Even though he had been reduced to just a face on a meme for “bad English” and hadn’t released music that resonated since the mid-2000s, Mandoza was an important figure in South African culture. We all know how “Nkalakatha” became a song loved by all races, playing in both the hood and rugby matches.
The song won Song Of The Year at the 2001 SAMAs, while the album of the same title won Album Of The Year. He also swept the Metro FM awards in the same year – winning five of the 10 awards he was nominated for. He was that big a deal.
Been listening to Mandoza since I was 8
I was eight when Mandoza first stepped onto the kwaito scene in 1999. I lived and breathed kwaito. His song “Uzoy’thola Kanjani?” became an instant favourite, because it was everywhere, and was a great tune. The phrase “Uzoy’thola kanjan’ uhlel’ ekhoneni?”, which loosely translates to “get off your ass and hustle”, is an urban idiom that’s still being used to this day.
Mandoza’s husky voice made him unique. He had charisma, which was important in kwaito – a genre built around kasi bravado. Gabi Le Roux and D-Rex’s rock-influenced production set Mandoza’s music apart. Those electric guitars gelled well with his voice on such hits as “Nkalakatha”, “Godoba” and “Tornado”. Later in his career, Mandoza also worked with conventional kwaito producers like Mdu, DJ Cleo, Spikiri and Guffy.
Mandoza was the epitome of confidence
The artist, whose real name was Mduduzi Tshabalala, had a working formula – in each and every album he was telling us that he was that dude. These came in a variance of titles: Nkalakatha, Godoba, Tornado, Sgelekeqe, Ngalabesi, Ingwenya, Sgantsontso. Some shrewdly considered that a lack of creativity. But it sustained MDZ for years.
He was the epitome of confidence – from his lyrics to his fashion sense. He kept it kasi, but with an urban touch – rocking skinny jeans before the cool kids even imagined they would.
When he wasn’t flaunting his confidence and sneering at his competition, Mandoza was motivating and repping ikasi – with songs like “Respect”, “Hope”, “Angikhohlwa Lang’phuma Khona”, “The Lost Ones” (with Danny K), “50 50” (with Mdu), “Flame Of Life” (with Lebo Mathosa), among lots of others.
Who can forget his Chiskop hits?
MDZ also had a great run with his crew Chiskop. Songs like “Umunt’omnyama”, “Abasazi” and “Sunday” are undebated kwaito classics.
Mandoza had a flourishing career for years. But like many who had come before him, the tabloids started haunting him – he started making more headlines for his personal woes, such as bankruptcy, than hits.
Through all that, MDZ never stopped making music, dropping an album almost every year.
Even though, he was not owning Decembers after 2004 – a year in which he released two albums – Sgelekeqe and his collaboration with Danny K Same Difference.
Social media reduced this legend to a meme
In the mid-2000s, as house and hip-hop became the genres of choice for South African youth, things started changing for all kwaito artists. Even Mandoza couldn’t survive that era.
The popularity kept on declining, until eventually his albums made no noise at all. Albums like 2007’s Champion, 2008’s Ingwenya, 2010’s Real Deal, 2011’s So Fresh and 2013’s Sgantsontso are as good as non-existent as they produced no hit single.
The former star became a tabloid hotspot for his financial crisis and later his unstable health. Social media reduced him to a meme. But there’s one thing you can’t take away from Mandoza – he’s a stone-cold legend with one of the best songs to ever come out of South Africa across all genres “Nkalakatha”.
Watch Mandoza’s last performance below at the SABC’s Thank You concert which took place two weeks ago at FNB Stadium.
South African personalities responded to Mandoza’s death on Twitter:
Damn man!!! Mandoza left us??? Argh no man!!! This life thing is sooo short. #RIP to the legend!!!
— FillUpOrlandoStadium (@CassperNyovest) 18 September 2016
I woke up today in disbelief about Mandoza’s passing. It’s a lil surreal to me💔
— 🔥 (@TweezyZA) 19 September 2016
Mandoza showed us the rainbow nation without political cliche or rhetoric. He united us through music #RIPMandoza 😢🇿🇦🙏
— Danny K (@dannykmusic) 18 September 2016
— #DJSbuBreakfast (@DJSbuBreakfast) 18 September 2016