'He was a vanguard of the Motswako movement'

Jabulani Tsambo aka HHP./Veli Nhlapo
Jabulani Tsambo aka HHP./Veli Nhlapo

The announcement of the passing on of Hip Hop Pantsula yesterday launched many South Africans, particularly local connoisseurs of hip-hop, into mourning, especially as it came so soon after the death of another rapper, Linda "Pro" Mkhize.

Born Jabulani Tsambo in Mahikeng 38 years ago, the man also known as Jabba, alongside the likes of Tuks Senganga and Khuli Chana, was at the forefront of those who ushered the Motswako movement in the 1990s and made it part of the South Africa's musical landscape.

Not only did these MCs catapult the genre, which originated in the North West, into the mainstream, they also dragged along with them a legion of youths who had little representation in their mother tongue, Setswana in particular.

His popularity became a breakthrough of sorts though, carried by a genre which South Africans had largely been apathetic to, choosing to leave it to the Americans.

From his modest roots with the group Verbal Assassins, working with Tebogo Rameetse, Jabba and the group managed to snag legendary singer and producer Sello "Chicco" Twala, who produced Party, their debut album in 1997.

Following the break-up of the group shortly thereafter, he had his next album, Introduction, produced by singer and producer Isaac Mthethwa.

HHP continued to work steadily, dropping O Mang in 2004, Acceptance Speech in 2007 and Dumela in 2009.

As it is par for the course in a career as distinguished as his was, HHP had worked alongside the likes of Danny K, Proverb, Mo Molemi and American R&B singer Ameeri. At the time of his death, it was said he was putting the finishing touches to his next studio album.

His journey, which ended far too soon, saw him carve a real legacy for himself and his family.

HHP and his ilk made Setswana cool. Reeling off hits such as BOSSO, Tswaka and Go Diragalang, the MC was an inspiration and motivated those who never uttered two Setswana words to be brave and take a few tentative steps into conjuring up a Bosso ke motho yo a spinnang koloi a sa namela.

There is no doubt that in the upcoming days, glowing articles about the cutting edge achievements he had in his short life, the sublime flow of his delivery, sprinkled with plenty of playfulness, will keep on coming as befits an artist of his stature.

However, as many greats before him, Jabba had been battling the mental illness beast, and had spoken openly of his depression. One would hope that in a country that have been reprimanded once too often for being uncaring towards its artists, HHP knew he was appreciated.

He leaves behind his partner Lerato Sengadi and a son.