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The New Era Of Cape Town Hip-Hop

A crop of young artists — including Youngsta, Dope Saint Jude, Blaq Slim, BoolZ & more — are changing the climate of Cape Town hip-hop.


Photo: Andiswa Mkosi

In the black townships they still call it crunk, the bass-heavy electronic and trap-influenced ratchet sound that’s beginning to dominate Cape Town hip-hop. Heads sneer at it, they mock it. It’s dumb, it’s unoriginal. It’s painfully loud and shamelessly happy. Cape Town has long been known for its “raw,” laid-back and socially conscious approach to hip-hop, as championed by the front-runners of the city’s scene – Godessa, Driemanskap, Ill Skillz, Brasse Vannie kaap, Jitsvinger, etc. It dates back to the pioneering years of Prophets of da City (POC) and Black Noise. Hip-hop in The Mother City has always been true to the art form of hip-hop through all its four elements. To this day, the city is still known and respected for that.

Recently, however, there has been a crop of young artists — Youngsta, E-Jay, FonZo, Sibah Anne, Miss Celaneous, PHFat and more — who are slowly changing the climate with a light-hearted approach to lyrics and beats. The sound isn’t new per se, it just wasn’t something one would expect from The Mother City. Johannesburg sort of makes the rules in South African hip-hop. What pops there becomes what pops in the country because most of the big television and radio stations are based there, so the influence is easily spread across the country. The sound used by the biggest South African hip-hop artists like Cassper Nyovest, AKA, K.O and more, is the formula for success. Cape Town artists took long to jump on the bandwagon.

One warm Sunday afternoon, my friend and photographer, Andiswa Mkosi and I attempt to gather some of these new age rappers at the Cape Town taxi station. They show up one by one. We bask in the sun like geckos, waiting for everyone to get there. After waiting for over an hour, we decide to start the shoot around the station with those who are already here. We had planned to do a group shoot, with everyone we have invited, but it plays differently, as some end up not showing up, others show up after others have left.

Youngsta, Leader Of The Pack

E-Jay & Youngsta. Photo: Andiswa Mkosi

Hip-hop in general has a tendency of being resistant to change. Youngsta, one of the leaders of the Cape Town new school has had a fair share of criticism for going against the grain, especially in his early days. “Now you have to go back and look at the guys like Ready D and POC. They have now planted the seed,” he said in a 2012 documentary called Fede Fokol: 25 Years of SA Hip Hop. “And the seed is basically saying ‘this is how you do it.’ No one has tried another route yet but they’re saying this is how it’s done. So the minute someone goes and tries something else, the ones who’re stuck here, are going to tell you ‘we don’t like that' because you’re going out of the box.” Youngsta stuck to his guns and has gone on to become one of the most notable names in Cape Town hip-hop with a skill and work ethic that compares to no one. You might know him for releasing 24 mixtapes in about two years. He’s currently releasing a video every week, as part of his #VisualVrydag campaign. With collaborations with the likes of Tumi, Reason, DJ Ready D, DJ Hamma, DJ Switch and more on his portfolio, the emcee has proven that being new and current doesn’t equate to being sublime and lacking skill.

Getting countrywide recognition hasn’t been easy for Youngsta, he has expressed his frustrations on the impermeable South African music industry. Currently swinging between Jo’burg and Cape Town, the emcee is on the verge of becoming Cape Town’s latest export into the larger South African music scene. His music is, however, different to that of Cape Town acts the country has been exposed to.

Dope Saint Jude, Method In The Madness

Dope Saint Jude. Photo: Andiswa Mkosi

The main criticism the new generation of rappers who choose to rap over synth-bass lines and 808s faces is mundane lyrical content. The subject matter stereotypically revolves around materialism, partying and bottle-poppin’, an influence that can be attributed to the the Dirty South in the US. But according to rapper Dope Saint Jude, the hedonistic lyrics are part of a political statement. “Hip hop for me is a very political genre because it’s music created by people who’ve been oppressed. Even the swaggy hip-hop – young black people enjoying themselves when they’re being told to be sad and oppressed, that in itself is a political statement,” says the eloquent rapper. “So the content of the music doesn’t have to be political, the act can be political.” Dope Saint Jude’s music touches on issues like gender and sexuality in a witty and comical way as displayed on her catchy “Keep in Touch” song. She’s a reluctant academic who has studied Xhosa, gender, philosophy and law among other humanities courses.

“I try studying a bit of everything,” she says. “It allows me to be more eloquent in my raps and that allows me to reach into different kinds of ideas and audiences that I wouldn’t normally reach.”

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Janet Jackson Returns With Afrobeats-Inspired Song & Video 'Made For Now' Featuring Daddy Yankee

The icon's latest is a nod to the sound, fashion and culture of the diaspora.

Ms. Jackson is back.

The iconic artist returns with her first single since the release of her 2015 album Unbreakable, and it's a timely nod to the "made for now" influence of afrobeats fashion, sound and culture.

On "Made For Now," which features Puerto Rican reggaeton titan Daddy Yankee, Janet Jackson does what she's done successfully so many times throughout her decades-long career: provide an infectious, party-worthy tune that's fun and undeniably easy to dance to. "If you're living for the moment, don't stop," Jackson sings atop production which fuses dancehall, reggaeton and afrobeats.

The New York-shot music video is just as lively, filled with eye-catching diasporic influences, from the wax-print ensembles and beads both Janet and her dancers wear to the choreographed afrobeats-tinged dance numbers, even hitting the Shoki at one point in the video. The train of dancers travel throughout the streets of Brooklyn, taking over apartment buildings and rooftops with spirited moves.

It's obvious that Jackson has been studying and drawing inspiration from the culture for some time now. She even hit the Akwaaba dance, popularized by Mr Eazi, during her Icon Award performance at this year's Billboard Music Awards.

The bouncing video, directed by Dave Meyers, features contributions from a number of creatives from Africa and the diaspora who were involved in the creation of the video, including designer Claude Lavie Kameni and choreographer Omari Mizrahi. Ghanaian health guru, Coach Cass pointed out some of the many dancers involved in the production on Instagram, who hail from Ghana, Nigeria, Trinidad, Grenada and the US.

Ahead of the video's release, it garnered attention on social media when Jackson was spotted filming in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, wearing what many thought was a questionable fashion ensemble. The outfit in question only makes a small appearance in the video, and we're glad to see that Janet's other looks appear, at least slightly, more coordinated.

Watch the music video for "Made for Now" below. The singer is set to perform the song with Daddy Yankee live for the first time tonight on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, so be ready!

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You Need to Hear Juls' New Single 'Saa Ara'


New hip-hop and highlife grooves from the celebrated UK-based Ghanaian producer.

By merging the diverse influence of growing up in Accra and East London, Juls has managed to cultivate a hybrid afrobeats style that has set him apart from the rest.

For his latest single, "Saa Ara," he teams up with award-winning rapper Kwesi Arthur and gifted lyricist Akan.

The brilliant fusion of vintage highlife instrumentals and booming hip-hop beats, along with Kwesi Arthur's lively chorus and Akan's fiery delivery gives the song a very spiritual and classical feel.

Soothe your soul this weekend with these tasteful sounds from Juls.

Listen to "Saa Ara" by Juls featuring Kwesi Arthur and Akan below.

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News Brief

FIFA Refuses To Meet with Nigeria's Sports Minister as Ghana Takes Steps to Avoid Ban

This could jeopardize Nigeria's qualifier against Seychelles in September, while the Ghanaian government has pledged not to dissolve its football association.

In lieu of the ultimatums Nigeria and Ghana's football associations faced from FIFA, one country is on its way to dodge the threat of being banned, while the other is not going down without a fight.

FIFA has refused a proposed meeting with Nigeria's sports minister, Solomon Dalung, to discuss problems in the country's football federation, BBC Sport reports. They say their leadership and the FIFA president is unwilling to meet during the proposed time period.

FIFA is giving the NFF until August 20 for Chris Giwa, who was acknowledged by the courts as the president of the federation, to leave the NFF offices.

Giwa's lawyer Ardzard Habilla asserts that FIFA can't ban Nigeria as the federation's issues need to be sorted out internally by the country's judiciary.

Habilla questions, "Do we take it that FIFA laws are superior to the judgment of the highest court in our land—the Supreme Court, and has FIFA elevated itself before the constitution of Nigeria?"

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