The 35 Best South African Hip-Hop Albums, EPs & Mixtapes of 2018
Photo by Sabelo Mkhabela.

The 35 Best South African Hip-Hop Albums, EPs & Mixtapes of 2018

Here are 35 South African hip-hop releases that caught our attention this year.

The diversity in South African hip-hop is what makes it one of the most unique in the whole world.

In a country that has 11 official languages and multiple iterations of slang, it's always interesting hearing how South African wordsmiths express themselves, bending language and stretching its limitations. The stories vary from popping bottles to dealing with the repercussions of apartheid, the country's current political climate, and intrapersonal issues like mental illness and the existential anxiety many of us suffer from every now and then.

For our list of the best SA hip-hop albums of 2018, we considered all kinds of rap from the most visible to the most niche of artists, from boom bap to trap, and everything in between. The only criteria we used was fire flame emojis, charts, sales and all that doesn't matter. Three of our contributors, Sipho Fako, Mayuyuka Kaunda and Sabelo Mkhabela, who have covered hip-hop extensively for OkayAfrica compiled a list of 35 albums, mixtapes and EPs that dropped this year that they feel excelled musically and lyrically.

*The list is in no particular order.

Follow our Best of 2018 coverage here.

Emtee DIY 2

On DIY 2, Emtee maintains his position as the king of trap in South Africa's hip-hop scene. He interrogates his position in the game, does a bit of reflection and reminds you of how far he has come. He sounds comfortable as ever with infectious melodies and convincing raps over top notch production courtesy of Ruff and Kreazoe. Emtee's music resonates beyond hip-hop circles, as his melodies borrow from South African genres such as Afro pop and even mbhaqanga and maskandi. DIY 2 is Emtee chilling in the house he and his ATM goons built for themselves, while adding a few rooms; he experiments with different tempos on songs like "Go On" and "Umpako," while he sticks to his guns on tracks like ""Fugeyzi," "Abantu," "Keep It 100." — Sabelo Mkhabela

Moozlie Victory

In true underdog fashion, Moozlie exceeds expectations with Victory, an album fusing bubblegum, kwaito and hip-hop. "Vatel" lays a claim to being one of the best tracks of the year, and is the perfect example of the lane Moozlie is carving out. The Benoni-native is clearly inspired by the sounds of the 90s, but remains irresistibly current. After previously releasing her Versus mixtape, it's clear Moozlie is working on her craft. She holds her own amongst the seasoned artists she features, metaphorically stitching herself into the fabric of SA hip-hop. Victory is Moozlie finding her voice with her cadences, flows and delivery on par with anyone out right now. It's a solid listen with a couple of great features. — Mayuyuka Kaunda

Eudy At The Drive Inn

Cape Town-based producer Eudy's debut EP sees two of South Africa's best hidden secrets, MCs Rez Proph and Riz Ventura, sparring over aggressive boom bap production. Each of the five songs on the project is named after blockbuster flicks. The MCs' raps are as grand as these classics, and reveal Riz and Rez as nonconformists who aren't concerned about what's trending in hip-hop (at least on this project). The two MCs are clearly having fun with their craft, and that makes for a captivating listen. Effortless and potent from all angles, At The Drive Inn thoroughly entertains and is proof (if you need any) that South African hip-hop has some of the finest lyricists not just on the continent, but worldwide, and most of them aren't on your TV, radio or even favorite blog. — Sabelo Mkhabela

Jimmy Wiz x ShabZi Madallion Look At The Team

Jimmy Wiz and Shabzi Madallion rep the East Rand and Cap City in a combined embodiment of the kind of hip-hop these cities are famous for producing. It's a thematic exploration of honour, unity and serves as a great ad for collaboration. Both rappers have consistently dropped beastly verses for a while, but Look At The Team is them constructing songs in tandem, not a random bar fest. They draw from the influences of past duos and rap groups, and it's amazing to hear. That they've combined is a hip-hop head's dream, as is their feature with the legendary Pebbles on "Forever And A Day". It's a smart move to combine their fan bases and musical styles that prioritize lyricism. Standout track "Mercy" proves why this partnership works so well; two confident MCs trade bars with One Shaman and don't try overshadowing each other. Wiz and Shabzi might just have the formula of turning great bars into great songs and a great concept into a great listen. This is a near-perfect listen. — Mayuyuka Kaunda

Solo & The BETR Gang Tour Dates

Respected rappers L-Tido, K.O., YoungstaCPT, Rouge, Maggz, Kid X, Reason, Moozlie, Reason, P.H., DreamTeam, P. Dot O, Blaklez and N'Veigh all represent their cities through standout verses on Tour Dates. Solo's authoritative flows and lyrical gymnastics bring the best out of every guest. He's able to ride beats of different textures and tempos, proving he's one of the best currently out. From the ominous "Moon Over The Jungle" to the bouncy "Love Metaphor" and "Ain't Ready," the vicious "Due Dates II," the organ-laden "The Light," the flawless posse cuts "Caffeine and Other Drugs" and "30 000 O," Tour Dates has no fillers, and sees every guest bring their A-game to an album that was poised to be great, considering Solo and his production team's track record. — Sabelo Mkhabela

The Big Hash Life + Times of a Teenage Influence

On Life + Times of a Teenage Influence, Pretoria-based teenage rapper The Big Hash shows off, as he segues from melodic flows to conventional raps over eardrum shattering 808-based trap production. The EP's opening song, "I Don't," where he raps "Dropped out of school to get rich/ Season I play the assist/ Money long talk/And I mean 'em Mandelas/ I know my worth, nigga," will win you over, and for the next four tracks, Hash won't bore you—not even once. While he may not be delivering double entendres by the dozen, his EP excels in having songs that you'll fall in love with. So if his story—dropping out of school to get rich off rap—which honestly isn't anything new, doesn't move you, you'll have the EP on repeat just for the vibe. Life + Times of a Teenage Influence will take you into the mind of the 17-year-old rapper. He's the voice of generation X. He reveals how he navigates relationships, sex, money, hustling and just life in general, and never runs out of creative hooks and uses a different flow on almost every song. Your fave could never. — Sabelo Mkhabela

A-Reece, Wordz, Ecco L3 (Long Lost Letters)

The Wrecking Crew is definitely the government in-waiting, and on L3 (Long Lost Letters), three of the Pretoria-based collective's members make a case for our allegiance to them. The Mashbeatz and A-Reece-helmed production provides pockets for Wordz, A-Reece and Ecco to squeeze as many rhymes as they can into this one. Each rapper is as hungry as they are nonchalant and the anti-establishment stance they take is palpable. L3 has a rebellious attitude, and it's backed up by a bar-a-minute fest that is surprisingly catchy. More impressively though, is A-Reece putting his team on his back without taking up all the space. Like The Wrecking Crew itself there's a sense of authority to L3 that belies the youth of its creators. — Mayuyuka Kaunda

Stogie T Honey and Pain

In his subtle concept album, Tumi builds on the concept of his newly acquired moniker Stogie T. He doesn't only expand his horizons beyond conscious raps, but he explores the duality of life as we know it. The idea is that life is mostly grey areas—no good thing is free of bad, and no good thing is perfect. He explores this duality in relationships, careers, marriage, parenthood, wealth and poverty, all with one of the most solid flows there is in hip-hop. His wordplay is mind-blowing, hitting double entendres anytime he feels like it. On Honey and Pain, the MC chooses beats that straddle trap and boom bap, and raps without worrying about making songs that will fit radio formats, even though I can totally hear "Rapture" playing on every major radio station in the near future. — Sabelo Mkhabela

Nasty C Strings & Bling

Nasty C's first major label release is a concept album straddling between the heartfelt and pompous. It's an album with impressive sequencing and proves the rapper's growth both sonically and thematically. While the album feels bloated in places, Nasty oscillates between his "DickinDaughter" persona and Junior, the reflective kid from Durban. While he may overcompensate in either direction, Nasty C is guaranteed to coax a reaction out of you. He consistently draws adulation or gasps by alternating between tales of pushing your true love away and clumsily analogizing racism. This duality sums up Strings & Bling perfectly perhaps; an equilibrium between delicate songwriting and unrestrained bravado. — Mayuyuka Kaunda

Flex Rabanyan The Born Free

The Born Free paints the picture of who Flex Rabanyan is as a person—a young dreamer who knows his life and career could either explode or implode, and his fate rests on his hands. He is confident and likes to have fun too; it doesn't just stop at self-introspection. He also shows his lighter side and touches on relationships. Sonically, The Born Free combines beats that have both trap and boom bap sensibilities, to suit each song's mood. It showcases his ability to rap over different drum patterns and his traits as an MC—he has the wordplay, knows how to tell a story, and is not scared to look in the mirror and share his fears and aspirations with his listener. The Born Free works as a full body of work, and has a lot of songs that can work as stand-alone singles without deviating from the album's overall mood. It has plenty of quotable lines that also don't deviate from the story. — Sabelo Mkhabela

Tyrant The Rapper Stress of a Genius

Tyrant is hungry. She doesn't necessarily say it, but her vicious delivery gives it away. Stress of a Genius is rappity rap in which the the MC shows both bravado and vulnerability. The latter, she does without being whiny, but it's still effective. Tyrant's flow is gripping, and she doesn't waste your time and money, as she tells her story using clever punchlines and similes that reveal an MC who has taken time to horn her skill and is always willing to better herself. Sonically, Stress of a Genius is strictly boom bap that is both soulful and grimy, the way your average purist likes it. Tyrant is not to be messed with. — Sabelo Mkhabela

N'Veigh No Pineapples on my Pizza

No Pineapples On My Pizza doesn't overstay its welcome; it only lasts for 20 minutes. And the MC and his collaborators never lose your attention. N'Veigh is slowly coming out the "rapper's rapper" box. All songs on the 6-track project excel lyrically, but will entertain more than just the fan of bars. The MC chose musical beats and soulful vocal hooks to make the project listener-friendly. No Pineapples On My Pizza is not about pineapples on pizza, though—the rapper flexes his lyrical skills on the battle-ready "Nomsa Nene Freestyle," raps about the game alongside Solo and Captain on "Villains," flirts with kwaito on "Souffle," shows off his mack game on "Falling" and self-introspects on "Way Too Gone." Production on No Pineapples On My Pizza is handled by Mayj-C, Bona V, Caesar Siseko and the legendary Beatmochini. If you love your hip-hop with heartfelt lyrics that are delivered with flair and passion, No Pineapples On My Pizza will sure treat you well. — Sabelo Mkhabela

Kid X Thank Da King

Kid X really outdid himself on Thank Da King. He taps into various subject matter. Hard. It's difficult to fault him, whether you are a hip-hop head, trap head, kasi rap head, or just an ordinary lover of music. He kills everything. Maybe that's why he featured everyone? Either way, I sincerely thank da king. His flow and delivery are consistently on point, and he even sounds good on those notes; peep "Jakalas," "Nude," "Get Up" and "Somebody." In an album bombarded with bangers, X still caters for the hip-hop community by dishing out bars on tracks like "I'm on this Paper," "Jozi City Lights," and "Sisi." Though lengthy, the 26-track double album offers a great variety of sounds which makes sure it doesn't sound monotonous. The amount of hits, which tap into various genres such as Afro pop, reggae, R&B and maskandi, make the album play out as a radio playlist. X really does make music for everyone, which could explain the manner in which he complemented his myriad features: Maggz, Reason, Kwesta, Stogie T, Makwa and Da L.E.S to mention a few, all make appearances on Thank Da King. — Sipho Fako

Ms Nthabi Broken Silence

On her Broken Silence mixtape, Ms Nthabi manages to be introspective without coming off as preachy. Keeping true to the EP's ethos, she delivers a mature release moulded around both her personal growth and musical evolution. "No Fear" reveals lines like "I'm probably blessed with what they say is lyrical/ But I don't write to entertain, I tap into the spiritual," and delves into Ms Nthabi's driving force. Although Broken Silence is deeply personal, it's a level headed offering that encourages relatability. The MC's self assured delivery is a testament to an artist at peace with herself and one with her craft. — Mayuyuka Kaunda

J Smash Rise of a King

J Smash assembled a group of artists that weren't so much unpredictable, but still pleasant to hear on the same songs and project. Like the new wave of Cap City in the form of Zoocci Coke Dope, A-Reece and Flame on the first single "Show Up." The new soldiers of the ATM movement Ranks, Just G and Sims share an instrumental on the mid tempo "Ride," while Emtee rides solo on "Never Fall," arguably the strongest song on the EP. Lyricists Kid Tini and Ginger Trill spit lovely 16s alongside the catchy dancehall-esque hook from Fresh Boyz. All the collaborations on Rise of a King are safe and make sense. As safe as J Smash plays it in terms of artist choice and beat selection, Rise of a King is still an EP you'll find yourself falling in love with, with every successive listen. — Sabelo Mkhabela

BigStar Johnson Me & Mines

BigStar curates an album that's easy on the ear and centres throwbacks by squeezing his rhymes between nostalgic hooks and melodies. It's a project that shows he's a student of the game and suits his rap style with flows always prioritized. Me & Mines has replay value mainly because of its scattered references and laid-back approach. The beauty of this project is that despite its musicality BigStar doesn't completely sacrifice spitting dope lines, instead placing his schemes over boppy production. — Mayuyuka Kaunda

Zoocci Coke Dope & Flame Do Not Disturb

Member of The Wrecking Crew, Flame, links up with one of his generation's pre-eminent producers, Zoocci Coke Dope. The result is a well devised exploration of the trappings of young adulthood. The project peaks with the standout "Company," which exemplifies Zoocci's airy production and Flame's hit-making abilities. Flame makes a case for his inclusion as a hot prospect by establishing his voice more on DND, moulding his autotune in a distinctive way that lets the timbre of his voice shine through. The pairing of these two is more proof that, for young rappers, finding the right captain to steer your ship is just as important as plotting your path. Zoocci brought the best outta Flame by complimenting his style while challenging him in the process. This shit bangs. — Mayuyuka Kaunda

JMolley Leader of the Wave

J Molley is mean with the pen, and has an ear for beats which allow his ethereal digitally enhanced vocals to feel at home. His latest EP/playlist, aptly titled Leader of the Wave, builds upon where songs like "200 On My Wrist," "Dreams Money Can Buy" and "Seven Bottles" from his 2017 EP Dreams Money Can Buy left off. On Leader of the Wave, he is here to let you know that he runs this shit, and doesn't need anyone's approval. The 19-year-old artist lets the listener in on his life in which he pops molly, ignores DMs and blows 10 000 bucks on a shirt just for a date. Sonically, Leader of the Wave is trap, consisting of cloudy pads and big basslines that, coupled with his vocals, create a trippy listen, which, I imagine, is representative of J Molley's aura. — Sabelo Mkhabela

Amilca Road 2 Ringz 2

Amilca, the godfather of the subgenre ringz, blessed listeners with two projects and tons of singles and guest features this year. Road 2 Ringz 2 sounds like a solid rap album though the rapper released it as an EP. Popular for his banging hits, Amilca surprises listeners and slows down the tempo on this one. Most of the tape consists of soulful sample-laden hip-hop beats and is more introspective lyrically. We hear him zoom in on subjects like betrayal, gang violence and hood mentality, especially on tracks like "Mr Fake" and "Murder Talk X Skomline News." Nicknamed "Babulale Meza" (kill them Meza), Amilca does exactly that by rapping his heart out on every track. Overall, Road 2 Ringz 2 is musically easy on the ear and offers a well-rounded picture of life in urban Cape Town. — Sipho Fako

Sjava Umqhele

Continuing his tradition of the captivating intro with "Izitha," Sjava prepares us for a more musically diverse offering than his 2016 debut album Isina Muva. Umqhele combines his textured voice with Ruff's sumptuous production. The album sees Sjava rep his Zulu lineage and crowns off a great year after his BET nomination for the Black Panther OST. Following the release of his EP Umphako, he continues to show his versatility with a mixture of Afropop, maskandi, isicathamiya, mbaqanga and trap. Although a tad lengthy, Umqhele sees Sjava in true form both vocally and thematically. By pulling us in with his raspy tone, he explores love, loss and the strains of inner-city living. With its intoxicating saxophone, the standout track "Linda" is a great example of the instrumentation Ruff pairs with Sjava's messaging throughout. Tracks like "Umama" and "Isibhamu" balance out the romance of "Confession" and the majestic "Intombi Yam" to make for a wholesome listen. It's this variety that makes Sjava a joy to listen to, and with two solid albums on the trot, he's fast becoming the chief-narrator of South Africans' innermost feelings. From romance to regret; his voice captures the experiences that stand out the most to us. — Mayuyuka Kaunda

Assessa uGogo

Assessa is a spiritual person, and it seeps into her music. On uGogo, she tells relatable stories of everyday struggles faced by black people with the angst of a sangoma on the job. Her rhymes are delivered with a certain urgency, just like her subject matter. uGogo is as much rappity rap as it is a musical project. When Assessa raps, she does so like it's the only thing she can do in the world, but she will surprise you with vocals that are influenced by maskandi and mbhaqanga. If you understand IsiZulu, uGogo will give you multiple eargasms while forcing you to think about your own life and purpose. — Sabelo Mkhabela

KLY Keep Love Young

Kly's debut is a South African take on the trapsoul wave that swept through the world. He stamps his Zulu identity on the portmanteau that might be termed AfricanTrapnB with local slang and expressions infused with the sound. Keep Love Young is Wichi1080 at his bass-heavy best with the soundscape lush, romantic and moody suiting the exploration of emotions Kly ventures into. Tracks like "Umbuzo" and "Bite" not only include vernac but place it at the center of the compositions. Keep Love Young is a study in owning your sound and narrative. — Mayuyuka Kaunda

Jabba X (HHP) #FGTBB

South African hip-hop veteran Hip Hop Pantsula aka HHP aka Jabba released a 5-track EP a few weeks before his untimely death. Titled #FGTBB (an acronym for "Feels Good To Be Back"), the EP found Jabba, who had changed his name to Jabba X, in his best form in years. Just as the title suggested, Jabba was feeling good, and it showed in the five songs on the EP. In true Jabba fashion, the music is tailored for a great time; most of the songs are upbeat and are laced with catchy hooks that are guaranteed to stick to your head in no time. The man's flows sit perfectly over the assortments of beat styles on the EP. #FGTBB has traces of trap, kwaito and gqom, and Hugo Flash and Tribal are the only two features on the project. #FGTBB includes the video single "Feels Good To Be Back," and was the first project from Jabba in four years. He had last released the album Motswako High School in 2014. — Sabelo Mkhabela

JR and The Cousins Love Me... Now

Now an industry veteran, JR has branched into the broadcast game with his Feel Good Live Sessions. On Love Me… Now, which follows 2017's What a Life, his sound is as refined as ever. It's romantic in parts, smooth across the entire listen. JR is at his best when crooning and effortlessly purveying emotion. The key to his longevity has always been his ability to straddle through genres, and his latest effort is no different. "Heartless" is an amazingly constructed song, exposing his versatility. Throughout the album there's influences of pop, hip-hop, kwaito and RnB in typical JR fashion it all fits together. The veteran's ability to pen memorable melodies improves with each iteration of his output, and it's a testament to his quality as a musician that we tend to forget he came out during motswako's early rise. — Mayuyuka Kaunda

PatrickxxLee Nowhere Child

PatrickxxLee is the avatar of being in your feels. On Nowhere Child, the MC speaks about drowning in emotions, and being so destabilized by them that you are terrible to those around you. The production is dark, consisting of distorted basslines and painful electric guitars. His vocals are distant, peeking behind a layers of vocal effects. Nowhere Child feels the way the MC probably felt when he wrote the album. He may have pop-punk sensibilities like most rappers of his generation, but one thing you must never doubt is his rapping skills. Nowhere Child displays his adeptness with the pen and effective songwriting. He may not be in control of his emotions, as is revealed in the album, but he's in full control of his tongue. — Sabelo Mkhabela

Touchline Truth 18Flow

Touchline makes a bold statement on 18Flow, showing off his rhyming skills with witty bars and quotable punchlines: "They call it gradu-wait 'cause you gotta wait for employment." The artist seems on the cusp of breaking out, and such a solid lyrical display is a great introduction to the game. A young MC displaying such confidence is always a contender for a year end list. Standout tracks "Facts," "5 Grand" and "Kuhamban" show his well-roundedness and ability to infuse a message in his songs. While Touchline is an undeniably gifted lyricist, he's intriguing on a track like "Dance For Me" that shows his music can live as comfortably on the streets as it can on the charts. That adaptability is a hard recipe to perfect so soon, and it seems Touchline Truth's got the ingredients for it. This youngin's got the juice, and 2019 threatens to be his definitive year. — Mayuyuka Kaunda

Ndlulamthi Hard Livings

In Hard Livings, Cape Town rapper Ndlulamthi shares vignettes of living in the black townships of Cape Town. He touches on mob justice, crime, gun violence, fatherhood, and online dating among other topics. He raps passionately about loving a place you grew up in, but refusing to raise your children in because of the ills you've seen. He paints the picture of what happens in the hood on weekends, from hedonistic drinking to casual sex. Ndlulamthi's storytelling skills are second to none. His command of the Xhosa language is goosebump-inducing, as he uses clever yet accessible similes and metaphors. He does this with a conversational delivery that's crystal clear, ensuring you get every single word. — Sabelo Mkhabela

Early B Aangename Kennis

Afrikaans rapper Early B really gives us a tour into his world. Living up to the title, Aangename Kennis, which basically means "pleased to meet you," Early B lets us in on his experiences on a range of topics. His comical storytelling, paints humorous pictures of how the life of a pretty boy from the Dal, Port Elizabeth, is over upbeat pop-leaning instrumentals. The funniest being on tracks such as "Ben10," "Blesser," "Bid Vir Jou Pouse" and "Jy Maak My Net Eyes." The majority of the album is meant to get you dancing and laughing but Early still manages to squeeze in tracks that are socially conscious. In "Duk Vir Drugs," he encourages the youth to stay away from drugs. On "In Pas Early," he warns especially young girls about the consequences of giving in to peer pressure. His flow, delivery and conviction on each track are immaculate. Though a little bit lengthy, this project is definitely a good radio-friendly offering, which is not too common with Afrikaans rap. — Sipho Fako

Red Button Dark Knights

Dark Knights sees the Soweto-born MC and producer updating his sound while still maintaining his kasi rap roots. The 8-track EP consists of songs that mostly lean towards trap sonically, and by way of the auto tune on most of the raps. Red Button is still spitting witty punchlines, similes and metaphors, and deploying his great storytelling skills. Thematically, Dark Knights is light-hearted with some moments of intensity. The song "Mlindoms (P.R.O)," in which the MC raps about his late mentor, Pro(Kid), isn't somber. It's more a celebration of the Soweto hip-hop legend than it is a lament. The song merges the grit of kasi rap sonically (the beat is reminiscent of "Bhampa" by Pro) with the melodic raps of new school rap. Red Button has been going through some changes as an artist (think of songs like "Usabani" and "Life"), and Dark Knights is yet another step forward in his journey. For the longest time, the MC was mostly compared to Pro, as his style resembled that of the late legend. But it's great to watch him grow more towards himself. — Sabelo MKhabela

Yoma Moedertaal

Yoma's debut album Moedertaal (mother language) is a double entendre. Firstly, it reflects her appreciation for her mother language, Afrikaans. Secondly, Yoma embraces her journey into motherhood. In honour of her language, she released the album on International Mother Language Day, a worldwide annual observance held on 21 February to promote awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity and promote multilingualism. Having worked on the album throughout her pregnancy, Yoma takes us on the full journey by opening the album with her baby's first heartbeat and ending it with her baby's voice. Moedertaal, though full of experimental sounds, has Yoma effortlessly do what she's best known for; spreading socially conscious messages with intellectual Afrikaans punchlines and spoken word-esque flows. Yoma features Afrikaans heavyweights such as Hemel Besem, DJ Ready D, Raj Mohan, Hooflig and Coenie De Villiers to help spread her messages. Overall, Moedertaal is a good offering for the mature listener, who especially loves the Afrikaans language and relates to parenthood. — Sipho Fako

Lunatik & Bhuga Bhengu Untold

The charismatic raps of Bhuga Bhengu find a perfect home over Lunatik's quaking basslines. The MC laces the varied batch of beats with addictive melodies and unique flows. So does Lunatik, who can also hold his own on the mic. Told displays chemistry and versatility between the two artists. The project has hit single prospects such as the opening song "Mnike." Most of the songs cover the subjects of relationships, sex and the party life, all without cliches and the customary corniness projects covering those subjects usually suffer from. Untold deserves an official release that will enable it to be heard by more than just die-hard fans of Lunatik and Bhuga. — Sabelo Mkhabela

Niko10Long Long Onsteking

Niko10Long (pronounced "Nicotine Lung") brings that raw hip-hop flavour that Cape Town is best known for. The Afrikaans Khoisan-Rasta spreads his socially conscious messages over mostly boombap beats. On a mission to inspire and educate the ghetto youth, Niko explores social issues affecting the Cape Flats community. However, instead of preaching, Niko uses his experiences with gangsterism to warn the youth about the dangers of it. "Jong Man," "Vader Viguur" and "Aids Awareness" are good examples of his passion for youth upliftment. Though his delivery is hard, cold and can be considered "underground," Niko keeps the listener intrigued with his vivid ghetto tales. — Sipho Fako

Beatmochini I Am Also Human

I Am Also Human reads like a clarion call to some of SA's most proficient rappers. While it may be that, it provides a template to make "alternative" songs that borrow from the genre. Without overshadowing the lyricism of Ginger Trill, N'veigh, Jimmy Wiz, Khuli Chana and Notshi the album fuses great hooks with borderless soundscapes. There's splashes of every sound under the sun on a project with a sunny disposition. It's a testament to Beatmochini's ability to tailor a sound to a specific artist, without losing the thread of his unique style. N'veigh gets boom bap-esque on "Beatmochini Witse" while "Muntuza" allows Ras & Cool G to venture into bossa nova and feel right at home next to the jazzy "Ka Mo Suna" featuring The Man Toni Montana. I Am Also Human is an exciting curation that brings out different sides of its cast members. The most striking thing is how the tempo is maintained throughout while the beats provide enough pockets for each artist to leave their mark. This is a refreshing listen from a veteran producer who constantly pushes the envelope. Anyone who loves fusion, polished rhymes and uplifting grooves should hear this. — Mayuyuka Kaunda

Speeka Presents Loux Artiste The Craft

You might have been starved for some textbook rap in 2018. The Craft by lyricist Loux Artiste and producer Speeka smells the like the golden era. The core focus of the project is the marriage between beats and rhymes, nothing much else seems to matter. Without the pressure to make hits and succumb to the industry and its conceding ways, the two created a project that is so pure you could swear they both have been actively avoiding any music released after the golden era of hip-hop. Loux Artiste flexes with clever scripts and a flow that remains solid throughout over Speeka's diverse but uniform beats that lean mostly towards boom bap, among their variations. — Sabelo Mkhabela

Beat Bangaz 7785 Disrupters

Cape Town DJ and producer trio Beat Bangaz (DJ Ready D, E-20 and DJ Azuhl) is South African hip-hop royalty. And their debut album, 7785 Disrupters, matches their stature. The project features the A-listers of Cape Town hip-hop, from both the old and the new school. The trio made sure to place each artist on an instrumental that matches their style. As a result 7785 Disrupters is one of the most diverse projects you'll hear this year. The different personalities and mind states of the featured artists means the subject matter on the album is varied. Production on 7785 Disrupters ranges from trap to boom bap and even funk. 7785 Disrupters is a solid project with no forced collaborations, as can be the case with albums that have too many features. And through the diversity, the album doesn't sound like an incoherent collection of bangers (you know how DJ albums usually are). — Sabelo Mkhabela

You can ask Sipho, Mayuyuka and Sabelo why your favorite rapper's album didn't make the list on Twitter: @DeFak_O, @mayuyuka_kaunda and @sabzamk.