Featuring Solo, Yanga Chief, Hanna, A-Reece, Indigo Stella, Shane Eagle, Priddy Ugly, Flame and many more.
The general notion is that South African hip-hop had a dull year. Maybe 2019 didn't have as many mega hip-hop hits from SA rappers, but it doesn't mean there weren't some great tunes.
2019 saw the new wave—featuring artists like Flame, The Big Hash, Indigo Stella, and more—dominate and demand every fan's attention. The older generation didn't sleep either, as strong songs from the likes of Solo and Stogie T make our list.
OkayAfrica contributors Sabelo Mkhabela and Mayuyuka Kaunda keep their ears to the street and sift through every release to bring you the 20 best South African hip-hop songs of 2019.
The list is in no particular order.
Solo "Two By Two" feat. Buks
Solo continues a long-held tradition in South Africa of releasing wedding-themed music on the eve of the festive season. By tying "Two by Two" into his own marriage, which was also serialised through a reality TV show, he makes this a relatable listen. As usual frequent collaborator and producer Buks is amazing on the hook. Love is a beautiful thing and so is this song. Read our interview with Solo about his latest album C.Plenty.Dreams.
This Zimbabwean-born rapper reps for her adopted city of Cape Town and is as lyrical as they come. Hanna's a beast with commanding rhymes and has an alluring attitude to match. All of this allure is on offer on "Peace," which has a knocking beat that she glides over with a well-constructed rhyme scheme. Already picked up by Mr Eazi's emPawa initiative, Hanna's on the fast track to continental dominance.
Yanga Chief "200"
With a gaping absence of mainstream Xhosa rap of late, Yanga Chief adds his twist on the sub-genre with a humorous cadence and witty rhymes. "200" is a worthy follow up to the South African Hip Hop Award-winning Song of The Year, "uTatakho." This one should have the same explosive effect in the club.
Mashbeatz feat A-Reece "Fallen Heroes"
If ever South African hip-hop needed another beef-igniting track, this would be it. Following his friend-turned-foe Flame's recent wins at the South African Hip Hop Awards, A-Reece comes out guns blazing in "Fallen Heroe$." It's a great way for SA hip-hop to close the year out: with a dope song that's both a conversation starter and a masterclass in goading. We can't wait for the response.
Zingah has had a storied career that included a name change from Smashis. Under his new moniker, the former Cashtime Fam affiliate has found a new lease on life that's palpable on the buttery "Dlala." It's a well-written, infectious song with broad appeal due to its predominant use of vernacular. "Dlala" is easily one of the best put-together songs this year.
Shane Eagle "Vanya" feat. Santi and Bas
An African celebration at large, Shane Eagle's "Vanya" brings Nigeria, Sudan and South Africa together through its guitar-driven rhythm. Paired with Santi's show-stopping patois verse, the resulting track is an afro-tinged slow burner that announces Eagle's arrival on the global stage. Along with its variation of styles, this one gives us something to nod our heads to for the rest of the summer.
King Lutendo "Self Acceptance"
King Lutendo's celebration of his Venda heritage, "Self Acceptance," holds up his culture as much as his lyrics do. The song centres around African pride in its message of personal upliftment. It's the confidently drawled-off bars that grab the listener's attention, though, as they're perfectly layered over percussive production and an aura of nobility.
Priddy Ugly "Every Mountain Has Its Peak" feat. Riky Rick
Still one of the most underrated rappers in the game, Priddy Ugly never fails to deliver an engaging verse. On "Every Mountain Has Its Peak," he links up with fellow flow connoisseur Riky Rick as the pair combine to thunderous effect. Over a thumping, characteristically speaker-rattling Wichi 1080 beat, the two preach the good word of rapid fire bar spitting. With its contrasting tone to the track's menacing rhymes, the song's bridge is the icing on the cake.
DJ Sliqe "Exit Plan" feat. Maglera Doe Boy and 6th Ave
A great way to open an album is to capture the listener's ear by throwing out a few surprises. While Maglera Doe Boy's voice is easily the most attention-grabbing right now, it's Luhle Dikana holding his own with a verse that piques your interest. Probably the intro of the year, the track sets up the rest of his sophomore album, Injayam, Vol 2, perfectly.
KA$HCPT X Baker "Squad"
Cape Town newcomer KA$H has made quite a few ripples on the city's music circuit and—with his succinct delivery and effortless flows—it's not hard to see why. Here, he joins forces with Baker for a swaggering ear-ringer dedicated to his "Squad." With its bass-heavy overtones and catchy rhyme scheme, the track has all the makings of a breakout hit. "Squad" should give the Capetonian rapper lots of mileage, at least enough for us to debate whether that "CNA" line is hot or not.
MarazA x M2Kane "Neww Neww"
MarazA and M2kane are working on a joint project and the first single they released together, "Neww Neww," points towards a solid collaboration in the making. Both MCs use the same flow but ensure to add different variations in their respective verses, making for a fulfilling listen.
Kid Tini feat. Styles P and Stogie T "Get Money"
Kid Tini shares bars with rap OGs Styles P and Stogie T in what was one of the greatest moments in SA hip-hop this year. "Get Money" is a bar fest where nothing matters but the raps as all three MCs deliver their own pristine verse over an ice-cold, stripped-down instrumental by Kreazo. If you like your hip-hop grimy, "Get Money" might just be the best SA hip-hop song of 2019 for you.
Flame "Late Nights" feat. Ka$h
"Late Nights" features Great performances from both Flame and his guest Ka$h. The track captures the mood of self-medication through the emotion on both artists' voices. It's fun to get fucked up and faded on late nights when you are going through some shit with the homies, but the regret always lingers in your head, just like this song's catchy hook. Ca$H is definitely one to watch in 2020.
Joburg backpack rap crew Revivolution's foray into trap with "Skyf" proved successful. The song is still technical rap over production that doesn't follow the regular kick and snare pattern one would expect from a crew like Revivolution. "Skyf" is playful but the essence of lyricism is not lost here. We've had this one on repeat all year, you should too.
Indigo Stella "You Say"
Indigo Stella rides a breezy boom bap beat reminiscent of the golden era in this highlight from her stellar project, Indigo. It's how everything comes together that makes "You Say" a standout song. The track doesn't sound like a throwback, even though it takes inspiration from the past, as her vocal style remains modern. Make sure not to sleep on Stella's work. She's another one to look out for in 2020.
Rez Proph feat. Fonzo, Kiiing Leo and Riz Ventura "Pose"
Rez Proph was on a roll this year. The MC from Empangeni in KZN released two noteworthy projects in 2019. From the first one, The Pictures I Didn't Instagram, comes the posse cut "Pose," which features fellow rappers Fonzo, Kiiing Leo and Riz Ventura. If it's bars you are after, they got you. The beat bangs, too.
JimmyWiz "A Woman Scorned" feat. Gugu Zwane
JimmyWiz opens up about witnessing gender-based violence while growing up in his latest single, "A Woman Scorned," a song that sees the MC taking a stand against the ongoing femicide in South Africa. JimmyWiz is a lyricist who reflects on his surroundings with a sharp tongue and seasoned pen. "A Woman Scorned" coens from the rapper's debut album Accordin' to Jim, which if you should really listen to. Read our interview with JimmyWiz about the album.
AKA feat. YoungstaCPT "Main Ou's"
YoungstaCPT has AKA rapping again on "Main Ou's," one of the most anticipated collaborations of the year. "Main Ou's" brought listeners the AKA they last heard on his 2018 collaboration with Kwesta, "Magriza," from Touch My Blood. The song is catchy, as AKA laces it with a hook that's hard to ignore. "Main Ou's" will still resonate with hardcore rap fans, as both rappers deliver great rhymes in their respective verses.
Stogie T feat. Lucille Slade "Love and War"
From Stogie T's latest EP The Empire of Sheep comes "Love and War," a standout song that tells a touching story. For the EP, the emcee spoke to people who fought in the struggle against apartheid, and "Love and War" is one track that speaks to those people's experiences. Stogie T raps about the effects the struggle had on those who fought, and how it benefited him and young South Africans today, but not without caveats. South Africa is a complex country and lines like, "My poppa died for a freedom that I now enjoy/ But left some frightening demons we ain't recovered from," cut deep. The production on the song, which is handled by Landmarq, knocks hard, too.
The Big Hash "Circles"
This year, The Big Hash made serious strides in his career. Apart from the business moves, though, he also released a notable project Young. When The Big Hash raps, sparks fly, the same thing happens when he sings. "Circles," a single from Young, showcases both of these traits over pulverizing bass and pounding kicks, as he tells the story of a woman who disappointed him.