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The Rise Of Swaziland’s Hip-Hop Scene: 13 Notable Swazi Hip-Hop Artists

In "The Rise Of Swaziland’s Hip-Hop Scene," Sabelo Mkhabela highlights 13 notable Swazi hip-hop acts.


Over the past five years Swaziland’s hip-hop scene has been steadily shaping up and finding its own voice. A gust of Swazi artists are demanding to be taken seriously. A decade ago the kingdom had essentially no hip-hop scene. At the time, there were just a few artists – the pioneers of Swazi hip-hop – who had their songs played on radio and their videos on TV. Their music though, wasn’t fully formed — the beats and delivery were weak and their concepts recycled.

Swaziland is not the most technologically advanced country. Bandwidth is still a luxury. Soaring data costs have stalled the Swazi music industry’s growth in the digital sphere. The average citizen cannot afford to access streaming sites on a daily basis. The majority of artists are unable to use sites like SoundCloud, Bandcamp and YouTube to promote their music.

Instead, artists in Swaziland rely on radio for their music to be heard. Though a few radio show hosts have been working to spread the artform, like MTN Top 20 co-hosts Bongani “Bobo” Dlamini and Bongani “DJ Tizalami” Dube, and The Swazi Rhythm’s Lindelwa “Lindz” Mafa, by and large the nation has been reluctant to give local hip-hop a chance.

The country has one major radio station, Swaziland Broadcasting and Information Services (SBIS ) that’s split into two channels – one that broadcasts in Swati (SBIS1) and another that broadcasts in English (SBIS2). The latter, a youth-orientated station, is the more likely of the two to play rap. But because radio hosts make their own playlists, they’ll only play songs that they personally know and like. And even if an artist’s song does get played, they won’t see any royalties. In Swaziland, airplay is entirely about exposure.

Hip-hop as a culture never truly flourished in Swaziland either. Djing, B-boying, graffiti, ciphers and park jams are essentially unheard of in the small kingdom. Recently though, some strides have been made. The general public now seems willing to pay attention to local rappers. Swazis have begun headlining well-attended shows and sharing stages with South Africa’s most revered acts. The annual Hipnotik Festival – a mid-year youth music festival that hosts the biggest names in South African and Swazi hip-hop – offers perhaps the greatest opportunity for hip-hop to shine in Swaziland.

A few Swazi rappers have even seen their faces on corporate billboards, and their songs used for big brand ad campaigns. Though working within a sloppy music industry, in a country that itself has much to deal with, a handful of Swazi rappers are ready for the world stage.

In the following pages, Sabelo Mkhabela highlights 13 notable Swazi hip-hop acts.

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Swiss. Photo by Sabelo Mkhabela.

Meet Swiss, The eSwatini Rapper You Need To Be Listening To

Get to know one of the most promising rappers from eSwatini (Swaziland).

In November of 2018, one of eSwatini's most notable rappers, 80 Script, was just being his usual confident and outspoken self when he tweeted about his long awaited debut album, That of Greatness. "I can't think of any rappers from my country that can top this album ... At least not for 5 years. I think this might be the greatest rap album from Eswatini," he wrote.

Swiss, a rapper not many fans knew about tweeted, "challenge accepted," in response to 80 Script's tweet. He promised he would hit the studio and respond to 80's claim the best way he knew—by rapping. Just a bit over 24 hours later, Swiss delivered a potent track titled "Leave it to the Fans" which took many fans by surprise. He came out pumping his chest with lines like, "Boy, you dried up like burnt toast, you ain't close to the god that I am/ Above you, I play host, I'm the ghost, I'm your G.O.A.T, I'm your idol/ How you tryna flex when you know that's my title?/ Took a couple of years doing dishes in the kitchen/ Now you tryna flex on a nigga with a vision."

"Leave it to Fans" may not be as scathing as great diss tracks usually are, but it revealed a rapper who's comfortable on the mic and who sounds like he means every word utters.

It was on.

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80 Script Has a Lot to Get Off His Chest In His New EP ‘Pink Floyd’

One of Swaziland's finest MCs speaks his truth in this new stellar EP.

80 Script, one of Swaziland's finest MCs, released a 9-track EP titled Pink Floyd two weeks ago.

80 Script is outspoken on and off the mic. The MC always expresses his thoughts unapologetically about issues and the politics of the game. And, in this world as you probably know, that doesn't always work in one's favor.

On the EP's opening song "Pink Floyd Freestyle," the MC muses on all the drama he was part of in 2018, from his hilarious clashes with the fellow MCs Illa Penboy, Smokey and King Terry.

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Photo courtesy of CSA Global.

In Conversation with Congolese NBA Player Emmanuel Mudiay: 'I want more African players in the NBA.'

The Utah Jazz player talks about being African in the NBA, supporting basketball in the DRC and how 'everybody knows about Burna Boy'.

Inspired by his basketball-playing older brothers, by second grade, Emmanuel Mudiay already knew that he wanted to play in the American National Basketball Association. Then in 2001 his family, fleeing the war in Democratic Republic of Congo, sought asylum in the United States.

In America, Mudiay saw basketball as a way for him to improve his situation. After impressive high school and college careers, he moved to China to play pro ball. Picked 7th overall in the 2015 NBA draft, the now 23-year-old guard has made a name for himself this season coming off the bench for the Utah Jazz.

Mudiay attests to the sport having changed not only his life but that of his siblings. Basketball gave them all a chance at a good education and the opportunity to dream without conditions. Now he wants to see other talented African players make it too.

We caught up with him to talk about his experience as an African player in the NBA, his hopes for basketball on the African continent and who he and his teammates jam out to in their locker rooms.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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University lecturer and activist Doctor Stella Nyanzi (L) reacts in court as she attends a trial to face charges for cyber-harassment and offensives communication, in Kampala, on April 10, 2017. (Photo by GAEL GRILHOT/AFP via Getty Images)

Jailed Ugandan Activist, Stella Nyanzi, Wins PEN Prize for Freedom of Expression

The outspoken activist, who is currently serving a prison sentence for a poem she wrote about the president's mother's vagina, won for her resistance "in front of a regime that is trying to suppress her."

Stella Nyanzi, the Ugandan academic, activist, and vocal critic of President Yoweri Museveni has been awarded the 2020 Oxfam Novib/PEN International award for freedom of expression, given to writers who "continue to work for freedom of expression in the face of persecution."

Nyanzi is currently serving a 15 month sentence for "cyber harassment" after she published a poem in which she wrote that she wished "the acidic pus flooding Esiteri's (the president's mother) vaginal canal had burn up your unborn fetus. Burn you up as badly as you have corroded all morality and professionalism out of our public institutions in Uganda."

According to the director of PEN International, Carles Torner, her unfiltered outspokenness around the issues facing her country is what earned her the award. "For her, writing is a permanent form of resistance in front of a regime that is trying to suppress her," said Torner at the award ceremony.

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