South Africans will never forget him. But just in case, his wife is doing her best to make sure that his name never fades from the spotlight.
It’s been almost three years since the passing of rapper Jabulani “HHP” Tsambo, also known as Jabba. He allegedly died at his house in Randpark Ridge, Johannesburg. His body was discovered by his helper in his bedroom.
Since his passing, his wife Lerato Sengadi (38) has been making sure she continues to preserve his legacy. In 2019, she was responsible for making sure her late husband receives the Lifetime Achievement Award at the SAMAs.
“He was the first hip hop artist to win a lifetime achievement at the SAMAs and that has never been done before,” Lerato tells Drum.
Today, she celebrates the late legends' 41st birthday by releasing a remix to a previously recorded song Nkaofa, this time featuring the “Ke Star” hitmaker Lethabo ‘Focalistic’ Sebetso (25) and produced by long-time collaborator Thasman. The song is called Nkaofa 2.0.
Had he still been alive, Lerato and HHP would be celebrating his birthday on a boat on an island somewhere magical.
“I’m a big celebrator of birthdays. I try to make them special. I loved travelling. I have taken him to Thailand, Jamaica and that was my annual thing for him.”
The surprise birthday release was Lerato’s brainchild, and her way to celebrate the rapper’s milestone birthday as well as over 20 years in the industry. The award-winning rapper entrusted his wife with looking after his legacy, and in true Jabba fashion, left her with a trove of gems that fans will enjoy for many years to come.
“It was important for me to celebrate my husband in a way that’s fitting for the King that he is,” she says.
Choosing Focalistic and which song to remix was an easy decision for Lerato.
“I remember hearing Focalistic for the first time and I was taken aback by how much he reminded me of Motho (my person),” she says.
Having been with HHP for 10 years, she knew who the perfect features for the song would be.
“I dreamt the song. He visited me in a dream. People had heard him do the freestyle, and Thasman had the separates of the song. Being the executive producer of the song was a learning opportunity for me,” she says.
“I remember also thinking it would have been so dope if they could have been on a track together. When you listen to Focalistic, there is a very familiar authenticity that is very reminiscent of Jabba and who he was as an artist. Focalistic’s energy is incredible, his talent undeniable and I know Motho would absolutely be passing on the baton to him. Personally, especially after meeting him in person, I know I made the right choice in this monumental collaboration.”
For Lerato, bringing the vision to life meant working with a producer who understood HHP like his old friend Thabiso ‘Thasman’ Tsotetsi.
“When it came to bringing my vision to life there was the only person for the job, Thasman. His role in Jabba’s career is undeniable. The two were a power duo and a force, having created countless hits together,” Lerato says.
The process of making the song was emotional but fulfilling for Lerato.
“To say that the entire process was anointed is an understatement. The energy was magical, the space filled with so much love & Jabba was definitely with us. It was just so beautiful.”
Lerato says creating the song was a labour of love but people can expect more HHP releases.
“I am just using my gut and my rational thinking to try and put him in everything. Modimo and Badimo (God and ancestors) willing, I will be able to preserve this legacy which is extremely important not just to South African music but the entertainment industry. Creating this song was a labour of love for me, a symbol of my loyalty, and a token of appreciation to his fans who have held him high for over two decades. I am a mere vessel chosen to keep flying his flag high.”
Although accepting his death has not been easy, Lerato says she is in a good place.
“I have learned that grief doesn’t go away, it's like the ocean it comes in tides, and sometimes it's still. I have accepted that he is no longer here. I do grieve for him, something I will do my whole life because you can't erase the person’s impact. Right now it has been a hectic healing journey,” she says.
“It took a lot of work in therapy and tears for me to be in the right space to work on the music. It came out perfect because it was guided by Modimo and Badimo. I’m in a really good place.”
Lerato says people should expect more music releases from HHP.
“Jabba didn’t just go in the studio when it was time to make an album. People can expect never been heard before music. I just pay for the strength and guidance to execute everything planned for him.”
Focalistic who is a HHP fan says the recording was “anointed”.
“For me, this is a moment anointed by God! I used to drive a red Proton and it didn’t have a USB port or Bluetooth or AUX, it only used to play CDs. And I always used to play “YBA 2 NW” (HHP’s 4th studio album). And I’ve said from then and I say it still, HHP will forever be in my top 3 and definitely number one.
“It’s crazy to recreate a moment that you never thought would happen and secondly to come out with such a beautiful song that you can be proud of for years to come. For me, it was an anointed moment and I’d like to thank Lerato and Thasman.
"Making the song with Thasman made it a hundred times more beautiful. I can feel Jabba’s spirit in the air every day and I’m so glad we could create this moment. And I can’t wait for people to hear it and enjoy it.”