The 30 Best Songs by South African Hip-Hop DJs

SA hip-hop DJs have gifted us some of the country's most outstanding collaborations. We highlight 30 of those that have had a huge impact on our ears.

DJs play a huge role in (South African) hip-hop. They introduce fans to new exciting rappers; for instance, Nasty C and YoungstaCPT, who are stars now, were first heard on a mainstream level on DJ Switch's "Way It Go."

DJs keep their ears on the street and are thus the right people for label heads to speak to about the next rapper to sign; a few days ago, Universal Music Group signed up-and-coming rapper 25K, and it was revealed that DJ Vigilante was the one who made the label aware of the MC's existence.

DJs have curated collaborations we could have only dreamed of—DJ Hudson put Khuli Chana and Mawe2 on the same song for "Alcohol and Problems," Vigi placed Nasty C, AKA and K.O. on the same beat on "Bang Out."

DJs have curated some of the country's greatest posse tracks and collaborations. They have thus maintained the spirit of competition among rappers—think of the sparring between AKA and K.O. on "God's Will" and the intergenerational collaboration on DJ Switch's "Now or Never." DJs are low-key preserving lyricism as they always put rappers out of their comfort zone, where nothing else but their bars matter.

In the last few years, South African hip-hop DJs have gifted fans with some of the country's most outstanding collaborations, and below, we highlight 30 of those that have had a huge impact on our ears. From golden oldies like DJ Nana's "Let The Beat Go" to present-day classics such as DJ Switch's "Now or Never," DJ Citi Lyts' "Vura" and DJ Capital's "Skebe Dep Dep," we bring

Note that the list is in no particular order, and only songs released from 2009 and later were considered.

Listen to these selections in our South African Hip-Hop DJs playlist on Apple Music and Spotify.

DJ Switch “Way It Go” (ft. Tumi (Stogie T), Nasty C and YoungstaCPT)

An iconic collaboration of the old and new school, that boasts monumental verses. It was Nasty C and YoungstaCPT's official introduction to the game, so they had a lot to prove. And they were rapping alongside one of the greatest in the country.

Best verse: YoungstaCPT

DJ Vigi (ft. K.O. and AKA) “God’s Will”

"God's Will" is an undebatable classic. Vigi got two of the hottest rappers of 2013 and had them sparring over a pristine instrumental produced by K.O. himself, and the result was two of the rappers' most memorable verses.

Best verse: K.O.

DJ Switch "Now or Never" (ft. Shane Eagle, ProVerb, Kwesta and Reason)

A moment of a song. "Now or Never" got the country's attention, and it was just based on beats and rhymes, no catchy hook or gimmicks. "Now or Never" was a wakeup call to the game, a reminder that bars will always matter.

Best verse: Proverb

DJ Fanatic "Keep Debiting" (ft. Tumi (Stogie T) and Reason)

"Keep Debiting" was part of Reason's winning streak. He was still new to the mainstream, and was murdering everything living. His verse on here is relatable—he skilfully detailed a relationship most young people have with money, and it was over a beat tailored for the club.

Best verse: Reason

DJ Vigilante (ft. AKA, Nasty C and K.O.) "Bang Out"

Nasty C was fast proving himself as a potent lyricist, and what better way to test him than to place him alongside AKA and K.O., who were just untouchable in 2016. "Bang Out" is another monumental combination of rappers that one had grown to expect from Vigi, who has a sharp ear for lyricists who will sound great together on a song.

Best verse: K.O.

​DJ Citi Lyts "Vura" (ft. Sjava and Saudi)

"Vura" is one of the best South African songs of all time, across all genres. The beat, an outstanding piece of art, was produced by three of the country's best producers—Ruff, Lunati and Bizboy. And Sjava laced it with a memorable verse and hook, amd Saudi spat one of the best verses of his career.

Best verse: Sjava

DJ Hudson “Alcohol and Problems” (ft. Mawe2 and Khuli Chana)

Who could have dreamed of hearing Mawe2 and Khuli Chana in the same song? "Alcohol and Problems" is both mellow and catchy, addresses a serious life issue, but doesn't alienate its listener. "Alcohol and Problems" is proof that DJs don't always put together club bangers, but can craft introspective songs for self-reflection. And Khuli Chana didn't have to go this hard.

Best verse: Khuli Chana

​Major League DJz (ft. Cassper Nyovest, Riky Rick and Siya Shezi) "The Bizness"

The thing about mixing hip-hop and kwaito is that it seems easy, but not everyone can do it well. As well as Major League did with "The Bizness." The song captured the spirit of kwaito, while still remaining hip-hop. An iconic combination of rappers who have as much in common as they are different.

Best verse: Siya Shezi

DJ Speedsta "I Don't Know" (ft. J Molley, Frank Casino and Zoocci Coke Dope)

On "I Don't Know," DJ Speedsta roped in the leaders of the new wave for an auto-tune heavy fire starter that gave us a memorable production and hook from Zoocci Coke Dope. DJ Speedsta keeps his ears on the streets, and this song is an indication, as he casts some of the most notable artists from SA's new wave, alongside the Godfather of new school rap in SA, Da L.E.S. All three artists have since grown to be notable names in SA hip-hop.

Best verse: J Molley

DJ Milkshake “Living on the Edge” (ft. AKA and George and George Avakian)

"Living on the Edge," an anthem for the hedonists, was built on a tangy instrumental that was laced with a catchy hook by George Avakian and fitting verses from AKA, who was showing growth as a rapper. George's verse was also lovely, though you might be reluctant to agree. We get it.

Best verse: AKA

DJ Dimplez “Bae Coupe” (ft. Ice Prince, Emmy Gee and Riky Rick)

When Naija and Mzansi get together, it's always a spaz fest. The beat for "Bae Coupe" is an intimidating banger, and gets laced by potent verses from Ice Price, Emmy Gee and Riky Rick, with the latter's verse being the song's brightest moment. Riky flips the song's concept around, and reflects on how we are slaves to capitalism, over-drinking, spending less time with our loved ones, while chasing the dough.

Best verse: Riky Rick

DJ Speedsta (ft. Yung Swiss, Tellaman, Shane Eagle and Frank Casino) "Mayo"

No DJ rides for the new wave than Speedsta. On "Mayo," he gathered the future of the game, who've all grown to be stars in their own right. Strong verses from Shane Eagle and Tellaman and a career-defining hook from Yung Swiss, and a warm R&B-leaning beat from Gemini Major, are what make "Mayo" an era-defining song.

Best verse: Shane Eagle

DJ Citi Lyts (ft. Emtee, Fifi Cooper & B3nchMarQ) "Washa"

DJ Citi Lyts gathered the then-growing Ambitiouz Entertainment roster, and gifted the game with a laid-back chill anthem. Emtee owned the song with a rock-solid hook that eclipsed Fifi and B3nchMarQ's verse.

Best verse: P-Jay (B3nchMarQ)

Beat Bangaz (ft. YoungstaCPT) “Bo Kaap”

Beat Bangaz is a trio consisiting of legendary DJs E20, DJ Azuhl and DJ Ready D. "Bo Kaap" is a moment in that the OGs collaborated with the leader of Cape Town's new wave of rappers. YoungstaCPT maintains a uniform rhyme pattern and speaks his truth, from being ostracized by the game to politicians' incompetence. No waste moment on here, just a great combination of a beat and raps.

​DJ Dimplez "We Ain't Leaving" (ft. L-Tido and Anatii)

"We Ain't Leaving" is a club banger with a fitting message—Tido and his party people ain't leaving till the sun comes out. Nothing to write home about lyrically, but Tido owned Anatii's pulverizing instrumental and was complemented by a catchy hook that will stick to your head for hours.

Miss Pru DJ (ft. LaSauce, Gigi Lamayne, Nadia Nakai & Londie London) "Isaga Lam"

Over an eardrum shattering instrumental from Tweezy, Miss Pru throws a celebration with her girls declaring their dedication to chasing the paper. "Isaga Lam" boasts solid rap verses from Gigi Lamayne and Nadia Nakai, a sing-songy appearance by Londie London, and an effortless from LaSauce, channeling Rihanna.

Best verse: Gigi Lamayne

DJ Maphorisa “Kemosadi” (ft. Emtee, Maggz, Zingah and KLY)

By now, you should know, you can never go wrong with Emtee on the hook. On Maphorisa's "Kemosadi," he delivers yet another solid hook verse, and so do KLY, Zingah and Maggz.

Best verse: Maggz

DJ Mkiri Way (ft. Emtee & Saudi) "Bhathu"

"Bhathu" is a demonstration of Emtee and Saudi's chemistry, as well as their skill—their unique approaches to the instrumental ensure you feel both of their presences. Both rappers spit potent lines, with Saudi spitting such venom as, "I'm running around with the G.O.A.T, ngathi umgidi wami ekseni."

Best verse: Saudi

DJ Vigilante (ft. Ma-E, Maggz and Pro) “Sgelekeqe”

On "Sgelekeqe," Vigi features kasi rap royalty on Ma-E, Maggz and Pro, and the song comes out as gully as you'd expect. "Sgelekeqe" is an anomaly; it's both for the streets and the club, with the three lyricists lacing the bass-heavy beat with raw scripts for the heads.

Best verse: Pro

​DJ Sliqe "Biskop" (ft. Kwesta and Makwa)

Kwesta and Makwa are one of the greatest rapper-producer duo out now ("Spirit" and "Vur Vai"). Makwa can also drop killa hooks, and on "Biskop," he does exactly that, while Kwesta delivers a verse that proves he's one of the greatest South African rappers of all time. He chooses to complicate the beat to allow for him to use his skills to maneuver its bends and obstacles. He really brought his A-game on here.

Best verse: Kwesta

​DJ Nana ft. HHP, Tumi and Zubz "Let The Beat Go"

About 10 years ago, DJ Nana roped in three of the game's hottest rappers for a display of unmatched skill over an instrumental that leans towards boom bap. "Let The Beat Go" sounded sophisticated enough for Jabba to put it on his monumental 2009 album Dumela. The song's video features cameos from the likes of Flex Boogie, MarazA, Lee Kasumba, Lil Frat and a few more.

Best verse: Tumi

DJ Capital "Skebe Dep Dep (Remix)" (ft. Kwesta, Reason, KiD X, YoungstaCPT, Stogie T)

"Skebe Dep Dep" is catchy enough for radio and the casual listener, but lyrical enough for the fan of bars—the song features some of the country's most gifted lyricists—Kwesta, Reason, KiD X, YoungstaCPT and Stogie T, and, as expected, every rapper brings some serious heat.

Best verse: Stogie T

​DJ Kaygo (ft. Reason, Gemini Major and KiD X) "Father Figure"

A solid raga-inspired hook by Gemini Major and two great verses from Reason and KiD X over a pulverizing bassline. "Father Figure" doesn't have a lot going on, which makes it accessible and a perfect listen for both your headphones and the club's speakers.

Best verse: Reason

​Ms Cosmo "Ay Baby" (ft. Rouge, Moozlie & Sho Madjozi)

Ms Cosmo and her collaborators Rouge, Sho Madjozi and Moozlie turn Hurricane Chris' 2007 crunk hit into a modern trap banger, and it's just as catchy as the original. Every verse on "Ay Baby" is impactful, as all three MCs stick to their unique styles, and together form an immovable force of nature.

Best verse: Rouge

​DJ Slim ft. Yanga, Emtee, Tshego & Cassper Nyovest "Phanda Mo"

Yanga, Emtee, Tshego and Cassper Nyovest ride a menacing bass-laden trap beat on "Phanda Mo," each delivering verses that sound like all rappers were trying to out-rhyme each other, and you know than always translates to a great listening experience. "Phanda Mo" is a hustler's mayhem, and is probably the first and last time you'll ever hear Emtee and Cassper on the same song.

Best verse: Cassper Nyovest

​J Smash (ft. Emtee) "Never Fall"

"Never Fall" is perfect. It's Emtee in his truest form, and he shares the beat with no one, but himself, as he serves a solid hook and great rap verses, vowing to be on top of the game forever. "Never Fall" is proof that DJs are capable of more than just club bangers and street anthems.

​DJ Dimplez (ft. Red Button and Red Button) "Usabani"

"Usabani" is an indication that kasi rap will always thrive. Both Red Button and MarazA both serve great Zulu and Tsotsitaal verses, with MarazA combining the sensibilities of modern hip-hop with his kasi rap roots in his show-stealing verses about backstabbers and haters.

Best verse: MarazA

DJ Sliqe (ft. Shekhinah) "On It"

Shekhinah, as a producer herself, has a great ear for beats, and not to mention her interpretation is always on point. On "On It," she lays effortless vocals over a pounding ominous instrumental by Tweezy, to gift DJ Sliqe with one of the greatest songs of his career.

DJ Speedsta "No Stress" (ft. Una Rams, Zoocci Coke Dope, J Molley and Da L.E.S)

Once again, DJ Speedsta gathers the new wave, this time around, alongside the godfather of new school rap in South Africa, Da L.E.S. The song consists of a diverse list of artists who blur the line between rapping and singing, and it's a serious vibe.

Best verse: Una Rams

​DJ Sliqe (ft. AKA, Yanga, JR) "Bay 2"

"Bay 2" sounds like an AKA joint (think "All Eyes on Me," "The Baddest" and L-Tido's "No Favors"); it combines kwaito and hip-hop, and features two of Supa Mega's secret weapons—Yanga and JR, and as a result, the song sounds as focused as Mega's own songs.

Best verse: AKA

Listen to these selections in our South African Hip-Hop DJs playlist on Apple Music and Spotify.

Photo still courtesy of YouNeek Studios.

The Official Trailer for 'Malika: Warrior Queen' Is Here

Malika surely means business in the clip that sets the scene for YouNeek Studios' newest animated pilot.

After much anticipation, the new trailer for Malika: Warrior Queen, starring Nollywood's own Adesua Etomi, is finally here.

In the trailer, we already see the Warrior Queen fearlessly stand up to defend her people against enemies who have set their sights on seizing her expanding empire of Azzaz. Facing threats of invasion by foreign cultures, Malika now has to decide how to fight a war both inside her kingdom and outside of it.

"War is coming," she declares.

Malika: Warrior Queen was executive produced by Niyi Akinmolayan of Anthill Studios. The series has been three years in the making, with a two-part comic series already available for reading; and even more so in line with YouNeek Studios' mission to create stories inspired by African history, culture and mythology.

Joining Etomi in the cast are Femi Branch, voicing Chief Dogbari, Deyemi Okanlowon, voicing the WindMaker and King Bass, Blossom Chukwujekwu as Abdul and Sambassa Nzeribe, voicing General Ras.

Check it out below.

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All photos courtesy of Remi Dada

Afropreneurs: Meet the Designer Reinventing Nigerian Workspaces

Remi Dada's Spacefinish is shaking up design to create futuristic work environments for African companies

In the digital age when a fancy rectangle in our pockets can find us whatever we want, customize it and deliver it to our door, it's odd that the same thought process isn't also applied to physical space. Why does every parking lot feel exactly the same? Can waiting rooms be designed to make time pass more quickly? How can we bring these new standards of personalization into the areas where we live our lives?

Nigerian designer, Remi Dada, is doing just that. With both architecture and business degrees, Dada started his career in tech working in user experience and product marketing–eventually ending up at Google Nigeria. Once he started working in the office however, Dada didn't find it to be an environment that sparked inspiration or productivity. It felt more like rooms with tables and chairs rather than a place that nurtured new, progressive ideas. Luckily, the perfect project presented itself: redesign the office. Dada jumped at the opportunity to meld his practical knowledge in user experience with his love of design and architecture–and the result turned some heads.

Thus Spacefinish was born, a pioneering design company based in Nigeria that works with companies to transform ordinary office space into beautiful and functional environments that increase productivity and employee satisfaction. I spoke with Dada about the purpose of Spacefinish, the importance of design in the workspace and the unique properties of designing in Nigeria for Nigerians. Read on for insights from the design entrepreneur on the impact of spaces and what the future holds for the company.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Nereya Otieno for OkayAfrica: In your experience, how important is workspace environment in Lagos? How is it viewed?

It hasn't been prioritized. A lot of employers do not invest heavily in their employees and you can see that in work spaces all over the world. Now, people are also beginning to understand that high-performing employees–especially millennials–want to work in a space that inspires them and with people who inspire them. Right now in Nigeria it is still very new.

We've been able to measure how companies have been performing prior to us renovating their space and afterwards. What we've seen consistently is that our spaces help with employee retention, they help with collaboration and they help with inspiration. One important thing that we always measure and that we try and add to our design is what we call 'PIC.' PIC is the measure of productivity, innovation and collaboration–now we can track that within a workspace. These three key things are the pillars of how we create better work spaces.

A sketch showing plans for a space in the PwC Experience Centre, Lagos.

With that data, it's probably pretty simple to pitch Spacefinish to a company. But what was it like in the beginning to try and sell the first Spacefinish idea outside of Google? You're essentially coming into a stranger's space and saying 'you're doing this wrong.'

True. We were very lucky in that the first space we did was a Google office. It's Google. Everyone aspires to have a workplace like Google and people visiting the office were curious about how a space like that could exist in Nigeria. So there was a lot of interest but no commitments. Our first real commitment came from a company called Andela, a tech startup aspiring to be like the spaces you see in Silicon Valley. But they were looking to create a space just to meet their capacity and meet their head count, that was all. They thought they wouldn't be able to afford what we'd done for Google.

I went and pitched for them to do something different instead of creating the standard, generic workspace that we've all seen. Then I took our approach: connect the expense and cost of that project to the potential output of the team working there and how that could affect the company's bottom line. When we do that, it becomes an easier conversation to have. Once we are able to connect with the key decision makers and give them metrics they actually care about—like it's not about having a pretty space but about having a space that will allow people to achieve their short and long-term goals—they tend to be more receptive.

A meeting room at the Google offices in Lagos.

Do you feel like a bit of a disruptor or trouble maker?

I would say when we started we didn't feel like a disruptor. For me, it felt very natural because it was in line with what I was hired for and the world I was coming from. When you work at Google, you tend to live in an innovation bubble. So we didn't feel like disruptors while it was happening, but when we got people's reactions—the industry's reaction—then we realized that what we were doing was actually groundbreaking and very new to that part of the world.

Okay. And then what do you do after that? You just keep poking at that nerve?

Yeah. [Laughs] So what happens after that is the floodgates open up and we start to see a lot more demand than we can handle as a company. That gave me the confidence to quit my job at Google and do this full time. We are now starting to figure out how to do it to the best of our capacity at the same level, and sometimes surpassing, what our peers are doing across the world.

What do you find is the most important element within the workspace? How does Spacefinish highlight that?

People are the most important element in the workspace. One CEO said that his team was very unruly—weren't well composed. There is a mentality that we all subscribe to, especially coming from Nigeria where you see people at the local airports not obeying the rules. But those same people, as soon as they land in Heathrow, they're suddenly very compliant. They're the same people. The only thing that changed is their environment. New spaces can cause people to change their behavior—they morph into the space. For that client, the leadership was very happy that their team members began acting in the way they wanted them to act when we changed the space. The psychology of the whole thing is very interesting. That's why we take a human-centered approach to design, with a lot of qualitative and quantitative research before we begin.

View of the Vibranium Valley warehouse workspace in Lagos.

I'm originally from California and I grew up in Silicon Valley–it's a very peculiar place simply because of the concentration of resources. There are surely different challenges for a developer in Nigeria versus one in Silicon Valley. What is the most unique thing for you, after all your travels and experience, that makes designing for Nigeria special?

That's a really good question. You rarely find imagery of inland Africa that is progressive and modern. The first time in recent times was the Black Panther movie and that's why it was so huge. Kids could see a different version of what Africa could be in their collective imagination. I'm making this correlation because that is what I think is different for us, from a design standpoint. For example, the Google office in Nigeria looks very Nigerian. It has a lot of cultural nuances and it is locally relevant to the region, however it is a very sophisticated and modern space with all the right technology. There's videoconferencing, micro-efficiency, access control and security but with the backdrop of an African space. When people see that, it feels very fresh and new and there is so much content that we can use to inspire–from artwork to traditions–and we infuse all those things in to the spaces we're creating.

Do you have a favorite space you've done?

All the spaces we've done have been fantastic. But I think my favorite to date is the PwC office, it is an innovation hub and a huge cultural departure for PwC. They are more or less known as a rigid, stoic brand and they wanted a space that defied all of those things. So we created an innovation hub that was super, super, super futuristic and the first of its kind in West Africa. Anyone who knows interior fitouts understands that lines are straightforward but curves are complicated. This space has a lot of curves. That's difficult to do anywhere in the world but 10 times more complicated in Nigeria because we just don't have access to the right tools and technology that you will find elsewhere. But it came out very well and that has been my most exciting space so far.

A look at the PwC Experience Centre, Lagos

Was it also the most challenging?

It was, yes, because of the design ideas we wanted to achieve. We have things like revolving doors that were inspired by the hobbits' shire in Lord of the Rings and a single workstation that extends across the entire space. There are a lot of lights, floating elements and Nsibidi—an ancient African writing system that we used to create a new language. The artwork is very deep and gives a timeline of different instances in Africa where technology has inspired innovation. It was a very involved and challenging project. But we do the challenging things because we feel it allows us to move forward and push boundaries.

Sure. It's exciting for you and everyone you work with but also, I'd say, for the local contractors and artists doing the artwork.

You know, that is something that we do differently. Most architecture firms just design but we design and build. We do that because, when we started, no one in the market really understood what we were doing. We were asking for materials that didn't exist so we had to create our own. Also, everything we do is local, we don't import anything–which can be an even bigger challenge. But we want to know that we are helping to build industries here in Nigeria, we want to help fix the lack of resources in this part of the world. We could import but it doesn't help the community and economic infrastructure in the long run.

A meeting room in Vibranium Valley

I think the first time our impact hit me was when we were building a place called Vibranium Valley. That's been our biggest project so far: a 2,000 square meter office that was built in a massive warehouse. I went there on a Wednesday one day and we had over 200 people working in the space. And for the first time I was like, "Wow, we really have the ability to create jobs as well." It put things in context for me.

Are there any plans to venture outside of offices and corporate workspaces with your human-centered approach? Classrooms, waiting rooms, etc.?

We are actually about to embark on our first non-office project. We are designing and building the interior of two international airports in Nigeria: Lagos and Port Harcourt. Two very massive projects that we couldn't say no to one says no to international airports [Laughs]. So it's a good way to toss us into things outside of the workspace. So everyone should come fly to Nigeria and check it out when we're finished.

Catch Nereya on her Instagram here.

Still from 'Harriet' trailer.

Watch Cynthia Erivo as Harriet Tubman In the Moving New Trailer for 'Harriet'

The highly-anticipated biopic about the life of the iconic freedom fighter is due out on November 1.

Back in 2017, it was announced that Tony-winning actor and singer Cynthia Erivo would be taking on the role of the iconic freedom fighter Harriet Tubman in the upcoming biopic Harriet. We've been anticipating its release ever since, and today, the trailer for the buzzed about film has finally arrived.

The moving and climactic trailer sees Erivo delivering a convincing performance as Tubman. The film follows the hero's journey from escaping slavery to becoming a legendary abolitionist and freedom fighter. Here's the official description of the film via Shadow & Act:

Based on the thrilling and inspirational life of an iconic American freedom fighter, Harriet tells the extraordinary tale of Harriet Tubman's escape from slavery and transformation into one of America's greatest heroes. Her courage, ingenuity, and tenacity freed hundreds of slaves and changed the course of history.
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