South Africa’s biggest hip-hop festival returns for its 11th year this Freedom Day (April 27) at Mary Fitzgerald Square in Newtown, Johannesburg. As usual, the lineup is impressive, boasting the cream of the crop of South African hip-hop. From mainstream artists like Cassper Nyovest, Kwesta, and Emtee, to up-and-comers like Priddy Ugly, Stilo Magolide, and Patty Monroe, BTTC 2017 promises to be a jump.
The lineup is a bit overwhelming, so if you aren’t sure what performances to check out, we got you.
1. Cassper Nyovest
Say what you like about Cassper Nyovest, but respect the fact that his stage game is the illest around. Nyovest is light on his feet, has plenty of personality and is so energetic it’s scary. He has the bangers and his loyal fans know each and every single word to them. It’s always a spectacle watching him take control of the audience, especially when he has them chanting ‘Doc Doc Shebeleza’. This time around, he’ll definitely have everyone chanting ‘Tito Mboweni’. Don’t say we didn’t warn ya.
It’ll be such a throwback to watch one of kwaito’s most potent lyricists perform tracks from Mdlwembe, his most iconic album. If you were into kwaito in the early 2000s, then you’ll be sure to catch the Holy Ghost to some of his most well-loved hits like ‘Mdlwembe’, ‘Mzioni’, ‘Ghetto Fabulous’, and ‘Ghetto Scandalous’. Hopefully, he will bring Amu and KB out to perform with him – it would be such a monumental and nostalgic step back in time.
3. Hymphatic Thabz
Another throwback, Hymphatic Thabz’s performance is definitely guaranteed to ruffle some feathers. Thabz is one of the most lyrical rappers to ever come out of South Africa – he packs his bars with as many words as possible, and is a talented wordsmith who makes it all look so easy. His performances will give you a glimpse of what South Africa’s golden era – the mid-2000s – was made of.
4. The Assembly ZA
One of the few remaining boom-bap rap crews in South Africa, The Assembly ZA makes music with energy, and their BTTC 2017 appearance promises to be a breath-taking performance. I’ve never seen them perform, but I can picture them on stage performing songs like ‘Testify’, ‘Boom Bap’ and ‘So Gone’ from their debut EP The Inspection. If you are one of those who are tired of trap, make sure to catch these dudes for those soul samples, crispy drums and raw raps.
5. Priddy Ugly
At last year’s BTTC, Priddy Ugly’s performance was among the festival’s highlights. Priddy Ugly is up there with the likes of Cassper when it comes to his infectious stage presence and high-energy performances. His dance background gives his sets a vibe and aesthetic that puts him in a league of his own. He gyrates to those heavy basslines and eardrum-wracking kicks like he’s dancing for his life. Hopefully, YoungstaCPT will join him for their great collaboration ‘Come To My Kasi’.
6. Stogie T
Now making music with mainstream accessibilities, Stogie T is still one of the most solid lyricists South Africa has ever birthed. He’s been rocking festival stages all around the globe for more than a decade, so BTTC is sure to be a walk in the park for him. T knows how to take control of an audience with captivating stage antics and attention-grabbing flows and bars. I’m getting goose bumps imagining him performing ‘By Any Means’ with Emtee and Yanga.
7. Yugen Blakrok
Yugen’s a potent lyricist – one of the SA hip-hop’s best kept secrets. Just like her labelmate Hymphatic Thabz, her rhymes take time to digest. The music she raps over has a life of its own – multiple layers of creepy pads, deep basslines and fat kicks, which her rhymes glide over superbly. Again, if you are a fan of straight-up beats and rhymes, this is one performance not to miss.
One thing that sets YoungstaCPT apart from most rappers is his articulation; when he raps on stage you can hear every word he spits thanks to a solid delivery that has an unmatchable clarity. Last year, he had the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand – with audiences wild and excited, chanting ‘Kaapstad Naaier’ ecstatically. With plenty of crowd pleasers to choose from, I’m sure this year will be no different.
On his 2016 street classic ‘Denneboom’, the Pretoria rapper spit bars that your favourite can’t even dream of rapping. He’s be sure to have heads screaming “Oh” after every punchline if he performs the song at BTTC, which he probably will. He also has the dancefloor-ready chart-toppers that are sure get the crowd shaking the floor. His performance should be one of the most balanced of the night in Newtown this year.
Another one of the few surviving acolytes, Revivolution’s energy is reminiscent of Wu Tang Clan hard and heavy tone. If you are a fan of dungeon-rap that isn’t about popping bottles or saving the world, make sure to catch their performance. They are great entertainers, not with dance moves or elaborate stage antics, but rather with their synergy, which oozes the spirit of 90s rap that a lot of hip-hop heads certainly miss.
Tickets are selling fast! Grab your BTTC 2017 tickets here for one of the best festivals of the year.