The Grammys, just like the South African Music Awards (SAMAs), do not allow albums that have not been released commercially (like free mixtapes and EPs) to be nominated. But a petition, which was co-signed by Chance The Rapper, to allow free music releases to be eligible for Grammys, caused an online stir recently when it got close to 30 000 (and counting) out of the 35 000 needed signatures. In no particular order, here is a list South African mixtapes and EPs, from the last 10 years, that could have won SAMAs had they been allowed to compete.
Priddy Ugly You Don’t Know Me Yet (2016)
Priddy Ugly’s You Don’t Know Me Yet EP was tailored with singles that had proper videos, the way an album would. With one producer, Whichi 1080, behind the boards, the EP had a monolithic sound – hard-hitting cloud trap, and world-class sound quality. The brilliant video for “Coccaine Ghost” alone sets Priddy Ugly apart. His popular single “Bula Boot”, alongside guests such as Youngsta and BigStar Johnson, is what gave the tape the clout that would put it in the running for a SAMA nomination.
Nasty C Price City (2015)
Nasty C was on everybody’s lips last year because of his “Juice Back” single which had a remix featuring superstars Davido and Cassper Nyovest. But the rapper had Price City, a mixtape that might as well have been an album. A deluxe version of the tape was re-released with the hits “Juice Back” (remix), “Bamm Bamm” and “Friendzone”. The tape is everything an album is – it has a balanced subject matter ranging from relations with parents, to love, and the customary bragging. Now if those are not traits of a project worthy of a SAMA, then I dunno.
Gigi Lamayne Colour of Reign (2014)
Gigi’s been dope. She won a South African Hip Hop Award (SAHHA) in 2013 for her mixtape Circus Cafe. But it was 2014’s Colour of Reign that exhibited the rapper’s lyrical prowess (peep the lead single, “City Lights”). Most of the tape was produced by The Mix Masters, but Neo Beats contributed, and Gigi even managed to score a beat from respected producer Amu. Cameo appearances came from the likes of Tumi, Pro, Kabomo, Solo, Joint Pusher and a few more. Gigi held her own alongside those guests, and went on to win another SAHHA on the same year – cementing her place in South Africa’s hip-hop elite. All she needed was a SAMA.
Okmalumkoolkat 100K MaCassette (2015)
The hype alone is enough for 100K MaCassette to have been considered for a SAMA. The lead single “100K MaCassette”, sampling Mdu’s “MaBank book”, became an undeniable hit. Future Mfana’s originality can’t be contested – his use of yesteryear township slang and the kwaito, maskandi and mbhaqanga influences put him in a league of his own. The mixtape was the catchment of all these influences, and what it deserved more than tens of thousands of SoundCloud plays was a SAMA.
Youngsta Fr3eze Time (2013)
Fr3eze Time was a concept project, where Youngsta was exploring the concept of time. The main single of the project “1 Thing 2 Understand” had more than 10 000 plays (bear in mind, South African videos were barely reaching 100 000 views in 2013). The project came with strong tracks, no “freestyles” or unofficial remixes. Youngsta was slowly morphing into a monster, and Fr3eze Time sounds better than a lot of albums that have won SAMAs in the rap category.
Tumi Powa (2011)
In his albums, Tumi hardly ever features any rappers. But on his 2011 mixtape, Powa (an acronym for “People Opposing Women Abuse”), the rapper roped in a gang of guests, including Ben Sharpa, Zubz, Reason, Tracy Lee, Yesterday’s Pupil, Lebo Mochudi and Pro, to deliver a project tied together by lyrical content against the abuse of women. Between songs, the mixtape featured a series of skits of Alen Ndungane reading blog posts of hers from her #ISaidNo campaign on Twitter and her blog. It told the story of how she got raped. Powa was a powerful body of work about a subject that is not talked about enough, and Tumi and his collaborators managed to not be corny about it.
L-Tido City of Gold (2010)
Take away the few borrowed beats, then L-Tido’s City of Gold mixtape is an album. It churned out two radio hits “Calling All The Girls” and “When It Rains”. The tape helped introduce L-Tido to the industry, and also had guest appearances from the likes of Maggz, Sean Pages, Morale, TeePee and a then-up-and-coming, Anatii.
AKA 24/7/366 (2010)
24/7/366 was an album masquerading as a mixtape. There were no borrowed beats whatsoever. IV League, the production trio AKA was part of, made all the beats. AKA probably realised the tape’s potential, with hits such as “I Want It All” and “Do It”, and re-released some of the tracks as part of Altar Ego – his debut album. If 24/7/366 was an album, AKA’s fate would have still been the same – he would have swept SAMAs and Metros the way he did when Altar Ego dropped in 2011.
Maggz Sorry For The Long Wait (2006)
Maggz’s 2009 debut album, The Breakout, was a letdown. If the Soweto rapper doesn’t release another album, then his most definitive body of work will remain his 2009 mixtape, Sorry For The Long Wait. Maggz and his Saudi Western crew (which included Pro, Sgebi and Omen) made a memorable mixtape that made no creative concessions for radio spins. The lead single “All Good”, featuring Pro and Nothende, was timeless. Tracks like “Pimpville”, “Love Chicks” (with Flabba), “American Dream” (with Morale) and “Break” (with Omen and Sgebi) still sound crisp today.