The most profound thing about the Verse of the Year Awards that took place in Johannesburg last week was this: a South African hip hop veteran took an online idea and brought it to fruition IRL.
In a basement establishment owned by two more hip hop veterans, established artists and those on the come-up congregated to see who would be crowned, in effect, the lyricist of 2017.
The awards are an extension of Verse of the Month, which is presented by Stogie T - or the artist formerly known as Tumi Molekane - on the Slikour On Life website. The story goes that StogieT used to head over to Twitter to wax lyrical about his favourite verses from other artists.
Then he partnered with Siya “Slikour” Metane to create videos explaining his choices. That became Verse of the Month and now, for the first time ever, one of those 12 chosen verses was named the best one of the year.
To be clear: these award winners are strictly decided on by Stogie T. On one hand, it’s a welcome alternative from the South African Hip Hop Awards (Sahhas) which has faceless judges who somehow seem to not rate women in hip hop. More on that later. But on the other hand, many working rappers have said it’s just plain weird to heap so much weight on one person’s opinion.
The artists who were honoured at these awards included the likes of Maraza, Maggz, YoungstaCPT, A-Reece, Ginger Trill (who was awarded the No 1 spot as having the verse of the year, according to Stogie T) as well as Black Thought.
Stogie gave Thought a nod for his verse on Ng’yekeleni, on which he is featured by Cassper Nyovest. The issue with having one person tell us his opinion in an awards show is that you can’t dispute it. It’s his opinion. But I did find it strange that this American appeared on a track by a South African rapper. But then again, there was that strange encounter between Stogie and Cassper at the Sahhas, so I guess that’s that.
Another strange thing was that in all 12 verses, there wasn’t one which was by a woman. Consider this: all the awards presenters were chosen by Stogie T. In that list of presenters, there were the likes of Miss Nthabi, Rouge and even poet/author, Nova. Yet in the actual list of contenders for Verse of the Year, there were no women.
To be clear: I don’t believe a woman should be put in a certain position simply because she is a woman, but I can think of at least three Rouge verses that were worthy of making that list. But it’s not the Helen awards.
Before she presented, Rouge talked tough about how, in 2018, the women were coming through and they would be represented on this list. But how can she be sure if there’s no judging panel and it’s strictly based on one person’s taste?
A-Reece mounted the stage twice. He was given the No 7 spot for Loyal and he also scooped the viewers’ choice award, which means that people on social media named him their favourite.
Ginger Trill’s Nobody (Interlude) was Stogie’s favourite and thus, Verse of the Year. I was pleasantly surprised to see that he was also given a cheque of R5000 directly from Slikour On Life.
Sure, he’s partnered with brands to reach further, but ultimately, he started a platform for all of South African hip hop and it also bears his name so that the ownership stays within the hands of those who actually create. What started as an online show became awards in real life and I look forward to seeing what else comes to life this year.
* See slikouronlife.co.za for details
“It all starts somewhere but don’t forget the culture. This is the culture, these are the lyrics.”