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The South African Rap Game


24 March 2005 No Comment

Over the past few years the South African rap game has grown into a formidable and firm firmament in which South African rappers can come out and shine. Basking in this success are emcees like Zubz, Proverb, Amu and many more whose contribution to the game has been indispensible.

The progressive betterment of SA hiphop can be ascribed to many things but the one that protrudes obtrusively is our ownership of it. Outfits such as H2O that rap in vernacular have contributed profusely to the ownership of South African hiphop. This brings into the light a way of pursuing the genre that no other country can do. The interpolation of indigenous instruments, known as being South African (and African in the greater scale of things), emphasises the fact that this rap is the proud property of the African foundation. 

The way that many emcees flirt with the kwaito/hiphop barrier adds a fascinating edge to the music( even though its sometimes irritating trying to discern the genre of such songs). Flowing in English and Zulu or Sotho, which most hiphoppers do, is testament of the proprietorship of the game.

To say that emcees that rap in english steal away from the South Africanness is an example of gross myopia! Even though the vernacular rapping is greatly appreciated, it promotes an almost palpable inaccessibility, even within the country; not everyone understands Zulu or Sotho etc. So those who prefer to rap in the lingua franca of a large percentage of the world are doing it for the accessilbility of most of the market. Note to consider: accessibility does not translate into diminished musicality. Its meerly a different slice of the same pizza.

SA rap must also be commended on the speed of its growth. The rapidness of growth in the rap game on a commercial level has been tremendous. Even though rap has been around in the country for a long time, eg Capetonian Coloured maestros of the 80’s and 90’s, its still considered a global fledgling, a baby. Well this is certainly a prodigiously precocious child, whose developmental stage belies the brevity of its existance. 

Maybe the next step for this game is collaboration with other African emcees. Just to add an inter-African feel to the music. Some interplay between SA hiphop and Contemporary Afro-fusion or -pop would also make for a tantalising musical experience. Maybe a little Simphwe Dana (y homegirl!) fused with a liitle Zubz against the backdrop of a little RJ Benjamin with a twist of a little Thandiswa Mazwai added to little… 

If the flow of things thus far is anything to go by then any person who claims that our game is a mirror of the American rap game, or calls it an immitation thereof would talk better sense with their mouths shut! So too would those who call our game a fledgling. If SA hiphop continues on this fruitful trajectory then I can forsee no reason why it cannot exceed and super-exceed other rap games. Judging by the past and present of our country i think we can all agree that nothing is impossible. And therefore our ability to exploit opportunities is limitless. Even against the sky!

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