K.O Mourns The Slow Death of SA Hip Hop

Breaking down the slow decline in the relevance of SA Hip Hop



The golden era of SA Hip Hop, which peaked between 2013 and 2016, seems to many like a thing of the past. The excitement has cooled, the sales have plummeted and no fresh voices are breaking out.

There’s no doubt that for a few years now, the genre and its splashy explosion within the previous decade have plunged into a slump.

The blockbuster hits have dried up and, as House music and its Kwaito flavoured offshoots, Amapiano and Gqom have continued to define the preferred sound in the streets, SA Hip Hop is once more looking like the pariah it was before we saw stadiums being filled out and platinum records being sold.


At best, its losing its place within the mainstream landscape and returning to its genesis as the voice of a small and devoted community. At worst, major labels will likely be taking less risks with rappers in the future if the status quo continues to indicate they simply can’t bring in the revenue anymore.

K.O took to Twitter to share his assessments on the slow decline of SA Hip Hop, throwing the question to his audience on what could possibly underlie the apparent loss of its cultural capital and relevance. In other words why locals just don’t care as much anymore.

He’s been keeping an eye on the trends and as far as the numbers are concerned. When one begins to observe the trends and attends to the metrics that define commercial success by an objective benchmark, the key metrics may indicate that things aren’t looking pretty.

He mentioned the absence of SA Hip Hop on the charts, particularly on digital. Then there are the views. When you look at the music videos on YouTube you will know what we mean.

A case in point, Master KG’s Jerusalema has just surpassed the 50 million mark. It’s a House music song.


And although K.O’s analyses and questions have sparked some debates on Twitter, it would be a mistake to think his views came in the spare of the moment. He’s been concerned about the state of affairs for a hot minute. In an exclusive interview with Quench SA last year, The King of Skhanda shared his take on where the culture is.

“One thing that’s kind of missing is, we are not that big of risk takers as we used to be in terms of style and the music that we are making”, he said.  “We are just sort of tapping into, ‘Okay, this artist has a song that is happening right now, or amapiano is happening right now… How do I make an amapiano song? There’s Gqom happening now so let me do that.”

In 2020, it isn’t just amapiano and gqom that are seeing boosts in their growth. Limpopo is marking territory, as we’ve seen with the successes of Master KG, Makhadzi and Sho Madjozi. They are killing it, and they are doing numbers globally.

In our conversation, K.O had already noted that the lack of innovation and the kind of authenticity that led to the genesis of the Skhanda sound, Motswako, AfroTrap and other styles that sought to reveal Hip Hop as a sound South Africans on a large scale can relate to, is now missing.

“Like, people haven’t been as daring as we used to be. No one is saying, ‘I don’t care what people think but this is what I want and feel could change the game’, and then doing that and breaking the chain. It creates the next revolution of SA Hip Hop. A lack of that has kinda held us back.”

In our next piece on this subject, we will be banging out a detailed analysis on what has happened.

Do you think SA Hip Hop is losing its touch? Hit us up in the comments section below.

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