At this point, it’s almost an old adage that hip hop is a young man’s sport. While a few anomalies exist, in the form of active rappers in their 40s and 50s who are actually still great and relevant, the median age of rappers and hip hop participants is generally between the ages of 20-somethings to 30-somethings.
As such, it’s not surprising why hip hop as a culture, as a system and as an industry, is populated with egomaniacs whose immaturity and egomania oftentimes renders them delusional. I mean, how else would you explain the temerity of one single artist claiming that South African hip hop is dead because of their brief non-participation in it?
For a few weeks now, there has been reckless talk that South African hip hop is dead. These sentiments, as it seems, are brought about largely by the fact that amapiano has taken over every single avenue that can be taken over – from radio charts to club stages and on social media platforms by way of people’s statuses and posts. Even international strides, of late, are being helmed by amapiano artists.
This amapiano advent has consequently and understandably led to a dearth of hip hop in the spaces it used to dominate but certainly not to its death.
An important fact of life that needs to be reiterated and understood clearly is that everything and everyone has their moment in the sun. Every phenomenon has its 15 seconds of fame but as it happens, some may be disillusioned into thinking that the current reverence of the said thing equals its permanence – or even worse, it means the decimation of every other thing that’s not that “in thing”. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
What’s more interesting to debunk, however, is this utterly shameless myth that South African hip hop is dead because one or two rappers are either not participating at the moment – either at their optimum or at all. It is simply not true and more than anything, it undermines the hard, impassioned work that other hip hop artists have been doing this whole time.
Pride and ego have gone hand in hand with hip hop since time immemorial so, once again, it’s not surprising that so much of these declarations are imbued with pride and ego when they’re being made. And this is by no means a personal indictment to those who feel that without them South African hip hop is dead. But to put it simply – they’re lying.
If anything, in the last two years, South African hip hop has seen the most growth it has ever experienced in decades. There has been robust participation and engagement that has led to a varied hip hop ecosystem.
There’s a healthy demographic of rappity-rap which finds expression on platforms such as Stogie T’s #FreestyleFridays, SpeeKa’s SOTRA Cyphers and Zakwe’s KZN Lockdown Cypher, to mention but a few. Rappers like Priddy Ugly have released some of their most inspired rap music in this time (SOIL). There’s classic albums from the likes of Captain FS (The Ape Tape) and Melly Mell (New People and Prxject Mayhem) that have come out in this time.
There’s a plethora of new wave artists that have been breaking barriers and setting new standards through their artistic endeavours coupled with entrepreneurial acumen. Young artists such as Blxckie, Lucasraps, The Big Hash, J Molley, 808x and a host of others have created an enclave for their kind of hip hop. Alternative hip hop is also being championed by artists such as ByLwansta and Sipho the Gift.
This is the only time where there has been such an impressive presence of high calibre female/non-male performers in South African hip hop. The likes of Dee Koala, Indigo Stella, Sauwcy, Money Badoo, Boity, Nadia Nakai, Mozzlie, to mention a few, are all making strides, releasing some of their best material.
Meaningful international collaborations between South African hip hop artists and their American counterparts are also happening at a high frequency, from Stogie T’s collaboration with Benni The Butcher, “Animals”, to Nasty C’s and Ari Lennox duet “Black and White”. From A-Reece connecting with Joey Fatts on “Where You At”, to Shane Eagle linking with Monte Booker and redveil to make “SKYDREAM”.
There’s even an exciting crop of original and innovative hip hop acts cultivating their regional sounds and advancing their slang through their music. The Free State province’s Bloemfontein sons Stino Le Thwenny, North West’s Potch pope Maglera Doe Boy and Gauteng’s Pirara cat 25K are some of the most brilliant lyricists to emerge out of South African hip hop, who can equally make bangers and hits, as they have done.
Ultimately, people who fancy themselves arbiters of South African hip hop have shown that they don’t really care about South African hip hop like that. They only care about themselves because they have reduced South African hip hop to consist of only them. It’s quite sad, when it stops being funny. South African hip hop is not dead. Just look beyond yourself, for once.