© Tyorne Bradley

A Brief History of: SA Hip Hop

Ten moments that made this genre dominate the musical landscape
Written by Themba Kriger
3 min readPublished on
Emerging out of the shadows of kwaito, South African hip hop has grown to become a dominant force in mainstream South African music. The last three decades have seen it grow from being a form of political expression in its birth place Cape Town to artists such as AKA being embraced by fans from around the world. While the rise of South African hip hop features the hard work of many, in this brief history we look at ten moments that led to genres rise.
Arguably the first South African emcee, Senyaka releases his debut album 'Ntate Senyaka' in 1986. A groundbreaking album it included the furious ‘Jabulani MC’, a rap track that would later lay the foundations of kwaito.
Black Noise
A break dance crew founded in 1982, which later would also include graffiti, Black Noise would become South Africa’s first complete hip hop outfit, emerging from the Cape Flats in 1989 as a crew and addressing social issues in their lyrics.
DJ Ready D

DJ Ready D

© Luke Daniel

Prophets of da City
Featuring DJ Ready D among its founding members, POC would release their first full LP ‘Boom Style’ in 1989, followed by the first local hip hop studio album ‘Our World’ in 1990. Their music was banned by the SABC due to the content of the lyrics.
Brasse vannie Kaap
Following in the conscious footsteps of Black Noise and POC, Brasse vannie Kaap released their album 'BVK' featuring their unique brand of Cape Flats inspired hip hop, rapping in local slang and Afrikaans. This shift opened the doors for others to rap in the vernacular and move away from the American sound.
YFM launches
Toward the end of 1997, Gauteng based regional station YFM launches, creating a platform for local musicians to share their music with. Among the shows that pushed this was the Rap Activity Jam, a weekly slot for local rappers.
Skwatta Kamp
2003 saw the group scoop SAMA for best Rap Album for their offering 'Khut En Joyn' which saw led to the crew of 6 being signed to Gallo Records. This was a shift in local hip hop, bringing it out of the shadows of kwaito and into the mainstream.
Pitch Black Afro
His 2004 release 'Styling Gel' featured his one of a kind Zulu flows. It  would go on to sell 50,000 copies and go platinum, making him the best selling rapper at the time.
Tumi and The Volume

Tumi and The Volume

© Kolesky

Tumi and the Volume
Formed by Tumi Molokane, already an established emcee, along with former members of 340ml, they would become South Africa’s most well-known live hip hop act. With a strong local following, the group’s popularity would spread well beyond our borders.
Cassper Nyovest

Cassper Nyovest

© Tyrone Bradley

Although this Setswana based hip hop has its roots in the early 90s with Bongo Maffin pushing the style early, it was HHP, in the mid 2000s, who would create it into the movement we see today. Now artists such as Cassper Nyovest fly the flag for this distinct sub-genre.


© Tyorne Bradley

AKA goes Platinum
In 2016 AKA became the first South African English rapper to have a platinum-selling album, thanks to the wide popularity of his 2014 release ‘Levels’ which has increased his following not only in Africa but also the UK and US.
AKA will be representing South African Hip Hop with the Top Boyz Sound System at Red Bull Culture Clash 2017 where he will be battling 3 other Sound Systems. To find out more and book your tickets click here.