BoolZ, Amilca Mezarati and Dee Koala. Photography by Dylan Moore and Sabelo Mkhabela.

Ringz and Spidans Rap: The New Sound of Cape Town Hip-Hop

The changing sounds of Cape Town hip-hop.

In 2014, the Cape Town rapper, BoolZ released a song called "Aph' Ekapa," which has since gone on to be a cult classic.On the song, BoolZ rapped with a drawl, drawing out his syllables the way new school rappers all over the world do. He was rapping in the black Cape Town township slang, known as Ringas, over a bass and synth-heavy trap beat. He rapped about rocking shades, looking cooler than life and taking your girlfriend, chilling the fuck out, chasing the paper... that type of stuff. The video depicted the same lifestyle.

"Aph' eKapa" indicated the new direction Cape Town hip-hop was taking. Before Boolz' street anthem, spaza was the subgenre of choice for Cape Town rappers from the black townships. Spaza, which started around 1995 and peaked around 2005, is about raw, hard lyricism, boom bap beats and extensive technical use of both IsiXhosa and English. Spaza in its true form, as championed by artists such as DAT, Ndlulamthi, Kanyi, Driemanskap, Backyard Crew, Pzho and a lot more, is wordy and the lyrics are centered around social consciousness, reflecting the struggles black people face in the townships which were created by the apartheid government as dumping sites for black people to keep them as far away from the city centre as possible.

Addressing the struggles of the people it represented was so important to spaza that braggadocio rap was usually associated with mainstream rappers and was frowned upon as it was seen as fake or bubblegum.

BoolZ. Photo by Dylan Moore.

BoolZ was one of the first artists to boldly start a new subgenre which stood side-by-side to spaza. The MC, producer and DJ called his sub-genre spidans rap. It incorporated all of the shunned upon elements, from the beats to the content. In his music, he spoke about the flashy ghetto life and covered subjects such as fashion, gang affiliation, financial riches, sexual prowess and just being cool. The term "spidans" refers to the flashy thugs of the black townships, who were popular between the early 90s and early 2000s. A spidans is a designer clothes-dressed and monied (legally and illegally) thug, who drove around in a BMW 325iS and played kwaito music, with an excessive amount of cash on him (think Chester from the SABC 1 series Yizo Yizo).

Read: Ndlulamthi Offers A Screenshot of Life in Cape Town's Black Townships in His New Album 'Hard Livings'

BoolZ embraced the spidans lifestyle and rapped in ringas which is understood by urban Cape Town youths from across all class lines. He was not trying to be deep or technical in his use of IsiXhosa or English. At the same time, his rhymes were far from mundane; his bars were still potent. They were, in his words, a reflection of reality that was expressed in words and flows which represented how urban Capetonian youths speak.

Spidans rap, which has touches of electronic music and trap, is influenced by old school kwaito, from the production to delivery. When "Aph' eKapa" was released, South African hip-hop and kwaito, two genres which for the longest time were involved in an animus rivalry, had fallen in love. Hip-hop artists such as OkMalumKoolKat, K.O, Cassper Nyovest, among others, released some of the biggest hits that were categorized as new age kwaito—a subgenre that can be defined as hip-hop blended with kwaito by way of samples and appropriating some old school kwaito lyrics and delivery styles.

"I am a product of kwaito," says BoolZ via email, as he is currently living his best life, performing and collaborating with artists in Zurich, Switzerland. "I keep kwaito on my phone and everywhere. When All Stars were law ekes, I always had them by natural law. Sometimes I DJ kwaito sets." The artist goes on to mention that he remixed kwaito artist M'du's mega '90s hit "Tsiki Tsiki" in his debut album. He also makes reference to a song of his called "KWAITO 2 D34TH" in which he sampled Spikiri and M'Du's productions. "[Kwaito producers] Mandla Spikiri and M'du are two of my favorite producers," he adds. "It's a pleasure to sample them. Me and my friend DJ Simple have kwaito conversations that last the whole day. Without kwaito, I would have no backbone. Kwaito is what iizpidans would play in their cars from 1994 to 2002 to be specific. That period, kwaito was undefeated."

Amilca Mezarati. Photo by Sabelo Mkhabela.

Spindans rap would grow and influence other Cape Town rappers. One of the most notable artists to resort to slang and telling stories from the hood in Ringas, is Amilca Mezarati. The MC, just like BoolZ pre-"Aph' Ekapa," was rapping conventionally, mostly in English over mostly boom bap beats. But after the release of the song called "Hai Sho Bhowzey," which was a collaboration between him and fellow rapper BlaQ Slim in 2014, Amilca's music took a different direction.

"It's logical to rap how you speak," says Amilca, adding that using everyday slang enabled him to be more relatable to his fanbase. "Hai Sho Bhowzey" is a popular greeting in the Cape Town township of Langa where both Amilca and BoolZ are from. Amilca calls his brand of hip-hop ringz (a stylized version of the word "ringas"). He refers to ringz as "iiringz zom'groovo" (ghetto party talk) at times.

"I wanted other people to listen to our music, just the normal person on the street," he says about his move of choosing to rap in vernacular. "As soon as I started rapping in a way that they could relate, a way that they communicate to each other on a daily basis, it was then easier for us to get booked at Rands, Head Honcho, iPotsoyi, nightclubs and picnics." In general, Cape Town hip-hop artists whose names aren't YoungstaCPT, Uno July or Driemanskap, hardly ever get booked for big events such as the ones Amilca mentions.

Amilca, after releasing singles such as "Jik' Izinto," "Malikhona," "From Samps and Beans to Champions," dropped the EP Road To Rings, earlier this year. The EP is a prequel to Ringz, his debut album, which has been promised since 2016.

Amilca's facial expression intensifies as he states that Ringz, as opposed to the EP which is mostly light-hearted, will see him tackling more serious topics. "The kinda things I'm sayin on that tape are very deep," he says. "They're not like what I've been saying on 'Hai Sho Bhowzey,' 'Malikhona' and 'Baller Nge Budget.' I get deep into situations, like when your best friend turns on you in the neighborhood. The murder rate in Cape Town is the highest in South Africa... I get into concepts that are so deep that I had to do Road To Rings; I had to bring in Dee with me, and get people prepared for what I'm about to say. The EP was more uptempo, but with the album, there are no singles, I'm just trying to break down how I came up, you know, catching the train."

Dee Koala. Photo by Sabelo Mkhabela.

The EP features more soldiers of the ringz movement—the likes of, among others, TRP, Cole Will, and most notably Dee Koala, one of the most promising rappers from Cape Town at the moment. Dee recently got a cosign from SA rap superstar Riky Rick. Riky gave Dee a chance to perform her upcoming song "Oko Lephone Ibikhala" during his set at the popular annual hip-hop festival Major League Gardens in September.

When asked about the influence spaza has in their music, Dee and Amilca reminisce about spaza's golden days, how everyone in the hood was loving it. "Ringz is definitely inspired by spaza," Amilca admits. "It's inspired by kwaito and Afrikaans rap too. It's basically the language that is spoken in Cape Town street culture. Hiringas, siyayi ringa lewey. My problem with spaza music when it was being done by the older guys was that they would use words that were so deeply rooted in Eastern Cape Xhosa. They would use words that were not that familiar in Cape Town."

"'Hai Sho Bhowzey,' that was the biggest wave ever," says Dee Koala. "It was kinda like an upgrade for spaza. 'Hai Sho Bhowzey' was an interlude to the way we're rapping now; is'kasi."

Parallels can be drawn here to hip-hop countrywide and globally. Old school rappers like Rakim and Nas would make reference to astronomy, astrology, ancient history and other scholarly subjects in their rhymes. But new age lyricists such as Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole Drake have found a way to tell relatable stories with proficient complex wordplay using the everyday language. Maybe the lines are easier on the ear, as such rappers use colloquial language, but to say the lyrics are watered down is inaccurate.

Dee Koala and Amilca Mezarati. Photo by Sabelo Mkhabela.

Amilca, BoolZ, Dee Koala, BMan, Phresh Clique, Sole, UGLYMOBBWDIB and a whole lot, are telling relatable stories using ringz. The rappers aren't shy to talk about money and partying alongside the daily struggles faced by the working class of Cape Town. That way, they give you a 360 view of life in the hood; as much as there's struggle and pain, youngins still look fly, turn the fuck up, and have a great time.

But, as we all know, hip-hop purists aren't the biggest fans of change. Ringz and spidans rap aren't received that well by the spaza community. For instance, there haven't been that many, if any, intergenerational collaborations between the older spaza artists and the new ringz and spidans rappers. In 2015, when BoolZ did an interview with the Bush Radio hip-hop show, Headwarmaz, fans weren't so impressed with the content of his lyrics. Headwarmaz was, for many years, a platform for spaza.

BoolZ expresses that he doesn't care about the hate and doesn't need approval from heads or purists. "I work with those that want to work with me, those that are talented enough to work with me," he says. This is partly why his 2016 EP was titled Love Tha Hate.

Amilca on the other hand feels puzzled by the hostility and thinks that "it could be that they feel like we don't pay homage to them for what they have contributed to the culture, then out of the blue, we come out and say that we have a new genre or style of rapping." He further acknowledges that "some OGs do embrace it, though, but it's usually the OGs that follow the culture, and not the rap OGs."

Dee Koala shares similar sentiments. She feels that "only a few OGs are accommodating, while many of them are afraid of change." She expresses that they may "feel like they lost the control that they had... and having that in mind, they automatically hate the new type of music" instead of embracing it.

But there's no stopping the new wave. You can hear ringz and spidans rap anywhere from Rands in Khayelitsha, all the way to the food courts of the University of Cape Town.

Below, watch interviews with Dee Koala and Amilca Mezarati and check out a playlist of songs by new age Cape Town hip-hop artists who are part of the new wave discussed above.

Videos shot and edited by Tseliso Monaheng.

Still from "Kasala!"

Meet The Nigerian New Wave Director Behind the Film 'Kasala!'

One of Naija cinema's new wave, Ema Edosio talks about what it took to film her exciting new film in the streets of Lagos.

Ema Edosio is the director of "Kasala", a comedy set in present day Lagos and centers on the lives of four young men who go on a joyride to a party in a Honda Accord one of them has taken from his boss Taju without permission. Their evening is ruined when one of them crashes Taju's Honda breaking the windscreen and denting the car's body. With just four hours before Taju returns home, all four boys hustle around Lagos to raise money for the car repair.

Taju, who is a struggling butcher, is faced with a big problem of his own: his debtor has just given him an ultimatum to pay back money he's long owed. Bitter and frustrated, Taju's retribution will be double-fold, if he returns home to find his Honda is damaged. The four friends do not need more another reason to expect the worse from Taju if they're not able to fix his Honda before gets home in the next four hours.

"Kasala" is a vivid portrayal of contemporary Lagos and a riotous combination of physical comedy, inventive turns of phrases combined with fluid camera work and committed performances from some of the young and bright African acting talents.

Written by Temi Sodipo and directed by Ema Edosio—who is also the cinematographer and editor—"Kasala" was chosen for the closing gala of the 2018 edition of Film Africa in London this November, out of a total of 39 films from 15 countries.

Edosio flew into London for the film's UK premier at the Rich Mix cinema to a largely pan-African crowd who lapped up the rollicking comedy. Ahead of her trip to the UK, Okay Africa spoke to Edosio about her debut feature, the joys and challenges of shooting on location in Lagos and the rise of Nigeria's so called "Naija New Wave" cinema.

Photo courtesy of Ema Edosio

The fast pace and energy in Kasala is constant all through the film. Was this a deliberate injection or did it come as a result of the writing?

I worked as a video journalist for the BBC and I would go into the streets of Lagos to film, and I would see everything that made Lagos what it is: the traffic, the smell, the dirt, the vibe, the energy, the people. And I wanted to make a story that is authentic and that is the reason why I decided to make Kasala this way.

All the four friends and main characters jell naturally it would seem. How did you get them to work well together?

When I conceived of the film, I knew that I didn't want to work with any "known" faces. I knew that I wanted unknown actors. So I put out an audition call and these boys worked into the room and I told them to read together. And immediately it was like magic.

Why do you think they're largely unknown to the majority of Nigerian movie watching audience?

I think one of the reasons is there's not a lot of movies written about young people. Most of the scripts are for a certain kind of male character: the superhero who goes to save the damsel in distress, and the hunk and a lot of roles are not written for these amazing actors and that's why they're largely unknown.

Tomiwa Tegbe who plays "Effiong" is a good comic actor and has been in "On The Real (Ebony Life TV)" and "Shuga (MTV)". What does Kasala bring out in Tomiwa Tegbe that these other directors and film material that do not?

The thing that made Tomiwa Tegbe and the rest stand out in Kasala is that I gave them freedom to act and I wasn't micromanaging them. They became very comfortable in order to do their best to the film.

The cast as a whole is largely new and young with Jide Kosoko easily the most experienced. Why did you cast him for the role and not yet another "unknown" face?

The reason is I couldn't afford to hire known faces to work in the film and I honestly didn't have the budget. I [also] wanted to bring in a sense of familiarity and that is why I got Jide Kosoko. Even though they're guys are unknown, and they're are fantastic "here is someone you know who is in this movie playing with these amazing actors" which is why I worked with Jide Kosoko.

The different locations in the film are those of back corners, mechanic garages, meat market, communal flats most of which have the red and brown of rust and decay gives the cinematography a visual harmony. How much attention did you give to finding the right locations?

I think I made Kasala with a vengeance. I've had the privilege to work with Ebonylife tv which was beautiful but Kasala kept pulling me in: the people I met in the streets, the things I'd done on the streets of Lagos, the visual aesthetic kept pulling and I decided to make that. I wanted to see Lagos, I wanted to see barbwires. I wanted to see gutters, I wanted to see the people. I knew that the location was a character on its own. And I wanted to be able to find the right location that would be able to represent that boys and the lives they live in Lagos. I'm forever grateful for the people there who let us film there.

Your camera adopts the often frenetic pace of the film and is rarely still for long. Why this visual approach?

I'm very influenced by Guy Ritchie, Edgar Wright, Spike Lee and Martin Scorsese. And I would always say to myself that "these characters in their films can be Nigerians". I think that the camera should be fluid, breathe, move with the audience showing us "oh yeah this is a wide, oh yeah this is a close up". My influence by these directors was what I put into Kasala. And this is what made the film dynamic.

Are there any interesting, unplanned events during shooting which you could share with our readers?

Shooting in Lagos is one of the hardest thing to do. You have these agberos [louts] who come to you and literally want to take your equipment. I went with a very small crew and I'm very petite and they would see me and say "who is this small girl? She doesn't have money. Leave her alone, let her shoot". I started bringing them into the film to act and it was very beautiful seeing them react to it. One of the most interesting things is the children in the estates [on location] who act in the film, the joy and the playfulness. In some ways we brought back some joy and some fun into the neighbourhood.

Still from "Kasala!"

Did you worry much about what may be lost to foreign audiences who may not be clued up the pidgin English and "Nigerianisms" used in the film?

You can't come to Lagos and make a film about the slum in English. I felt like the pidgin English was as important as the location. My mind was not about where the foreign audience would accept it or whatever. My mind was "how do I make a film that is authentic to Nigeria? How do I make a film that would show of Lagos?" It would do no justice to use English.

Who are the other key players in Nigeria's "nu wave" film and tv you would like to highlight?

When you talk about new wave key players you're talking about Abba Makama whose film "Green White Green" inspired me to make "Kasala". CJ SeriObasi, ImoEmoren, Jade Sholat Siberi, Kemi Adetiba. So many new directors are springing out nollywood. And they're new directors making amazing stuff. I'm really really excited about the future.

How did you raise the funding needed to make "Kasala"?

When I wanted to make Kasala, it was not the kind of story people would fund. I decided in order to bring this story to live, to use the skills I'd gained over the years—to produce, direct, shoot and edit. Not because I wanted to be in control, because I didn't have the budget. That is the sport of new director coming in now. We're fighting against all odds and it is now beginning to be clear that it's way beyond nollywood. Kasala has been to over 20 international festivals and counting. And there an audience for our films, there's an audience for our voices.

What are you expectations for it at the festival?

I really don't know what to expect. I just hope that they love the film. For the Nigerians in the diaspora,I hope that it brings back memories of Lagos. For black people I hope it gives them a sense of how we are back home to help them connect with us as Africans. For the foreign audience I hope that they see a Nigeria of passion, of community, of tenacity, of brotherhood of love.

"Kasala" will be released worldwide on December 7th


Indomie: Unpacking a Nigerian Tradition

What does Nigeria's way of preparing this beloved brand of instant noodles say about the country as a whole?

Before I came to Lagos in September to begin a collaborative performance project, I imagined all the ways the place would challenge all I had read and heard about it, and all the ways it might remind me of my home, Trinidad and Tobago. Of all the kernels of similarities I've encountered so far, Indomie is perhaps the most intriguing.

Indomie, a brand of instant noodles originating in Indonesia, has become the household name for all instant ramen noodles in Nigeria.

As a child, I would make Top Ramen, but ours was far less intentionally adorned. I had never seen anyone add anything but Golden Ray. I would try to be fancy with my own and add eggs, but they never quite attained Naruto ramen standards.

Indomie was my first meal in Nigeria. I had arrived in Lagos about two hours earlier. In those two hours I had seen something of the character of the city. In the midst of the clouds of dust and engine exhaust fumes I saw a woman almost fall out the car she was getting into, I saw men sitting atop a truck, like wrinkles in the night sky fabric, I saw selling, so much selling and buying and haggling. It seemed to me that everything was happening here.

Keep reading... Show less

Fela Kuti's 'Zombie' Is Coming Out On Limited Edition 8-Track

"Zombie" and "Mr. Follow Follow" are available in the nostalgic 8-track cartridge.

"Zombie," Fela Kuti's 1976 protest anthem and scathing attack on the Nigerian military, is getting an 8-track re-release.

Knitting Factory Records, Kalakuta Sunrise and Partisan Records have made 300 limited editions copies of Zombie/Mr. Follow Follow which you can pre-order now ahead of its December 7 release.

Fela Kuti's classic song uses zombies as a metaphor for soldiers mindlessly following orders. The song is thought to have triggered the Nigerian government's horrific assault on the Kalakuta Republic, in which the compound burned to the ground, Fela was brutally beaten and his mother, Nigerian feminist icon Funmilayo Ransome Kuti, was murdered.

You can pre-order Zombie/Mister Follow Follow on 8-track now and read more about each song from Mabinuori Kayode Idowu's text accompanying the release below.

Purchase Fela Kuti's Zombie/Mr Follow Follow on 8-Track

Keep reading... Show less

get okayafrica in your inbox