South African hip hop has evolved a lot in the past years. So much so that it started gaining international recognition and South African artists started getting international collaborations. With this evolution came exciting hip hop artists and rappers such as Nasty C, Emtee and A-Reece.
Among the artists coming up behind them is Zolani G. Zolani has been a force to be reckoned with in the underground hip-hop scene. He has been working harder than most rappers and his work is evident is the music he puts out.
Born Zolani Gwala in a small township called Endendale in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, Zolani was raised by his grandmother after his mom passed away when he was just 7 years old.
From an early age, he showed great interest in the arts, as he went on to do poetry and a few years later, won a high school competition with his then group, Stringpuppets. Zolani then went on to start a hip-hop band called SugarWater.
In 2017, Zolani released a song titled “Changes”, which was number 1 for four consecutive weeks on local radio station UFM. The following year, he was ranked number 2 on 95 Agency’s ‘Top 10 rappers In PMB’. In 2020, one of the most respected lyricists and rappers in South Africa, Zakwe, hand-picked Zolani G to perform at the KZN Lockdown Cyphers.
He then released a song titled “Isondo” and it was number one on KZN’s best FM radio station, Igagasi FM and it debuted on #4 on The Element Top 20 at Massiv Metro.
In 2021 he headlined a one-man hip-hop show called ‘Music at Sunset’ with a live band to rave reviews, and one of his greatest achievements is representing South Africa in a continental competition called ‘Take Back The Mic’.
In 2022 he has already done wonders by being a semi-finalist on Rap iFact’s ‘Hood VS Hood’ competition. Zolani G is no doubt one of the next big stars on the come up in South African hip-hop. Having worked with one of best MCs in KZN, Deekaydidit in 2021, he is solidified his place in hip-hop and gaining a lot of respect for his deliveries and versatility.
Over the years, he has worked with a lot of well-respected producers and artists including Elemeticsoul, Fnote, Petunia M, Muvo De Icon, DJ Quality, Quelonke, Noreasonmonday, JoeDaMc, Sphumbar, DJ Clasa, Holly Rey, Touch of Soul and of course, Deekaydidit.
Deekaydidit has described him as a “super talented gent, very smart as well. He’s a joy to work with in studio and always has input that could take the project to the next level. He knows he’s the guy he thinks he is“, while Fnote says, “Zolani is a dope lyricist, one of his strongest points is story telling, he’s a great story teller and his performance is 10/10. He is a great performer who knows how to move the crowd”.
The competitions and battles he has taken part in have also shaped him into the artist and person he is today. He has taken something from each competitor and collaborator to ensure his own personal and musical growth. He is one of those few people who constantly questions their ability and challenges himself to do better than before.
He has said that even when recording, he could end up doing about 50 takes because he is not easily convinced that the last take was good enough. I think that’s one of the reasons he releases quality music all the time.
Zolani G is currently working on a project that is not yet titled and the release date is not confirmed as of yet, but we can expect a banger project from this year.
Words by Mxolisi Mkhize