Photo by Oupa Bopape/Gallo Images via Getty Images.
Costa Titch Was Just Getting Started
Following his tragic passing, we take a look back at the polarising South African rapper’s career.
AKA expressed that his and Costa Titch’s joint album, You’re Welcome, helped take him out of a dark place after losing his fiancé in 2020. “He and I started just hanging out, and he brought me out of my shell, saying, ‘Come out, come make music again, come start performing again,’” AKA told HYPE Magazine two weeks before being shot and killed in Durban last month.
Costa Titch, who died a month later while performing on stage at Ultra Festival in Joburg, had met AKA through Riky Rick, who also passed away in 2022. AKA and Riky appeared on the remix to Costa Titch’s 2019 breakout hit “Nkalakatha”—and AKA they hit it off from then.
Breaking Through to the Mainstream
The “Nkalakatha” remix was Costa Titch’s knighting event. Following years of bubbling under, the New Wave (South Africa’s SoundCloud rap scene) pioneer had not just caught the attention of two of the biggest rappers in the country, but he was on a song with them.
Costa Titch had worked his way up from dancing with his homeboy Benny Chill while growing up in Nelspruit in the Mpumalanga province. Costa and his crew had a stint as Cassper Nyovests’ official dancers in the mid-2010s. But Costa Titch found himself being a recording artist after making music with Tumi Tladi (another South African rapper who passed on last year). Their thinking was that, in order for their dance videos to be played on TV, they needed to be accompanied by original music. When people fell in love with their music, the two rappers ran with it and Costa Titch started building his name in South Africa’s SoundCloud rap scene.
By the time of his death, Costa Titch had grown into an A-list South African artist. His breakout hit “Big Flexa” had gone viral through a TikTok challenge and a music video that had surpassed 40 million views. His lyrical approach to amapiano was reminiscent of Focalistic’s style. “‘Ke Star’ like Foca,” Costa rapped on the song which featured his early collaborator Alfa Kat alongside Sdida, Man T, C’buda and the duo Banaba Des.
While millions of fans danced to Costa’s viral hits, the critics were crying foul play at a white kid appropriating black culture. “I had a lot black friends and I connected with black people more,” Costa Titch explained in an interview with SlikourOnLife. “I’ve just been around African culture.” Costa Titch’s best friend growing up was the rapper Benny Chill with whom he remained close until he passed on. “I’m learning Zulu through making music,” Costa said at the time.
The game opened its arms to the young rapper. His debut album Made In Africa, which dropped in 2020, featured the likes of DJ Maphorisa, Sjava, Riky Rick, AKA, Boity, Boskasie, YoungstaCPT and a few other South African music stars.
Costa Titch’s music was catchy and allowed him and his dancers to give a lively show on stage. He also maintained the dance element in his music which was helpful in an era when fans connect with songs they can dance to on camera, becoming TikTok sensations in the process.
Explaining the joint album, AKA said the two of them had set out to make a “non musical project.” “We are living in the amapiano era. So we said how can we make amapiano without making amapiano,” he said. “We wanted to make TikTok songs… We didn’t wanna make long songs.”
Saving AKA’s Life
You’re Welcome hardly made a dent. The album wasn’t well-received by fans and its lead single “Super Soft” didn’t do much either. It also felt too soon for AKA to be making music after the controversial passing of Nellie.
To AKA, though, You’re Welcome meant a lot. He was introduced to Costa’s younger fanbase as the duo performed in spaces AKA wouldn’t normally give the time of the day. Costa Titch saved AKA’s life, but both rappers, unbeknown to anyone at the time, didn’t have much time left.
AKA passed on two weeks before the release of Mass Country, his comeback album which was led by the monster single “Lemons (Lemonade)” which featured Nasty C, a rapper AKA has invited to rap on stage in Durban many moons before Nasty became a superstar himself.
Costa Titch was only getting started. His career had just taken off. At this year’s Cotton Fest in February, Costa brought out Akon as a surprise guest. The Konvict Kulture head honcho announced a partnership between his company and the South African rapper. “I wanna inaugurate him into the Konvict Kulture family,” he said. A remix of “Big Flexa” featuring Akon followed a week after. Costa Titch was about to make the world his oyster. But the universe had other plans. He collapsed while performing at Ultra and was pronounced dead almost instantly.
Costa Titch was a polarising artist as, while some felt he was performing musical black face, those on his side felt he was just being a citizen of a post-racial South Africa where racial and cultural lines are blurred the way Mandela envisioned.
Others hailed Costa Titch as an icon, understandably so. “You were that white kid who stood out like a sore thumb because of how incredibly skilled, technical, intentional, creative, professional, disciplined, hardworking and wildly amazing you were as a multitalented dancer and choreographer,” wrote Bontle Modiselle, who also spent a long time in the thriving South African hip-hop dance scene of the late 2000s and early 2010s.
Costa Titch joins a plethora of popular South African musicians who have passed on in what seems like a purge of sorts. In the last two years South Africa has lost talents such as Riky Rick, AKA, Tumi Tladi, Mpura, Killer Kau, DJ Dimplez, DJ Citi Lyts, Mampintsha and DJ Sumbody, a majority of who were on top of their game and had exciting futures ahead of them in the game.
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