Rising Johannesburg Rapper Solo Talks The State Of South African Hip-Hop

Johannesburg rapper Solo, talks to Okayafrica about his debut album, '.Dreams.A.Plenty,' and the state of South African hip-hop.

Diepkloof, Johannesburg’s Zothile Langa, more commonly known as Solo, is a down-to-earth wordsmith whose music signals a return to hip-hop's storytelling element. With the release of "Bad" (off the No Shades Of Grey EP) in 2011 under soul man Kabomo Vilakazi, SA hip-hop legends ProVerb and Tumi Molekane quickly jumped at the opportunity to remix "Star Dust," a gem off Solo's debut album, .Dreams.A.Plenty. "The Shame 2.0," featuring Buks and Ginger Breadman, is his latest offering, and makes a head-nodder out of a rap reality check. In a quick chat with Solo, we get to know the rising emcee and hear his insight into what's been happening lately in SA hip-hop.

Shiba for Okayafrica: Tell us a bit about your journey toward finally putting together your first album [.Dreams.A.Plenty].

Solo: The journey to putting out my album took a lot of time. I had basically wrapped up my album by February 2013, with the exception of 2 songs. I basically had to wait a whole year before I could put it out publicly. I had only just been formally introduced to the people at Universal, and they still needed to figure things out regarding my release. Looking back now, this allowed us to polish a lot of the music, so I guess everything does in fact happen for a reason.

OKA: Do you feel any extra pressure with so many respectable acts vouching for what you do?

Solo: I do in fact feel some pressure because of all the co-signs I received so early in my career. I do, however, believe that it's the kind of pressure that allows me to channel into my creativity even more. It helped solidify my purpose and objectives in SA hip-hop.

OKA: A lot of performers have gone through quite a bit this year; Riky Rick left Motif, iFani left Sony, Okmalumkoolkat is signed in Vienna and some of the finest acts out there are completely independent. On top of that, there’s been a lot of talk  about race and the issue of cultural re-appropriation in music these days. What’s your take on hip-hop as a culture, as a practice, as a career? Is it a matter of a new wave of independence in the artists or is there something else on the rise?

Solo: Hip-hop as a culture is probably the most revenant and influential art form today. The clothing, the lingo, the sound, etc. are all things that have been injected into branding and marketing of the world's largest and most influential household names. This means that, as a career, there are constant opportunities that are created daily. Opportunities that an artist can even create for themselves. This has made artists turn entrepreneurs. So essentially, the means of obtaining wealth is not conventional, but the opportunities are endless should you work hard enough and smart enough. I still maintain that, regardless of your label situation, it’s very important for all hip-hop artists to work like they're independent. You always need to be at the forefront overlooking your career.

OKA: Do you feel that as a rapper you have a responsibility toward your audience to deliver what they want to hear, or is your choice to make music more about how you would prefer to express yourself and what you want to embrace? Many have met their downfall doing whatever they liked, so how would one reconcile that while trying to make money?

Solo: I do not believe that I have any kind of obligation to anyone regarding what my music sounds like. My music is a true reflection of my thoughts and the period I’m in. As an artist I feel it’s important to direct the public to your vision. The consumer may not understand it, but they have to accept it for the honesty that it is. I stand out from other rappers in the scene right now because of my approach to storytelling. I am making use of my many other talents and vices to define Solo the artist. No one else can do that for you. No one can tell Solo's story better than Solo can.

OKA: What do you feel you have picked up from past greats in local hip-hop that you carry with you today?

Solo: The biggest lesson that I have learned from the greats in SA hip-hop is the art of longevity. That is very important to me. Artists who have been able to stay relevant in their lanes and have made a good living from it... There aren't many examples, but knowing that they exist gives me confidence in its' pursuit….

Follow Solo on twitter and facebook.


9 Must-Hear Songs From Ghana's Buzzing Drill Scene

We give you the rundown on Ghana's drill movement, Asakaa, and the most popular songs birthed by it.

Red bandanas, streetwear, security dogs, and gang signs. If you've been paying any attention to the music scene in Ghana over the past few months, then by now you would have noticed the rise of a special hip-hop movement. The movement is called Asakaa, and it's the Ghanaian take on the Chicago-born subgenre of hip-hop called drill music. It's fresh, it's hot, it's invigorating and it's nothing like anything you've seen before from this part of the world.

The pioneers of Asakaa are fondly referred to by the genre's patrons as the Kumerica boys, a set of budding young rappers based in the city of Kumasi in the Ashanti Region of Ghana. They came into the limelight towards the end of 2020, and have been dropping banger after banger since then, topping several charts and racking up millions of views collectively. The rap is charismatic, the visuals are captivating, and their swag is urban. Characterized by Twi lyrics, infectious hooks, and sinister beats, the allure and appeal of both their art and their culture is overflowing.

"Sore," one of the benchmark songs of the movement, is a monster hit that exploded into the limelight, earning Kumerican rapper Yaw Tog a feature on Billboard Italy and a recent remix that featured Stormzy. "Ekorso" by Kofi Jamar is the song that took over Ghana's December 2020, with the video currently sitting at 1.3 million views on YouTube. "Off White Flow" is the song that earned rapper Kwaku DMC and his peers a feature on Virgil Abloh's Apple Music show Televised Radio. These are just a few examples of the numerous accolades that the songs birthed from the Asakaa movement have earned. Ghana's drill scene is the new cool, but it isn't just a trend. It's an entire movement, and it's here to stay.

Want to get familiar? Here we highlight the most prominent songs of the Asakaa movement that you need to know. Here's our rundown of Ghana's drill songs that are making waves right now. Check them out below.

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