Chad Da Don believes hip hop is enjoying unprecedented popularity. Pictures: Jack Lestrade and POSH Photography.

Hip hop - and in particular, rap music - is one of the most popular music genres in the world.

South Africa has a rich history in this art form, with many artists having achieved superstar status within our borders, while making a name for themselves overseas.

One such artist staking his place in this highly competitive arena is Chad Da Don, real name Donovan Chad Mansoor. Hailing from Pretoria, the 25-year-old rapper came from an abusive household and used hip-hop as an escape from an early age.

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Chad states that, within the genre, hip hop legend Eminem stands out as one of his big inspirations. “Listening to him growing up just gave me a breakaway in my mind and made me feel okay.”

This ignited a spark in him, motivating him to put his pen to paper and kick-start his passion for rapping. However, life had different plans.

While the music was his passion from a young age, the Hola rapper was also a gifted soccer player. He played for a successful under-14 national South African soccer team.

Furthermore, he also developed a knack for golf. However, the music itch just would not go away. “Eventually I went back to rap because I felt like this is what I need to do.”

This realisation prompted Da Don to start a Christian rap group at the age of 18. After performing at a church conference in front of 7000 people, he decided that it was time for him to move into mainstream hip hop.

In 2014 he cut the song Hola with Cassper Nyovest, aka Mufasa, which led him to signing with Family Tree Records.

He later parted company with Family Tree and released his debut album The Book of Chad under his own record label, DCM Entertainment.

Chad attributes the split to him outgrowing the label. He felt it was time for him to stand on his own two feet as he chased his destiny.

“I paid my dues to Cassper and his label and I felt I wanted to take my career into my own hands.”

One thing that separates Chad from his peers is that he is a white man who specialises in Motswako and uses Tswana in his music.

Weighing in on the current state of the genre, Chad feels the hip hop scene is enjoying unprecedented popularity right now.

He points to the fact that some of South Africa’s biggest names in the genre have various ambassadorship and sponsorship deals with both local and international brands, something we would never have thought possible a few years ago. The standard of music also has Chad enthusing: “I think we can keep up with the whole world right now.”

As a genre, hip hop has never stood still. The music form is constantly evolving, although not always in a manner that older fans appreciate. Take mumble rap.

Mumble rap is what the name suggests: the lyrics are often inaudible gibberish, with the artist relying on the quality of his beats to sell the song.

There has been a constant (and heated) debate between conscious rap and mumble rap fans, and Chad feels the current fan-base are moving away from the lyricism of the previous generation.

“It’s (mumble rap) influenced it (hip hop) in many different ways. You also have the people who believe that conscious rap is rap and mumble rap isn’t rap. But at the end of the day, people are bobbing their heads to mumble rap and they’re not really caring about lyrical content.”

Currently, the rapper is busy with his sophomore album and released his new single Korobela in February, featuring Bonafide Billi.

He explained what the song means.

“Korobela is a love potion everyone knows in the hood. And it’s more like you get possessed by it.”

The video for the song is also dropping soon with his album and a new single scheduled for release in the next couple of months.

Speaking on the production of the new album, the rapper states the music sees a return to the Chad who people first fell in love with, with a heavy Motswako feel.

Where his first album was very lyrical and story-based, this time around it’s all about “good vibes”.