Top 10 South African Hip Hop Artists

South African hip hop might not be as old as the hip hop of the United States or Nigeria, but its evolution is yet as intriguing as can be – a subject that will likely be interrogated for a long time to come.

While Mzansi hip hop is neither the oldest nor the most resonant, it has managed to keep a whole nation engaged and happy in the corridors of entertainment. There are many musicians out there dropping the number and giving saffas a reason to kick off their shoes and have a wonderful time.

As you probably already know, almost every industry out there has its adherents. Still, not everyone gets to become very famous or even make an impact that resonates through and through. That’s precisely the case with South African hip hop.

This post brings you the top 10 South African hip-hop artists. While the idea of “top” is subjective, we are confident, all the same, that you will love the numbers we have put together. The list is in no particular order.

1. Cassper Nyovest

Refiloe Maele Phoolo, the rapper now globally famous as Cassper Nyovest, is from Mahikeng. He was one of those common faces you encounter and soon forget because they are in no way memorable – a speck in the canvass of humanity.

The only difference is that the rapper doesn’t – refuses to – see himself the same way. He dropped out of school, hopped on the back of a truck and went into the city because he had big rap dreams, and he believed the city would give him the pedestal to launch his career.

The dude stayed committed to that dream and had become impossible to ignore in ten years. Not only has he become a successful musician with successful projects to his name, but he has also become a successful businessman as well – the brains behind the sneaker brand Root of Fame and the alcohol brand Billiato. (He’s also delved into boxing but has never had a professional fight)

Among his better-known songs are “Tito Mboweni” and “Doc Shebeleza.”

2. AKA

Meet Kiernan Jarryd Forbes. Yeah, that’s his given name. However, he’s now famous for his adopted stage name, AKA. He’s not the oldest in South Africa’s rap trenches, but the songster has also made a significant impact.

With “Touch My Blood” and other projects, AKA had beautifully advertised himself as one of the top voices in South African music. And like Cassper before him, he’s also a businessman with interests in sneakers and alcohol.

AKA had a sneaker partnership that failed and pained him so much because, according to him, Reebok was using his copyright without even giving him credit. As a result, he ended his alcohol partnership with Cruz Vodka and might launch his own alcohol brand soon.

He stands out the most for his music, though.

3. Nasty C

Forget the nasty connotation of the adopted stage name. There’s nothing offensive about Nsikayesizwe David Junior Ngcobo, who the world now knows as Nasty C. Born in 1997, the rapper’s interest in music dates back to when he was younger.

In the intervening years, thanks partly to consistency and a supreme belief in his abilities, the songster has emerged as one of the top voices in South African music – your Zulu Man With Some Power.

The former Mabala Noise signed a deal with Def Jam Africa and flew to the United States as part of the deal. There, he was able to interact with some key names in American pop, including Snoop Dogg.

4. Blxckie

Blxckie has been dubbed the South African hip hop prince, and for a good reason. Although in the space, the songster has managed to put out several quality numbers that advertise as a gifted rapper – a voice that cannot be ignored.

He gained serious attention with his “B4NOW” album and has released other equally engaging projects.

5. Sjava

Jabulani Hadebe announced years ago that he might stop making music. The furore that the announcement cause is best imagined. It turned out the songster listened to his fans. He didn’t leave.

The songster is still very much around with several winning numbers to his name, including the album “Umqhele.” He was honoured with a BET award years ago for his musical contributions.

6. A-Reece

You probably don’t know who Lehlogonolo Ronald Mataboge is. But you’ll most likely become animated if asked about A-Reece. Well, they are the same person. The songster had long established himself as one of the top voices in South African music.

He has been slow with the releases of recent, but that takes nothing from the fact he’s already established and a voice to reckon with – The Boy Doing Things,

A-Reece was formerly signed to Ambitiouz Entertainment, undoubtedly one of the most controversial record labels in South Africa. He was one of the few musicians who left the record label without the drama that played out with the exits of Emtee, Amanda Black and a couple of others.

7. Big Zulu

Big Zulu most likely got his adopted stage name from his impressive stature. But his real appeal lies in kasi rap – where he’s unarguably one of the finest.

Born Siyabonga Nene, Big Zulu has got many fine numbers to his name. However, his most resonant tune in recent memory is “Imali Eningi,” a collaborative work with Roky Rick and Intaba Yase Dubai.

His appeal transcends music, however. He’s also physically attractive to the ladies. So they shoot their shots sporadically.

8. Kwesta

In terms of releases, Kwesta has slowed down a little. But then, even if he should decide to stop making music right now, he wouldn’t have much to worry about because his legacy is already secure. Kwesta is a top voice in South African hip hop.

With several hits to his name, including the “Dakar II” album, the songster has imprinted his name in the hearts of many music lovers in South Africa. Most of them now eagerly anticipate what next he might drop from his kitty.

The songster recently released a diss track against Big Zulu, dubbed “Kwesta Quathum (Free Load),” pushing the narrative of South African hip hop revival.

9. Stogie T

Tumi Molekane is the bod long famous by the stage name Stogie T. a veteran in South Africa’s rap universe. He’s also one of the finest lyricists out there. It’s near impossible not to fall in love with the lyricism of “The Empire of Sheep” chanter.

He may not be in the news all the time, but Stogie has done so much for the culture, and he remains one of the important voices in South African music as a whole. Understandably, many look up to him/ he is the host of Freestyle Fridays.

10. DJ Maphorisa (Madumane)

DJ Maphorisa, also called Madumane, is a maestro of the decks who also sings and claims to rap – a versatility only a few can lay claim to. The songster now mainly drops amapiano music. But he didn’t start with the genre.

Years ago, he was preoccupied with gqom and was thrilling the Rainbow Nation with his “Gqom Waves” releases. However, he would switch to amapiano much later and succeed in the genre as well.

He stands out as much for his solo releases as for his partnership with Kabza De Small – the “Scorpion Kings” of South African music.

Of course, we could go on and on. What do you make of our list?

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