Live Mag

Popular slang words and the South African hip-hop artists who popularised them

by: Mayuyuka Kaunda - 7 November 2016


Nowadays we call just about anyone a “Stan” for being obsessed with a particular artist. But how many of you remember that it came from Eminem’s song by the same name? In the same way, there are certain South African slang words that have wormed their way into everyday use that would probably not exist, in that context, had it not been for hip-hop artists. Here are a few:

Riky Rick and “the whole design”

“The whole design” or “the whole time” is a phrase we first heard from one-third of the legendary kwaito trio TKZee. Magesh, aka Tokollo, first rhythmically brought the catchy description to our attention in the song “Khala Kahle” off his 2007 album Longest Time. The term has been kept alive by Riky Rick. It’s littered all over the tracks he graces including “Summer Time” by Da L.E.S.

Riky Rick and “sidl’ukotini”

The first time he used the phrase was on his song “Fuseg”, featuring Cassper Nyovest and Anatii. Earlier this year it developed into an anthemic single. His music conveys his love for fashion, and now has an army of fans who say, “Sidl’ukotini,” when they’re kitted out.

BoyznBucks and “umswenko”  

On to the collective Riky belongs to, BoyznBucks. They rarely get credit for their effect on the culture. From being on the frontline of trends such as coming up with their own Racing Apparel clothing line to creating a craze in the form of the Taxi Driver dance, they’ve also coined phrases such as “uMswenkofontein” and “Swenk korobela”. “Umswenko” is not a new term, but BoyznBucks made it part of young people’s vocabulary again. 

Cassper Nyovest and “upper”

A BoyznBucks admirer and Okmalum’ collaborator on his breakout hit “Gusheshe”, Cassper Nyovest showed us his appreciation of the trendsetters with his version of the Taxi Driver dance in the “Phumakim” video. He popularised the phrase “Upper Life”… or simply “Upper”. This statement is used to depict the levels he’s reached and the subsequent luxurious lifestyle he has come to lead. 

AKA and “unlocked” 

A visible element of AKA’s repertoire has become his trademark shoulder roll. His dancing has become a large factor in his live performances, but his vocabulary has also contributed to contemporary South African hip-hop jargon. Apart from calling himself Supa Mega, he also popularised the use of “unlocked” which we can hear on “Composure”.

Youngsta and “kaapstad naaier”

This brings us to arguably the most vocal Cape Town supporter in Youngsta. His track “Top Ten List” draws on the thematics of rap, too, and portrays him as a slasher, hell-bent on exacting revenge on the hip-hop game for overlooking him. Also audible is his trademark callout of “Kaapstad Naaier”, loudly repping his city whilst popularising the term widely among people who aren’t even familair with Cape Coloured slang.

Image of Cassper Nyovest by Onele Liwani

What other phrases that were made popular by a South African rapper did we leave out? Let us know in the comments section.