While Die Antwoord sold our culture, these five artists are pushing it
Words: Ndu Donsa | Photographs: Index Finger, Nick Gordon, Chisanga Mubanga, Leeroy Jason, Allister Christie
Before we chop it up, let’s address the elephant in the room: Die Antwoord have exploited our culture for their own financial gain. Cultural misappropriation is the group’s USP and whether it’s the accents, the gang tats, rapping about the Xhosa circumcision ritual in ‘Evil Boy’, wearing Xhosa attire for their 2016 album art Mount Ninji and Da Nice Time Kid or taking the piss out of the Afrikaans working class, their whole shtick is shady AF.
The group has been called everything from ‘a revival of blackface’ to ‘culturally insecure’, with their art described as ‘systematic racism’. But let’s not dwell on that noise when there are so many South African artists pushing their heritage in an authentic way. The Way of Us identified five acts doing it for the culture.
Loved for his punchlines, repping Kaapstad and autobiographical style that often touches on bigger issues within his community, Youngsta’s skills with the pen and on the mic take you back to the glory days of rap. He has the streets of Cape Town on lock, and whether he’s rapping about sneaker culture or kids on the flats getting jacked for their ‘tekkies’, what we love about Youngsta is how he manages to structure everything he does around where he’s from.
Nomuzi ‘Moozlie’ Mabena
If you’re an upcoming rapper it’s important to stand out. Nomuzi understands this and, during her time at CashTime Life, chose to differentiate herself by looking at the late Brenda Fassie and then positioning herself as “the new age Mabr”. Some accused her of biting or riding on a legend, but Nomuzi clarified that with this tweet: “No one has ever compared me to her. I am just obsessed with her attitude, her style, her music. It’s just love really.” The rapper-slash-TV-celebrity channels other music icons too, with outfits influenced by 90s stars TLC, Salt-N-Pepa and Brandy, taking inspiration from these legends and creating something new in the process.
Bursting onto the scene with a progressive sound and repping her own unique identity helped Patty Monroe to get radio spins. Talking to The Way of Us, the breakout rapper commented on heritage.
“Heritage it's a strange one. How do I rep my heritage? Yoh, what is MY heritage? OUR heritage? Some say it's Khoi, others argue it's Malay, I guess my heritage is a collection of our inherited traditions, monuments, objects, and culture."
Patty understands that, as a coloured woman, she’s defined her own culture to some extent, but in terms of heritage, she’s South African.
“I'm a South African and one day I want to have children and teach them our heritage as South Africans. As Africans we’ve inherited traditions, monuments, objects and culture. We have so many to pick and choose from, we are blessed.”
What makes Jack stand out from other rappers is his focus on rapping in Afrikaans and embracing his heritage, from braaivleis to brandy. Afrikaans music has always had a very loyal fanbase and Parow must be credited for tapping into that and making a living off of being himself, as opposed to falling into the trap that so many other South African musicians do where they’re trying to repackage something from America to suit a local market.
Mashayabhuqe Ka Mamba
Mashayabhuqe Ka Mamba is the most eclectic artist of our time and when rapping about social issues, he's an authentic artist on the real. Naming his projects based on Nguni culture or his view of the world, from The Black Excellence Show to Amancamnce to Nguniversal, this cat digs deep in terms of culture. Most of the tracks on these projects are stories of his upbringing with a distinct Maskhandi influence on his music. The Digital Maskhandi never forgot where he’s from, and must be saluted for tracks like ‘Kwa Dukuza’, addressing the taxi violence in KZN.