In 2021, amapiano proved its staying power, with rappers like Young Stunna and Cassper Nyovest getting into the mix, and the genre expanding far beyond the Pretoria and Joburg taxi ranks and shebeens where it originated.
Across South Africa and further into the continent, amapiano dominated the soundtrack of this year. According to Spotify's end of year chart, musicians from this genre snatched up the first five spots on the list of most streamed local artists in South Africa. OG DJ Maphorisa led the pack, followed by fellow Scorpion King Kabza De Small, with newcomers to the list Busta 929, De Mthuda and Mr JazziQ claiming their own spots too.
And while global superstar artists like Drake and Justin Bieber were the most popular overall on the Apple Music charts, almost half of the Top 100 songs of the year were filled by South African artists – thanks, largely, to amapiano.
Here, then, is our list of best amapiano songs for 2021, in no particular order:
Young Stunna 'Adiwele'
As a young boy, Sandile, aka Young Stunna, Msimango looked up to Kabza De Small, so after being signed to the amapiano DJ’s label, Piano Hub, and being taken under Kabza’s wing, Stunna decided to pay homage to his mentor with the track “Adiwele.” The producer has helped navigate Stunna’s career, and this incantation of a track, off Stunna’s debut album, Notumato, helped propel him into viral stardom.
Busta 929 and Mpura 'Umsebenzi Wethu'
Busta 929 and Mpura’s ubiquitous amapiano hit ‘Umsebenzi Wethu,’ which came in at number 2 globally on Deezer year-end charts, topped Apple Music's 2021 most-streamed song chart in SA. After Mpura was tragically killed in a car accident in August, the song remains part of his legacy, a testament to his ability to collaborate with the best of them. As for Busta 929, who also had a bumper year, questions still remain around his involvement with underage girls he claims were recording music in a 2-day session without parental consent at his studio.
Kabza De Small & DJ Maphorisa, ft Ami Faku 'Abalele'
Anchored by the pleading vocals of Ami Faku, Kabza De Small and DJ Maphorisa served up “Abalele.” The track, released in September, found its way onto the number 4 spot on Spotify’s list of most streamed songs in South Africa for 2021.
Kwiish SA ft Njelic, MalumNator & De Mthuda ‘LiYoshona’
Early this year, gold-selling artist DJ and producer Kwiish SA gave us ‘LiYoshona’ the latest power-house of a track taken from his most recent album, Umshiso, with amapiano all-stars De Mthuda and Njelic. After creating one of the biggest house tracks of 2018 with ‘Iskathi (Gong Gong),’ Kwiish soared even higher with this track, which ended up becoming the #1 most Shazamed song of the year in South Africa.
Mr JazziQ x Kabza De Small x Lady Du 'Woza' ft Boohle
It’s been a great year for Tumelo Manyoni aka Mr JazziQ, who earlier in 2021, Spotify SA named the most streamed South African artist by Gen Z audiences. With Kabza De Small, Lady Du and Boohle by his side, the former JazziDisciple created a massive lead single off his album, Party with the English. Who can forget the video of three guys dancing to the track outside the White House in Washington DC? Nothing like a good dance challenge!
DBN Gogo x Blaqnick x MasterBlaq 'Khuza Gogo' ft Mpura, Ama Avenger and M.J
Before Mongezi Stuurman tragically passed away in August this year, he gifted the world with tracks under his moniker Mpura. This track was one of the many he added his touch to. Mpura handled vocals, along with Ama Avenger and MJ, while DBN Gogo, Blaqnick and MasterBlaq took care of the beats. From debuting in March, the YouTube video for the track has racked up almost 4 million views, while Spotify SA announced it was the most streamed South African track by Gen Z.
De Mthuda ft Sir Trill & Da Muziqal Chef 'John Wick'
If 2019’s ‘Shesha Geza’ was De Mthuda’s directorial debut into amapiano, then John Wick is just one more of his sure-fire blockbusters. Enlisting the services of Sir Trill, who De Mthuda (aka The Landlord) also collaborated with on another hit single, “Emlanjeni,” this track speaks to the confidence Keanu Reeves’ John Wick has displayed over 3 films.
Cassper Nyovest 'Siyathandana'
Rapper Cassper Nyovest, too, ventured into amapiano territory, alongside Boohle and Abidoza, with "Siyathandana", off his amapiano project Sweet & Short 2.0. He performed the track, which weaves in the melody of mid-2000s’ "World Hold On" by Bob Sinclair (Axwell mix), during the Boiler Room’s Amapiano showcase in London in September. And he, as he told OkayAfrica, there’s more to come!
DJ Maphorisa & Tyler ICU, ft Madumane, Mpura, Daliwonga & Visca 'Izolo'
DJ Maphorisa is the only local musician to have made Spotify’s top 10 most streamed artists list, occupying eighth place, among the likes of Drake, The Weeknd and Ed Sheeran. With his output this past year, it’s no wonder. Whether releasing his latest collab with Kabza De Small, Rumble in the Jungle or an EP with Tyler ICU, Banyana, Maphorisa left his mark on 2021. But he didn’t stop at just producing, as evident on the anthemic number, “Izolo,” which featured his singing alter-ego, Madumane.
DJ Sumbody ft Drip Gogo, The Lowkeys 'Iyamemeza'
Pretoria-born taxi-driver-turned-producer DJ Sumbody helped amapiano become the most popular music tag on Tik Tok this year. According to the short video social media platform, the genre garnered 1.6 billion views this year, driven by songs like "Iyamemeza," with its pulsating hum.