South Africa is regaining its conscious rap voice, but in ways that differ greatly from the acts of the 90s and early-2000s. There has been a recent push by contemporary artists to write songs about their daily life including messages meant to engage and influence South African audiences. In past years, the country’s rap scene has primarily centered on Western rap acts as the bases for what’s “hot” and trendy, but that view is shifting as new players enter the scene and shake up the messages presented. Now, whenever someone mentions South African hip-hop, most people will likely think of AKA, Cassper Nyovest, Nasty C, KO, Kwesta and other male artists. However, with social media and digital distribution creating a fair playing field, female rappers and MCs have been gaining more commercial success. In my mixtape “Femcee No More” I wanted to highlight female MCs that are shaking up the South African hip hop scene for all burgeoning female MCs within a male dominated industry. These SA female rappers are versatile and diverse in their delivery but all champion the message of celebrating yourself and living your truth, while showing rap can be done by any gender.
Kanyi Mavi – Labola
On the scene since 2012, Kanyi Mavi is an MC out of Cape Town, South Africa known for speaking Xhosa within her music. No stranger to the politics, she often makes commentary about the nature of the South African sociopolitical scene by addressing topics such as gender dynamics. With the release of her song “Lobola”, which is included on my mixtape, she has reentered the music scene after a long stint. Her latest song is a celebration of the happiness she has found with her lover. In the song, her love for the man who stole her heart is driving her to pay amalobolo. This is a fairly progressive move as paying amalobolo is traditionally the man’s role in many African cultures. The song is a celebration of the artist’s truth and reinforces her message that people don’t need to accept gender norms. She effectively teaches young women to just be happy and do what brings them joy.
Gigi Lamayne – The Rap Up
Gigi Lamayne is a South African rapper, songwriter, poet and a poem writer whose fairly normal background is believed to have molded her into the lyricist so many South Africans identify with. However, that relatability does not keep her from bragging about her awards and life. In fact, within “The Rap Up”, one of the songs featured on my mixtape, she uses a mix of braggadocio and sick lyrics to get her message across. What message is that? Of course, that she celebrates herself and her truth which includes her success. With lyrics such as “I’m globe-trotting while they city to city” and “I’m feeding all my kids like Chris Jenner/I’m feeling like the next air bender/I’m putting all my girls back on”, Gigi makes it clear that she knows she’s killing the game and she’s going to use her success to help other women. This display of confidence and witty lyricism further empowers listeners.
Godessa – Mindz Ablaze
The three member group Godessa first entered the scene in 2002. Having entered the South African hip hop scene so early, for a long time they were the only all-female hip hop crew in South Africa. Comprised of Burni Aman, EJ Von Lyrik and Shameema Williams, the trio quickly gained success from their first single, “Social Ills”. While that song is still a classic, I chose their single “Minds Ablaze” as a feature on the mixtape because it had a more empowering message. “Mindz Ablaze” features the socially conscious themes that the group is known for, while not sacrificing on their music soul and funk fusion beat style. The song features lyrics such as “Possibilities are limitless/So is this lyricist” and “By any means son/Let your story be sung/Brilliant glistening mystical little one”. Lyrics like this convey their empowering message that we should all salute our truths and recognize our own power.
Rouge – Popular
Rouge is a woman who wears many hats as she is a rapper, author and television presenter. Having secured many prominent features in her early career with artists such as BigStar Johnson and AKA, she has since released a variety of solo works. In that time, she has won many awards and she’s not afraid to show it. Similar to Gigi Lamayne, Rogue uses braggadocio to teach the message that women should recognise their power and not fear the process of becoming the successful person you know you’re going to be. A feature on my mixtape, her song “Popular” does a great song of this by repeating lyrics such as “Damn we’re getting popular/Call me Mrs Popular” and including a whole verse about being slept on but still making it to the top.
Slept on like accommodation
Kill the set, get standing ovation
There’s a new kid roaming down the block
Get them in your corner
‘Cause they ’bout to take the spot
It’s that new-new
Sho Madjozi – Kona
Hailed as a “multi-talented South African artist [who] became a star at home by setting her sights abroad.” by The Fader, Sho Madjozi is an upcoming South African rapper. Operating on an international world stage, Sho Madjozi continuously places her South African heritage at the forefront of her work. In fact, one of her latest releases, “Kona”, celebrates her journey from the native Limpopo province to the Hollywood world stage in Los Angeles. In the song’s music video she wears the colors and garb of her province to show South Africans and her fellow Xitsonga that they essentially belong anywhere. This song was included on my mixtape because her messages of embracing your culture and using it to empower you are universally empowering and transcend the song itself.
As shown, there is a lot of talent flowing from South Africa female rappers. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for each artist and the South African rap scene in General. These rappers are ensuring women’s presence in hip-hop is felt and hopefully influencing more to become MCs themselves as the stigma and hardships of entering a male dominated industry are eliminated. Though done in a variety of ways, each artist creates a space for women to celebrate themselves and their truth.
CHECK OUT “FEMCEES NO MORE” THE MIXTAPE BELOW: