Thanks to the internet we no longer have to wait for Channel O and MTV-Base to tell us what’s hot in the African music scene. Yes, the two channels have introduced us to many African artists but there are lot of dope hip hop artists that aren’t making rounds on these channels. We’re well acquainted with SA’s biggest rappers, but what about our neighbours? These are just a few that should not be slept on.
Mark Mushiva (Namibia)
Mark Mushiva is part of Namibian trio, Black Vulcanite. The crew, previously signed to Cape Town indie label Rude World Records, consists of AliThaDude, Oken and Mark. He stands out. He covers politics, middle-class issues and relationships using a wide vocabulary and witty wordplay. He couples that with a clear and natural delivery and an old school beat selection. Check out his Soundcloud page for his solo releases. Don’t sleep on Mark Mushiva, and sure don’t sleep on Black Vulcanite.
E.L calls himself “The Best African Rapper”. His two mixtapes, B.A.R (Best African Rapper) I and II, are solid efforts but whether he is worthy of the title is still debatable. With a convincing delivery, high-precision flow; subject matter covering love, politics, social issues and just straight-flexing, the rapper’s potency on the mic is unquestionable. He raps in English, Ga and Pidgin and has traded bars with two of the best in Ghana, Sarkodie and M.anifest. He has also worked with Nigeria’s Ice Prince. I’m still tripping over his latest mixtape B.A.R II, which was released about a month ago.
Wangechi’s music is light-hearted. She sings and raps over breezy pop, jazz, reggae and electro-influenced instrumentals. Her lyrical content and her voice control will make her an instant favourite if you’re into hip-hop that you can move and sing along to. At 21, she’s one of the most celebrated rappers in Kenya and has performed in London, appeared on CNN and has done a collaboration with HHP (through Coke Studio Africa).
Kommanda Obbs (Lesotho)
If Kommanda Obbs needed a co-sign, then he got the ultimate one when he appeared on Tumi Molekane’s latest album Return of the King. On the album, Kommanda Obbs drops seSotho rhymes on the hard-hitting “Hlasela Dithutha” alongside New York slam poet Saul Williams. He calls his brand of hip hop ts’epe (steel) because it’s just that solid. Also look out for the subtle kwaito influence in his music.
80 Script (Swaziland)
80 Script is on the come-up and his counterparts better watch out. His 2013 performance at Swaziland’s Hipnotik Youth Festival made him one of the country’s most promising rappers to keep an eye on. His versatility has seen him rap over trap and boom bap-influenced productions with ease. His music explores the life of a privileged kid who grew up in a “home so huge it should have been a pilgrimage” and a “kitchen so clean it should have been a restaurant.” What makes 80 Script special is how he rhymes with an effortless delivery and a fluid enunciation – a skill most rappers struggle with.
Tehn Diamond (Zimbabwe)
Tehn Diamond spent a few years performing in Singapore before going back to Zimbabwe to become one of the biggest names in the country’s hip hop scene. He has enjoyed major airplay on Zimbabwean radio stations, performed on Big Brother Africa, opened for Cassper Nyovest and appeared on Zubz The Letta’s Dragonlion_Full Circle album. Tehn Diamond raps mostly in English, but also raps in Shona, and always delivers heartfelt rhymes with a flow that can adapt to whatever beat he jumps on.
Xtatic surfaced around 2012 and has been making a mark in Kenya and other countries. She made it to the finals of Channel O’s MC Africa contest in 2013 and was nominated for a Channel O Award in 2012 for her song, “Prep Track”. The nod got her noticed, and she later signed a record deal with Sony Music Africa. She has since collaborated with AKA, Priddy Ugly and Devour ke Lenyora among others. Her April mixtape Let Me Explain showcases her versatility as an artist.
Cleo Ice Queen (Zambia)
Cleo Ice Queen’s music is jiggy. She mostly raps over high-tempo Afro beats. She sings her own hooks and raps in both English and Pidgin giving her music a dancehall flavour. The rapper recently got nominated for an Afrimma (Afrikan Muzik Magazine Awards) in Texas for her work. She was also part of the Sweden, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe music exchange initiative Kwaai Tour, which saw her performing alongside Swedish and African artists like Driemanskap, Kanyi and Ranto.
Feature image: Mark Mushiva during a recent meet and greet in Cape Town (Photo: Rofhiwa Maneta)