The complicated legacy of Ambitiouz Entertainment, the label behind the careers of Emtee, Sjava and Blaq Diamond

Miss Pru. Picture: Instagram

Miss Pru. Picture: Instagram

Published Nov 20, 2022


At the heart of “Amenio”, one of the most impactful hip hop collaborations of the past decade, is the unbridled joy of a few black kids realising their dreams are finally coming true.

On it, the genre’s first true superstar female DJ, Miss Pru, plays host to the supremely gifted roster of fresh talent expertly assembled by the newly founded independent record label, Ambitiouz Entertainment.

Emtee, Fifi Cooper, Sjava, A-Reece, B3nchmarq and Saudi all appeared as guests on the single, each maximising their limited screen time to fire off their best lines in a bid to showcase their immense promise on the biggest stage.

They came out of nowhere, like a bolt from the blue.

Emtee was the early star of this new, jubilant clique thanks to his anthemic debut, “Roll Up” and its subsequent remix featuring Wizkid and AKA. He couldn’t have wished for a more glorious come up.

Fifi Cooper, too, was establishing herself as the genre’s top female act thanks to some hit singles and a strong debut album.

But it was the teenage phenomenon, A-Reece, who most purists had their eyes on. He was witty, he was raw and he had a star quality that set him apart from the rest, despite his youth.

He was quickly joined in the label’s ranks by another teenager, rapper and producer Flvme.

Emtee. Picture: Twitter

Quietly finding her feet elsewhere was afropop singer Amanda Black. While the hip hop acts continued to shine off the back of significant investment from the label’s owners, Black exploded onto the scene in the summer of 2016, with her stunning, record-breaking debut album, “Amazulu”.

The album went on to earn her several South African Music Awards (Samas) and Metro FM Music Awards (Metros) as she emerged as the label’s surprise star alongside Emtee. A-Reece released his debut album, “Paradise” around the same time.

Talented afropop vocalist Cici was also waiting in the wings, patiently biding her time for her moment. A lot was going on at the label.

It seems that during this period, the attention to detail required to maintain such a high-level operation slipped through their fingers.

Amid this unprecedented run, the label was rocked by the sudden exit of A-Reece, Flvme, Fifi Cooper and B3nchMarQ in early 2017.

While this was a huge reputational dent in the Ambitiouz armoury, the wheels kept turning. By 2018, Sjava had taken over the mantle as the label’s flagship act as Emtee, beleaguered by various personal problems, including alleged drug abuse, faded in popularity.

Sjava would go on to raise the bar as he won a BET Award for Viewer's Choice Best International Act. He was also hand-picked by rap titan Kendrick Lamar to feature prominently on the Black Panther soundtrack album alongside labelmate, Saudi.

At that point, the label had established a well-earned reputation for its ability to churn out and break artists at will. But its artists’ brief stay at the label left many question marks about the label’s staying power.

Over the coming years, the likes of Gigi Lamayne and Priddy Ugly would sign with and depart the label shortly after. Amanda Black, Emtee and Sjava would also go on to make acrimonious exits from the label.

While the massive success of Blaq Diamond in the years since kept the label going strong, the duo’s departure last year was an ominous sign.

And now, following an announcement by the label’s longest serving artist, Miss Pru, that she too will be departing to forge her own path, it feels like the end of an era.

Pru announced her exit with a statement on social media early last week. “The last seven (7) years with Ambitiouz Entertainment have been an incredible journey,” she said.

“I have evolved so much as an artist and as a person, and none of which would've been possible without the extraordinary support from the team.”

She went on to explain how, in the past couple of months, she took a break from being active in making music to “re-energize and redefine my artistic expression in a way that allows me to give the best I can to my supporters”.

She also credited the label for playing a big role in her career.

“Myself and Ambitiouz Entertainment have amicably consented to part ways and I will forever be grateful for all their hard work and the value they've added to my brand.

“A heartfelt thank you to Mr Mahumapelo, the entire team and label mates .You have been amazing and I couldn't have wished for a better foundation to launch my career,” she concluded.

Rapper and Maskandi musician, Sjava at 'The Real Housewives of Lagos' premiere in Johannesburg on April 7, 2022

Ambitiouz Entertainment is undoubtedly one of the most important record labels of the past decade.

Despite being an upstart independent record label, with a fraction of the resources of the major labels (Sony Music, Universal Music South Africa and Warner Music Africa), Ambitiouz has consistently competed with the majors for market share since it emerged in 2015.

Whatever comes of Ambitiouz Entertainment from here on, their run will go down as the stuff of legends.

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