Spitting rhymes straight outta Gugs

2011-10-14 09:59

It’s been more than two years since the release of their debut album, which redefined underground hip-hop in SA. Yet Cape Town group Driemanskap are not as commercially successful as their Jozi-based counterparts, write NOMALANGA MKHIZE and EITAN PRINCE.

There’s been a loud buzz about Driemanskap in the South African music industry; and were it not for a nasty gremlin, they would have made their imprint in Washington DC last month.

The Cape Town-based hip-hop crew – made up of El Nino, Ma-B, Redondo and Dla Lastborn – were billed to perform at the 8th Annual South African Week alongside legends and upstarts such as Hugh Masekela, Ray Phiri and the BLK JKS.

But they’re keeping politely hush-hush about the reasons behind the DC upset in spite of a deluge of messages from their growing South African fan base and well-wishers demanding to know who messed up what would have been the group’s first international gig.

Until recently, Driemanskap were one of the country’s best kept secrets, known only in the underground hip-hop scene. In an industry dominated by Joburg-based groups such as Skwatta Kamp and Teargas, their breakthrough into mainstream has been nothing short of phenomenal.

Dedicated SA hip-hop fans were starting to believe that the heyday of Cape Town hip-hop in the music mainstream, as epitomised by 90s radical group Prophets Of Da City, was well and truly over.

If you were not connected to Joburg’s media network, your brand of hip-hop was viewed as not being commercially viable and being heard beyond the community radio circuit seemed impossible.

Driemanskap is changing this trend. They have a growing number of fans clamouring to see them perform live, requesting their songs on radio, television and digital media.

It was a video of their song Camagu which paved the way for their breakthrough appearance on SABC1 earlier this year. The track blends a maskandi riff with a sparse hip-hop beat over which Driemanskap deliver a clever fusion of isiXhosa praise poetry and rap.

Camagu first appeared on Igqabhukil’ Inyongo, Driemanskap’s debut album, which was released in May 2009. In Xhosa, the album title literally means an eruption of the gallbladder. In Driemanskap street lingo, it translates into “things are about to get crazy!”.

High energy tracks from the album such as Sphum’eGugs (We are from Gugulethu), which features the spitfire female rapper Khanyi, fast became street anthems among fans.

“They simply made it impossible to be overlooked with the buzz they had built up,” says Damian Stephens, better known as D-Planet, the head of the Pioneer Unit music label that signed Driemanskap.

A steady itinerary of live shows, promotional video shoots and appearances on smaller media outlets has made them a regular billing on performance circuits.

“Even when budgets were tight, they have always hit the road, even if it meant long bus rides, sleeping on people’s floors and sharing small amounts of food. This investment has started to pay off and their show fees have gone up as their popularity has risen,” says Stephens.

Things went crazy when Camagu blew up on SABC1’s Live music show, bringing unprecedented attention to the Gugulethu crew from all corners of South Africa.

“Camagu was shot so long ago?.?.?.?we had almost forgotten about it,” says group member Dla Lastborn. “But the night the video first went on air, I got goosebumps.”

This path was a decade in the making. The group was formed in 2001 in Gugulethu when three friends – Ma-B, El-Nino and Ayanda (who has since left the group) – entered a school talent show.

The talent show proved that they had something potentially big going so they began performing at local events, building a loyal underground fan base.

By combining the political influence of artists like Immortal Technique with their lyrical wit, Driemanskap produced a distinctive brand of banging hip-hop that conveyed the intellectual fearlessness of the streets.

They released a pair of mixtapes called the Battle For Gugs Vols 1 & 2, from which came their cult classic Itsho Into, paying homage to the Gugulethu Seven, Chris Hani and Steve Biko while launching a scathing criticism of post-apartheid South Africa, ominously warning of Hector Pieterson’s ghost haunting our new Parliament.

When Igqabhukil’ Inyongo dropped, the legendary Ringo Madlingozi was so impressed he invited them to collaborate on a track. But major retail distributors seem to be sleeping on the rise of the group. It’s near impossible to find their CD in stores.

They have chosen to exploit channels they had ready access to by building up support through social networking sites. Camagu has close to 30?000 views on YouTube while their Facebook page is nearing 9?000 “Likes”.

As they prepare for their first gig off the African continent, Dla Lastborn sounded modest but determined. “We are still as hungry as we were back then when we didn’t have an album out,” he said.

?Igqabhukil’ Inyongo is available through their label Pioneerunit.com

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.