Following along with this month's theme of Love and Blackness, we had resident SA hip-hop expert Sabelo Mkhabela, round up ten South African Hip-Hop Love Songs for you and your lover's enjoyment.
Hip-hop doesn't get enough credit for its love offerings, so we thought it only right to highlight some of the genre's best South African jams.
Get into it with the selection below. For more, check out our African Love Songs playlist on Apple Music.
Amu “Since I Met You”
“Since I Met You” is a double love song. Amu is caught between his love for hip-hop and this woman who is turning him into a soapie character. “Since I Met You,” just like the album it’s on, The Life, Rap and Drama (2003), is timeless—it sounds new to this day. Amu’s production reveals a seasoned producer. The clarity of the music is impressive, especially given the era this album came in.
A-Reece and his lover are reunited, and he celebrates with “Mngani.” Sonically the song is pleasing, with familiar chords that induce nostalgia, whether they take you back to Tupac’s “I Ain’t Mad At Ya” or Blackstreet’s “Don’t Leave Me.” A-Reece sings the hook with old school R&B sensibilities, giving the song the lovey-dovey feel he was gunning for.
ProVerb “I Know” ft. Ferdy Ferd
ProVerb pends the most heartfelt love songs in South African rap. 'Verb's best love song has to be “Marry Me” from his classic debut album The Book of ProVerb (2005). ‘Verb pens the most heartfelt love songs in South African rap.
On his second album The Manuscript (2006), he had “Tell Me, Tell Me” and “From Across The Room.” But both albums aren’t readily available on streaming sites. “I Know,” from his third album Write of Passage, is also a gem. On the song, ‘Verb tells his partner that he knows what strings to pull to get her into the mood. Ferdy Ferd’s hook is old school R&B style, which is a perfect fit for the song.
Emtee “U Got It”
Emtee showed off his singing skills on his debut album Avery (2016). “U Got It” is one in which he shows his brilliance. Everything on the song just works, just like Emtee’s relationship with his bae, which is revealed as healthy from lines like “Have been around the world/ haven’t seen a better girl/ I’m just happy you don’t twerk/ and you never judge me ‘cause I’m sippin’ on sizurp.” A perfect soundtrack for a perfect relationship, if ever those exist.
Zubz “I’m Here” ft. Pebbles
“I’m Here”, from Zubz's debut album Listener’s Digest (2004) is more than just about long distance love and its challenges. It’s also about being a struggler in a foreign country. But for him, having that conversation with the mother of his kid keeps him going (“But life’s cool when I’m talking to you/ Late at night who I think of often is you/ You get me through”), even though that conversation is usually cut short when his credit runs out.
What makes “I’m Here” more effective is that it’s told as an intimate no-holds-barred phone conversation—as a listener you feel like an eavesdropper. Pebbles sings one of those hooks she was known for in the mid-2000s. Timeless song from a timeless album.
AKA & Patoranking “Special Fi Mi”
AKA found his special someone and he decided to share the story in a celebratory afrobeats banger. There’s nothing profound about “Special Fi Mi,” but there’s an existential euphoria that kicks in every time the song’s on. It’s a great cross between pop and rap, and is a great soundtrack to love going right. If you just found a special somebody you’ll relate.
Reason “Promise Me” ft. Dineo Moeketsi
On “Promise Me,” Reason raps in first person about what his partner has just told him: she's ready to take their relationship a step further, even though she’s scared and knows it’s not perfect. “I’m ready to give you all that’s left of me in spite of my fears/ In spite of the glitches, in spite of the habits and all of these nasty affairs.” The music, Reason’s tone and Dineo’s emotion on the hook form what is one of the most heartwarming love songs to ever come out of South Africa. It’s up there with ProVerb’s “Marry Me.”
Solo “The Frolic” ft. Dineo Moeketsi & Kabomo
Solo and his real-life bae Dineo Moeketsi united for a song affirming their love on 2014’s “The Frolic.” Assisting with more vocals on the hook is the man whose voice oozes soul, Kabomo, adding to the song’s grandeur. Dineo and Solo exchange heartwarming words, “Hope that you’ll understand when I say I see forever with you,” she sings, celebrating a relationship they are both comfortable in and want to stay in.
Nasty C “Phases” ft. Rowlene
“Phases” is one of the strongest songs on Nasty C’s debut album Bad Hair. It shows his potency as a song-writer, and it has a mean rhyme scheme. “Phases” speaks of a woman in Nasty’s life who’s been there through his lowest points, but they both have questions and doubts about their relationship.
It gets better when he and the featured singer Rowlene go back and forth in a rapped and sung conversation towards the end. The production is minimalist, the keys and bass line creating a fitting environment for musings on one of the most complex feelings human beings experience.
Zuluboy “Nomalanga Mntakwethu”
“Nomalanga Mntakwethu” is more than just a love song—it tells the story of a freedom fighter (presumably a member of Umkhonto Wesizwe) during the apartheid era. The song is a letter to the soldier’s loved one, expressing how he misses her, and how the sacrifices he and his colleagues had to make for the freedom of South Africa.
He keeps writing to her, but she doesn’t write back, and in a tragic turnout of events, when he gets back from fighting, he learns Nomalanga is dead. The song, which samples the South African jazz classic “Nomalanga” by Caiphus Semenya, tells the trauma most South Africans went through while fighting for the liberation of the country.