MI Abaga

M.I Abaga.

Photo: Chocolate City Music.

20 Influential African Rappers

For hip-hop's 50th anniversary, we look at the recent generation of rappers who have successfully moved the needle and imprinted their names in the fabric of African hip-hop.

Since hip-hop made its way into the African continent and triggered a cultural shift in the 1980’s and ‘90s, the genre has continually evolved, birthing generations of gifted, dauntless rappers. Over the years, the continent has produced diverse and captivating styles of rap music that incorporate traditional elements into mainstream hip-hop.

From Asakaa Drill in Ghana to Bongo Flava in Tanzania, talented rappers across Africa are constantly forging a myriad of indigenous sounds, showcasing the unfettered creativity and unique approach that has put African rap on the map. We decided to take a look at the recent generation of rappers who have successfully moved the needle and imprinted their names in the fabric of history.

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Sarkodie (Ghana)

Rap lovers can’t get enough of Sarkodie since he rose to fame. The Ghanaian rapper is wildly adept at wordplay and has an inimitable flow that gives his records a peculiar touch. Sarkodie has reigned supreme for more than a decade, paving the way for rising acts, influencing rap culture in Africa, and contributing to the global proliferation of African rap. He has worked with various acts across Africa, solidifying his status as a rap god.

Nasty C (South Africa)

The South African-born rapper came into the limelight in 2016 when he released a massive hit “Juice Back,” which earned a remix with Davido and Cassper Nyovest. Nasty C is regarded as a special breed in African hip-hop, having collaborated with prominent acts like French Montana and ASAP Ferg, and being at the helm of the globalisation of African music. With three studio albums and over 100 million career streams to his name, the 26-year-old rapper is one of African rap’s titans.

Blaqbonez (Nigeria)

Not many rappers do it quite like Blaqbonez. The self-acclaimed “Best Rapper in Africa” has proven himself as a force to be reckoned with, amassing a huge fan base with his creative approach to marketing. Blaqbonez stormed the industry with his distinct flow and lyrics in 2018 with his critically-acclaimed album, Bad Boy Blaq. Infusing Afropop elements in his rap songs, he has released records that have greatly impacted the zeitgeist in African hip-hop.

Nadia Nakai (Zimbabwe/South Africa)

Born to Zimbabwean parents, Nadia Nakai made a name for herself as a rapper when she released her popular single “Naaa Mean” in 2016. She has featured on tracks with several rappers all over Africa including Cassper Nyovest and Ice Prince, and is reputed as one of the leading female rappers in Africa. Aside from being a famous rapper, Nadia Nakai is also a TV personality that has hosted several shows.such as Yo! MTV Raps South Africa on MTV Base. She appeared in the 2022 Netflix reality show, Young, Famous & African.

Khaligraph Jones (Kenya)

Although Khaligraph Jones started rapping from his secondary school days, it wasn’t until 2008 when he released “Words And Pictures” that he officially began his career as a rapper. In 2018, Khaligraph Jones released his debut album Testimony 1990, which propelled him into the mainstream. He was nominated alongside Nasty C for the BET Awards in the Best International Flow category in 2020. He is one of the few rappers from East Africa making a mark on the rap scene both locally and globally.

Fik Fameica (Uganda)

By the time Fik Fameica released hit single “Byenyenya” in 2017, he was already gaining prominence as the most booked rapper in Uganda. Two years prior, he debuted into the industry with “Pistol”, and has since topped charts over the years with a string of records including “Property” and Sconto”. The multiple-award winning rapper plays a pivotal role in shaping the local Ugandan Hip hop musical landscape, pushing rap culture forward in Africa.

Jovi (Cameroon)

Jovi’s entry into the Cameroonian mainstream marked a new wave in the music industry. With songs like “Pitie” and “Don 4 Kwat," and his album H.I.V (Humanity is Vanishing) which received acclaim from critics and listeners alike, he unleashed a change in Cameroonian rap. Renowned for his dexterity in music production, Jovi has produced for several international artists such as Akon. Jovi also has a flair for fusion, infusing native elements in American trap to create a brand new sound, which helped him garner a cult following in Cameroon, positioning the rapper as one of the most important voices in Africa.

Rosa Ree (Tanzania)

It didn’t come as a surprise for many when they saw Rosa Ree feature in the 2020 BET Hip hop Cypher, alongside Kwesi Arthur and Elizabeth Ventura. Since her debut in 2016, when she released “One Time”, the Tanzanian rapper hasn’t hit the brakes. She released her debut album Goddess in 2022, staking her claim in a fast-evolving industry that is chiefly dominated by male rappers.

M.I Abaga (Nigeria)

M.I Abaga has often been referred to as the greatest rapper in Africa, revered for his numerous accomplishments. He redefined hip-hop in Nigeria, releasing critically-acclaimed albums including Talk About It and The Chairman. M.I is a highly-decorated rapper who has enormously influenced hip-hop in Africa, and also heavily promoted the rap cypher culture through strategic brand collaborations. As an executive record producer, M.I Abaga has produced for former label mates and acts such as Ice Prince and Blaqbonez.

Didi B (Côte d'Ivoire)

Didi B is one of Ivory Coast’s hardcore rappers who has established himself in a burgeoning French rap scene which has recently taken over the continent. He was formerly a member of the popular group Kiff No Beat before leaving to pursue a solo career in 2020, Releasing his standalone album History in 2022, Didi B has achieved more mainstream appeal with his refined sound. According to YouTube charts, he is on the list of 200 artists with the most listeners in Africa.

M.anifest (Ghana)

M.anifest comes from a line of musicians — his grandfather was one of Africa’s foremost ethnomusicologists and composers. The rapper is an outstanding lyricist and songwriter who has worked with eminent acts like Tony Allen and Erykah Badu. Alternating between the two worlds of Ghana and the US, M.anifest is a socially-conscious rapper who makes commentary about politics, life, and several important topics, bringing awareness to neglected issues in Africa.

AKA (South Africa)

AKA was introduced to the mainstream when he released “Victory Lap” in 2011, a chart-topping single that preceded his debut album Altar Ego. AKA holds the record for being the first South African rapper with a platinum-selling album. His discography is filled with records and albums that transcended borders. Up until his tragic death, the rapper was a shining star in the rap industry, inspiring a new generation of African rappers.

Bill Nass (Tanzania)

Shortly after Bill Nass released his debut single “Raha” in 2015 he was nominated for New Best Artist in the Kilimanjaro Tanzania Music Awards (KTMA). The rapper has been on a trajectory ever since, taking hip-hop in Tanzania to new heights. He is recognized as one of the unique voices contributing to the propagation of African sounds.

Sho Madjozi (South Africa)

Sho Madjozi carved a path for herself in the rap biosphere with a refreshing blend of Tsonga and English. Her music and fashion styles both incorporate Tsonga, giving her an eccentric image that strongly resonates with her audience. Her debut album Limpopo Champions League projected her to fame, establishing her as one of the leading rappers in South Africa.

Olamide (Nigeria)

Olamide just released his tenth studio albumUnruly,, continuing his evolutionary journey as one of the most distinguished rappers in Africa. The Nigerian rapper has been at it for a minute, releasing at least one album every year since he rose to prominence. He’s been hailed by many for his ability to make proper rap songs as well as commercial songs that earn him the attention of the mainstream audience. Olamide’s music chiefly caters to the “streets,” and the Bariga-bred rapper has inspired many other rappers from inner cities. He has often helped push artists from obscurity to fame.

Cassper Nyovest (South Africa)

Cassper Nyovest is one of the few rappers who can boast of selling out stadiums. He has consistently climbed his way to the top, releasing hit records such as “Doc Shabaleza” and “Gets Getsa 2.0” as well as critically-acclaimed albums like Refiloe and Thuto. Cassper is rated as one of the most commercially-successful South African rappers to date. He is also known for his extensive touring, expanding the boundaries of African rap on the global stage.

Femi One (Kenya)

After featuring alongside other female rappers on the remix of King Kaka’s hit single “Ligi Soo” and getting signed to his record label, Femi One one has gone ahead to set herself apart in the Kenyan music industry with her witty lyrics and attention-grabbing flows. She released her debut album Greatness in 2021, rapping mainly in Swahili and Sheng, reinforcing her place as a leading voice in East Africa.

Innoss'B (Democratic Republic of the Congo)

A young prodigy, Innoss’B was already on so many people’s radar at age 17. His debut album Meme Pas Fatigue shot him to instant worldwide fame. Not only has Innoss’B achieved international success, his music has been featured in films and TV shows including Netflix’s Green Frontier and The Lion King. The rapper was nominated for Best New International Artist at the BET Awards in 2020. He has received recognition from superstars like Ludacris and T.I.

Octopizzo (Kenya)

The moment you listen to Octopizzo’s music, it is clear that he’s a man on a mission. His lyrics are packed full with comments on sensitive issues such as poverty, tribal wars, and urban struggle. He has released a number of albums that highlighted his struggle to make it out of the slums. Octopizzo has ceaselessly given back to the community, acting as an activist bringing light to the issues of marginalised communities in Kenya.

Bomb$hell Grenade (Zambia)

Fierce in her delivery, Bomb$hell Grenade is currently one of the most exciting voices in the African hip-hop scene. The Zambian rapper has been making waves with songs like “Backshot” and “Jump Off”. Even though she finds herself in an androcentric industry, Bomb$hell Grenade shows no sign of slowing down. She is an expressive artist who has perfected her craft over the years, which has earned her several awards including the 2021 AFRIMMA Best Female Rapper in Africa.