The South African hip-hop industry is both established and one of the fastest growing subcultures in local music. Its threshold of popularity has meant it has the ability to transcend its genre and influence the music culture in more ways than one.
Number don't lie, check the scoreboard– Jay-Z
Hip-hop success is determined by sales and numbers – as legendary U.S. rapper Jay-Z puts it, "numbers don't lie; check the scoreboard".
Jay-Z himself is one of the most successful rappers in history – 21 Grammys and more than 55-million albums sold – so he has the numbers to back up the ego.
SA rapper Kwesta has been enjoying a purple patch for the past few months.
His career has hit a new peak – he announced on Twitter that RISA [Recording Industry of South Africa] has declared his album "Dakar II" seven-times-platinum, making it the biggest-selling SA hip-hop album to date.
RISA, the agency responsible for verifying album sales, in 2015 reduced the number of units that must be sold to qualify for gold or platinum status.
Because the U.S. population is much larger than ours, South African musicians have to sell many fewer albums, compared to U.S. artists, to achieve gold or platinum sales status:
To achieve gold sales:
South Africa: 15,000 units [previously 20,000]
U.S.: 500,000 units
To achieve platinum sales:
South Africa: 30,000 units [previously 40,000]
U.S.: 1-million units
To put it in perspective, Kwesta has sold at least 210,000 units of "Dakar II", which make him "Da King of African Rap" – and arguably SA's best hip-hop artist over the past two years.
If it's not the numbers, it's his awards that speak for him – he took five SAMAs in one night for "Dakar II"; a feat unprecedented in terms of SA hip-hop: Best Collaboration, Best Rap Album, Best Male Artist, Highest Airwaves Play and Album Of The Year. It's the most successful SA hip-hop album of recent times.
Then there's the gobsmacking achievement of the album going seven-times-platinum – seven times! Nobody in SA even comes close – although the country boasts an honourable list of platinum-selling hip-hop artists.
We found a useful list in sahiphopmag:
Nyovest has a record of his own, as all three of his studio albums went platinum – "Tsholofelo" (2014), "Refilo" (2015) and "Thuto" (2017).
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 epitome of South African hip-hop in its prime.
Certainly, the album cemented AKA's reputation as one of the best and baddest artists South Africa has ever produced. The 2014 album was certified platinum by RISA.
The meteoric rise of Emtee may have been down to his "Roll Up" song, which had the whole of South Africa loving and singing hip-hop. Some may have thought he'd be a one-hit wonder, but his 2015 album "Avery" is an example of hard work and story-telling at its finest that went double-platinum.
Pitch Black Afro
Pitch Black Afro became the first South African rapper to reach the platinum status with his album "Stylin Gel".