The days of radio, television and publication media reaffirming your popularity or your arrival status have passed courtesy of a new generation of artist that has ambitions of raising the flag outside the country.
I can go as far back as Skwatta Kamp when they were nominated for Best International Act at the Source Awards, but that’s before a lot of y’alls time so maybe let's start with recent activities like Khuli Chana, AKA, Emtee and Cassper Nyovest being nominated in some prestigious international award ceremonies. That’s all great, but I have ten examples (in no particular order) where artists have had a bigger hunger for shifting the bar in what success means in the SA Hip Hop scene. I'll start with the first five:
1. Cassper Nyovest
When you think about the most consistent rapper to collaborate with international artists, Cassper Nyovest comes to mind. It's fair to say that Cassper Nyovest has worked with a range of the most mainstream, underground, and conscious artists. It started with Casey Veggies and then Talib Kweli, Talib even released a single featuring Cassper Nyovest. Then, we had Ghetto which featured Dj Drama on the video, followed by collaborations with D’Banj and The Game. Just when you thought he was done, he visited the UK's Tim Westwood and then America's Sway In The Morning. It was only over a week ago when he was posting pictures of himself performing in Germany. In the conversations I’ve had with him he seems to have his eyes set on living in the States for a few months to see if anything pops off. Well, he has built everything he has from the ground up, what can’t he do?
Ghetto featuring DJ Drama & Anatii
If Cassper is the western king of collaborations then AKA is the African king of collaborations. His sophomore album, Levels, set the pace with features from Sarkodie and Burna Boy. This was followed by features with artists like Ice Prince, Wizkid, Diamond Platinumz, Don Jazzy, Wande Coal, MI Abaga and recently Patoranking. He's also frequented Nigeria a couple of times and was there at the height of the xenophobic attacks in South Africa. During his trip, he stood up for South Africans against xenophobia to let our brothers from the other side know these were isolated issues and not a South African youth stand. Beyond Africa, AKA has also had some standout performances on Tim Westwood and Sway In The Morning. The reason for less international features from him is his stating that he would rather work with African artists than collaborate with international folk.
Special Fi Mi with Patoranking
Firstly, Tumi is an international superstar, all you need to do is check his gram. He brags different, his goals aren’t the same as the average rapper. In fact, while everyone is trying to break overseas, Tumi is probably trying to be more of a force locally. So check the repertoire, never ever, ever ask Tumi to freestyle or battle you 'cause he does this for money and not just rands but euros and dollars. Secondly, Tumi is normally invited to tour and feature on the Chinese Man projects, an international group from France. The lesson learned from this is that even lyricists can break internationally if you're really good.
A throwback to IDOMA ft Ziyon
Anatii has been having a ball with international artists, not only has he been making music with them but he's also become the host with the most. If you scroll through his instagram you’ll find Erykah Badu in his kitchen making them breakfast. In music though, he dropped his first international collaboration with Dj Khaled for the single Bananaz. He disappeared for a while and then returned with pictures of himself on the gram with people like Chris Brown and Omarion. A few weeks later he released his debut album along with the first single featured Omarion. As if that wasn’t enough, he invited Omarion to South Africa for his ARTIIFACT tour which doubled up as an album launch. They’ve also shot a video in Durban for the single on Anatii’s album. It doesn’t seem like Anatii is going to stop exploring the international realm and the more he does, the higher the bar goes locally.
#BalconyInterview with Anatii and he tells us how he does it
5. Mabala Noise
Mabala Noise came in the industry as a solution for artist's creative needs. Amidst all the controversy with Juluis Malema calling for an investigation into their management, they’ve made some interesting strides. A few months ago Riky told me about a collaboration with an international artist, and since nothing has materialised as yet, I wont harp on that. The first official Mabala Noise announcement was a feature and a video with Tyga for their artist DuBoiz. Nothing has been released to date but they sent some cool pictures from the video shoot. The big question on social media was who is DuBoiz, which goes to show that you don’t have to have a name to make the right connections, you might just need the right backing. Last week, Mabala Noise dropped a post asking people to guess where their next international destination was. They asked people to guess whether it's New York, London, Tokyo or Miami and it turns out the answer was Miami. You can now catch them at the Revolt Music Conference.