Guest Opinion: Dear Brothers in SA Hip Hop

By Ntsiki Mazwai (@NtsikiMazwai)

A queen of South African Hip Hop pens a letter to the men of the industry, blasting them for being misogynists who have bullied women in the industry into silence and not given credit to the many women who have worked to build the industry whether as emcees, DJs, organisers and fashion trend setters. She says that without this ability to bring the women with them as other genres, such as Kwaito, have done South African Hip Hop misses out on its full potential as many continue to leave the genre for Spoken Word or simply walk away.

Dear Brothers in SA Hip-Hop,

This letter is long overdue.

I write this letter as one of the women in Hip Hop. You have conveniently told SA that we don’t exist. Truth is, we do exist and there are many of us. Some of us are even doper than our male counterparts and you know it.I want to alert you of your sickness of hating, objectifying and not acknowledging the female spirit which has helped in the building of South African Hip Hop.

Owing to the fact that we intimidate you, you have boxed ‘women in Hip Hop’ as your back up vocalists or twerkers. You do not see women as your equals. The female emcees whom you are willing to ‘co-sign’ tend to be the ones who are tomboys, crude or overly sexual. The tomboy makes you feel comfortable because she is ‘one of the boys’ and she is trying emulate you.The crude or overtly sexual one is about satisfying your own needs and has nothing to do with what she is saying as an emcee.

King Flabba just died and yet again I am faced with the Hip Hop community I grew up with; and got groomed by…and I feel sick.

I feel sick because we all know each other and grew Hip Hop together. We, the women in Hip Hop, walked a long and tiresome journey WITH you.

We were there when Hip Hop wasn’t taken seriously and we ended up hosting Hip Hop sessions in the kasis just to feed the talent.

I have hosted Splash Jam, Black Sunday, 1808, Streetpop and many other sessions which were instrumental in the development of YOUR journey Mrapper.

I have seen MANY  female emcees perform at these sessions besides the hostility, who STILL managed to kill it.

Back To The City, the biggest Hip Hop festival in South Africa was created by a woman, Dominique Soma. Don’t you think you should give credit to the woman who created this platform which now services the whole country?

Of my generation, at least 80% of you have worked with Nothende. When does she qualify to be a woman in Hip Hop? Or is she only there for your ‘hooks?’ lol! The self importance is actually quite funny. Some of you now have day jobs and her ‘hooks’ are still sustaining her funny.

Most of you know that, given the same support and hype, Qba can out-rap what you have labelled as Hip Hop royalty in this country. Funny that Qba hasn’t been a Hip Hop ‘it’ girl when her voice and style is so unique. Most of you can’t feature her because she’ll expose the fact that she’s the stronger rapper.Skwatta Kamp denied Relo was a member (they kept insisting that she was a feature.) This is despite the fact that the only songs that sold were there ones ‘featuring Relo.’I was happy when Relo left and her solo album blew up,meanwhile their work without Relo bummed out.

The same happened with ‘uRongo’. ‘uRongo’ is originally a Hip Hop track.When it came out there was a buzz about asking ‘are we neglecting female emcees?’ Then there was silence. At which point, House producers did a remix and it ended up being the biggest selling song that year.

This was also the point where I gave you an excuse to denounce me from Hip Hop, because I had ‘sold out.’ Funny, some of your favourite rappers followed my lead (of playing with other genres) but retained their rapper/lyricist title.

I know many female rappers/lyricists which have never been given the same platform; and ‘co-sign’ you give to one another.

Kwaito was HUGE in this country. It’s not that they made better music than you. It’s that Kwaito knew how to recognise and put forward their females. There was always a woman in the forefront. The Kwaito performance had a balance of male and female energy-making it easier for the audience to connect. As things stand, SA Hip Hop is VERY masculine, it is a special feeling for the boys.

All these years when you saw us at gigs, it’s not because we were your groupies. It’s because we loved Hip Hop so much that even after being denied the microphone, we would come to the gigs anyways. You are artists, you know the trauma of being denied the stage. The pain of being denied something you adore -your rhymes. Since we’ve been pushing this whole rap and flow game we have carried that feeling with us for over a decade.

I noticed at the last awards where Hip Hop was very well represented, but it was nonetheless disappointing. Firstly,, you made no impact. Secondly, the new skul didn’t give you credit.Do you know where they learnt that style from? That style of not giving due credit? That thing where you act like you arrived with no wind behind you.They learnt that thing from YOU. Because you never recognised your female counterparts who helped build this SA Hip Hop.

I think that most women in Hip Hop have reached a point where they don’t give AF anymore. We no longer need to be affirmed by you to know that we are the Sistas in Hip Hop.

I was just writing you a letter to let you know that Hip Hop will never blow up without its female counterparts being acknowledged. And I guess I just wanted to bring attention to your sickness -basically you hate women. You are misogynists.

Women in Hip Hop have contributed significantly to this movement. Be it on the mic (Qba, Khanyi Mavi, WisdomTeeth, Phoenix, Nthabi, Miss Supa, Goddessa), organising hip hop gigs (Dom, Nosisi Xoliswa, Heds on the Rise, Sistaz, Streetqueen) or street fashion (Sista Thandeka). We have female Hip Hop DJs (SistaMatic, Miss Cosmos). Hell we even had a female beatboxer (Nikki, who used to kill all the boys!)

There are many other names I will never know because you’ve bullied us into believing we were never good enough to be called Hip Hop andso some have retreated to Spoken Word while others  have simply walked away.

We are the women behind HHP, Amu, Prokid, Skwatta Kamp, Mr Selwyn, Hidden Force, Pitch Black Afro, Morafe and many more who came after. We were there when cats were building Hip Hop and we are still there building WITH you.

Our Hip Hop industry has manifested into something that cannot be respected because it shows no respect for women.

Kind regards,

A sister who speaks for the silenced voices of the MANY women in SA Hip Hop

  1. This is a great piece, thanks for the enlightenment. I’ll be honest when I read it I thought,”here we go again, angry black females! Why cant you compete on the same stage if you so hot?”.. Then i remembered that I too am a woman in my industry suffering from the same marginalisation. Its not that easy to snatch the throne if I try to do it alone. I will be honest I do not know a single female rapper in South Africa by name. I had no idea B2TC was founded by a woman, that was a jaw dropper. I think there is not enough education- speaking on my part- about female emcees. We also lack role models that are anything other than overly sexual and tomboyish, locally and internationally. Lauren needs to come back. The game needs Floetry. Nicki needs to spit more songs like “crying game and pills and potions”. I am here to stand in solidarity with girls that have bars in SA, sign me up. Then you hip hop girls can come to the boardrooms with us!

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