Photo: Sabelo Mkhabela

HHP, the Ultimate Bosso, Gave Me a Childhood Filled with Feel-Good Jams—Sizom'khumbula

Remembering the music and life of the icon Hip Hop Pantsula.

Music was the hallmark of my childhood. Whether we were in the car, holidaying to Zimbabwe, or in the house, the aromas of a home-cooked meal in the air, music was a constant. And more often than not that music came from Hip Hop PantsulaHHP. And like so many local Hip-Hop fans who found out about Jabba's passing today, my heart is incredibly sore.

…Music and light
Mona we pass time ka di blues delights
Move only in the heat of the night
Get down down to a flow in sight
Get made by the end of the night…

These are the lyrics to one of my absolute favourite songs from HHP. It was his effortless flow that made this and so many of his other tracks including, Bosso, Jabba and Tswaka such classics.

Jabba was a vibe man, a whole fucken mood and had me rapping along (no matter how badly) with such confidence that I swear at some point I wanted to be a rapper. What I loved about Jabba was how his flow was always so smooth. Rapping in vernacular is not as easy as just rapping in English and I can assure you the lyricism is more difficult. Bosso ke mang translated to "who is the boss?" was a whole movement when I was in high school. It became more than a song; it was the catchphrase of our time and that was all because of Jabba. He gave us so much authenticity—no BS. More than the numerous killer verses he gave us, I will never forget the way his music made me feel so damn good. It lifted the mood and was something that I could share with my much older parents, parents with whom I never thought I would have anything in common to be quite honest. And I know this goes for a lot of us.

Before I knew American artists like 50 Cent or Missy Elliot, there was the kwaito group Trompies, clad in the boldly-coloured overalls and canvas sneakers. There was Mandoza, Kabelo, TKZ, Ma Brrr, Lebo Mathosa and then there was HHP. Jabba was the don of Motswako, the same Setswana inflected Hip-Hop genre that includes artists like Cassper Nyovest, Khuli Chana, Skwatta Kamp and so many more. He led the way for so many artists, remaining a faithful representative of his hometown Mafikeng. The local music scene has been dealt a huge blow. An entire country has been dealt a huge blow.

Ah man, take me back to the times when summer was synonymous with Jabba! "What's summer without Jabba?" is what he used to say and I'm so sad that now we actually have to find out. People die, this I know. But I don't feel like Jabba was quite done, you know? I feel that there were still a number of offerings to come from him especially after the release of his recent EP Feels Good to be Back. But you know what they say, "it is what it is." And whilst the cause of his death is yet to be confirmed—there is speculation as to a possible suicide and battle with depression—the reality remains: we have lost yet another icon. This year has been a mess for South Africans and this is just one of the many reasons why.

To our summers yet to come, to our childhoods past and to giving us more than we could have ever asked for (and then some), thank you. Rest in power Jabba.


A Candid Conversation With Olamide & Fireboy DML

We talk to the Nigerian stars about the hardest lessons they've learned, best advice they've ever been given and what Nigeria means to them.

Olamide and Fireboy DML have been working together for three years, but the first time they sit down to do an interview together is hours after they arrive in New York City on a promo tour.

It's Fireboy's first time in the Big Apple — and in the US — and the rain that's pouring outside his hotel doesn't hinder his gratitude. "It's such a relief to be here, it's long overdue," he tells OkayAfrica. "I was supposed to be here last year, but Covid stopped that. This is a time to reflect and refresh. It's a reset button for me."

Olamide looks on, smiling assuredly. Since signing Fireboy to his YBNL Nation label in 2018, he's watched the soulful young singer rise to become one of Nigeria's most talked-about artists — from his breakout single, "Jealous," to his debut album Laughter, Tears & Goosebumps, hit collabs with D.Smoke and Cuppy, and his sophomore release, Apollo, last year.

Even while he shares his own latest record, UY Scuti, with the world, Olamide nurtures Fireboy's career with as much care and attention as he does his own, oscillating between his two roles of artist and label exec seamlessly. His 2020 album Carpe Diem is the most streamed album ever by an African rap artist, according to Audiomack, hitting over 140 million streams. When Olamide signed a joint venture with US-based record label and distribution company, Empire, in February last year he did so through his label, bringing Fireboy and any other artist he decides to sign along for the ride, and establishing one of the most noteworthy deals on the continent.

Below, Olamide & Fireboy DML speak to OkayAfrica about their mutual admiration for each other, what makes them get up in the morning and how they switch off.

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