Featuring Sha Sha, Die Mondez, Focalistic, Indigo Stella, Lurah, Elaine and more.
South Africa's music scene is a gift that keeps giving. Every year, a crop of new artists emerges seemingly from nowhere. Just like all other years, 2020 is promising to be a great one for music in the country. Below, we highlight some artists who had a promising run in 2019 and could potentially fuck up the game this year.
Read ahead for our 12 South African Artists to Watch in 2020. This list is in no particular order.
If you keep an ear to the streets, you've known Sha Sha for a few years now. The artist, who was born in Zimbabwe and spent a lot of time in South Africa, has been releasing music since around 2015 when she dropped the single "Miss Independent." In 2019, however, Sha Sha was impossible to miss. She was all over some of the biggest amapiano hits such as MFR Souls' "Love You Tonight" and Samthing Soweto's "Akulaleki." Her solo EP, Blossom, released in November, showcased more tricks up her sleeve. The project contains traces of amapiano, R&B, pop, soul and EDM. Sha Sha recently told Zkhiphani, "I make music. Don't box me in a certain genre, I make music." Currently signed to Blaqboy Music, a label headed by DJ Maphorisa (who she says she met through her cab driver), Sha Sha's star can only shine brighter in 2020.
Die Mondez and Zoocci Coke Dope have been close friends and have been making music together for years. Die Mondez appeared on Zoocci's 2017 EP Morning Star. Last year, the two released a joint project titled Die Dope. A gem of note, the project helped introduced Die Mondez to thousands of new fans. Die Mondez released his solo project Die Mondez Are Forever towards the end of 2019, and, take it from us, it's one of the best projects that came out last year. In 2020, Die Mondez can only grow bigger as a solo artist and further establish himself as one of the most talented lyricists of his generation.
Focalistic was on a roll in 2019. From releasing a joint EP with Major League DJz to scoring collaborations with the likes of Emtee and Cassper Nyovest, he was impossible to ignore. The rapper from Pretoria prefers to spit over amapiano instrumentals and uses Pitori vernacular in his lyrics. His solo EP 18 Area was a node to his history as a soccer player both from the title and the references in his rhymes. Focalistic has proven himself a flexible artist who can rap and sing over different kinds of production. South African hip-hop hasn't had a breakout star in a minute, but with artists like Focalistic whose music ticks all the boxes of what makes a rap superstar in SA, things just might change in 2020.
The streets of Cape Town have known about Lurah for a few years from the release of his EPs New Drug (2016) and Auto Truth (2017). In 2019, however, Lurah's name spread across the country after the drop of the EP New Drug 2 and a string of multiple music videos. Lurah earned cosigns from the likes of Stogie T and Priddy Ugly for his proficiency as a lyricist and his world-class music. Cape Town has long been underrepresented in the country's mainstream hip-hop scene, but with rappers like Lurah and his peers, we might be having a different conversation in 2020.
Pretoria R&B sensation Elaine worked with a team of up-and-coming producers in her life-changing EP Elements. Elements was one of the most talked about projects of 2019 in South Africa. "Elements is about love," Elaine told Hype in an interview last year. "All types of love. All the different elements and emotions that it comes with. I wanted to highlight the fact that love comes in all forms, and there's no formula to it. It's not all roses. It gets tough sometimes. And not all types of love are romantic. Love is universal." Apple Music highlighted Elaine as their favorite artist for the month of November after a groundbreaking year. R&B has never had its moment in South Africa, but with the resurgence the genre's going through across the globe, SA is not getting left behind. Elaine is the frontrunner of a budding R&B scene in South Africa, which will hopefully grow in 2020.
Ka$hCPT is gradually becoming the poster boy for Cape Town's new wave of hip-hop. After years of refusing to conform to the mainstream, Cape Town, the birth place of hip-hop in SA, is finally coming around. It's rappers like Ka$hCPT and some of his peers who are ensuring the city has some form of representation countrywide by making music that resonates with the zeitgeist. Ka$hCPT appeared on Flame's debut album CandyMan on the strongest song on the project, "Late Nights." His sing-songy raps carry the whole song. Ka$hCPT is a mainstay in Cape Town's hip-hop scene, and is a regular performer at Nightshow, a show that's devoted to new age hip-hop. He performs at a lot of pop-up events in collaboration with brands such as Grade Africa and Ohk Ohk. In 2020, it's only natural that he expands to other regions like Joburg and Pretoria and become a national artist.
Amapiano keeps gifting the country with new and exciting producers. Vigro Deep is one of the subgenre's innovators with a boundless approach to production and song construction. His 2019 album Baby Boi III consisted of 18 songs, some of which were instrumentals and others vocal. The project was released through one of the country's longest running and most respected labels Kalawa Jazmee alongside Universal Music. Vigro Deep was born and raised in the Pretoria township Atteridgeville, one of the places cited as the birthplace of amapiano. He learned to produce in 2017 and released his debut album Baby Boy in 2018. The release of Baby Boi III came after a successful concert called Vigro Deep One Man Show whose lineup included the likes of Busiswa, A-Reece, Njelic and many others. He also appeared on two of the biggest amapiano albums of 2019, Kabza De Small and DJ Maphorisa's Scorpion Kings and JazziDisciples' Disciples of Piano.
Costa Titch's breakout single "Nkalakatha" is an embellishment of late kwaito star Mandoza's mega hit of the same name, released in 2000. The viral hit's remix came with verses from SA hip-hop royalty on Riky Rick and AKA. Costa Titch is a trapper who doesn't mind exploring other sounds, as his catchy rhymes can sometimes be heard over gqom production. The rapper from Mpumalanga has a dance background and has collaborated with the likes of PatricKxxLee, Vegasxcesar, Boskasie and others, and is fast becoming a prominent name in the country's new wave of hip-hop artists. In 2020, he will highly likely build upon the momentum he already has from 2019.
"My sound is very loud and witty. If I was to explain how it feels I'd say it feels like a nosebleed. That's basically what it is. The difference is this one doesn't stop," Willy Cardiac told Red Bull Music last year in an interview. The rapper, who's still in his teens, makes trap music that inspires mosh pits, whether it's in small venues or festivals like Capsule and Cotton Fest. Willy Cardiac's songs have amassed hundreds of thousands of plays on SoundCloud, and skimming through his uploads, it's not hard to understand why. He's a convincing rapper with an ear for beats that accommodate his big personality and charismatic rhymes.
Indigo Stella's a complete artist—in the unlikely event that her raps don't convince you, her melodies will win you over. Her 2019 10-track project Indigo showcased her abilities and her versatility in production choice. Currently signed to Mi-Stro Records, Indigo Stella is bubbling under and is just a few moves away from dominating the game. Hopefully it's in 2020.
Sun Xa Experiment
Sun Xa Experiment is a South African group from Soweto. The septet describes themselves as a band that "caters a spiritual ancestral sound that tells of stories of who we are as the global community without race, color or nation." The band's music is characterized by spiritual vocals punctuated by ululation that exist in a psychedelic atmosphere of electric guitars and heavy percussion. Sun Xa Experiment has released an EP, and their debut album Umculo Umuthi is coming in March. The band recently headlined the festivals Endless Daze and Smoking Dragon. If you love bands such as BCUC who make music that will hypnotize you and speak to your spiritual side, then Sun Xa Experiment will be your faves this year.
Laliboi, a member of the duo Radio123, released a rap album in 2019. The project, which is titled Siyangaphi, is exactly what you'd expect from a musician with a range as wide as Laliboi's. Siyangaphi contains traces of jazz, kwaito, rock and other genres. It's entertaining hearing him use different flows for different tempos and drum patterns. Songs from Siyangaphi may not work for mosh pits or appear on the country's top 40 charts, but the album is a compelling listen and a perfect gift for lovers of alternative music that's not bound by any form of limitations or concessions.