The Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic has restricted the plans local hip hop culture had for this year. American rapper Cardi B’s tour has been pushed back and the seminal hip-hop festival Back to the City has also been postponed.
The virus outbreak threw everyone a curve ball but the culture has found a way to combat this.
American producers and rap legends Timbaland and Swizz Beatz, with their live Verzuz battles on social media platform Instagram where they play some of their most well put together classic records, have insipred a revolution of sorts.
On Thursday, local rappers Emtee and Nasty C took producers Tweezy and Gemini Major up on their offer to go head-to-head in a battle of the hits.
As the conductors, the pair of producers took it upon themselves to gather a small group of local hip-hop heads to celebrate two of our best.
The battle set up 15 songs a piece with judges, Ms Cosmo, Ms Pru and DJ Capitol, helping them make their decision. The battle started at 10pm and at it’s peak it had amassed more than 12 000 views.
It started out with the two artists on a split screen. Emtee the hustla looked relaxed, with a Gucci rag hanging over his head. He lit up a joint as he played his first track, his breakout song Roll Up. Nasty also unleashed his best quite early, with his monster hit Juice Back being very well received.
There were some hotly debated rounds. Each artist played one verse and one chorus from their selections over 14 rounds. A really cool moment was when Nasty played Winning, a song they both appear on. The judges split the vote for that round.
No winner was announced as the purpose of this is to celebrate each other, especially during these tough times under lockdown.
Nasty also pointed out how great it was that the two, who emerged at the same time, were able to spar.
The only blemish could be that the two-hour session was a little too long as it took place over two live sessions.
A more pressing issue, of course, is that they did put on a performance. It was very casual, but they were in the moment. It would have been great for the platform to perhaps throw some cash their way for attracting the number of people they did.
Instagram should consider making it easier for these sessions to be put together. And why not extend the live session times? A little ingenuity, doesn’t Facebook own this platform now?
Also it should boost the sound quality for these performances. A few people in the lively comments did complain about this but as DJ Capitol put: “The sound is fine for the purposes of what we are doing. If you want sound quality go to Apple Music.”
After the session both rappers trended till the morning.
Expect a few more duels in the weeks to come.
A slightly smaller session was held by DJ Nikki Newlands on her Instagram handle. She calls the slot, #RapItUp and the idea is simple. Newlands and her team reach out to two rappers and ask them to drop a freestyle over a beat chosen by her and her team. They then choose four rhyming words pinned to the screen and one chosen by the viewers.
The rappers then attempt to fuse the randomly chosen words to create a verse that will impress those watching the session who get to vote on it afterwards.
It kicked off this week with rapper JimmyWiz holding down the throne for three nights in a row, until he was usurped by the slick spitting 2lee Stark.
Rapper Reason joined the section to duel Stark but surprisingly the veteran was dispatched in one round. It’s all for a good sport but yo, one round?
Newlands, who has been DJing for three years, says: “I had been thinking about things to do during lockdown since I don’t have my own DJ equipment and remembered that I had seen something similar on an American show once and wanted to try it out with rappers in South Africa.”
Her team and I would really like to have Youngsta CPT, Proverb, Stogie T, Kwesta, Gigi Lamayne and some of the newer acts such as Focalistic and definitely Nasty C make an appearance.
Gemini Major and Tweezy hosted Nasty C vs Emtee and the energy was absolutely crazy.
We need these moments to remind us why we started doing whatever it is we’re doing and remember to give back to the culture that’s supported us. I’m really optimistic about where hip-hop is going and where it is right now.
The choosier of good raps and the good life Stogie T has brought forth arguably the best form of lockdown entertainment for the quintessential hip-hop head.
He sends a selection of beats to some of the most lyrically proficient wordsmiths we have, and they send them back. And more times than not, the beats return completely scorched by poisonous poetry.
It is debatable if some of these are actually freestyles, but the sound quality provided by these rappers able record their responses to the gauntlet of Stogie who has naturally contributed some of the most technically engineered rhymes, is amazing.
Rapper Yugen Blakrok heeded the call all the way from Spain.
Kid Tini and up-and-coming force, The Realingst, also offered some impressive verses.
The raspy king of local hits and features Kwesta stepped up – as did veterans Blacklez, Nveigh and PdotO – who presented one of them most commendable offerings so far.
Stogie T of course offers a contribution of his own and cleverly inserts the lyrics for you to read and try wrap your head around the lyricism.
He also stretches the reach of this idea by reaching out to more than just one rapper from abroad and getting their contributions. Be sure to keep up with the freestyle raps every Friday at @TumiMolekane.