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Back when South African hip hop was burgeoning and one would’ve laughed at the idea of YFM turning into a dubstep station, there was an event called The Tedelex Hip Hop Showdown.
That event was obviously sponsored by the electronics company and held at the Johannesburg Zoo. It was a full day of festivities which included a line-up of some of South Africa’s most exciting hip hop acts at the time. Even kwaito queen Thembi Seete joined Skwatta Kamp on stage.
The point of the performances was for the crowd to crown the best of the best and they would be awarded a cheque from the sponsor. The crowd decided H20 had stood out at the Showdown.
This year, and for the past three years, the Showdown Hip Hop Festival in Soweto has been flying the South African hip hop flag high. The brainchild of rap outfit Teargas, this show will take place in Walter Sisulu Square in Kliptown and will feature some of the most popular acts on the scene at the moment.
While reminiscent of the Hip Hop Showdown of the early naughties in that performances by rappers and sets by DJs are at the core, this Showdown Hip Hop Festival is a little different in that it’s organised by the artists themselves.
“The Showdown Hip Hop Festival was something that we as a band decided on,” says KO of Teargas. “I won’t lie – part of the concept was sparked by the Showdown from back in the day. The problem is after that show many years ago, there was no follow-up.
“The corporates, and even the government, weren’t coming forth trying to sponsor hip hop. In other genres, like jazz and house and even kwaito, they have their own festivals. So we figured as one of the influential bands, as far as hip hop is concerned, we should take charge.”
He reminisces on when Teargas were not the award-winning trio they are today and adds: “You know what I miss? Around this time of the year, when I was younger, I was looking for somewhere to go. Just to welcome the summer, you know? Sure, there’s your (Vetkuk vs) Mahoota’s, but that’s for other people.
“I looked for a hip hop place to go to.” Having started in Soweto and then been hosted by Pretoria hip hop heads for two years, the Showdown Hip Hop Festival is back in Soweto because “people who are rooted in the rural areas and townships show the most support”.
“In fact,” says KO, “those people are the biggest supporters of music in general. They support freely.”
Some of the artists they can support this year include Khuli Chana, Teargas, AKA, Ms Cosmo, Da Les, DJs Sphectacular and Naves, L-Tido, Ifani, Cashtime Fam and, of course, Soweto’s own, PRO.
“As much as we would’ve liked to have the entire hip hop fraternity on the line-up, we are paying for everything out of our own pocket, so we can’t afford to put everyone on,” says KO, “and it’s also called the Showdown because it’s a battle between all of these artists who have had a good run this year.
“It’s a showcase highlighting and wrapping up the year. And we hope that the Showdown will get even bigger and maybe next year we’ll have proper financing.”
• The Showdown Hip Hop Festival takes place in Walter Sisulu Square in Kliptown, Soweto, on October 26. Tickets are R100 at Computicket and R150 at the door.