The South African hip-hop industry has established itself as one of the fastest growing subcultures in local music. The rise of hip-hop has seen artists such as AKA, Casper Nyovest and OkMalumKoolKat achieve iconic pop culture status through their music.
Only real music is going to last, and although hip-hop is shining brighter than ever, there are only a few albums that will live forever as classics. Here are HuffPost SA best SA hip-hop albums of the decade:
10. BCWYWF - AKA & Anatii (2017)
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What Makes It Special: The unique combination of AKA's hard-hitting lyrics and punchlines incorporated with Anatii's futuristic visionary sound. It is a unique hip-hop album with a sound that is unparalleled. Feel-good music that will motivate you into believing in yourself.
Read: Inside The Exclusive Listening Session For AKA And Anatii's New Album "BCWYWF"
Standout Track(s): Bryanston Drive, Angelz and 10 Fingers
Standout Lyrics: "Mama used to tell me, take your feet off the couch. Now they treat me like I'm the man of the house. Do you got the plug, do you believe in yourself? Pray I don't get up if you kick me when I'm down."
9. Mlazi Milano - OkMalumKoolKat (2017)
What Makes It Special: The unique sound of Smiso "OkMalumKoolKat" Zwane is what makes this album special. It is a "Skandi-Hop" and '"Gqomhop", which is a mixture of Maskandi and gqom fused into hip-hop. The album represents what South African music is about, touching on different genres and representing the different subcultures of hip-hop.
Standout Track(s): Mlazi Milano, Gqi, Amalobolo and Mathananazane
Standout Lyrics: "They told me to queue for the slice, kid I'm taking the cake."
8. Yellow - Shane Eagle (2017)
What Makes It Special: Shane Eagle speaks his mind and tells stories in a way that breaks away from the norm. "Yellow" is lauded for its introspective storytelling and innovative digression. A much needed change in sound, considering how many of our trap artists all sound the same.
Standout Track(s): On My Own, Let It Flow and Winter
Standout Lyrics: "Gotta do this shit by yourself, gotta get rich by yourself, only competition is myself. Watch that, don't jump off the shelf, rap like the greatest move like the matrix."
7. Return Of The King - Tumi (2015)
What Makes It Special: If you are looking for a real MC who is bound to spit real "eish", then "Return Of The King" by Tumi is exactly what you need. The album is pure rap, not hip-hop. Tumi opts for wordplay, delivering subliminal jabs with his rap literacy on a level that most young artists couldn't even imagine.
Standout Track(s): In Defence Of My Art and Visa
Standout Lyrics: "In defence of my art, I'd rather be Tony Allen than Quest Love. In defence of my art, my target is more Charles Dickens than D'Banj. In defence of my art, being broke ain't an option unless you talking stocks. In defence of my art, running my own race, not checking on your marks."
6. 3/4 Pace - Kid X (2015)
What Makes It Special: Kid X arguably dropped one of the hottest mixtapes South African hip-hop has ever seen. It is raw, pure, authentic and by far Kid X's best work as an artist. It was also was one of the few mixtapes to be nominated in Best Rap category at the SAMAs.
Standout Track(s): Mood, Cool As You Like, Fire Drill and Before
Standout Lyrics: "I keep a small circle of rapper friends, I don't really f* with all of that pretentious s*. No stunts or shenanigans, no chain of events, they could ever bring to my neck."
5. DAKAR II - Kwesta (2016)
What Makes It Special: 5 SAMA Awards in one night: (Best Collaboration, Best Rap Album, Best Male Artist, Highest Airwaves Play and Album Of The Year). The most successful album in recent years lets its awards speak for itself.
Standout Track(s): Nomayini, Day One, Ngud, Mayibabo and Ngiyaz Fela Ngawe
Standout Lyrics: "Thuli uzong' moshela 'yeg khuluma thuli phuzi stokvel ngazo tshela lona ngizo mshela, your public protector I mean ngu thuli zo's dontsela."
4. Thuto - Cassper Nyovest (2017)
What Makes It Special: Cassper Nyovest's latest offering, "Thuto", is genius. It is easily on the same level as any international artist's. He opens up about his insecurities, his unfaithful relationships, his money and his cars. Cassper, the only artist to have back-to-back platinum albums, gave 2017 one of best pieces of work an artist has ever relaeased.
Standout Track(s): Tito Mboweni, Confused, Destiny and We Living Good
Standout Lyrics: "Tito Mboweni, sha sha, Tito Mboweni, sha sha."
3. Skhanda Republic - K.O (2014)
What Makes It Special: Perhaps the golden period of hip hop in SA was in 2014 when K.O released Skhanda Republic to positive reception. The song from the album 'Caracara" is still the only hip-hop song to win Record of the year at the 2015 SAMA awards. Undoubtedly K.O's finest work and a project that will go down in history as one of the milestone album in SA music.
Standout Track(s): Caracara, No Fear, Son Of A Gun, One Time, Skhanda Love and Mission Statement
Standout Lyrics: "Mangab'uyaphakama uzoy'thol'uses'mokolweni thina siy'lez'ey'hamba negoni ephoketheni shiy'muntu wakho yedwa lov'se-problemini. Sorry I'm going in Phol'uzom'thol'ek'seni wan'rata k'ya otlatsa ake yetsa so,hase ke dishapa le banyana ba mfetsha QHO."
2. Levels - AKA (2014)
What Makes It Special: One of the best, if not the best-produced album in hip-hop history. With JR, Tweezy and Mpilo Shabangu on production, "Levels" by AKA was the opitome of South African hip-hop in its prime. Certainly the album cemented AKA's reputation as one of the best and baddest artist South Africa has ever produced. The album is certified platinum by RISA
Standout Track(s): Sim Dope, Run Jozi, Congratulate, All Eyes On Me and Kontrol
Standout Lyrics: "You've got some buzz from your single, but thats just luck for beginners. Im coming back in another life just to stunt on your children."
1. Avery - Emtee (2015)
What Makes It Special: The meterioc rise of Emtee may be down to his "Roll Up" song, which had the whole of South Africa loving and singing hip-hop. While others may have thought he'd be a one-hit wonder, his album "Avery" is an example of hard work and story-telling at its finest. The album is about Emtee himself, as he takes us through his journey as a rapper: from sleeping in the streets, to his relationship with his son, and the struggles of a black individual in South Africa.
Standout Track(s): About Me, Roll Up, Dreams, We Up, Dreams, Wining, Pearl Thusi ... basically the whole album!
Standout Lyrics: "I came up knowing that if I don't give up, then I might get something, if I quit then I won't get none. I'll admit the struggle is no fun. Dreams do come true, you can win if you want to."