It’s been nearly two months since the passing of beloved South African artist Riky Rick. The family of Rikhado ‘Riky Rick’ Makhado shared with the rest of the world the devastation of the loss of his life, with messages of heartwarming condolences pouring in since his untimely passing on 23 February 2022. Riky Rick was one of the foremost active performers within the South African music industry, cruising through genres with great ease.
While he was predominantly a hip hop artist – a rapper at heart, Riky Rick is one of the earliest acts to embrace amapiano and other hip hop subgenres meaningfully. This, in turn, allowed him to collaborate with a plethora of artists within the hip hop community as well as the broader South African music industry landscape. Despite having been in the game for a decade and some change, Riky had only released one official studio album, 2015’s Family Values. However, he had a wide and deep catalog consisting mostly of collaborations, mixtapes and EPs, spawning numerous chart-topping and award-winning singles.
On the eve of CottonFest 2022, and in an effort to continually celebrate his life and shine a light on his brilliant work, we have whittled down 15 of his best performances, whether solo or collaborations, whether album or mixtape and whether released or unreleased. These are 15 of Riky Rick’s best tracks:
A practice Riky Rick did almost as fervently as rapping was producing and beat-making. Even though he was far more famous and adept at being in front of the mic than at being behind the boards, it makes for a good story that one of his biggest hits is a song which he produced himself and went on to write himself. “Boss Zonke” was a staple in clubs back when it came out in 2015, off Riky’s debut studio album, Family Values. It’s also the song that gave him the nick-name that would live throughout his entire career.
Like GanjaBeatz had done before with “Nafukwa”, Co Kayn gave Riky Rick one of the best beats in South African hip hop modern beat making. Riky obliged him by turning it into a mammoth hit! The result was the song that unquestionably established Riky as a superstar. It was released after he had made the move to Mabala Noise after leaving Motif Records. This is the song that won him the Best Hit Single at the 2016 Metro FM Music Awards, rightfully so. In it, he talks about him and his peoples being the best dressers around, an attribute that has become a large part of his legacy – “eating cotton”.
Riky had an undeniably heavy spirit, despite his best attempts to remain light in spirit and manner. “Joy” is one of his many songs where both this darkness and light co-exist. He explores both these sides earnestly, almost to a fault. Rapping, “Papa taught me how to womanize, never taught me about real love before he died, fuck it – over ten years gone, missing my nigga, all I needed in my life was father figures, but I guess you gotta grow on your own, even though the memories will leave you alone…” you can’t help but feel the genuine void that has persisted in his life. It’s therefore understandable that he spent most of his life trying to “keep smiling” as he was “just looking for the joy”.
“Stay Shining” w/ Cassper Nyovest, Professor & Major League DJz
This is one of those catchy feel good songs that embody Riky’s spirit. “It’s gotta be right, it’s gotta be good, it’s gotta be nice, I do this for you!” may as well have been Riky’s epitaph. This is what he tried his hardest to embody. “Stay Shining” finds both Riky and Cassper in a colorful mood, paying homage to the kwaito hits of the yesteryear. They even got Professor on the track too and the result is this musical and timeless bop that will receive spins for eons to come.
“F.R.E.E.” w/ AKA and DJ Tira
A long awaited collaboration between talented artists who hadn’t worked together up to the point of its existence, “F.R.E.E.” is a slow moving banger by AKA that houses one of the most memorable Riky verses. One of the tools in his toolbox was the ability to coin catch-phrases that lived beyond the songs he said them in and the verse he kicks on “F.R.E.E.” created the “uLiky-lick bathi ufile boy…” phrase, that would eventually be sadly relevant only 2 years later.
“Whole Thing” w/ Frank Casino
It’s common practice that when a relatively new rapper who’s on the come up has a hit on their hands, they tap a more established artist in for a verse. “Whole Thing” is most likely one of those scenarios and while the song itself might have been successful regardless, Riky does throw Frank Casino an alley-oop by giving him a verse on his breakout song. Frank does rap the line, “Riky co-sign, got me blueticks, yes now I’m verified…”. With his verse, Riky talks some audacious rap shit, asserting his star while in essence also saying he doesn’t want to die without living out his full potential.
“Summer Time” w/ Da L.E.S.
Out of all the numerous collabs Riky has been part of, “Summer Time” with Da L.E.S. stands head and shoulders above, largely due to the incredible chemistry the two emcees proved to have. Perhaps it’s their penchant for being fresh and clad in the finest linen, but whatever it is, it translated into the music because they completely body the song. The whole song feels like summer, true to both L.E.S. and Riky’s love affair with the season, as they had released a joint mixtape called Last Summer in 2011. L.E.S. also fondly referred to Riky as Summer.
It’s no secret that Tupac was one of Riky’s role models. On “Thug Life” he runs with the tenet of hip hop that Tupac coined and embodied. He gets on his fly shit, flexing, while also maintaining a level head in knowing that it’s not all sweet. Nonetheless, he fully embraces the thug life notion of living it up despite and in spite of whatever negativity that may exist, cheekily rapping, “I grew the beard, now I feel Suge!” referencing Suge Knight – the once rap mogul who ran Death Row Records and famously signed Tupac during his hardcore villain era.
“Vapors” w/ Nasty C & Tshego
Ricky kept up with the young talent as much as he did with the veterans and mainstays. On “Vapors”, he and Nasty get in their introspective bags as they speak about the strained relationships between them and some of the people closest to them. Nasty talks to his pops and Ricky touches on being a little estranged with mother, before moving on to the survivor’s guilt of making it in the game while there are other talented cats struggling. He also soberly and honestly speaks about how hard it is in the game that offers paradise but only gives hell.
“Nafukwa (Fok Julle Naaiers)”
Now this was a monster! This is the song that properly broke Riky into the mainstream. It may have still been niche and not his biggest hit, however it served as the springboard for his star power and forecasted things to come when it came to Riky the superstar. It’s also one of GanjaBeatz’ best beats. The music video was also a watershed moment for the game – renowned writer Ts’eliso Monaheng delves deeply about the music video in this piece.
“Gone Pt. 3”
The death of his cousin Fuzzy is something that haunted Riky for a large part of his adult life. It made him aware of the fragility of life and it made him incredibly self aware as well. On “Gone Pt. 3” he looks back on the loved ones he’s lost, which in turn makes him appreciate the ones that are still with him. He shares the dreams that they all have and ends the song with heartfelt shoutouts and well wishes to everyone who contributed to his life in any way. His family, his friends, his colleagues and everyone in between. It’s a beautiful soulful soundscape that illustrates the gratitude that Riky had in his heart.
Riky had a delicate way of handling tough subjects such as grief, pain, loneliness and suffering. He was brutally honest in his music, but it never felt that he shared so much out of a need for pity. Instead, there was a genuine attempt at seeking catharsis through the music he was making by pouring his heart out regarding even the darkest parts of his soul. In this song, he talks about longing for his father’s presence and engagement while he was alive, as well as longing and missing his presence after he died. He also reveals his shortcomings as a result of both these longings, as well as mentioning what he himself has lost.
This is one of Riky’s unreleased songs that he performed on the also departed DJ Dimplez show, #RiseOf. It’s a soulful groove that finds Riky once again introspective, talking about his family and friends. He questions the loyalty of those around him and rightly points out that there’s family members that he also neglected and wasn’t able to help out through their own depression. He however thanks all those who are still there with him, lifting him up and he resolves to do better by them.
“Rhymes and Reason: Quarantine Freestyle”
Riky’s uncanny ability to be impressively vulnerable while being insightful is at full display in this freestyle. Delivering it on fellow emcee Reason’s Slikour Onlife show, Rhymes and Reason in 2020 when lockdown began, it goes without saying that he spits what is arguably his best rap verse. Perhaps wanting to show Reason that he can also hang with the rappity-rap rappers, he does not miss a beat as he flows effortlessly on the classic boom bap beat.
“HOME” w/ Mas Music
This is a song whose lyrics have unfortunately proved to be prescient. An incredibly sad and emotional song where Riky contends with the pressures of being an artist going through an existential crisis. Reconciling himself with the fact that all that he is and all that he does is unfortunately not just for him and is instead also for all his loved ones, who look to him for their survival. In the end, given his own personal demons, it just gets too much and he decides to just go home.
Honorable mentions: “Gone”, “Sondela” w/ Zano, “Fuseg” w/ Cassper Nyovest & Anatii, “Amantombazane”, “I Need Money”, “Le Mpitse” w/ Cassper Nyovest, “Pick You Up” w/ A-Reece, “Buy It Out”, “You and I” w/ Mlindo The Vocalist, “Mthande” w/ Mas Musiq ShaSha, Kabza Da Small & DJ Maphorisa.