Why Cassper Nyovest, the Major League DJz and Riky Rick are SA's Rat Pack
Words: Marilyn Suto | Illustrations: Nena Maree
Hip-hop beefs are a dime a dozen, but so are squads that roll deep. It's common for the media to highlight, make a spectacle and dare we say – a profit out of beef, but rarely do they highlight the genuine and sometimes long running friendships in hip-hop. So today we're going to pay homage to one of the leading hip-hop/new age Kwaito squads in South Africa: our very own Rap Pack in the form of Cassper Nyovest, the Major League DJz and Riky Rick.
The ‘Rap Pack’ label might seem misplaced and overzealous on our part, considering that neither of these artists operate under an official name as the guys at Boyz n Bucks do (which is a group worthy of a mention and an article of its own). However, the fact that Cassper, Riky and the Major League twins constitute an informal grouping shouldn't dilute the significance of this squad and the impact that they could potentially have on the industry.
It's important to note that there’s nothing gimmicky about their friendship, and one can sense a genuine and mutual respect between all four. It's important that their squad isn't classified or seen as being of the Taylor Swift model. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that her squad is not a real squad — instead it's a group engineered by some high-powered executive who thought that he could pull the wool over the public’s eye. The fact that that group is known as Taylor’s Squad is telling, and also marks one of the significant differences between a real group of friends and a marketing gimmick.
The one factor that makes Riky, Cassper and Major League a real squad is that neither artist’s brand is diluted by their association with each other. They're each able to stand and hold their own. The public knows who the Major League DJz are without reference to Riky or in another permutation. The public knows who Cassper is without reference to Riky and vice versa. In fact, merging together only strengthens each act, proving the old age adage that strength does indeed come in numbers. The reality is unity and solidarity are not overrated and this clique, much like the Rat Pack, is proof.
The question then becomes, why should they be characterised as the Rap Pack? Well, the answer to that is simple: why the hell not? The original Rat Pack represents arguably one of the most influential grouping of artists in entertainment history, and the potential exists for this crew, squad, posse, clique etc. to reach that level of influence in South Africa. Furthermore, they display the same characteristics as the Rat Pack: loyalty, business savvy, suaveness and most importantly, a strong desire to see each other win. Oh, and they're also good with the ladies. At this point, a brief history of the Rat Pack is necessary.
The Rat Pack was a grouping of the greatest entertainers of the 60s. An unofficial boy band without the schmaltz and cheese, but with all the charisma and edge characteristic of that era. You could say that the 60s was an era of decadence and opulence. A reincarnation of the roaring 20s and a precursor to the conspicuous consumption of the 90s when “greed was good" and bling was in.
While we know the Rat Pack as consisting of Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jnr, Dean Martin, Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford, a quick Wikipedia search will tell you that the original Rat Pack was actually centered around Humphrey Bogart with members such as Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Sid Luft, Katherine Hepburn. There were also visiting members such as Nat King Cole and Errol Flynn before the collective later re-emerged with the well-known members. At this point, that fact is irrelevant because the later reincarnation of the Rat Pack had the most impact and was undoubtedly the most influential. They were the five men who ruled the Vegas strip — a dapper crew of heavy drinking and chain-smoking womanisers, all extremely successful solo acts with their most successful group project being the film, Oceans 11.
The same can be said of King Kotini, Cassper and Major League. Cassper Nyovest had an undoubtedly successful 2016 after he filled up Orlando Stadium, a follow up to his filling up the Dome in 2015 and what can be considered as a pre-show to his attempt at filling up the FNB Stadium later this year. The Major League Gardens event continues to grow each year and 2016 saw 40 acts performing in front of a crowd of 20 000. Riky Rick continues to add to his success and was able to follow up the success of Family Values with his smash hit 'Sidlukotini', earning him the title King Kotini.
If the playground of the original Rat Pack was Las Vegas, the Rap Pack's is Johannesburg. While the original crew drank whiskey or martinis, our local version pops Champagne. And, finally, whilst beautiful women like Marilyn Monroe and Shirley McClaine were at times part of the Rat Pack entourage, some of South Africa’s own leading ladies such Boity Thulo and Mihlali Ndamase have been part of this clique, albeit inadvertently.
The most salient feature of the crew and what makes them a true squad in our eyes is that they willingly support each other, and are willing to put dabs on each other. This might be a plug on a Instagram post, sharing the stage at a major awards show (as Riky did with Major League when he accepted an award at the MAMAs) or collaborating on a musical project with each other, as they have done on a number of projects such as 'Sgetit', 'Zulu Girls' and 'Slyza Tsotsi'. These have been successful projects, however, their most successful project on the scale of the Oceans 11 success enjoyed by the original Rat Pack could be filling up the national stadium together.
It's true that beefs are common in hip-hop, which could be attributed to the toxic masculinity prevalent in the music business in general. It's also true that unity cannot be forced, or that unity for unity’s sake is futile. It's inevitable that certain artists are bound to not get along, however, a case can be made and has been made that real squads do exist in hip-hop as shown by the friendship between Riky, Cassper and the Major League DJz.