Hip hop is an innate American genre that emerged in the Bronx in the 1970s, later spreading in pretty much every corner of the globe. It reached Africa in the early 1980s and found fertile ground there to grow and thrive. Over the years, many African countries developed their own local flavor of hip-hop, some of them becoming influential themselves – like the Senegalese “MC Solaar” who became one of France’s most popular and influential rappers.

South Africa was one of the countries where hip-hop has become especially popular early in the 1980s. It first took root in Cape Town, spreading to other areas quickly, and often fusing with local genres, giving birth to a series of local varieties. Over the years, hip-hop has become increasingly popular in South Africa and beyond thanks to Africa’s emerging festival scene. Here are some South African hip hop acts that you may not have heard about but deserve recognition for their work.

Black Noise

Black Noise started out as a breakdance crew in the early 1980s in Cape Town, with Emile YX? (Emile Jansen) as one of its founding members. Later in the decade, Black Noise became the pioneer of Cape Town’s “conscious” hip-hop scene. The group was a driving force behind a series of youth development initiatives, organizing various hip hop events, launching albums, DVDs, books, even poetry anthologies.

Black Noise is very much alive today – the group has released a new EP titled “Black Noise Matters” this February to commemorate its three decades of existence.

Die Antwoord

Die Antwoord is one of the better-known South African acts, also coming from Cape Town. The alternative hip hop band, consisting of “Ninja” (Watkin Tudor Jones) and “Yolandi Visser” (Anri du Toit) along with producers HITEK5000 and Lil2Hood, grew out of the South African counterculture movement “zef” that Yolandi described as “you’re poor but you’re fancy. You’re poor but you’re sexy, you’ve got style”.

Since the formation of the band, Die Antwoord released four studio albums (with the fifth on its way), performed at festivals all over the world, and its members were often involved in controversial matters.

Tuks Senganga

Tuks Senganga, born Tumelo Kepadisa, is one of the best-known Motswako performers in South Africa. Motswako is a local subgenre of hip hop consisting of a mix of rap lyrics both in the local Setswana language and English.

Tuks made his debut in 2005 with his solo album “Mafoko a me” that earned him a Best Hip Hop Album Award at the 12th Annual MTN South African Music Awards in 2006. Since then, he released six more studio albums, several videos, and collected several other award nominations.

Tumi Molekane

Tumi Molekane, currently going by the stage name Stogie T, is a South African rapper and poet. He made his debut in 2005 with the song “Trade Winds” recorded with MOOD rapper Main Flow, then released his first album “Music from My Good Eye” in 2006. The album went on to become one of the best South African records of all time.

Until 2012, he was a member of the hip hop ensemble Tumi and the Volume – after it disbanded, he continued with his solo career and collaborations.

Cassper Nyovest

Cassper Nyovest, born Refiloe Maele Phoolo, is one of the most successful South African recording artists. His debut album “Tsholofelo”, released in 2014, was a mix of hip hop, Motswako, Kwaito, Afro-pop, and house, and was certified platinum. Over his career, he collaborated with several international artists like DJ Drama, Casey Veggies, and The Game. On his recent albums, he mostly focused on kwaito but he never forgot his roots, releasing a brand new hip hop track called “Good for That” this year.