THE BEGINNING (1986 - 1995)
It's the mid 80s and Bubblegum music is the order of the day in South Africa. Out of nowhere, Senyaka drops an album titled "Ntate Senyaka" which features a monster hit called "Jabulani MC", he raps his heart out. Most South Africans have neither heard of rap before nor knew what Hip Hop was. In 1988 Black Noise becomes the first complete Hip Hop outfit, even though they've been breakdancing since 1982. In 1989 Prophets Of Da City (POC) releases a first full LP titled "Boom Style". Hip Hop catches fire in Cape Town. In Joburg Hip Hop is bubbling under in the late 80s, and Katlehong is the Mecca of J Sec, with DH Williams being the focal point where all the hoods come to compete. It is no coincidence that the first rap crew to spit in vernac, Karamo, emerged from Katlehong. They blew up the scene with an album titled "Bra Music" in 1991, and shortly followed by 2Black 2Strong, also from the same neighbourhood of Katlehong.
POC saw their albums and songs being banned by the SABC due to their political lyrical content.
The mid 90s had the Kwaito-influenced, watered down Hip Hop attempt by Bob Mabena (a radio DJ) and Doctor Khumalo (then a soccer player) winning a SAMA award with "Get Funky".
THE DEVELOPMENT (1996 - 2002)
Up in J Sec, Le Club is the place to be around '96. The underground scene is big in Cape Town around this time, with all the elements holding it down.
Crowded Crew, a rap outfit from Maftown arguably the originators of Motswako, had a jump off and gave Kwaito a run for their money. 1997 saw the arrival of Yfm which single handedly took SA Hip Hop to the pedestal. SA Hip Hop was so big that the first time Yfm reached 1 million listenership was on a Wednesday during Rap Activity Jam. SA Hip Hop became a threat to Kwaito such that groups like BOP took cheap shots at SA rappers with a song "Ase Mo States". This was somehow ironic considering that DJ Oskido presented Yfm Rap Activity Jam, and BOP exploited rappers like Baphixile (pronounced Bafihlile) and Milazi (of Mama Wami fame) for their own benefit. Mzekezeke is another Kwaito artist who would later stoop to the same low with that "Amakoporosh" song. Fast forward to 8 years later, the same Mzekezeke/DJ Sbu signs Pro(kid).
The Muthaload compilation, which featured rappers like Amu, Snazz D, Spex, Ramesh, Christine, Shorty Skillz, Loco, Bravestar... dropped in 1997 and producer KayBee was the mastermind behind it. Mizchif dropped "Life At All Angles" EP in 1999, then Spex dropped "RymzIwrote" through Eargasm Records in 2000. The late Mr. Devious was killin' it in Cape Town. In 2001, the same year Zwai Bala controversially won a SAMA award for Best Rap Song, Skwatta Kamp dropped "Skwatta Kamp-ain" independently. Amu released the now certified classic "Life, Rap and Drama" through Getto Ruff in 2002.
GOLDEN ERA (2003 - 2008)
For the first time, in 2003, the Hip Hop community was happy to see Skwatta Kamp taking the SAMA award for Best Rap Album with Khut n Joyn. That got Sipho Sithole's attention who finally signed them to Gallo. SA Hip Hop was now hard to ignore, every major record company was signing Hip Hop artists. That's when artists like HHP, Prokid, H2O, Pitch Black Afro, Cashless Society, Young Nations, Tuks, Mr. Selwyn, Morafe, Zuluboy, 5th Floor, Hidden Force, Optical Illusion, ProVerb, My Man, came into the scene. Tumi becomes the first South Africa rapper to use a live band (The Volume) and to this day, remains the only one with a live recorded album. Outrageous Records, Buttabing Entertainment and Ghetto Ruff were the most visible Hip Hop labels, even though the majors wanted a piece of that Hip Hop frenzy that was emerging at the time. Of course there were also instrumental record executives like Sipho Sithole, Thabiso Khati, Kabelo Segwai, Dzino, Vusi Leeuw... Then there was Hype mag, Harambe (Bad Boy T, Lee and Sanza), Open Mic Set (Zak Dakile), Rhyme & Reason (T Bo Touch), The Essence (Kamza), The Joint (AK), Loxion Kulca, Shizniz, there was Hip Hop everywhere you looked. Gandhi Square was a Freestyle Rap Battle Ground for Joburg high school rappers. Durban was holdin' it down with Inqaba Sessions at Bat Centre around this time. Bush Radio kept the movement alive in the Mother City, special shout out to 5th Floor. Ama Kip Kip blew up as the main SA Hip Hop clothing label of choice.
Honorable mentions to Hip Hop sessions such as Black Sunday, Slaghuis, 1808, Splash Jam, Touchbase Tour, Forefront Movement, Evo Lokxion, Heavy Hitters, Back To The City and Puppet Masters. These are the grassroots movements that played a vital role in the development of SA Hip Hop. DJs and beatmakers were and still are significant team players.
THE NEW SCHOOL (2009 - Present)
SA Hip Hop is not the same way it was 10 years ago. The clothes are tighter and brighter, the flow is slower and lighter. The lyrical content moved from revolutionary rhymes to gangsta rap to swagger, some call it evolution.
Whether you agree or not, things done changed. Butan is the label, AKA is the first English rapper to win a SAMA award, Zakwe the first SA rapper to get 5 SAMA nominations. Joint Pusher becomes the first rapper to release a 100% freestyle mixtape and currently has 2 under his belt. On the radio front, C Live is doing his thing on the Hip Hop Power Nights, while Siz n Skoob represent the only way they know how. Whether you approve or disapprove of certain shows or certain artists, SA Hip Hop is in full effect. Constructive criticism, every now and then, shouldn't be perceived as 'hating'.
Contrary to the popular belief, SA Hip Hop is doing better than it ever did, even though Pitch Black Afro and Skwatta Kamp remain the only two SA Hip Hop acts to ever sell platinum. Driemanskap took Spaza (Xhosa Rap)to the next level.
The most notable biggest blunders have to be Zwai Bala of TKZee winning the SAMA Best Rap award in 2001 and Hype Magazine's Top 50 MCs List in 2012. These two incidents caused the biggest reactions of dissatisfaction within the SA Hip Hop community.
Cassper Nyovest filling up The Dome in 2015. He also sold double platinum back to back.
AKA and Cassper Nyovest getting interviewed by Sway in the Morning.
Fifi Cooper becoming the first female rapper to win the Metro Awards and the first female rapper to be nominated at the SAMAs.
AKA performing at the BET Awards.
A MUST-READ FOR ALL INDIE ARTISTS.
#1. As an indie Artist, when negotiating deals, make sure you don't sign away any copyright 2 your music and you keep 100% creative control.
#2. 100% Copyright Rights Retention: Without labels, all revenue generated from album sales and sync licensing deals goes straight to the artist.
#3. You also have complete control over the exploitation of your music, and the free will to say yes or no to any business opportunity that comes your way.
#4. As an independent artist, you have 100% Creative & Marketing Control. No label means you have complete control over the direction of your music.
#5. You build your own team: as opposed to labels who force you to work with their people. As an indie artist, you are your own boss and you choose your own team.
#6. Make sure you surround yourself with people who share in your vision and have the skills to help you push your music, and move your career forward.
#7. As an indie artist you get pro-artist contracts, giving the artist more money for their music through either profit-sharing or larger royalty %.
#8. Limited Resources: No label means any financing for recording, distribution, marketing costs will have to come out of your own pocket.
#9. You need to work on developing your network in the industry (radio, tv, festivals, promoters, etc.) which will serve you at a later stage.
#10. Due to the fact that many indie labels are so informal, there's the possibility of things being done incorrectly and then being overlooked.
#11. Always have someone to represent you or negotiate on your behalf. It looks unprofessional when artists represent themselves, it looks like they are begging and desperate. That's how they get exploited and taken advantage of.
#12. Technical riders and hospitality riders apply to every artist. Don't allow promoters and event organisers to treat the mainstream artists or crowd pullers better than you, even if you're a curtain raiser.
#13. A free gig means a promoter MUST take care of transportation and refreshments (and sometimes accommodation). It shouldn't cost an artist a cent to perform for free.
#14. Never fall for words like "promotion" and "exposure", those people are not your marketing team to be concerned about your promotion and exposure.
#15. Verbal agreements and handshakes don't mean anything in this industry. Draw contracts and get your paperwork in order.
#16. A booking must be accompanied by a contract. A 50% of a performance fee is payable upfront to secure the booking. The outstanding 50% balance must be paid a day before the event or on the day of the event before you go on stage. You don't wanna chase for the promoter after the show. Include 14% tax in your invoice.
#17. Interact with your fans on a regular. Some artists only talk to fans when they need them for votes.
#18. When you have an interview, ask them to send you the questions in advance. You have a right to tell them which questions to remove or shouldn't ask. #19. No artist manager should get more than 25%. Anything over 25% is a rip off.
#20. Don't forget to pay your taxes. SARS will come for you, 5 or 10 years later and they will detach everything you own