Audio

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.

Next Page
Interview

Sarkodie Is Not Feeling Any Pressure

The elite Ghanaian rapper affirms his king status with this seventh studio album, No Pressure.

Sarkodie is one of the most successful African rappers of all time. With over ten years of industry presence under his belt, there's no question about his prowess or skin in the game. Not only is he a pioneer of African hip-hop, he's also the most decorated African rapper, having received over 100 awards from close to 200 nominations over the span of his career.

What else does Sarkodie have to prove? For someone who has reached and stayed at the pinnacle of hip-hop for more than a decade, he's done it all. But despite that, he's still embracing new growth. One can tell just by listening to his latest album, No Pressure, Sarkodie's seventh studio album, and the follow-up to 2019's Black Love which brought us some of the Ghanaian star's best music so far. King Sark may be as big as it gets, but the scope of his music is still evolving.

Sonically, No Pressure is predominantly hip-hop, with the first ten tracks offering different blends of rap topped off with a handful of afrobeats and, finally, being crowned at the end with a gospel hip-hop cut featuring Ghanaian singer MOG. As far as the features go, Sark is known for collaborating mostly with his African peers but this time around he branches out further to feature a number of guests from around the world. Wale, Vic Mensa, and Giggs, the crème de la crème of rap in America and the UK respectively all make appearances, as well as Nigeria's Oxlade, South Africa's Cassper Nyovest, and his fellow Ghanaian artists Darkovibes and Kwesi Arthur.

Keep reading... Show less

get okayafrica in your inbox

popular.

The 7 Best Nigerian Songs of the Month (July)

Featuring Olamide, Lady Donli, Omah Lay, Adekunle Gold, Falz and more.