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Has South African Hip Hop overdosed on Nostalgia?

Has South African Hip Hop overdosed on Nostalgia?

by: Precious Ngwenya - 17 October 2018

When an ode is getting a bit old

We can agree that nostalgia gave us some of the best hip hop songs in South Africa. When KO said ‘ Mina uk’jaiva ngak’qala ngingaka’ we felt that; maybe because we were hearing it for the second time. Was it really KO or were we just homesick for a bygone era? Caracara was and still is one of the best songs in the history of SA hip hop but it was also one of the songs that made reliving kwaito music in hip-hop sound appealing.

When do we start looking at sampling as not just an ode to a glorious past but as a lazy form of production? If we keep on recreating the same beats what does it mean for our future music creations? The best thing about sampling is it brought new audiences to hip-hop music, the old kwaito stans find comfort in hearing their favourite song being remade in hip-hop. What about the new audience that will never know the original songs for what they truly were without comparing the songs to the new samples. When young people listen to some of these sampled songs they often think that these are originals song which could mean they don’t know the original songs and how they sounded before the sampling.

We often find that when our hip hop artists try not to sound American they turn to old school Kwaito hits. The number of songs that use nostalgic imagery or sounds increases with every release. For example after a long stint of referencing trap and sounding like Rick Ross, Cassper Nyovest recently gave us Gets Getsa. Abuti Fill Up sampled Get Gesta from Doc Shebeleza’s Get Gesta in the name of paying homage. This is not the first time that Cassper leans in to nostalgia. One of his biggest songs, Doc Shebeleza was a hit created through nostalgia. Using Doc’shebeleza as a song title and a hook was also a way of using Kwaito legends to gain relevance.

Kwaito gave us its own culture through the Gusheshes and fashion. We need a different music culture which is not inspired by Americans/Kwaito and the township life. The old-school guys did it through their music and maybe that’s why they keep on recreating their art but we need new styles that will inspire the next generation. Hip Hop artists can’t keep referencing Trompies and Tkzee and calling it giving thanks. Artists are capable of creating new things, S’java is one of the new artists that are creating new sounds and even though it’s not Hip Hop, it shows that producers can create new sounds if given the opportunity.

In terms of commercial sales it may seem that nostalgia works. Levels by AKA is one of the albums that has been certified platinum and half the songs on the album uses sampled beats. “All eyes on me” was sampled from the Jomanda’s “Got A Love for you” which was also sampled from the song by Brenda Fassie “Ngiyakusaba”.

We can agree that sampling is not strictly South African and can be argued as a staple in most hip hop songs around the world. What South African Hip Hop suffers from is not an overdose of sampling but an overdose of nostalgia. Sampling in SA hip hop is used deliberately to “throwback” to the glory days of Kwaito so that we who are old enough feel a sense of warmth thinking back to days when we played in the dirt while our parents threw parties. This begs the question, do we like the song or do we like the feeling of nostalgia that it brings when we listen to it? Are SA hip hop producers geniuses or are they riding off the wave of the genius of Kwaito? We may never know the answers to this but what we do know is that we are in desperate need of something fresh and distinctly unique to South African Hip Hop void of odes to a bygone era.