25 Up-And-Coming South African Rappers Under 25 You Need To Stop Sleeping On

Here are 25 South African rappers under 25 that you need to know.

South Africa’s hip-hop scene is arguably the biggest on the continent. What makes it even more exciting is that most hip-hop artists in the country are young.

In light of Youth Month, we pick 25 rappers who are under the age of 25, who we believe have the potential to be up there with Cassper Nyovest, AKA, Nasty C, A-Reece and them.

Also be sure to check out our 2016 list, which featured the likes of Nasty C, Saudi, A-Reece, YoungstaCPT, Patty Monroe, a majority of whom have gone on to become icons in their own different ways.

Read our 25 South African Rappers Under 25 You Need To Stop Sleeping On list, presented in no particular order, ahead.

Sho Madjozi (24)

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Sho Madjozi is running her own lane. And that has attracted the stars to her. OkMalumKoolKat featured her on two songs on his debut album Mlazi Milano. Khuli Chana recently featured her on his latest single “Tlekeke.” Veteran producer and rapper PH featured her on his latest album Break. She also appeared on Ghanaian rapper Wanlov’s latest album Orange Card: Fruitopian Raps. It’s her distinct rapping style, and her combination of rap and gqom that sets her apart. She’s teeming with personality, and has a quirky fashion sense. Save for PH and Mchangani, Sho Madjozi is the only visible rapper to rap in the Tsonga language, and she does it with a personality and flair that hasn’t been heard before. Her hit single “Dumi HiPhone,” a collaboration with gqom collective PS DJz , is as ratchet as they come, and has kids all over South Africa gyrating to it.  

Flex Rabanyan (21)

Flex Rabanyan, from the small town of Eskhawini in KwaZulu Natal, is making sure that his province remains one of the most represented. Flex is the champion of the second season of Vuzu TV's The Hustle—the popular TV rap competition which just wrapped up a few days ago. He impressed the show’s judges—AKA, Stogie T, Khuli Chana and Scoop Makhathini—with all the necessary rapper dynamics. He’s a complete emcee: he can battle, freestyle and make great songs. Flex is built to be a star. He has confidence and charisma that places him in the same level as the best of them. On his latest single, “RabaYeezy,” he shows off his skills with lyrical flair, personality, solid delivery and impressive breath control. The second half of 2017 will be exciting.  


Frank Casino (24)

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Frank Casino made an appearance on one of the biggest songs of 2016, “Mayo” by DJ Speedsta. He also caught the attention of Riky Rick, who jumped on the remix of his single “The Whole Thang.” Riky recently featured the rapper on a song called “Family” from his three-track EP Scooby Snacks. He also appears on PH’s latest album. Frank Casino has the ability to captivate his listener with his authoritative vocal projection and delivery, so much that it doesn’t matter what he’s rapping about. His EP Something From Me, released last year, was a good offering showcasing what the rapper from the East Rand in Joburg is about—sauce, charisma, catchy hooks, and a great ear for beats.

Una Rams (21)

Photo by Emma Verster.

Una Rams sings more than he raps. He’s also a great producer, and his self-produced single, the somber “Nobody” from his EP Pink Moon, has great potential, specially considering it’s a fitting soundtrack for the winter. The artist, who’s currently based in Pretoria, is an anomaly–his music combines hip-hop, trap, soul and dancehall vocals. Earlier this year, he got a huge co-sign from house music maestro Black Coffee. With South African hip-hop incorporating more and more singing, Una Rams should be here to stay.

Nazlee Arbee (21)

Photo by Sabelo Mkhabela.

Nazlee Arbee’s mother breastfed them to hip-hop, they say. It’s hard to not believe them, as they have serious skills on the mic. An active member of the Rhodes Must Fall movement, they use their music as a form of mobilization to decolonize people of color in the world. Earlier this year, the multidimensional artist, who is also a photographer, released “The Wake Up Call,” a 7-minute long visual to pieces of music the artist created. Nazlee’s music is highly influenced by the golden era, with mostly soulful boom bap production, a backpack delivery and conscious rhymes. Their mixture of different art forms is a refreshing take on music. If for some reason, you aren’t moved by their raps, their images and writing will definitely catch your attention.

SimmySimmyNya (23)

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SimmySimmyNya, originally from Kwazulu Natal, is based in Cape Town. He is part of the newly-formed supergroup ContraGang, alongside veterans such as Uno July, Stan1 and Camo, and newbies like J-One, M-Tunez-I, Psyc’ AK and Don Loyiso. SimmySimmyNya’s high-pitched voice and unorthodox delivery put him in a league of his own. He has performed at festivals such as Rocking The Daisies and Ipotsoyi. He appeared on Uno July’s Uno ‘n Only album last year. The rapper’s also featured on Ginger Trill’s lastest singleForrest Guap,” in which he delivers a catch. Last year, he released his debut EP called Trapnya, which gives you a taste of who SimmySimmyNya is.

Yung Swiss (23)

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Last year Yung Swiss sang the hook to DJ Speedsta’s “Mayo.” The Cameroonian-born artist may sing more than he raps, but he can still spit potent bars as proven on the remix to his single “David Genaro,” which featured hip-hop royalty on Reason, Ginger Trill and DJ Speedsta. His 2016 EP Bottom Baby is amazing, proving Swiss is more than just a rapper, but a versatile artist who can make great memorable songs. His latest single “Jungle” again proves his staying power, and features Cashtime Life boss K.O.  

Master Kiii (18)

Photo by Sabelo Mkhabela.

At 17, Cape Town dungeon rapper Master Kiii is an anomaly. He’s inspired by an era that was popping when he wasn’t even born, and that’s the 90s. His music is strictly boom bap, and he laces those soulful beats with smooth flows and slick wordplay. His lyrics are replete with anime references, and weed is clearly a great part of his life. Hoodgeeks, his EP from last year, is a true gift for the boom bap he

ad, who feels starved of that type of hip-hop in the 21st century. Kiii’s part of a group of like-minded hip-hop heads called Down South Natives, which consists of insufferable golden era hip-hop enthusiasts, who are inspired by Wu Tang Clan and Pro Era. Tired of mumble rap and trap? Kiii is your guy. You are welcome.

crownedYung (22)

Photo courtesy of artist.

crownedYung, from Durban, was previously signed to the popular indie label Select Play. Superbalist listed the artist as one of the rappers to watch in 2017. crownedYung’s 2016 EP Dirtbin was a great effort. It featured notable names in the South African hip-hop scene like Shane Eagle, Beast, TellaMan and Tribal. It saw him showcase his rapping and songwriting skills like a true millennial artist. While he is confident, he also isn’t shy about being vulnerable, and the result is a complete artist who you should be hearing more about in the near future.

Moz Kidd (19)

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Moz Kidd is making sure that Nelspruit, the capital of the Mpumalanga province, is never left out of conversations about hip-hop. He is one of the most visible artists from the city. Last year, he collaborated with Riky Rick on the single “I Wanna Know.” Earlier this year, he was recruited by the controversial label Mabala Noise, joining a constellation of stars including Nasty C, Gigi Lamayne, Zakwe and more. Moz Kidd’s music is mostly trap. He sings and raps autobiographical and aspirational bars with a convincing conviction over bass lines and kicks that are as big as his confidence. For his full story, listen to his 2016 mixtape What Were You Doing At 19?.

Manu WorldStar (22)

Manu WorldStar is oozing with talent. The Joburg-based rapper has the technicalities of rapping–flow, cadence, wordplay–on lock. He also happens to make greats songs. It’s still a wonder why “Yewen,” his single from last year didn’t become one of the biggest songs in the country–it’s catchy and sees the man dropping serious bars. Manu was a contestant in The Hustle. He has proven himself a potent emcee over and over again through singles and his mixtape From Now On, Call Me Manu.


Vitu (21)

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Vitu offers a needed balance in the South African hip-hop scene, which is dominated by trap music (nothing wrong with that). His latest EP, This Time Next Week, is monolithic—the rapper tells his story over jazz samples, that are spiced with synths and 808s, creating a beautiful and accessible soundscape that we need more of. He works with engineers and producers who understand him, as the music seems to be built around his voice–reverbs and echoes add to the haunting feel of the project. The rapper’s hight pitch vocal projection and unique enunciation are reminiscent of Q-Tip. Vitu is part of a trio called Arcade Music, which is equally as passionate. If you are going to sleep on a project this year, it shouldn’t be This Time Next Week.

Nyota (17)

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Nyota, a rapper and singer from Cape Town, released her debut mixtape, Age Of Enlightenment, at the beginning of May, and it’s impressive. At 17, Nyota, has the charisma and skill of artists 10 years her senior. On Age of Enlightenment, she raps as well she sings–picture the chilled vocals of Rihanna and the flows of Nicki Minaj, but with a unique twist, as Nyota totally owns her style–she sounds comfortable while delivering complex rhyme patterns. She covers a wide range of subject matter like love, spirituality, conspiracy–topics you wouldn’t expect a 17-year-old to rap so eloquently about. Age of Enlightenment is a decent effort that should get the attention of the industry.

Du Boiz (24)

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Du Boiz, who’s originally from New Castle, in the KwaZulu Natal province, came from nowhere and scooped up a deal with Mabala Noise. This was after the success of his single “Celebration,” which received airplay on YFM, Cliff Central, and other stations. Du Boiz then scored a feature with Tyga, and his recent collaboration with AKA–a song called “Hallelujah” deserves a spot on your playlist. The rapper may not make your list of best lyricists but his combination of singing and rapping over mostly trap production, though nothing innovative, won’t stop you from jamming to his hits.

LuRah (21)

Photo: Sabelo Mkhabela.

On his debut EP New Drug, Cape Town-based rapper LuRah asserts he’s one of the best doing it. The EP was received well by Cape Town hip-hop heads. And deservedly so. The rapper sounds comfortable over the trap production he favors. He’s not wordy–he pauses between lines when he has to. His flow is intact and he raps on-beat. LuRah, who also calls himself Kapatown Boy, started rapping in 2008 and has been at it ever since, performing in sessions to get his name out. New Drug is just a start–a teaser of a longer project which he’s already working on. LuRah is no doubt one of the most exciting young rappers coming out of Cape Town. Given the right PR, he will be up there with your Nasty Cs and A-Reeces.

TSA (25)

TSA raps and croons over textured cloud trap production. He has released two EPs thus far, The Zxne and Finger Snacks, on which the artist tells stories of aspiration and relationships. TSA has made appearances on Hype (South Africa’s only hip-hop print publication) and the African Hip Hop Blog, among others. Listening to TSA’s music, you can pick up a Drake influence, from his production choice, his subject matter and delivery, but the artist is still authentically himself. It should only be a matter of time until fans catch on to TSA’s brilliance.

Dee XCLSV (19)

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Dee XCLSV had a great run on The Hustle show, even though he got eliminated. Dee is a talented rapper who has a lot of potential. His combination of singing and rapping has space in the hip-hop industry. And he’s able to rap in both English and vernacular, which is also an advantage. The emcee who is currently part of Punchline Music, alongside Manu WorldStar, Luna Florentino and Tony X, proves himself on the clique’s compilation Pissed Off The Neighbours, which was released earlier this year.

Joshua The I AM

Joshua The I AM’s music is consistent–his videos are artsy, shot in slow motion, with a hazy feel. The artist, who both raps and sings, was the runner-up for the second season of The Hustle, losing to Flex Rabanyan. Joshua The I AM was one of the judges’ favorites, and AKA expressed that he had the potential to win the competition and even went as far as saying Joshua’s song for the final was better than Flex’s. Joshua The I AM has already amassed a legion of fans from the competition, and should do just fine.

Lil Trix (22)

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Lil Trix is one of the most prolific up-and-coming rappers in the country, with countless mixtapes (he has eight of them) and singles under his belt. His music has been played on stations such as YFM and 5FM, and he has appeared on TV channels like SABC 1 and Earlier this year, he was on the cover of The Freshman Edition of Hype magazine–a spot he earned through public votes alongside five other up-and-coming emcees.  On his latest EP titled ZULO, the emcee shows a lot of growth – he sounds more comfortable in his own skin than he ever has. It’s only a matter of time until Lil Trix is a household name in South African hip-hop. Make sure to pay close attention–being the hard worker he is, you might blink and miss out on some great tunes and moves.  


Photo: Sabelo Mkhabela.

Rapper and vocalist Megamafia is a ferocious rapper. Her 2016 mixtape Storiez To Tell saw her spitting bars over varied production that ranges from boom bap to trap. The rapper was handpicked by 5FM DJ Ms Cosmo to appear on the female remix to DJ Switch’s popular rappity rap hit “Now Or Never.” Last year, the Joburg-based rapper was nominated for the Best Female award at the South African Hip Hop Awards. This year, she was on the lineup of Back To The City, and she was on the cover of Hype’s The Freshman Edition issue earlier this year. She is currently working on an album due for next year. In the meatime, her mixtape will ensure you become a fan.

Chad Da Don (24)

Photo: Sabelo Mkhabela.

Chad Da Don broke into the industry in 2013, with his hit single “Hola,” which featured Cassper Nyovest. He would go on to sign with Nyovest’s label Family Tree, before leaving and dropping a diss track, “Chad Is Better,” to his ex-boss in 2015. He went on to start his own label and release his debut album The Book Of Chad, which featured producers and artists such as Buks, Brian Soko, Kyle Deutsch, Nasty C, among others. Chad Da Don’s music used to have motswako influence, thanks to his affiliation with Cassper Nyovest. Say what you like about Chad Da Don, but respect his skills on the mic.

Ijohn (21)

Cape Town’s Ijohn doesn’t subscribe to the norms of mainstream music. He’s an indigo child who believes in the power of music. His music condemns what’s wrong with the world. It leans more towards boom bap, a production style which plays a great backdrop for his subject matter. He is part of the Down South Natives collective from Cape Town, and just like most of his peers, can freestyle better than your fave. His 2016 EP, which sees him drop some knowledge and razor sharp flows, is a good place to start if you want to get familiar.

J.S.K XXVI (23)

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J.S.K. XXVI was also on the cover of The Freshman Edition of Hype earlier this year. The rapper from Mpumalanga is part of the new wave of artists who are making the internet work for them–he has managed to connect and work with producers from as far as Germany. J.S.K XXVI, just like most of his peers, doesn’t just limit himself to rapping – he can also sing and produce. The rapper’s music also doesn’t disappoint. He has laid-back songs like “Frequencies Part 1” and catchy hustler anthems like “Green.”

Just King Blake (24)

Just King Blake is a rhyme machine–her rhymes are as bold as the trap production she chooses to rap over. Without any major features, the rapper’s EP Situation was picked up by reputable websites like Zkhiphani and the African Hip Hop Blog. What she has are rhymes and a convincing delivery. Just King Blake is confident and it shows in her music. She also chose to call herself King instead of Queen because, in her own words, she aims to be eccentric in the male dominated industry.

Wah-Li (22)

Wah-Li is a gifted wordsmith from Cape Town. He has the ability to play with words–his style is reminiscent of the rapper ProVerb. Wah-Li is all for technical correctness–his bars are well-structured, and his rhymes are intricate and uniform. In 2014, he made the Top 20 of the Back To The City 10K Challenge, selected from thousands of entries from all over the country. Unlike most emcees of the same school of through as he is, Wah-Li is willing to explore different types of production, and the beauty is that he is always able to excel. If you are into the likes of ProVerb and Reason, then Wah-Li’s music will definitely work for you.

Correction 7/4/17: A previous version of this article mistakenly referred to Nazlee Arbee as "she/her," whereas their pronouns are "they/them."

Image courtesy of 'The Spread'

'The Spread' Is the Sex-Positive Kenyan Podcast Offering a Safe Space for Women and LGBTQIA+ Issues

'The Spread' is the podcast dedicated to "decolonizing" the way Africans talk about sex and sexuality, say it's creator Karen Kaz Lucas.

Karen Kaz Lucas is the revolutionary brainchild behind Africa's best-known sex positive podcast, The Spread. Three years in, the 52 podcast episodes, covering a range of diverse topics including: The Male-Female Pleasure Gap, Sex positive parenting, LGBTQIA+ issues, Kink, Reproductive Rights, and Porn vs. Reality, has listeners ranging from 6,000 to 21,000 and episode on SoundCloud.

Recently, The Spread had its first major event TheSpreadFest, a day-long event attracting over 600 people with diverse panels, workshops and more. It's been hailed as a truly safe and inclusive space for people of all sexual identities. Okayafrica contributor, Ciku Kimeria speaks to The Spread creator Kaz on her journey to decolonize sexuality, her motivation, and her hopes for the continent relating to matters of sex and sexuality.

Read the conversation below.

Karen Kaz LucasImage courtesy of 'The Spread'

What made you start The Spread podcast?

It was to address the key gaps in discussions around sex and sexuality and to create a safe space to discuss them. Younger people were either learning about sex from porn or on the flip side from a religious standpoint or the education system, where the focus is on the risks of engaging in sex (teen pregnancy, STIs etc). As such they were either getting information from a fear-based system, shame-based system or porn that has very little to do with real life sexual situations and intimacy. I wanted to create a safe space where people could talk about all issues related to sexuality but in an open, accepting and enlightening way. For me, this is an informal form of sex education that allows people to explore their sexuality from an unbiased perspective—no judgement, no shaming.

What's the reception been like so far?

The reception has been overwhelmingly positive. I had no idea that the podcast would grow and be as successful as it is now. People are hungry to meet similar people and have discussions without judgement. Of course, there are also people who react negatively to my work and say that this is a result of "Western influence." To those people, I say that they should know that the majority of my work is focused on decolonizing sexuality.

Great transition. I first saw the term "decolonizing sexuality" in your Instagram bio. What exactly does that mean?

Prior to Western intrusion, we already had our own sexual culture. I'm trying to remind people that certain things we embrace as "African" and defend when it comes to sex and sexuality, are elements that came to us through religion, Westernized education etc. The shame associated with sex and sexuality on the continent are remnants of Western teachings.

Prior to colonization many ethnic groups had religious healers who were neither considered male nor female but were gender fluid or intersex. There were ethnic groups that didn't base gender on anatomy but on energy. Gender fluidity on the continent was observed even more than you would find in the most liberal country right now. For some, you could physically have male features but possess female energy and live as a woman. Some people worshipped androgynous or intersex deities and believed that the perfect human being is both male and female. Certain tribes did not ascribe a gender to anyone until the age of puberty. In other communities, their priests were transgender, and they were the only ones who could conduct certain spiritual ceremonies. There is evidence that for several ethnic groups gay and lesbian relationships were not taboo. Unfortunately, a lot of this history has not been publicized or it is being revised as it does not fit in well with the idea that the continent is trying to now uphold as a patriarchal, heteronormative society. That is why the work of decolonizing sexuality is extremely important as we now have a generation that is open to questioning themselves. The generation of our parents lived in a time of oppressed and suppressed sexuality (among other things) as they themselves or their parents had suffered the colonial rape and pillage [both literally and metaphorically] of their lives. All they could carry was anger and fear. To survive they had to conform to what the oppressor enforced on them through religion, western education etc.

[Recently deceased] Kenyan writer and gay activist, Binyavanga Wainaina clearly outlines how it is only former British colonies that have anti-sodomy laws, which came during colonial times from the fear that British soldiers and colonial administrators would be corrupted by the natives while they were away from their wives. The law, the fears by the British government at the time, really are proof that some of the natives were already practicing sodomy.

Image courtesy of 'The Spread'

What for you is the link between sex positive work and women's empowerment?

The average person might think that the type of work I'm doing is frivolous, but the reality is that when a society believes they have any right over women's bodies, we see all the terrible things that happen to women: rape, rampant femicide, violence against women and more. Reclaiming your sexuality as a woman is about asserting your own authority over your body—declaring the right to fulfilling, consensual sex of your own liking, the right to having children, or not having children if you don't want to, postponing or terminating a pregnancy. Once we accept the policing of women's bodies, it's a slippery slope.

Feminism is about women having equal rights and opportunities as men, and that also extends to their sex lives. My body, my choice. For those who are always ready to bash feminism, seeing it as women somehow trying to take over, dominate men, oppress men etc. They should realize that the only reason feminism exists, is because we live in a patriarchal world. Women are at the bottom of the rung, oppressed in thousands of ways. All we are trying to do, is get the same rights that men take for granted. Of course, to the ones who hold power, it will feel like a loss of power.

This is the reason why the topics we cover span everything from women's sexual pleasure to gender-based violence to LGBTQIA+ rights to women's reproductive health. All these discussions must happen in tandem.

Let's talk about the state of affairs in Kenya around various key issues, starting with female reproductive rights.

I'm working very closely with two organizations working on women's reproductive rights and abortion rights. The problem in Kenya is that there is so much misinformation. I plan to release a video very soon on the topic. I only recently found out all public hospitals in Kenya provide post-abortal care. Even though, abortions are illegal except in certain circumstances, post-abortal care is available throughout the country. Lack of information makes women especially vulnerable to the influence of quacks, back-alley doctors, or police who threaten them with imprisonment if they don't pay exorbitant bribes. The Kenyan law is that you are not allowed to administer an abortion unless the health of the mother or child is in danger. Health also includes mental health. As such, people with severe depression or suicidal thoughts do legally qualify for abortions, but most people don't know this.

Image courtesy of 'The Spread'

What about on the issue of sexual violence against women and children?

Sexual violence against women and children isn't taken as seriously as it should be. Sensitivity training across police stations is still lacking. Rape is extremely underreported in the country as most people don't expect to be treated with discretion, sensitivity or any consideration once they do get into the system. I did a whole video series years back interviewing female rape survivors and their experiences highlight the challenges with our police system including the trivialization of the crime by police officers who consider rape almost routine, given how often this happens. The statistics are masking the issue, rape survivors don't know who to turn to and feel completely isolated. The issues of male sexual violence against men isn't even spoken about as the survivors fear further shunning and stigmatization from society. Kenya doesn't yet have the right structures—including mental health structures—to deal with the normalization of rape and sexual violence against women.

In 2015 three men gangraped a teenage girl as she was on her way home from her grandfather's funeral. After the attack, they dumped her in an open sewer, leaving her with a spinal injury that has confined her to a wheelchair. When the men were taken to the police station, their punishment was to cut the grass around the police station. The incident made it to the news, sparking international outrage, resulting in a signed petition and leading to protests in the country demanding #justiceforliz. As a result, the men were eventually sentenced to 15 years in prison. While we can celebrate this particular win, it also makes us reflect on all the other hundreds of thousands of cases, where the survivors remain silent or seek justice, but never get it.

What about LGBTQIA+ rights?

The definition I adhere to for this group is actually a longer, more confusing acronym, but also one I hope makes more people feel included. LGBTQQIAPPK, which is lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual & transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, polyamourous, pansexual and kink.

We have some cause for celebration, but also a very long way to go. We were hopeful recently when the High Court reviewed the key law banning gay sex, but unfortunately, they chose to uphold it. Last year, we did have a small win when the courts deemed unlawful the use of forced anal exams to test whether two men had sex.

The National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights commission of Kenya are doing a really great job in trying to get colonial era penal codes repealed. They are the legal team behind the court cases for the repeal of these laws. From a legal standpoint it's great, but from a social standpoint, it's still so sad that our binary understanding of gender is tied to what the colonizers forced on us. The worst argument is when people say that any deviation from the heteronormative narrative is "un-African." My question then is "Do you really know your history? Are you willing to educate yourself and to take off the yoke of colonialism and even consider the idea that what you consider normal is based on systems that came to you through oppression and repression?

For a country that is so progressive in many ways, this particular issue still remains an uphill battle.

Image courtesy of 'The Spread'

What about women's sexuality, sexual pleasure?

All the events we have are 95% women. Men are scared to admit they might not know it all. Society paints them to be macho and [makes them think] that they should somehow know it all, but they are scared to learn about their sexuality as they feel that it will take away from their masculinity. For women, it's empowering. Men are frightened about women learning and embracing their sexuality.

I want to be a part of this revolution, spearheading it on the continent.

Finally, tell us about The Spread Fest and your plans for it?

Our objective for the festival is to foster learning, inspiration and wonder—and to spark conversations that matter. The aim is to be more empathetic about our diversity, but also to leave people knowing more about sex and sexuality. This year we had 600 people in attendance, 5 panels, one workshop and it was a full day event. Next year, we plan to double everything.

Photos by Getty Images for BET.

Africa at the BET Awards 2019: Dispatches from the Blue Carpet

We talked to Burna Boy, AKA, DJ Cuppy and more about representing their people and remembering Nipsey Hussle.

We were at the 19th annual BET Awards this past Sunday to check out the ceremonies and chat up the international artists walking the blue carpet.

BET is the world's biggest platform for Black music and it has officially gone global. If you've never been, there's a feeling of organized chaos in the air that makes you feel like you're a part of something big. Artists from Africa and the diaspora have come a long way at the award show—once relegated to a non-televised role, the "Best International Act" award is now part of the 3-hour televised main ceremony for the second year.

This year the nominees contained many of OkayAfrica's favorites, including this year's winner, Burna Boywhose award was accepted by his mom, with a message of connectedness to the continent: "Remember you were Africans before you became anything else."

READ: The Internet Doesn't Know Mama Burna At All

Held at the Microsoft Theater in downtown Los Angeles, the BET Awards hosted over 30 artists from the African continent. We caught up with many of them on the blue carpet including AKA, DJ Cuppy, Mr Eazi, Nomzamo Mbatha and Monalonga Shozi just to name a few. Under the June heat, African performers, presenters and nominees came to show out.

One of the big themes of the night was honoring slain Eritrean-American hip hop star Nipsey Hussle's life and legacy.

Burna Boy and Stefflon Don at the 2019 BET Awards. Photo by Getty Images for BET.

When we asked him about it on the blue carpet, Burna Boy—dressed in an elegant Dolce and Gabbana two piece ensemble in emerald green and golden overtones—says:

"You never stop wanting to hear the work of black artists do you? After Nipsey's death, it was both an inspiration and a wake up call. This is the time to spread positivity and love because you never know man, you could be gone tomorrow. He left behind a great legacy and we're just going to carry it forward."

"Nipsey's death was really felt all over Africa," South African personality Mbatha tells us. Dressed in an original full floor length A-line dress made by South African designer Loin Cloth & Ashes, she remembers, "It wasn't just that he was an African, which he was, but he showed us that we still have flames in our community that we hope will never burn out. Thank God that flames like Nelson Mandela lived for as long as it has, because each generation picked up that flame and was able to believe we can make it out and when we do make it out, we can fight to make other people's lives better."

Nomzamo Mbatha at the 2019 BET Awards 2019. Photo by Getty Images for BET.

AKA at the 2019 BET Awards. Photo by Getty Images for BET.

South African rap superstar AKA tells us just before the opening to the ceremony, "With me coming from South Africa, BET is all about black excellence and of course Black excellence is all about Africa. Everybody is on a wave right now recognizing the importance of African culture and the importance of where it comes from. Africa is the source of Black excellence."

The Nigerian Afro-fusion star Mr Eazi, another Best International Act nominee also met up with us outside. "As long as music is being made by Black people, African people will never stop being brilliant," he told us. "Most of the people from Africa that come to the BET Awards, about a good 60 percent come from Nigeria. I feel like this needs to be a Nigerian awards show. Maybe next year we'll just buy it up and make it a Nigerian show."

Mr Eazi at the 2019 BET Awards. Photo by Getty Images for BET.

DJ Cuppy at the 2019 BET Awards. Photo by Getty Images for BET.

Nomalanga Shozi at the 2019 BET Awards. Photo by Getty Images for BET

Another big Nigerian name, DJ Cuppy, acted as a blue carpet host. "When I travel around the world," she says, "I feel like people are more invested in their roots. People are more engaged with where they come from and where they families come from and they're interested in learning about other cultures like never before."

"I'm all about taking Africa to the world but it think its just as important to bring the world back to Africa," Cuppy continues. "It's important that we're stressing connecting and do what we can to keep a strong community and making sure people know that we're all in this together."

TV personality and actress, Nomalanga Shozi tells us, "You have to recognize yourself as who you are. Honor yourself first then you can project that to the world. I think it's very important for us to honor ourselves and the BET Awards does that is such a grand fashion every year."

In the BET International section of the blue carpet, Nigeria-native Alex Okosi, the head of BET International shared a final thought on the important of awards shows. "It's a platform to elevate our people," he says. "Being able to showcase to the world our true power which is the power of Black culture is as important now then ever before."


Seba Kaapstad Is the Genre-Bending South African Jazz Band Spreading a Message of Optimism

We speak to two of the quartet's members about their latest album 'Thina.'

This profile is part of OkayAfrica's ongoing series on South Africa's new wave of young artists shaping the future of the country's music scene. You can read more profiles and interviews here.

Thina, Seba Kaapstad's sophomore album, is an anomalous body of work that smudges the lines between genres effortlessly. It's a huge departure from the South African four-member jazz group's debut album, 2016's Tagore's. "We are people that are genuinely interested in music and the impact that music has, and we are people that love to experiment and explore," says group member Zoë Modiga. "With Pheel (the group's newest member) hopping onto the band for production, it created so much more color than there was before."

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