It's 2018, December. The South African Hip Hop Awards, held at the Lyric Theatre for the past five years, are underway. The missteps are many. As if by clockwork: the event has started late, the sound's had a bad day, and the stage design, well, the least said about the art direction at the burgeoning awards show, the better.
Mid-event, the announcer's voice interrupts post-performance cheers to announce the Lifetime Achievement award recipients, Black Rage Productions. In the time it takes for co-founders Maria McCloy and Dzino to ascend the stage, I've been transported to a version of myself that existed between 2000 and 2008. Emcees Zubz and Nthabi, who were signed to Black Rage's recording arm, Outrageous Records, flank some of the earliest believers in their talents on either side. They are joined by in-house producer Tongogara and his Optical Illusion groupmate, Logic. It feels like my moment. Like the best parts of me on display. Like vindication. Remembrance. Celebration.
During his acceptance speech, Dzino shouts out the radio stations, the greater media industry, and the people who supported the music by buying it, ripping it onto CDs, or showing up at the live shows. He gestures towards Tongogara's direction: "He's a great producer. He used to sleep in the studio. He mixed for everybody, he produced for almost everyone. We appreciate you."