6 of South Africa's finest hip-hop rappers

2014-09-28 15:00

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1. K.O.

K.O. is on top of his game. His single Caracara is one of the biggest local songs this year. The video has also proved to be hugely successful and is fast heading towards 1?million views on YouTube. His new album, Skhanda Republic, takes elements of kwaito and pantsula, and gives them a hip-hop twist (similar to what rapper Zuluboy called skandi-hop).

The result is the kind of freshness you get in Caracara. K.O. established himself as one-third of Teargas, who broke through in the early 2000s with their ability to deliver fanciful wordplay while effortlessly code- switching, which Skwatta Kamp and the Morafe crew had made popular before them.

Teargas released four critically acclaimed, award-winning and commercially successful albums. K.O. also brings his skills to one of the best guest verses this year with his contribution to AKA’s Run Jozi single. K.O.’s debut solo album is scheduled for release next week and we reckon he’s going to own 2014.

2. AKA

South Africa’s rap prince is (to borrow lyrics from his single All I Know) “a beast and a problem”. Commercial hip-hop fans first met Kiernan Forbes in 2002 when he was in a group with his schoolmates called Entity.

Their single Touch N Go led to an album, Royal School of HipHop, which got them nominated for Best African Hip-Hop at the 2005 Kora Awards. But it was really I Want It All featuring other local hip-hop kings Khuli Chana and Prokid that established him as a master lyricist. In truth, he’s been a punchline factory since he landed, while also fusing dance and House into his hip-hop sound in his albums Alter Ego and Levels. The awards, like the hits, keep on coming.

3. iFani

In 2009, Mthatha-born iFani was ranked first on Hype Magazine’s Top Unsigned Hype List.

By 2011 he was attracting all kinds of attention with his single Ewe, with its slick isiXhosa and Sesotho lyrics over a bass-heavy hip-hop beat, as well as his eccentric Steve Urkel-style look. In 2012, the computer science honours graduate was signed to Sony Music Africa. His single Shake, under Sony BMG, was one of the biggest songs of 2012 and early last year. An SA Music Award followed.

4. Cassper Nyovest

“Life has been a bliss since the mainstream caught on,” raps Cassper Nyovest about his new-found fame in the opening lines of Phuma Kimi. The Mafikeng-born artist landed his first deal at 17 with Impact Sounds, the Motswako label home to Tuks Senganga and Morafe.

He started his own label two years later and his single Holla at a Pantsula got him noticed by another Maftown native, HHP. His first solo video was for the single Wahala. It was followed by Gusheshe featuring Okmalumkoolkat (which, like Caracara, pays homage to an iconic car in South African life and pop culture). Doc Shebeleza has also been a monster track, hitting more than 100?000 downloads within just four weeks of its release. When he’s not beefing with AKA, he’s getting nominated for all kinds of awards.

5. Khuli Chana

Last year, Lost in Time won Album of the Year at the Samas and Khuli Chana had truly arrived. The Motswako original was not new to the game though. He had been a member of Jazzzadaz and later the formidable Morafe.

It was in 2007 that he was first nominated for a Sama?–?for Morafe’s album, A Ene. His 2009 debut album, The Motswakoriginator, put his name in lights the moment it dropped. His smooth Setswana and English flow has ushered him on to the stage repeatedly to accept awards.

6. Reason

Last year, Reason delivered one of the standout verses of the year on the No Sleep Remix. His 2012 release, Audio 3D, brought the commercial attention due to him, with the single Do It Like I Can receiving radio and TV love.

But Reason has been on the scene since he was a kid and has long been slaying the competition in rap battles and ciphers. His first mainstream appearance was on YFM in 2005, where he delivered jingles on The Unrestricted Freshest Breakfast Show hosted by the legendary DJ Fresh and sidekick Mr?T.

He won Emcee of the Month in 2006 on the station’s hip-hop show, Rap Activity Jam, hosted by Lee Kasumba. Since then he’s been all over the radio and media. An art director by profession, Reason has held his own with some of SA’s best, including ProVerb, Tumi, Zubz, Ill Skillz, HHP, Amu and AKA.

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