South Africa has always had a formidable hip hop scene, and many of our well known artists have been touring nationally and internationally for a good few years now. Cut through the petty beef and the headlines however, and you’ll find that some of the country’s best in the genre are up and comers – completely new to the scene, or simply laying low.
Artists from all over the country are putting out considered and impactful music that is boldly pioneering a new sound. Unique, multilingual, and distinctly local, these are the rappers carving out a new identity for South African hip hop. We’ve listed a few of those rappers here. Some have just arrived on the scene, whilst others have already accrued a considerable following. Take the time to listen to them all, and you might just find your new favourite artist.
Rams’ Soundcloud is home to a limited number of tracks, but each one hits hard. The Jozi based rapper’s sound is best heard on ‘EST’, a melodic track with a considered flow that breaks out into a crushing, bass heavy chorus with a hook that takes you right back around to the track’s onset. It’s a good one to have on repeat.
A former member of Ill Skillz, the Cape Town based artist has recently gone on to broaden a new sound as a solo artist. Echoing much of that Ill Skillz Golden Era hip hop, Uno July brings a new self-described avant garde approach to his music, and like most successful artists, is an active collaborator in the local scene. In a time where EPs are the predominant form of release, Uno July boasts two full albums already and looks set to be one of the frontrunners in the local hip hop scene.
Part circus bear, part wild canine, Ursus (Justin Olney) and Wolf (Nicholas Trethowan) are a fast rising duo in local hip hop. After a long running friendship and musical partnership, one half of the duo moved to Singapore, but the two kept the group going by making music from opposite ends of the world. Low, languid vocals ride high, ambient and beat scene style tracks to form a solid and entirely beguiling style of hip hop just reminiscent enough of that old school FloBots. Check out their debut EP What Now below.
Johannesburg’s Priddy Ugly is the sum of considered, reworked lyrics and solid mastering. His latest release, You Don’t Know Me Yet is a 15 track collection of elaborate storytelling delivered through razor-sharp raps and polished, experimental beats with hard drum arrangements. It also sees the rapper collaborating with the likes of Youngsta, BigStar Johnson, HHP and more. Listen through the full collection below.
For Afrikaans rap straight out of the kaap and safely distanced from the likes of Jack Parow, look no further than YOMA. Currently signed to Cape Town-based label Katalis, YOMA forms part of an ever expanding group of young, female Afrikaans rappers. Her style is militant, characterised with bold, striking lines laid over rudimentary break beats. She’s laying low for now, but you’d be wise to keep an eye on the rapper. She’s going places.
Darne is a young rapper with a seasoned voice and he knows it. The self-proclaimed ‘future legend’ has already cracked the nod from local heavyweights Cassper Nyovest, AKA and Kwesta. Cut through all the hype and you’ll find it really is well earned. For a 19 year old, Darne executes a flow that’s up there with rappers who’ve been in the industry for years. His latest single, ‘Alcholix’ is a perfect showcase of his solid, poised vocals, complimented by a smooth and lavish beat.
Another hip hop legend in the making who’s not even out of high school is 17 year old Espacio Dios. Espacio’s music is personal, emotive and entirely sincere in its execution. There is no gaudy hypermasculinity to the rapper’s sound, which even in today’s industry, means the artist is already a unique addition to the scene. He’s got a much anticipated EP coming out soon, but for now, be sure to check out his Soundcloud.
A South African born, Los Angeles raised artist, Refi Sings has recently returned to SA. Having been a recording artist since the age of 14, Refi’s worked with a number of international artists and even performed at the FIFA Confederations Cup closing ceremony in 2009. On her recent track ‘What’s Real’, her sung vocals are clean and deliberated while her rapping rolls out with a poised tongue, rhythmic and punctuated by hard 808s. She’s also an active collaborator, featuring on many a local track.
Signed under the Guerrilla King umbrella and with a new EP out, Deeno Dee is one to look out for. Highs and Lows is an acoustic and experimental EP that places much of its focus on the lyrical element of his tracks. Played in succession, the EP is a highly personal collection with each track bringing something unique to the overall sound be it in the form of long, leisurely strings or delicate, fluid piano keys.
The Cape Town rapper has already achieved nationwide recognition through her numerous music video cameos and monthly #WeLoveHipHop events, but Miss Celaneous’ music remains largely untapped. Laying robust vocals over simple trap style beats, the rapper has a formidable lyrical presence that showcases her unique new school hip hop sound peppered with Cape Coloured slang.
If you liked this, be sure to check out our list of 15 South African Musical Acts to Come Out of 2015 – and let us know who your favourite local acts are in the comments.