SLICE: The egomania of Hip-Hop 

Have we overlooked the corpses left behind in this battle of the Hip-Hop Gods? 

Conflict (or ‘beef’) is an inevitable product of Hip-Hop culture. In a genre where egoism, braggadocio and constant one-upping form an essential component of the rap identity, it is only natural that heads will clash from time to time. 

After all, Hip-Hop is somewhat like a competitive sport where being in the top spot guarantees access to money, acclaim, and power. It is essentially a fight for a pedestal, and in this context the ongoing beef between Drake (Aubrey Graham) and Kendrick Lamar – two of the genre’s biggest names – is a heavyweight showdown for the crown of modern Hip-Hop. 

The conflict began when Lamar featured on Future and Metro Boomin’s track ‘Like That’ where he laid his claim to the crown of hip-hop in the now viral line “motherf**k the big three, n***a it’s just big me” in reference to J. Cole labelling himself, Drake, and Lamar as the three biggest names in Hip-Hop on the track ‘First Person Shooter’.  

Lamar’s feature quickly sparked rumours of possible tensions between himself and Drake. Since, the rumours have escalated into a full-on war of words between the two. On April 30, Lamar released a six-minute diss track ‘euphoria’ attacking Drake for appropriating black culture and being a neglectful father amidst a series of pointed insults.  

As a Hip-Hop lover and Lamar fan, this diss track excited me. It was to me a masterful display of what a Hip-Hop beef is all about: using lyrical prowess to attack your enemy’s character. The creativity and wordplay used to insult Drake reminded me of why I fell in love with rap in the first place. But the developments since then have been disheartening and exposed the ugly truth behind Hip-Hop and the music industry at large. 

Since ‘euphoria’, both have released further diss tracks aimed at one another. Whilst at first glance this should excite fans of Hip-Hop and lovers of scandal, one listen to any of the diss tracks on offer makes it abundantly clear that what’s at play is deeper than Hip-Hop or petty conflict. 

Both parties have made serious allegations against one another. Drake has accused Lamar of domestic abuse and Lamar has accused Drake of paedophilia and associating with sex traffickers. While all allegations deserve exposure, the way it has been done is questionable. 

Instead of acknowledging the gravity of the allegations, both seem to be using them to simply hurt each other. It appears as if accusations of serious crimes have been reduced to schoolyard insults.  

In ‘Family Matters’ Drake says: “When you put your hands on your girl, is it self-defence ‘cause she bigger than you?”. While accusing Lamar of abuse, this is a mere set up for the punchline that Lamar is short. Furthermore, on ‘Not Like Us’ Lamar states: “Tryna strike a chord and it’s probably A minor”, using wordplay to refer to Drake’s alleged paedophilia.  

Should matters as serious as woman and child abuse be reduced to punchlines and wordplay? It’s one thing to attack your competitor, but it’s completely different when other people have been potentially hurt by their actions, especially women and young girls. To have their potential trauma reduced to tools to attack your competitor appears selfish and insensitive, particularly in a genre notoriously accused of misogyny.  

The important question is whether these alleged crimes have been exposed in the name of justice or vanity. Based on the lyrics on display, I would think the latter. It appears as if the ego essential to the rap identity has consumed the two to the point that they have become blind to the world around them – all they see is each other. And for artists as influential as Drake and Kendrick Lamar, undermining abuse and molestation sends a harmful message to their fanbase. 

This beef is a warning to fans of music. We tend to mystify and glorify the artists we love. I have made the mistake of attaching a prophet’s status to Lamar. But this has showed that they are no less broken than we are – the only difference is that they have power and a platform. 

As the audience, the question should no longer be about who is beating who in a petty beef. Rather, the question should be: are the allegations true or not and if so, will justice be delivered to the women and children affected? 

Hip-Hop gets its wings in Braam

The spirit of Hip-Hop was on full display at the Red Bull event, through competitive breakdancing and headlining performances from A-Reece and Priddy Ugly.  

The Red Bull BC One competition, which took place on March 23, 2024 at TMF Studios in Braamfontein saw scores of people gather to give the art of breakdancing its flowers.  

The competition is a Red Bull initiative, intended to shine a light on South Africa’s breakdancing culture and provide a platform for professional breakdancers (known as B-Boys/Girls) to demonstrate their creativity and talent through competition.  

A B-Boy performs before judges. Photo: Kabir Jugram

This was certainly the case for Joony Roc from Johannesburg South, a passionate B-Boy, who has been working on his craft for over 10 years. Speaking to Wits Vuvuzela after performing to the sound of deafening speakers and roaring applause from a jam-packed audience, he said: “Seeing the turnout tonight and some of the faces that are here… I’m happy. It feels like the culture is being sparked again and people are starting to pay attention to breaking because breaking is one of the original elements of Hip-Hop.” 

While the event gave exposure to an unsung art form, it also paid homage to an iconic one: Hip-Hop. With the likes of A-Reece and Priddy Ugly headlining the event, hundreds of young artists and hip-hop lovers were seen filling up the stands.

As A-Reece quietly emerged from the crowd to perform, cheers only grew louder the closer he got to the stage. This excitement would soon build into a hysteria of moshing bodies, strained voices and enchanted minds as the crowd was reciting A-Reece’s verses bar for bar throughout his performance.  

A-Reece performing to a packed crowd. Footage: Kabir Jugram

The spirit of hip-hop had people enchanted. An up-and-coming artist named ‘OG Wanton’ summed this up neatly, “Without Hip-Hop I’d be lost. It gave me a safe space to create, write and express how I feel… Without that in life, I wouldn’t be who I am right now”. His collaborator ‘Pxzess’ added: “It (Hip-Hop) puts us (the youth) in a position of being something bigger than us as individuals. Hip Hop is a movement, not a genre.” 

Rapper and headliner artist, Priddy Ugly told Wits Vuvuzela that hip-hop played a pivotal role in his life and development: “Hip-hop culture raised me. I wouldn’t be here without it. Hip-hop taught me to believe in myself, taught me confidence… it taught me my language!”

Priddy Ugly headlined the Red Bull One Event on Saturday. Photo: Kabir Jugram

In an age where Amapiano has become a global phenomenon and artists like Tyla and Black Coffee have achieved global acclaim, hip-hop has fallen by the wayside in terms of its mainstream appeal. However, it is events such as this that remind us that while the culture has been neglected in recent times, it has certainly not lost its relevance or importance. 

The event united people around their common love for a genre that grew them, moulded their identities and taught them self-expression. Not only was this event an exhibition of a growing breakdance culture, but it also served as a timely reminder of the importance of hip-hop to the lives of many South African youths.  

Hip-hop champion against all odds

Hip-hop artist, rapper and Witsie, Gigi LaMayne will be representing South Africa at the Miami Music Conference at the end of the month.

AGAINST ALL ODDS: Gigi LaMayne is representing SA hip-hop at the Miami Music Conference.                          Photo: Ilanit Chernick

AGAINST ALL ODDS: Gigi LaMayne is representing SA hip-hop at the Miami Music Conference. Photo: Ilanit Chernick

LaMayne, otherwise known as Genesis Garbriella Tina Manney, is a third-year BA student who has beaten the odds to get to this point.

She grew up in what she calls “a dysfunctional family”. Her mom, who has been her ‘rock’, left to work as a nurse in England when she was just seven, and returned only when LaMayne was 15.

“My dad was an alcoholic and things were not stable … We moved around a lot. I grew up in the rough parts of Lenasia, Yeoville and Soweto.”

Her parents divorced during her time as a Richard Branson Scholar in England.

LaMayne was passionate about music from age 11 but discovered her talent for hip-hop through her love of poetry at boarding school.

“I was bullied at school and music was my only way out. I would just put my earphones in and find a place to listen away from everyone.”

“I’d always wanted to be a performer but just didn’t know which direction to take it. I studied drama at school too so there were a lot of options.”

“It’s not easy for women to make it in the hip-hop world. Women are so objectified in the entertainment and music world.”

Her journey into music was a difficult one. She was turned down four times by local record labels and when she approached Dream Team SA, was convinced they would “say no too”.

“It’s not easy for women to make it in the hip-hop world. Women are so objectified in the entertainment and music world.”

In her first year at Wits she was the first female to make it to the finals of the Sprite Uncontainable competition, where she came second.

She was then voted best female Hip-Hop artist in 2013 and 2014 at the South African Hip-Hop Awards. Recently she won the Jack Daniels music scout competition and part of the winning prize is to represent South Africa at the Miami Music Conference.

Her message to Witsies: “In the words of Eric Thomas, “you should be like a lion, not a gazelle”. Always have something internal to drive you. There needs to be a “why” in everything you do.”

Movie Review: Hear Me Move

Starring: Nyaniso Dzedze, Wandile Molebatsi, Bontle Modiselle

Directed By: Scottnes L. Smith

Vuvuzela rating: 7/10

Big23_hear_me_move commercial, South African films are so rare, besides the Afrikaans rom-coms of course, that as a citizen you want to celebrate every one that is released. Hear Me Move is a nice try.

Directed by Scottnes Smith, Hear Me Move might leave some people confused about a few things. South Africa’s first dance film is set against the backdrop of Johannesburg’s neon city lights and townships. Throughout the film, however, you wonder how they get from one place to another, they seem to pass between the two places without effort.

This colourful and pacey film attempts to bring the story of Muzi (Nyaniso Dzedze), the son of a famous pantsula dancer to the screen. Muzi’s father who tragically died 12 years ago becomes the driving force of the film and the reason for many of Muzi’s woes and triumphs as a dancer.

The popular township dance style called sbujwa is highlighted in the movie, and with a love story added to the mix, the built-up passion fizzles to a barely-there kiss.

The directing and producing is almost clean in its execution, and the music refuses to go unnoticed in a great way. But its clear fundamental errors were made at a scriptwriting level.

The premise of the ‘lost son’ looking for his father’s presence is forced onto the viewer and you’re left exasperated by it all. A film driven by events rather than character.

The hard work put in by the dancers is evident, and their bodies reflect this. If there is something to really appreciate, it’s the amazing eye-candy.

However their too-toned bodies are too contemporary and too exercised for the laid back, swanky, almost-too-skinny vibe we know to be sbujwa dancing, the film fails to capture that authentic township feel.

The high-end dancing and the ‘underground’ settings for the competitions, with famous judges and hosts, feels unrealistic and copied from American movies.

Not all is lost however, some moments are golden and they bring the story back to life. Mbuso Kgarebe, who plays the antagonist Prince, is formidably intense and Khanyi (Bontle Modiselle) who plays Muzi’s love interest has the kind of legs that go on forever.

It’s a fun film to watch, because of the dance elements, and as a South African it might be your duty to watch but it scores low on originality and authenticity.

 

 

 

 

South African rapper “Flabba” dies

South African rapper Nonkululeko "Flabba" Habedi has died at the age of 38 years old after being stabbed  on Monday March, 9. Photo: Taken from Nkuli Keflabba Habedi facebook page.

South African rapper Nonkululeko “Flabba” Habedi has died after being stabbed at his home in Alexandra on Monday March, 9.
Photo:Taken from Nkuli Keflabba Habedi facebook page.

Popular Hip-Hop artist Nkululeko “Flabba” Nabedi (38) died after allegedly being stabbed by his girlfriend, 26-year-old Sindisiwe Manqele at his Alexandra home on Monday, March 9 according to reports.

The death was confirmed by South African Police Services (SAPS) on Monday morning via Twitter.

South African celebrities such as Skwatta Kamp member Shugasmakx, 5FM DJ Fresh and hip-hop artist/presenter ProVerb expressed their grief on social networks.

Suspect, Sindisiwe Manqele revealed unexplained bruises and other injuries to her wrists and stomach when she appeared in Alexandra Magistrate Court on Tuesday March, 10. The case has been postponed until Monday March, 16 so that the accused can see a private doctor for her injuries.

Crowds surrounded a woman identified as Manqele’s sister when she left the court and made her way to the car. Many in the crowd were shouting “No bail, no bail!”

Flabba’s younger brother, Tshepang Habedi claims that Manqele’s wounds were self-inflicted. Earlier reports said that Manqele tried to commit suicide.

Flabba was set to make a comeback to the music scene with the release of his new song “Nay’Inkinga” featuring JR on December, 8 and his feature with Kwesta on DJ Sliqe’s song #DolikeIdo.

A public memorial will be held at Bassline in Newtown, Johannesburg on Wednesday March 11 at 12pm.

 

Inspiration handed on a beat and a book

OFF THE HOOK: Rappers Themba Thwala, aka Mag, and Asanda Bikani, aka Nobody, explore new heights of expression.  Photo: Palesa Radebe

OFF THE HOOK: Rappers Themba Thwala, aka Mag, and Asanda Bikani, aka Nobody, explore new heights of expression.
                                                                                                                                                           Photo: Palesa Radebe

Dramatic arts student Themba Thwala recorded a hip-hop single this weekend in the presence of a rapper he hopes to emulate in the near future. For now, he will have to settle for rousing Witsies from the slumber that sweeps over the campus and the city at this time of the year.
Mag, Thwala’s stage name, is Wits’s representative in Blackberry’s campus wide search for South Africa’s next rap star. The word-slinger is fresh off a weekend with Sama-award winning artist Khuli Chana. He was one of nine artists recording a single for a chance to perform it on stage with the Maf Town rapper.

 

Why Do You Rap?

Wits Vuvuzela spoke to other heads (colloquial for die-hards of hip hop) on campus in hopes of understanding the relationship between hip hop and their studies.
Asked what they were “officially” studying, the hip-hop enthusiasts went from light bewilderment to spouts of philosophy at this simple question.

Third year B.Ed student Asanda Bikani, or “Nobody” when he takes on his emcee persona, said for him it was about more than rapping and listening to hip-hop music. “It’s about propagating the things people need to hear…about motivation and telling people they’re beautiful even if they know it,” Bikani said.
“I love it here…people on campus are so apolitical that if you create a platform of truth people are immediately attracted.”Bikani said what he learnt in class influenced what he rapped about, giving him more ideas to dismantle and build on.

 

Hip Hop is a Mirror

Karabo Randa was unusually intrigued by the “what are you studying” question, the line between her academic education and what she’d learned through hip-hop fading at the mention of the distinction.
“A lot of my vocab and the music that I listen to was influenced by hip-hop…there’s a lot ideology behind it.”
The rapper and co-host of VoW Fm’s hip-hop show The Total Package said the metamorphosis of hip-hop from the 1990s up to now interested her: [pullquote align=”right”]“At that time the music was a mirror for the listeners to look at themselves. Right now in the music, it’s me having a mirror looking at myself. It’s very narcissistic”[/pullquote], Randa said.

 

“There’s a weakness in our taste [of hip-hop] that didn’t exist then,” said the 3rd year BA triple major, known as Arazen behind the microphone. She said hip-hop culture as it stood on Wits campus excited her and “awoke the beast that lived inside of all of us”.

Mag, who plans to make a career of hip-hop, said he had been studying drama and art since high school and it influenced the way he wrote his music and the references he made in his lyrics Hip hop versus studies? Mag was the quickest to answer, albeit after a fit of what seemed like cathartic laughter.

Pursuit of Happiness

“I study less because I’m pursuing music half of the time. For me, the happier I am in a space [doing what I love], everything seems to work out.”
All three agreed that Wits was in a unique position to do something with the raw energy hip-hop generated on campus, be it political, introspective, or merely “for art’s sake”.