South African hip-hop producer and township rap enthusiast SPeeka ranks his favourite PRO songs of all time.
Editor's note: August 8 marks the day PRO (known as ProKid earlier in his rap career) made a quiet exit from this earth. The legendary South African lyricist is credited with being the father of kasi rap — a subgenre of South African hip-hop characterised by a heavy use of punchlines and storytelling mostly in isiZulu and tsotsitaal (Gauteng township slang).
PRO inspired a generation of kasi rappers — his impact and influence are still felt to this day. The prolific rapper's catalogue consists of two classics, namely Heads & Tales and Dankie San which sit comfortably alongside his other notable releases.
We reached out to South African hip-hop producer and kasi rap aficionado SPeeka to help us rank PRO's best 10 songs from great to simply awesome.
"Linda PRO Mkhize left a permanent mark in our hearts," says SPeeka. "I for one will continue to appreciate his artistry and celebrate his legacy by simply pressing play on the countless gems he contributed to the culture we all love. Dankie san!"
Below is the list compiled and broken down by SPeeka himself.
10. “Pressa, Pusha, Phanda”
Album: Snakes & Ladders (2009)
"Ngiya understand mawuz'shay' isfuba, i-pride uyigwine wrong."
One of PRO's greatest strengths was his ability to use his gift to uplift listeners. It's widely known he was lethal lyrically. He was a product of an unforgiving underground rap scene that helped shape his skills as an MC. This track, which is from his fourth studio album Snakes & Ladders (2009), is just another shining example of how he was able to use those same raw skills to deliver a message of hope and encouragement over a beautifully crafted instrumental. It resonated with all of us and will forever remain a go-to joint for young adults from the hood who tend to feel like the hustle of trying to get your life together is too much.
Album:Snakes & Ladders (2009)
"Ngiku PSL, ukuMvela and i-bench usal'freyifa/ Ngiya pensela, I touch lines njalo mang'skryf-a."Being the Soccer crazy country that South Africa is, it was only natural that everyone became overly excited at the realisation that in 2010 SA would be hosting the FIFA World Cup. Just a year prior to the football legends coming over to the country for what became one of the best FIFA World Cup events ever, the Number 1 Soweto boy released the first single from his fourth studio album (Snakes & Ladders) titled "Sekele". The Dome-produced banger had a football theme, with clever wordplay and punchlines that fans had grown to appreciate PRO for. One could argue that the excitement for the tournament grew when PRO dropped this gem – the kasi rap fraternity would probably agree with me.
8. “Umfutho” (featuring Brickz)
Album: Continua (2012)
"Nom'ungas'bheka wena, angek'usenze lutho!"PRO's love for kwaito music was evident in his brand of hip-hop music. He wore that love on his sleeve proudly. One can only imagine the excitement he must have felt when he was in the studio with the legendary kwaito pioneer Spikiri cooking up this joint. A rapper jumping on a straight-up kwaito beat was unheard of in the early 2000s. This collaboration was clear proof that the feud between the two genres was absolutely ridiculous. It ended up opening the floodgates for South African rappers finally fully embracing their kwaito roots, which resulted in what I believe to be the peak of South African hip-hop that immediately followed. This joint is South African to the core, and it left me day dreaming of an entirely Spikiri-produced PRO album.
7. “The General”
Producer: by I.V. League
Album: Dankie San ( 2007)
"Uphush' ub'celeb and siyabazi, ungazos'chomela/ Mawulele thina siya ndlula nje nge truck ye nzomela…"Vintage PRO. The General is a more-than-fitting title for both the joint and the man himself. We are treated to an epic display of flow-flexing, which at first listen sounds as though may have been easy to write until you realise that PRO only made it seem that way. I.V. League came through with a fresh production that had a hint of that dancehall flavour.
6. “Ungaphel’ Umoya”
Producer: Beat Maker
Album: Heads & Tales (2005)
"...Cut the flossin'/or else uzohlangana namahlany'aphum'estoksini/abo thathazonke nalez'ez'fak'ipilis' e-socksini."I know what you're thinking: "This track should be higher on this list". Another joint that perfectly embodies the artistry of Linda PRO Mkhize. He managed to take what is essentially a dark production and used it to convey a message of hope. He did this while also managing to point out the darkness and acknowledged that it's where he's from, but since he was able to escape and so can you.
5. “Fede Fokol”
Album: Heads & Tales (2005)
"Easy, son/ Mamel' iikhokho z'gibel' i-beat, son…"Omen was completely in his bag when he made the beat for this joint. A neck snapping boom bap gem that PRO took and molded into a hood banger. He effortlessly switches between English and tsotsitaal, while keeping it kasi to the core. He strikes a perfect balance between appealing to "hip-hop purists" and the ordinary guy in the hood hustling in street corners. I can't remember a time this joint was played at a hip-hop session and I didn't lose my mind.
Album:Heads & Tales (2005)
"Ghetto like kids on the corner playing Ludo/ with little pieces of stones and bottles wherever you go…"
If you don't consider this track as the official anthem of the South Western Townships, then you're playing. PRO had people from outside Soweto proudly chanting "SOWETOOOO!!!" Enough said.
3. “Wild West”
"You saw the poster, vele angihleki mang'bhala/ Tight grips on the pen and angiyeki mang'bhala!"Dome and PRO did something so special on this one. They took the theme song to the classic western film The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) composed by Ennio Morricone, and brought it straight to Soweto. It's one of my all-time favourite sample flips. As usual, PRO kept the lyricism flawless while continuing to unapologetically display his trademark hood pride.
Album:Heads & Tales (2005)
"Never ngiyekele le-rap mina sbali, no ways/ Ngihlala ngikhiph' i-number number mawungaqgcwali, always/ Ngeke ngihlukane ne kasi noma ngingaya e-Fourways…"
During the early days of the legendary Slaghuis movement, PRO's name was an urban legend. Unfortunately for my 15-year-old self, I never got the opportunity to watch him perform at the session because he always came on later in the evening and I had a curfew. By then, the only PRO song I knew was "Soweto". One Friday evening, the music video for "Wozobona" debuted on the SABC 1 music show One. This was my introduction to PRO rapping in vernac. I was completely blown away. Even though I was already a fan of "Soweto", I believe hearing "Wozobona" for the first time officially turned me into a PRO fan.
Producer: I.V. League
Album: Dankie San (2007)
"To all the crooks abaz' shaya ngama Pro Ink boots/ Sengisho na laba abakhule nge beer ne loose/ Ngoba i-culture yase loxion is part of your roots/ Bathi thina senza kakhulu, kanti abazi sisa toets-a…"To keep it 100, choosing between "Bhampa" and "Wozobona" as my all-time PRO joint is one of the toughest choices I've ever had to make. Both tracks represent everything I love about the late great artist. After years of long debates with fellow PRO stans about which joint is better, I finally came to the conclusion that it was "Bhampa" by a nose. The production, the catchy hook, the unparalleled penmanship, the kwaito flair... everything. I also felt that it had slightly more commercial appeal therefore was able to reach more people. The fact that PRO was able to have such a great impact commercially without feeling the need to dumb down his lyricism is just one of the reasons why he will forever be the greatest to ever do it.
Honourable mention: “Living The Way I Should” (featuring Nothende)
Album:Heads & Tale (2005)