Parts of 2017 were obviously quite shitty. But – work with us here – it was also was one hell of an epic year.
The South African creative industry continued its unprecedented global ascent, with a number of our entertainment exports doing big things around the world.
For the music business, it’s the year we had some of the most iconic international collaborations (Kwesta x Wale and Cassper x Black Thought et al), the rise of Gqom along with the inevitable return of House Music.
A South African actress was nominated for an Emmy, a locally produced film has been shortlisted for an Oscar, the biggest stadium in the continent was for the first time sold by a local Hip Hop artist, and lots more.
In terms of the names who were at the forefront of the shifting landscape, we’ve got the usual suspects who’ve continued to sustain and grow their brands, refine their niches, grow their coins and reach new heights.
But, far more interestingly, newer players have us shook.
Remember Babes Wodumo’s smash bop Wololo? It’s amongst a string of some of the biggest Gqom hits the Durban hitmakers have produced over the past three years.
It’s been a long time coming, though. Before blowing up with the release of their debut album Gqom Is The Future, Distruction Boyz had already mastered the art of creating hits who’s popularity functioned outside the radio and TV airplay endorsement and mainstream exposure paradigm. They almost embody authentic street authority.
ALBUM REVIEW: DISCTRUCTION BOYS – GQOM IS THE FUTURE
Their previous hits Uzophuza Amanzi and Shut Up And Groove began as a local craze along the coast of Durban, before taking over the rest of the country, as well elsewhere in the continent. Selling like vetkoeks in winter, Gqom Is The Future is being tipped as the Gqom genre’s biggest success, and indeed one of the fastest selling albums this year across all genres.
THE MICROWAVE BOYS
2017 is the year we finally got it right with the YouTube vlogging thing. Before, it felt a bit out of place. Fine, the likes of Moshe were able to corner that space and graduate to the mainstream. However, it hasn’t been until recently that the diverse richness of our spontaneous creativity really settled on the platform, to an audience that seeks it.
As far as internet sensations go, The Microwave Boys really managed to break in and shake things up.
Consisting of three outspoken youngins flaunting their wit and tackling trending topics with refreshing humor, originality and total madness, the group’s YouTube channel has become one of the fastest growing in the vlogging universe.
Now household names who’ve used their growing platform to dabble in other things – Sipho, Larryngitis and Sphaka have managed to find themselves hosting all kinds of events, frequenting MTV Base and SABC 3’s Trending SA, churning out merchandise and endorsing cool fashion brands who send them a bunch of cool shit to showcase to their audience.
They’ve since amassed over 8 000 subscribers, which is really not shabby at all. The Boys are doing good.
Lady Zamar first shot to fame when she laid sultry vocals on Junior Taurus and Prince Kaybee’s albums, both which came out in 2016. She’s the girl who’s voice on previous House summer faves like Charlotte, Mamelodi, and Cotton Candy captured first the streets of Pretoria, and then the rest of the country.
Then vaguely known, her flawless vocals, poetic lyrics, and her girl next door vibe were enough to propel a few collaborative bangers with both House music DJs to the top of the charts. So many chart-topping bops came out of her work with both DJs that by the time she released her very first solo debut single, her catalog was already brilliant.
2017 was Lady Zamar’s turn. Following the success of her first single Love Is Blind, the songstress unleashed her melodic debut album – King Zamar. In it, she confidently marks her spot within the House music space.
Interestingly, she’s often compared by fans to Bucie as they often refer to her as the new Queen of House vocals.
What’s more, even though her vocal virtuosity is undeniable, she’s pretty hands-on with different aspects of her music. Most notably, she writes all the bangers you love.
He was discovered on The Hustle – VUZU AMP’s Hip Hop reality competition show, back in 2015. And as we’ve now come to understand as somewhat of a fact about these talent search TV shows, it’s seldom about who takes the crown. No shade.
After being eliminated in the Top 5, the 21-year-old rapper waited for no grass to grow. Leveraging the attention he’d been enjoying while in the ‘mansion’, he dropped Way Up, with whom he collaborated with the season’s winner, the insanely talented Bigstar.
It was not long before he was on TV again, this time as a full-time presenter on V-Entertainment and continuity links on V PRIME, while still dropping a few joints here and there, like Top Floor and Julia.
The former track was more experimental for the rapper, who soon ditched boarding the current Hip Hop new cat trap bandwagon for a far more introspective, laid back and substantive sound.
What came next was him pouring him pouring out his soul on his Gold-certified debut album Yellow, in which he distills his personal experiences and perspectives on life, love, culture, and politics in one hell of a pleasant listen.
It might have been too far a risk for any other commercially successful rapper to shun the lucrative trap fad, but Shane Eagle is an independent artist. What he says goes.
Shekhinah snapped this past year.
The 23-year-old Durban bred vocalist first caught the public’s attention when she appeared on Idols South Africa season 8, where she would reach the season’s Top 5. Although many viewers were up in arms about her unexpected elimination, that might have been the best thing to have happened to her career.
She went back to finish her studies at AFDA, which she juggled with a thriving musical career. Despite releasing some of the most memorable hits, such as Back To The Beach, Your Eyes with Black Coffee, and among others Let You Know, she continued to keep a low profile while focusing on books.
Once that was out of the way, Shekhinah came out withholding nothing. She dropped Suited, one of the year’s biggest anthems. She accompanied that with a vintage-themed romantic music video that would go on to become of the most viewed South African music visuals (currently with 2.7 million views).
She finally released her debut album RoseGold, one of our faves for the year. Read our REVIEW for RoseGold
She gained her prominence at one of Durban’s most buzzing lifestyle hangouts Eyadini, where she was often spotted – and randomly snapped – dancing with no care in the world. She soon became a social media obsession, as many of the pictures went viral across online platforms.
Her come up was sealed as soon as she got her Afrotainment co-sign. They are arbiters of the Durban entertainment scene. These days, Zodwa is one of the Most Googled South African Personalities in 2017.
The Bookings department is doing the things – she’s now one of the most sought-after personalities in the Southern African party scene. Leveraging her social media popularity and moving beyond into paving her own nook, she even featured on Culoe De Song’s Rambo music video as an animated character.
Speaking of internet sensations, a friend of mine recently spotted someone who looks like Skolopad by the tills at Checkers. It was the most random thing. While I didn’t see the resemblance, both of us at least know exactly who Skolopad is, and how she looks. Welcome to the internet age.
Along with Zodwa Wabantu, and of course, the Tholukuthi song, Skolopad’s prominence happened almost exclusively online.
Now one of the most talked about personalities, Skolopad first shot to fame when she burst out clad in a very revealing yellow dress on the Metro FM red carpet in February this year. The controversial number quickly made her a trending topic. Soon enough, she was being interviewed everywhere. Her social media followers were blowing up. Things were happening, and quickly.
She works as a nurse during the day, we soon learned, and has been trying to crack the entertainment industry since 2014.
Since then, she’s been consistent with her red carpet shocks, most recently having worn a plastic dress that doubled as boerewors bags at the Feather Awards. Actual boerewors rolls in it, ala Lady Gaga’s iconic and gross meat dress back in the day.
She accessorized the meaty outfit with a hardwood charcoal braai bag. Now known for her unconventional, meme-ready poses on the carpets, this time she treated photographers to a fake faint pose.
Although she has since now promised to stop posting nude pics of herself on the socials when President Jacob Zuma steps down, Skolopad has been missing no opportunities to flaunt some flash.
We are keeping her.
In terms of bragging rights, it doesn’t get better than ‘Emmy nominated actress’. Raising the South African flag very high, 26-year-old actress Thuso Mbedu scored an International Emmy Award nomination for her kickass portrayal of Winnie on Mzansi Magic television series Isithunzi.
While she might have lost the prestigious gong to a British actress, there’s no doubt that the nomination has elevated her profile significantly. For one, everyone around here is doing their ‘Things you must know about’ lists about her.
She’s an Emmy nominated actress. Seriously, WOW!
SAMTHING SOWETO/SUN EL MUSICIAN
House music producer Sun El Musician and Samthing Soweto easily have the biggest hit of 2017.
Akanamali sees the Afro-jazz and neo-soul vocalist team up with the House music producer on the song that became one of the most playlisted, and high-selling surprise hits of the year.
It’s always refreshing when artists who aren’t already certified ‘hot acts’ emerge to snatch everything off the table when no one is looking, and that’s exactly what the two have done.
Who did it for you in 2017?