HIP HOP HURRAY: DJ Switch. Photo: Supplied

The soundscape of the last quarter of 2012 included a hip hop song that was released by a DJ. Keep Debiting, which was produced by Al The III and features Tumi and Reason is a single on DJ Fanatic’s upcoming compilation. But can a DJ really be seen as an artist, asks Helen Herimbi

For aeons South African house DJs have released compilations of inter-national, and later, local tracks that moved the masses. But seeing that The God Emcee, Rakim Allah, declared that “MC means Move the Crowd” it’s only fitting that South African hip hop has jumped on the already massive international bandwagon. In recent times, the likes of DJ Fanatic, DJ Switch, Capital and most surpri-singly, Tibz (who you may know as AKA’s manager and the brains behind All Love Sundays) have commissioned rappers to move the crowds on songs that will appear on the DJs’ musical projects.

“As a DJ,” starts Fanatic – whose real name is Thabiso Maphutse – “you don’t just want to be known as a club DJ always playing at Icon or Taboo or Latinova. You want to be taken seriously as an artist.

“Deejaying has been turned into a huge craft and career and not just a pastime and it’s up to us to think outside the box and improve our craft and our brands.”

If Tebello “Tibz” Motsoane aligning a song like Good Times Back (featuring PRO and Maggz) – off the upcoming All Love Album – with the Miller hops beverage is any indication, brands are to be taken into consideration when it comes to these hip hop DJs.

“Hip hop artists are becoming recognised by bigger and better brands,” says Fanatic. “Brands that want to be associated with hip hop and artists such as AKA and Khuli Chana have taken all of that to new heights.”

Speaking of these artists, Tumi “DJ Dimples” Mobi says that “hip hop DJs play popular South African songs. HHP, AKA and Khuli have done well in that regard. Now as South African DJs, we say we are going to make club songs because we actually play in the clubs and we are also pushing personal brands.”

Dimples has commissioned George Avakian (who features on Toast) and Anatii (on the infectious The Way, featuring Maggz and Anatii) to produce the songs “just as singles because I am waiting to see if there is a demand for a project even though a mixtape is not something I am looking at doing right now. I’ll leave the producers to producing and stick to being a DJ.”

Lesego “DJ Speedsta” Nkaiseng has enlisted the likes of Psyfo to produce songs featuring Cassper Nyovest and other jams but is learning how to make beats that will be included in his next mixtape set to be released by year-end.

“It’s good hip hop DJs are coming out with compilations,” says Sipho “Psyfo” Ngwenya, “but I wonder how many of them are doing it for the right reasons. Most DJs are the same dudes who were scared to play local content. Now this compilation thing has become another avenue. House DJs have been doing it for a while. I have no problem with it as long as everyone is being credited for their work.” So far, it seems that while the songs carry the names of the DJs, the producers are credited according to agreed upon terms. Here’s hoping more South African songs make it on to the club playlist from now on.