta | Nasty C | Emtee | Okmalumkoolkat | Kid X | Kanyi Mavi | Zakwe | Yugen Blakrok | Ricky Rick | Da Les | iFani | L-Tido | Maggz | Gigi Lamayne | A-Reece | Fifi Cooper | Youngta CPT | Nadia Nakai | Shane Eagle | Rouge | Anatii | Stilo Magolide | Saudi | Moozlie | Aewon Wolf | Sho Majozi

2011 - 2018


  • AKA (Kiernan Jarryd Forbes) releases his debut solo album, Alter Ego, earning him Best Male Artist ,and Best Street Urban Music at the South African Music Awards (SAMAs), along with three Metro FM Music Awards (Metros) in the categories of Best Produced Album, Best Hip Hop, and Best Newcomer. His single Victory Lap, takes the Channel O's Most Gifted Hip-Hop Video. The album becomes the first English SA hip-hop record to be certified Gold.
  • L-Tido (Thato Madonsela) releases his debut album, All or Nothing, with the single, We Rollin,becoming the number 2 most played song in the country according to the country's RAM charts, a first for SA hip-hop.
  • Zakwe (Ntokozo Zakwe) releases his Gold certified debut album, Zakwe, earning him the first Best Lyricist Award at the South African Hip Hop Awards (SAHHAs), and Best Hip-Hop Artist at the Metros.


  • Teargas releases their last album as the group, Num8er Num8er.
  • PRO releases his last album,
  • ProVerbreleases his fourth and last album to date,
  • JR releases his third and last album to date, Kool Forever.
  • Nthabi releases her first and only full-length album, Welcome To Me.
  • Tuks releases his fourth album, Footprints, with the single Bona Fela, as the soundtrack to a hit South African TV drama series called Skeem Saam.
  • Khuli Chana releases his Gold certified sophomore, Lost In Time, dominating the SAMAs by bagging Best Album of The Year, Best Rap Album, and Male Artist of The Year, a first time domination for SA hip-hop. The video to the single, Sleepwaker, wins a SAMA in 2014.
  • Khanyi Mavi releases her debut album, Iintombi-zifikile.
  • Last Days Fam scoops the first SABC Crown Gospel Award for Best hip-hop Group.


  • Cashtime Life, an entertainment company by KO, MaE, and Thabiso Kanti is founded.
  • Cassper Nyovest (Refiloe Phoolo) releases his debut single, Gusheshe, which dominated the SAHHAs with four wins, including Song of the Year, Best Collaboration, Video of the Year, and Best Freshman.
  • Last Days Fam becomes the first gospel rap group to be nominated for Best Rap Albumat the SAMAs.
  • Yugen Blakrok releases her debut album, Return of the Astro-Goth.


  • Mischif (Hechichamunorwa Kwenda) passes on. May his soul rest in peace.
  • KO releases his Platinum certified debut solo album, Skhanda Republic, scooping Best Rap Album at the SAMAs. His biggest single from the album, Caracara featuring Kid X, became the first South African music video to surpass 1 million views on YouTube, and taking Best Collaboration at the SAMAs.
  • Khuli Chana partners with KFC on a Streetwise commercial.
  • AKA releases his Platinum certified sophomore, Levels, dominating the SAHHAs with four wins including Best Male, Video of the Year for Congratulate, and Best Collaboration for Run Jozi. He also bagged a Channel O’s for Most Gifted Hip Hop, two African Muzik Magazine Awards (Best Male Southern Africa, and Best Collaboration), an MTV Africa Music Awards for Best Collaboration, and a SAMA for Best Male Artist. A first time for an SA hip-hop English record to sell Platinum.
  • Cassper Nyovest releases his Platinum certified debut album, Tsholofelo, achieving a number of firsts, including five Metros for Best Hip-Hop, Best Male, Best Hit Single, Song of the Year, and Listener’s Choice; three Chanel O’s Most Gifted Male, Most Gifted Southern Artist, Most Gifted Video of the Year; three SAHHAs for Album of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Digital Sales; a SAMA for Best Newcomer; and an MTV Africa Music Award for Best Hip-Hop.
  • Gigi Lamayne (Genesis Manney) releases her debut album, Colour of Reign, winning her Best Female at the SAHHAs, adding to her 2013 win of the same award.


  • iFani releases his second and last album to date, I Believes in Me (2nd Quadrant), achieving Gold status on the same day of its release, a first for SA hip-hop.
  • Khuli Chana announces Aston Marten endorsement, and is later named the ambassador for Absolut South Africa.
  • Cassper Nyovest signs a multimillion deal with MTN, only to later make history by being the first SA hip-hop act to fill up the Ticketpro Dome in Johannesburg, coupled with the release of his Platinum certified sophomore, Refiloe. With the endorsement, album, and Dome feat, he scoops six SAHHAs including Album of the Year, Hustler of the Year, Most Valuable, Best Male, Best Video, and Milestone; he also walked away with Best Live Act at the MTV Africa Music Awards, and Best Video at WatsUp TV Africa Music Video Awards.
  • Emtee releases his Platinum certified debut album, Avery, earning him Song of the Year at the SAHAs, and 4 Metros, including Best Hip-Hop Album, Listener’s Choice, and Best Music Video and Best Remix for the single Roll-up, 2 SAMAs, Best Rap Album, and Amstel Record of the Year.
  • Ricky Rick (Rikhado Makhado) releases his Platinum certified debut album, Family Values.
  • Da Les becomes the ambassador for Ciroc with an announcement of him being appointed as a member of the ‘Cîroc Circle’. He partners with back-pack US brand Sprayground, nails another ambassadorship with Vodacom to release new single A.I.D, and releases his third album, North God.
  • Fifi Cooper (Refilwe Moeketsi) releases her debut album, 20Fifi, earning her 3 Metros, Best Newcomer, Best Produced Album, and Best Female album.
  • Aewon Wolf (Arnold Phillips) signs an endorsement with Cell C.


  • Tuks releases his fifth and last album to date, Botshe Botshe.
  • AKA release the single, Touch My Blood, it becomes the first SA hip-hop song to be certified Triple Platinum. He also signs a multimillion deal with Cruz Vodka as the face of the brand.
  • Cassper Nyovest makes history yet again by being the fist SA rapper to be featured on the legendary Sway In The Morning, and later with the event Fill Up Orlando Stadium at Orlando Stadium, Soweto in Johannesburg. The event reached the stadium’s capacity with 40,000 people in attendance.
  • Kwesta (Senzo Mfunzo Vilakazi) releases his third album, DaKar II, becoming the first South African album to be certified 7x Platinum, selling over 210 000 units. The album also bagged him 4 SAMAs, including best male artist, and best rap album, SAMPRA Highest Airplay of the Year and SAMRO Highest Airplay of the Year for Ngudu, the single is also certified 5x Platinum.
  • Nasty C (Nsikayesizwe Ngcobo) releases his debut album, Bad Hair, earning him 4 Metros, including Best New Artist, Best Male, Best Hip-Hop, Song of the Year, and nominations forBET Award for Best International Act: Africa, and MTV Europe Music Awards.
  • Okmalumkoolkat (Smiso Zwane) releases his Gold certified debut album, Mlazi Milano.
  • Ricky Rick partners with vodka brand, Russian Bear in making limited Russian Beer × Riky Rickliquor drinks.
  • Stilo Magolide (Michael Chirwa) signs endorsement deal with VANS.
  • Gigi Lamayn becomes brand Ambassador for Barcadi.
  • A-Reece (Lehlogonolo Mataboge) releases his debut album, Paradise, earning his Best Lyricist and the SAHHAs.
  • Nadia Nakai releases her first EP,
  • Anatii (Anathi Bhongo Mnyango) releases his debut album Artiifact, with the single, The Saga ft. AKA, earning him Best Video and Best Collaboration at the SAMAs.


  • Khuli Chana bags 1 Gold and 2 Sliver awards at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity in France for his video, One Source, a first multiple win for SA hip-hop.
  • AKA signs an endorsement deal with Reebok Classics, the ambassadorship deal is the first of its kind in Africa between the sports brand and an artist.
  • Cassper Nyovest signs a major deal with the vodka brand Ciroc, and later takes his Fill Up concert to another level with Fill Up FNB Stadium.
  • Nasty C partners with Sportscene for an exclusive Nasty C x Redbat range, and is also name the brand ambassador for Puma.
  • Ricky Rick is named the face of Vaselinein South Africa.
  • Gigi Lamayn is announced brand Ambassador for Puma.
  • Shane Eagle (Shane Patrick Hughes) releases his debut album, Yellow, earning him Best Newcomer at the SAHHAs and Best Hip Hop Album at the SAMAs.
  • Rouge (Deko Barbara-Jessica Wedi) becomes brand ambasodar for clothing brand Levis, and also signs as endorsement deal with SAB new brand, Flying Fish. She later releases her debut album accompanied by a short film, The New Era Sessions, earning her Best Micro Budget Film Award at the South African Film and Television Awards, Best Southern Africa PR campaign and Best Corporate Image at the African SABRE Awards, Best Female Artist at the SAHHAs, and Best Video for Arumtumtum at the SAMAs.
  • Anatii is named Young Independent Influencer of the Year and GQ South Africa Best Dressed Men 2017, he also bags a Best Collaboration for 10 Fingers with AKA at the SAHHAs.
  • Stilo Magolide releases his debut album, Tropicana Jiiig,
  • Aewon Wolf releases his debut album, Mural, and bags the Ubuntu ActivismAward at the SAHHAs.
  • Saudi releases his debut album, D.R.U.G.S Inc.


  • Ben Sharper (Kgotso Semela), PRO (Linda Mkhize), and HHP (Jabulani Tsambo) pass on. May their souls rest in peace.
  • AKA releases his third album, Touch My Blood, becoming his second Platinum certified album.
  • Kwesta signs endorsement deals with Heineken, Telkom, and local clothing brand, Urban Art.
  • Nasty C, releases his sophomore, Strings and Bling, and signs endorsement deal with Mercedes Benz.
  • Kid X (Senzo Vilakazi) releases his debut album, Thank Da King.
  • Gigi Lamayne lands ambassadorship with Avon.
  • A-Reece scores a deal with betting company BET.co.za.
  • Fifi Cooper is unveiled as an ambassador for Chuck Taylor All-Stars – the famous Converse All Stars – a subsidiary of Nike Inc.
  • Nadia Nakai collaborates with Sports Scene on a fashion line, Redbat by Nadia Nakai.
  • Shane Eagle partners with international fashion brand, Ellesse, to release his own Yellow
  • Anatii is makes into the Forbes Africa 2018 30 under 30 Creatives list, and bags a deal with the cognac brand Courvoisier.
  • Moozlie (Nomuzi Mabena) releases her debut album, earning her Best Female at the SAHHAs.
  • Yugen Blockrok, releases her sophomore, Anima Mysterium, and is also featured on the Black Panther movie soundtrack along with fellow SA rapper
  • Sho Majozi (Maya Christinah Xichavo Wegerif), releases her debut album, Limpopo Champions League, and bags brand ambassadorship with Trace Mobile.


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