While the South African hip hop music scene owes its origins to Kwaito, since spreading its wings in the early 1980’s, the popular music genre has firmly found its roots in the South African music culture. Creative lyricists and artists alike are producing rhymes, verses and poetry in ways that reveal South Africa’s rich diversity, pushing the hip hop scene to new heights.
As the country’s hip hop heads prepare to head to Gold Reef City’s Lyric Theatre for this year’s instalment of the SAHHA, Who’s Who SA caught up with Tsas-Man, Nema Wama – Hunguni and Lwansta, who’ve all been nominated in various categories to learn more about their musical journeys.
Inspired by music from an early age…
Lwantsa: At the tender of 6, my uncles introduced me to Eminem’s The Marshall Mathers LP album. I appreciated the ways in which he brought music to life through storytelling and that he was never afraid of saying exactly what he was thinking.
Through Eminem’s inspiration my current mixtape, NORMVL, explores introspection, depression, learning to adapt to being away from home, heartbreak and just stories about people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting – things I learnt from Eminem himself.
Nema: Around the early 1990’s, Ndishavhelafhi Muyahavho (shaba) introduced me to hip hop. Of course at the time I did not understand what the music meant, but I loved how the beats were crafted. Listening to them I managed to pave my own way in the hip hop scene.
Understanding music as a craft…
Lwansta: I developed an interest in producing music from the time I was thirteen years old. I began to write and compose my own lyrics, focusing heavily on rhyme and flow. Jumpy bubblegum raps were my thing (laughs).
My first rap verse was an 8 bar verse which could easily have been confused for a nursery rhyme. Nonetheless, I would perform it everyday after school, while one of my close friends beat-boxed for me in front of my classmates. Round about that time I rapped under the alias LDN – my initials.
Tsas-man: I was proud of my team and when we hosted my birthday celebration which was made up of a line-up that featured only hip hop DJs and performances. The venue was at a club in Welkom that is predominately white-owned. It was amazing to see how hip hop crossed racial, religious and social barriers to unite everyone under one roof.
Nema: For me it has to be the founding of the first hip hop radio station in South Africa.
Lwansta: I’d say this nomination because not too long ago I was nominated in the same category at Durban’s Original Material Awards. I left the awards disappointed because I didn’t win, only for the SAHHA gods to lift my spirits and give me hope again.
Hopeful about the South African music industry…
Tsas-man: The South African music industry is getting wiser. Artists are steadily taking interest in the business side of the art thus empowering themselves more than just performing for the perks of being famous. If such should continue, our music industry will develop into a lucrative one which will ensure a bright future.
Lwansta: I think let’s start by applauding the fact that the evidence of an actual future is visible to everyone. My word we’ve grown! I think the one thing that held us back as an industry is that we were always given the backseat. But now it’s safe to say that South African hip hop has become more recognised. Thanks to guys like AKA, our kind are given so much more respect. We’re becoming more of a force that cannot be ignored.
What hip hop fans can expect next…
Tsas-man: I’ll be continuing my work as a presenter and producer for radio, and promoting local hip hop talent.
Nema: I’m focused on building Bomo Media Group (BMG) beyond what it currently offers.
Lwansta: I recently entered “Finding Fresh/ Lock The Flow” hosted by Miller Geniune Draft. The competition requires that you jump on a beat uploaded by the organisers and drop 16 bars. I made the top 10 out of more than 100 submissions, so I’m currently collecting votes. The prize is a chance to record the full song off that beat with Tibz (ShowLove), and perform it at their New Year’s Eve parties as well as a R10 000 cash prize.
I’m also focused on pushing NORMVL, my latest album, to its limits.