See Pava said I should tackle Vike, I left your homie with scars, now Kriss said I should give you the strike, they gon find this body on Mars, cos RC said for the good of the sport I should put Demon’s head on a spike, bra I think the PSL started a trend, cos so far it feels like every league is trying to relegate all you freestate stars
That’s the scheme that won No Peace Bar of the year at the Hip Hop 411 Battle Rap Awards, but nice as it was, he cherishes the Battle Rapper of the Year award more. “…It means I was consistent and it means people can actually see the hard work I try put into every battle. Bar of the year is prestigious don’t get me wrong, but that is just 30 seconds out of the year,” says the North god, No Peace.
The awards are a first for Africa, the only other Battle Rap awards to have taken place in the globe were the 2014 Battlerap.com awards. “Initially when the idea to recognize and reward battle rappers who had done well throughout 2019,we had planned on giving away cash prizes, trophies and other prizes to the winners yes. Financial circumstances related to other activities we are working on that needed a urgent heavy financial injection compelled us to scrap the idea of a ceremony, prizes, trophies and redirect the finances to other activities,” says Hip Hop 411’s Kriss. The winners were modestly announced in a series of Facebook posts throughout last week by Hip Hop 411.
The awards were adjudicated by 50% fan votes and 50% by a select group of judges. They selected adjudicators “with a high battle rap I.Q and they possess an extensive knowledge of the battle rap culture not only locally but globally as well.” Time Xone, Mdu Sibanyoni, Boy Wonder and Denis Bops were the individuals bestowed with judging responsibilities. A vote from a Hip Hop 411 TV staff member would be roped in if one category was tied, but that never occurred.
Other categories included Performance of the Year which went to Linda Strat, Verse of the Year was awarded to Verbalist while Don V and Fahrenheit’s battle was the Highest Viewed Battle as well as the Battle of The Year. “Real talk, it wouldn’t have lived up to expectation if it wasn’t [Battle of the Year]. I already knew Don was gonna bring it and if I did my bit, it was an instant classic,” retorts Height.
It’s still debatable who walked away the winner in that tussle. Both emcees came proper, not short of confidence. “We put up a dope battle, very personal as far as material goes and with that look at where it took us regarding YouTube analytics, 10 000 views,” says the 1632 emcee Don. One gets the feeling that had the awards been in existence a few years ago, Don would’ve probably gotten the same awards for his battle with Kris. His battles seem to be crowd favourites that rake up big viewer numbers.
True to the nature of calling it like it is in battle rap, there was a Moemish of the Year. That award went to Cape Town spitter Rogan, who was supposed to battle Fahrenheit in the Mother City, but failed to pitch to the battle claiming a rival gang wanted to kill him. All this after his dilly-dally of demanding a bigger cash prize, which Hip Hop 411 obliged to. “The rap battle community has welcomed this new development with open arms and excitement. Even people who are usually negative towards our work because they are aligned to rival battle leagues have been positive about it. In the same breath the will always be people who feel disgruntled and unhappy because their favourite rappers were not nominated or did not win or they feel that their friends who organise battle rap events should be the ones doing the awards,” Kriss tells me.
But these awards can do a lot in raising the standard of battle rap, should they have consistent growth and find ways of rewarding kats with actual prizes and awards. Imagine a No Peace waking up every day to see his Battle Rapper of the Year gong on his TV stand. “…it will make it more competitive and will push kats to work because we all want to our work to be acknowledged, so it will definitely improve the quality of battle rap,” No Peace says. “Battle rap is already a dope close knit family as is, but knowing there’s competition at every corner makes it even better,” says Height.
While the majority will make noise about the high youth unemployment numbers, the ubiquity of retrenchments and the paucity of genuine commercial platforms for creatives, this time has also given black youth an opportunity to show their leadership qualities. It was US civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. who said genuine leaders do not search for consensus, but are the ones who mould consensus. Lwazi Nonyukela is doing so with his media company, Hip-Hop 411.
“I felt like our stories in underground Hip-Hop weren’t being told enough, commercial platforms are not giving emcees and creatives enough opportunities to showcase their talent and tell their stories, plus I’ve always had the passion to be a Hip-Hop entrepreneur,” the Sowetan from Orlando West tells me.
Founded four years ago, the company specialises in content creation, pre and post production of its visual and audio platforms. Their content celebrates South Africa’s pop culture, largely driven by their passion for the Hip Hop culture. Their involvement in the Hip Hop scene was recognised by the South African Hip Hop Awards “…we were nominated for the Kings Of Gauteng for The South African Hip-Hop Awards for various elements in Hip-Hop before Battle Rap, but Battle Rap brought in a new and extended market to the brand including cyphers that we do across the country,” says Nonyukela.
Ever since the demise of Scrambles4Money there have been sporadic battle leagues around the country, but none have shown the consistency and meticulousness as the Hip-Hop 411 brand. Through their efforts, the league has become the premier battle movement in South Africa, managing to build relationships with brands to sponsor their movement. “…as a brand (Hip-Hop 411) we were able to collaborate with each other by tapping into each other’s markets which brought in huge values by also monetizing our content, growing numbers on social media, and getting more traffic into our website to attract new advertisers and for the battle rappers to see themselves as future brands by utilizing the opportunities we giving them on our platform and to also grow and maintain the culture.”
“I didn’t imagine it to be the home for just Battle Rap in South Africa, but I imagined it to be the home and movement for all cultural Hip-Hop elements in Africa, extending to other continents as well,” a determined Nonyukela tells me.
The involvement of emcee Kriss Anti-B has given the Hip-Hop 411 brand more clout, especially on the battle rap front, thanks to Kriss’ personal brand growth over the last few years in the local Hip Hop scene. “Kriss has been a major boost for the battle rap division in Hip-Hop 411…. he is giving opportunities to a lot of Battle Rappers and emcees from around the country to come and showcase their talent.”
There’s a tad bit of confusion about Kriss’ exact contribution at Hip-Hop 411, with many wrongly assuming he’s the founder of the company. But he’s a content producer for Hip Hop 411 Radio and has his own show, a promoter and Nonyukela also describes him as “a creative director/partner, and a huge ambassador for the brand.”
In his parting shot, Nonyukela says “The long-term objective of the company is to expand its service offering by not just focusing on content creation but participating across all sectors of the Visual, Media and Entertainment industry. This strategy will see the company expanding to 2D and 3D cinema experience, online content creation, digital rendering, application software, co-production to local and African markets (clients) and content creation and distribution.”
With those sort of objectives laid-out, it’s not difficult to foresee a future where young black people such as himself become important role players in our industry. Maybe next time I talk to him, Hip-Hop 411 would have more employees than the 15 he already has working in his team- quelling the noise that comes with high youth unemployment numbers, the ubiquity of retrenchments and the paucity of genuine commercial platforms for creatives.
In 44 BC, The Ides Of March became famous as the date of the assassination of Julius Caesar,making it a turning point in Roman history. It’s the theme for this Saturday’s Zulluminati rap battles.
“It’s also the day that when all debts must be settled in the Roman Empire, and we have a couple of grudge matches on the card and we’ll be crowning our first champion on the day. So the name was just perfect,” says Zulluminati organiser Pava Gunz.
A name known very well on the battle scene, Pava has proved his worth as a battle kat. His most popular battle could be when he battled Kriss, with his back turned against the rambunctious emcee from Benoni at Scrmables4Money. But Pava, having already organised five Zulluminati events with his team, has realised that the administration side of things is another beast which demands that he face it straight on, if this league is to make an impact in the battle scene.
“Finding sponsors is definitely the biggest challenge, as putting together these events is a financial strain on its own. And sourcing new talent, I believe there’s a multitude of dope rappers in the country, they just don’t wanna show themselves.”
Introducing new acts to the scene is important to Zulluminati. Earlier this year, they put out a poster for the Shoot Yo Shot event, specifically searching for eight unknown emcees. Shoot Yo Shot is Zulluminati’s undercard event to the main. “We try to unearth new talent and give overlooked emcees an opportunity to get their names out there. As the battle events out now are just recycling the same emcees, and that stunts the growth of the culture,” says eMalahleni’s very own.
Leagues such as this one and the likes of Hip Hop 411 are important for South African battle rap. Especially after Scrambles4Money came to a sudden end. A number of kats were anxious that would be the end of battle rap in the country. “We are in the right direction, but still haven’t reached the level I think it can. Even during Scrambles heyday, the hype and buzz was more than this. But we’re growing and that’s all we need right now,” says Pava, speaking with a tone of an OG.
Some tantalising matches for this weekend’s event will be Don V taking on the Vaal’s Willy Wroth; the title match between Cerebro and Kano as well as Fahrenheit versus Osama Bin Chaplin.
“On the main card I have King Zodiac, a relatively unknown emcee but with loads of talent and potential. We gave him a chance at the previous event Backlash, and he grabbed it with both hands.”
The Zulluminati battles are put together by a team, which affords Pava time to still put on his cape and get in the ring. “Got one or two battles line up for this year that will rock the culture, so I will get back in the ring soon…but right now I’m focused on elevating the culture.”