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YoungstaCPT. Photo by Sabelo Mkhabela.

Things Take Time In The Empire of Sheep

An in-depth look at two hip-hop albums that capture the state of affairs in South Africa: YoungstaCPT's 3T and Stogie T's The Empire of Sheep.

This piece is part of Sabelo Mkhabela's South African hip-hop column.

At this very moment, it's clear to everyone who lives in it that South Africa is headed towards becoming a failed state. A power crisis, high crime rate, political incompetence, corruption and other atrocities plague one of the most prominent and powerful countries on the continent and in the world. A few days into the year, the country had already experienced power cuts. 2020 is already looking like it will be a continuation of 2019.

Two 2019chip-hop releases captured the country's dysfunction and reflected it back to South Africa's citizens—YoungstaCPT's 3T, which recently won Album of the Year at the South African Hip Hop Awards and Stogie T's recently-released The Empire of Sheep. While projects such as JimmyWiz' Accordin' to Jim and Touchline's 19 Flow have songs that touch on the country and society's current state, Stogie T and YoungstaCPT's projects make that focus overt.

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Op-Ed

It Will Take More Than an ‘Authentic African Sound’ for South African Artists to Blow Up Globally

It will take more than that.

Last week, in a move that got various interpretations, South Africans were scratching their heads on Twitter trying to figure out why the country's musicians fail to break in markets like the United States and abroad.

This came after Burna Boy released his latest album African Giant. A fittingly titled album, it trended in different corners of the world upon release, shooting straight to number 1 in various countries. Pitchfork, The FADER and The Atlantic are some of the reputable publications that wrote in-depth reviews of the album, which boasts features from US and UK stars such as Future, YG, Jeremih and Jorja Smith alongside fellow African giants M.anifest and Angelique Kidjo.

Burna Boy is having his moment right now. But he's only just one of many Nigerian artists who are enjoying attention from the U.S. at the moment. The likes of Wizkid, Davido and Tiwa Savage are slowly gaining notable traction in the US and UK.

South Africa has refused to miss out on the current scramble for Africa by the west, which is looking at the continent for "inspiration" and, more recently, collaboration. South African artists such as Black Coffee, Nasty C, Sjava, Petite Noir, Sho Madjozi, AKA, Cassper Nyovest have all been on major international platforms, scooped some awards and collaborated with major US artists. But none of them, except for Black Coffee, have come close to making their mark in the States the way Nigerian artists have.

South Africans, in their analysis, have cited different reasons for South African musicians' failure to break internationally—lack of unity and lack of originality were two of the most cited.

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