See, as much as modern-day hip-hop is heavily influenced by American culture, SA hip-hop’s roots lie in Kwaito; a music genre that emerged from Soweto during the 1990s. Similar to hip-hop, Kwaito features vocals over an instrumental backing with funky synths and strong bass lines. In edition 2 of Hip-Hop ain’t DEAD playlist series, we journey back through Kwaito tunes that laid the grounds for the birth of early SA hip-hop. From the iconic Brown Dash to the legendary Boom Shaka, you’re not to be disappointed. Nostalgia for some, an unlocked sound to others, but to Musicist.co.za we call this the Kwaito Konnect.
Kwaito arose just as South Africa was finally becoming a democratic country. This meant that years prior, black music had no commercial outlet, meaning no radio play nor TV play under the rule of the Apartheid state. Naturally, this didn’t sit well with the youth as the music was seen as a form of self-expression. This caused anger & outrage and hence the origin of the word ‘Kwaito’ from the Afrikaans word ‘Kwaai’ [meaning anger].
So, picture this, it is the end of 2021 and you are browsing through your Apple Music or Spotify charts. What do you see? Hip-Hop? House? Amapiano? Or even Pop? Sure, but for a select few there’s Kwaito; the South African equivalent to American Gangster Rap. But how does this ageing genre have to do with the current state of SA Hip-hop? Let’s break it down.
Modern-day SA hip-hop mirrors Kwaito. Just like hip-hop, Kwaito is not just a style of music. It’s also a lifestyle. Kwaito artists sing about life in the townships just as new-age acts, such as Maglera Doe Boy, Thato Saul or Youngsta CPT, rap about life in the hood. Kwaito broke the lines between genres as the sound was a vast mixture of Marabi from the 1920s, Kwela from the 1950s, Maskandi, Bubblegum music and Imibongo. This can be seen today from genre-bending acts such as Blxckie, Cassper Nyovest or AKA.
Kwaito’s time may have come and gone, but its influence will live forever.