From K.O to Zola: Apple Music Spotlights South Africa’s Hip-Hop Pioneers in 50-Year Celebration

Written by on 9 November, 2023

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, Apple Music is showcasing the breadth and diversity of hip-hop sounds, histories and communities across the globe with Hip-Hop DNA: South Africa.

Apple Music’s celebratory campaign delves deep into the roots of hip-hop in SA. It’s accompanied by essential albums from South Africa’s greatest hip-hop artists and provides insights into the thriving hip-hop scenes in Australia, Japan, Mexico, France, Germany, and beyond.

Hip-Hop DNA: South Africa traverses the early days of the genre’s arrival, from ‘90s Capetonian groups like Prophets of Da City (POC) and Black Noise whose rhymes were steeped in politics, to genre’s ultimate glow up in the early 2000’s with Skwatta KampPRO and Teargas achieving radio success, while pioneers like HHP blended kwaito and hip-hop to form Motswako (meaning “mixture” or “blend”), characterised by Tswana lyrics and versatile production styles.

But it was in the mid-2010s that South Africa hip-hop exploded, looking again to kwaito for inspiration and producing classic tracks like K.O’s “Caracara”, Kwesta’s “Ngud” and Cassper Nyovest’s “Doc Shebeleza”, while English rappers entered the mainstream as AKA’s “Levels” became the first album by an English-speaking rapper to go platinum.



The next generation has also seen a whole new crop of kasi-trap rappers emerge, mostly from Cape Town (Dee KoalaBravo Le RouxHoly Alpha) and Pretoria (25KLoatinover PoundsBuzzi LeeWordz), who use street slang to tell relatable township stories, while North West rapper Maglera Doe Boy flies the Motswako flag high.


As part of the celebration of South Africa’s hip-hop history, Apple Music Radio will also be releasing an exclusive 1-hour episode, voiced by Ebro Darden, this episode explores the legacy of South Africa’s biggest hip-hop stars, from K.O to Ready D. Stream it here:


Check out Hip-Hop DNA: South Africa here:


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