Meet Swaziland's Hottest Rapper Right Now

Swazi hip-hop star 80 Script talks the pursuit of greatness and reveals his plans to release his final rap project in five years' time.

It was Drake that inspired a change of heart in the Swazi rapper 80 Script. 25-year-old Zolile Motsa met the Toronto superstar while he was in Johannesburg for a music video shoot (which would turn out to be the short film Please Forgive Me).

“He told us, ‘Guys, I’m from Toronto, and when I go around the world, I always put Toronto out there. What I want to say to you guys is ‘rep where you from. You have so much to be proud of,’” 80 recalls as I chat to him in the CBD of Manzini, one of Swaziland’s major cities.

Whereas the ultimate goal for most Swazi musicians is to get South African recognition and thus relocate to the neighboring country, 80 plans to continue finding success in Swaziland.

He is, after all, the Kingdom's most promising rapper. “I feel like this is where I’m most celebrated,” he tells me. “These are the people who are gonna elevate me to the heights I wanna reach. You can never go to South Africa and be better than their own. They have artists sitting on the bench waiting to get on next. So, for me to be an AKA, the only place I can do that is here.”

Photo by Sabelo Mkhabela.

“The thing about Swaziland is that it’s fertile soil,” says 80. “Just like Swazi Jive, I saw a huge gap in the market. I want to take full advantage of it.”

Swazi Jive is the company behind the country's biggest hip-hop gathering, Hipnotik Festival. It was on a Hipnotik stage in 2014 that 80 proved himself Swaziland's most promising rapper. He became that dude for hip-hop fans. He had just released These Are The Basics, an EP so solid and focused one wonders why it wasn’t released as an album. (But then again, what’s the difference between the two in the 21st century?)

Two years later, 80 Script is on the Hipnotik stage once again. Things are different this time. The festival is running behind, and his set is cut after two songs. Backstage, he tells me he was just about to perform his most popular song at the moment, “Call Me Already.”

He’s composed, though—as composed as he is the day I meet up with him in Manzini, a few days before the festival. Clad in a black t-shirt, faded blue jeans and a pair of black Jordans, one could easily think he’s a regular young Swazi man. Maybe it’s the two gold chains around his neck that sell him as a rap superstar about to headline his own show, The Soiree: My Silver Jubilee, at the classy Swaziland International Convention Centre. A few weeks after The Soiree, he’ll go on to win two major awards (Best Male and Lyricist of the Year) at the inaugural Swazi Hip-Hop Awards in October.

We take a taxi to Malkerns, the small town 80 calls home. He’s due there for a meeting in a studio. As we walk into the building where the studio is, he tells me about his plans outside of rap. They involve business and marketing, which he says he’s passionate about.

80 comes from a business family. “I’ve seen all types of Bimmers, even saw a Bentley, even seen an Aston, even seen a Rolls, those were my granddad’s/ so respect my last name or get ransacked,” he raps on “The Aristocrats,” a track off These Are The Basics.

The grandfather he raps about is one of the richest men in Swaziland, and one of 80’s biggest inspirations.

After elaborating on his business plans ands dreams, 80 drops a bomb on me. His last rap project will be in five years’ time, he mentions. “So, you will stop rapping after five years?” I ask. “I won’t stop, I will finish,” he says nonchalantly before he chats to the building’s receptionist.

The studio’s currently in use, so we take a walk to a nearby shop to buy some water and sweets. On the way, he expands on his five-year plan. It’s an eight-year plan actually—he’s already three years deep. “I plan to release a project every year,” he says.

Photo by Sabelo Mkhabela.

He plans to approach each project differently—like he has with his previous two (2014’s These Are The Basics and 2015’s You Do The Dishes) and That Of Greatness, the album he’s currently working on.

“All my projects will have a personality of their own. The way Kanye does it,” he says. He reveals These Are The Basics’ main focus was rapping. And oh boy does he rap on the project. “With You Do The Dishes, I played around a lot with the hooks,” he says, adding that he worked with a number of producers, including Swaziland’s Rendition and the South African-based C-Tea.

“I’m also introducing an African vibe into my music,” he tells me of his new album. “It’s gonna have dance tunes and the message will be happier because I’m in a happy space. I’ve also got some R&B songs. And obviously to cater to my day-ones I will have the rap songs.”

80’s sure of himself and his ideas. I ask him to break down the concept of greatness. His response is erudite and spontaneous. “For me, greatness is stretching it beyond imagination. The imagination here at home unfortunately doesn’t go too far,” he says.

“That of Greatness” was originally a track off of a mixtape 80 did with a friend during his high school days. The song was supposed to develop into a full project, but when his mate quit rap, 80 took it upon himself to carry it forward.

This idea of “greatness” extends to his personal brand as well. He tells me he once shot a music video but wasn’t happy with the final product, so he canned it. “Even on Twitter,” he says, “I keep my personal life away from the public eye. You won’t see me going on about who I’m dating.”

After his Soiree concert, a number of fans gave 80 Script the nickname “Swazi Mega,” after South African rap superstar AKA’s Supa Mega nickname. Just like AKA, 80 Script is breaking new ground that not many before him have reached.

Sabelo Mkhabela is a writer from Swaziland, currently based in Cape Town. He also drops award-winning tweets as @SabzaMK.

News Brief

Stormzy Snags His First TV Lead Role in BBC Drama 'Noughts & Crosses'

The series is set in a world where black people are the ruling class, while white people deal with discrimination and prejudice.

Stormzy has landed a lead role in a drama developed by BBC and Roc Nation, Variety reports.

He's set to play Kolawale in Noughts & Crosses, an adaptation of novels from Bajan-British author Malorie Blackman. His character is a newspaper editor and was created solely for the TV series.

Keep reading... Show less

Listen to Ibibio Sound Machine's New Album 'Doko Mien'

A blend of electronic sounds and '70s West African disco.

Ibibio Sound Machine are back with their latest album, Doko Mien.

The UK-based group, fronted by Nigerian singer Eno Williams, expertly blend electronic sounds with West African influences, taking cues from '70s West African disco.

They just dropped their latest single, "Wanna Come Down," which the band describes as an "infectious jam from the album that mixes disco, '80s electro with English and Ibibio language lyrics." Doko Mien, the title of the group's new album. means "tell me" in Ibibio.

"Music is a universal language, but spoken language can help you think about what makes you emotional, what makes you feel certain feelings, what you want to see in the world," mentions Eno Williams.

Listen to Doko Mien below and catch Ibibio Sound Machine on their North American tour (dates below).

Keep reading... Show less

At Least 60 People Killed In Fatal Bus Collision In Ghana

Several people are mourning the victims as well as the tragic loss of life that has occurred throughout the continent this month.

A head on collision of two buses early Friday morning in the Bono East region of Ghana has killed at least 60 people, according to the AFP.

The fatal accident took place on the Kintampo-Techiman highway in Kintampo—an area just under 300 miles north of Accra—after which one of the buses caught on fire.

The devastating accident has left several others with serious injuries. "Most of the passengers in both vehicles died at the spot. A number of them with varying degrees of injuries have been rushed to hospital," a police spokesperson told BBC Africa.

Keep reading... Show less

get okayafrica in your inbox