Op-Ed
Khuli Chana at the Cape Town International Jazz Festival in 2016. Photo by Sabelo Mkhabela.

Khuli Chana Has Already Done What Your Favorite Rapper Is Still Trying to Do

Khuli Chana is sharing unreleased songs that are better than what your fave will release in the future.

South African rapper Khuli Chana is one of the best to ever do it. He raps with an unmatched flair, natural swagger, and a high-precision flow. His dexterity is impressive, as he raps in both English and Setswana, and is vicious with both. Can we also talk about those catchy hooks the man has conjured for both his songs and other artists'?

Since his days with the group Morafe, and in his flourishing solo career, that spans two solid albums (MotswakOriginator (2010), Lost In Time (2012)) and an EP (One Source (2016)), Chana has been rapping circles around your favorite rappers for ages.


He's currently busy with One Source, a multi-disciplinary project with Absolut Vodka that has seen him traveling the content. While busy with One Source and running his label, My Throne Records, the MC decided to unleash some unreleased bangers from his vault.

In an ongoing series titled #UNRELEASEDTHURSDAYS, the motswako legend and pioneer has released several songs, each followed by visuals.

My personal favorite from this series has to be "Maje," produced by Pretoria-based legendary producer Trompie Beat Mochini. The MC devours the instrumental, which leads with a buzzing bass line, with his customary cadence, and throws some kwaito-influenced sauce in the adlibs.

Khuli's flow is an instrument of its own. In the age of trap music, where autotune hooks and catchy beats make hits, he's one of the few mainstream rappers who will turn a boom bap instrumental into a chart topper—remember "Tswa Daar," "Never Grow Up," and a few others? "Maje" is another instance of his flow and presence making a song. The song has potential to be a radio hit, and you don't hear any 808 or auto-tune—a rarity in 2018.

"Everything," which has trap sensibilities, is produced by up-and-coming Cape Town-based producer Ludick Beats, who's a mentee of the legendary producer Hipe, also from Cape Town. On "Everything," Chana proves that his flow is dynamic, and is magical over any type of instrumental.

On "Anjos," yet another song from the series, Chana lets My Throne Records signee Maglera Doe Boy shine, as he gives him two verses. Maglera is poised to be the next big thing for motswako, as the subgenre hasn't had fresh blood in a few years, since Cassper Nyovest became a superstar. And what more does he need if he has the guidance of one of the most potent and successful rappers in SA?

Alongside HHP, Khuli Chana (and his crew Morafe) is one of the founders of motswako, the SA hip-hop sungenre from Mafikeng in the North West province. Motswako, which is characterized by English and Setswana lyrics, managed to bring fun to hip-hop at a time when it took itself too seriously for its own good in the mid-2000s. Motswako fused hip-hop with kwaito and house, a trend many rappers would take years to catch on to.

Motswako is one of the most successful subgenres in SA hip-hop—collectively, it has probably sold more records than every other subgenre there is. Khuli Chana and HHP were selling gold and sweeping awards shows before rappers could dream of it in the early 2010s.

Hopefully, Chana is getting rid of these old songs because he's working on a new album. Seriously, the game needs it.

This piece is part of Sabelo Mkhabela's South African hip-hop column. He's happy to debate you on Twitter: @sabzamk

Interview

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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