Before there was Skwatta Kamp or even the long-forgotten Entity, there was a Cape Town based crew called Prophet of da City.
In celebrations of 44 years of hip-hop, we remember one of the most iconic hip-hop groups that have come out of South Africa.
The 8-man crew established in 1988 featured legends such as Ready D, Shaheen Ariefdien and vocalist Ismael. The members were all part of the underground hip-hop movement in Cape Town at that time.
Through the help of jazz artist and father of Shaheen, the crew were able to access a studio to record the first South African hip-hop album in 1990 called Our World.
Despite their strong American influence, the crew created authentically South African Hip-hop music. In the album, they featured a number of local influences including jazz, mbaqanga and Cape slang.
Existing during a tumultuous time in South Africa’s history, Prophets of da City made conscious rap cool. Through their music, they critiqued the apartheid government and being a black person during that period.
Their third album, Age of Truth, was released in 1993 in the run up to the first democratic elections and was the one that caused a lot of havoc for the group. In one of the songs in the album, Understand Where I’m Coming From, the crew declared that the “third force” in township violence was state-sponsored.
“Why should I fight for a country’s glory / When it ignores me? / Besides, the township’s already a war zone / So why complain or moan?” are just some of the bars from the song.
Understand Where I’m Coming From was banned on SABC.
In another song that they recorded for the album, the crew can be heard saying “Fuck Mangope, even if we record here” after they found out they were being used in a propaganda ploy to try to legitimise the Bantustan as a sovereign state. The song never saw the light of day
Watch this conversation between founding members Ready D and Shaheen Ariefdien, as they reminisce and talk about being the first generation of hip-hop heads in South Africa and how Prophet of the City came to be:
Image: IDM Mag