A pioneer, a brother, a trailblazer, a word wizard of the highest level.
Those are some of the words that have been uttered throughout South Africa since the news of the death of rapper Linda “ProKid” Mkhize broke, sending the country into a sombre mood.
Calling his death another dark cloud descending on the country would be an understatement. The 37-year-old star died after suffering “a severe seizure attack whilst visiting friends,” according to a statement released by the family.
To many, he was a rapper who shaped the hip-hop scene not only in his native township of Soweto but the entire country. To others like fellow rapper Amukhelani ‘Amu’ Tshwane, he was like a brother. Meeting back in 1996, Amu describes him as an eager artist who just wanted to rap.
“He was this kid with a backpack always trying to jump on stage because we had open mics there at Market Street. That’s when I took a liking to him,” said Amu.
“In the early 2000s, I got to work on his album, producing a couple of tracks when he was signed to Gallo. We became close friends.” He desribed Pro as a rare breed, a person who never allowed fame to go to his head.
“Not a lot of people rise to fame without really changing but he was an exception. He was this kid who just rapped, who wanted to represent his home town, respect the craft and the art of hip-hop,” he said.
Commenting on the fact that many Tweets condemned people’s tributes to the late star, saying that South Africa has a bad tendency to celebrate its legends only once they’re gone, he told The Sunday Independent: “Personally, I think from the culture side, he was always celebrated. Pro was one of the best,” he said.
Amu said the one way to sustain his memory was by keeping his music alive.
“It is not like he was out there trying to put on an act or be a politician. All he wanted to do was be a rapper and if we can embrace that and keep that fire burning, we would have done him justice,” he said.
Musician Kabomo Simphiwe Vilakazi has also paid tribute to the star, reminiscing on the first time he heard Pro on stage. He said at the peak of Skwatta Kamp’s success, they would throw a gig in a different township.
At the time he was the late Flabba’s manager and producer who was part of Skwatta Kamp. He recalled one of Skwatta’s shows in Tembisa where he and Flabba were stuck in traffic, trying to get into the stadium.
“We could hear the goings on from the outside though. We then heard the mc introduce a new artist I had never heard of called Prokid. Flabba then turned to me and said, ‘You need to hear this dude’. Flabba being the prolific emcee that he was, had very high standards and was not easily impressed. So hearing the excitement in his voice made me even more curious about this new rapper called Prokid,” he said.
Vilakazi said Prokid jumped on the stage backed by his friend Maggs and immediately started doing a hook to one of his songs called Soweto.
“I turned to Flabba and said, ‘Is this dude serious? Is he going to do a song called Soweto to a packed stadium in Thembisa?’ If you’ve been raised in any township in SA, you know the pride that comes with it. We are not keen on talking about the greatness of another hood when we are deep in the middle of our own hood. So what Prokid was attempting to do was a serious case of career suicide before he even had a career. As expected, the crowd booed him. Then Prokid started spitting. With producer Omen on the ones and twos. Omen knew exactly when to pull the beat back when Prokid would drop a punchline. Prokid owned every one of those Thembisa fans in that stadium with nothing but a mic in his hand. I had heard people rhyme in Zulu before, but never with such cadence, flow, timing, wit and vigour. It was a display of word wizardry of the highest level.
By the time he hit the third minute of his song, the entire stadium was screaming ‘SOWETO!’ like they were ready to relocate. If that ain’t magic, I don’t know what is,” he said.
The star leaves behind his wife Ayanda and his three-year-old daughter.
A memorial service will take place on Thursday in Soweto and the artist will be laid to rest later in the week.
Movers and shakers who died young
Earlier this year, three of Mzansi’s media personalities, Akhumzi Jezile, Siyasanga Kobese and Thobani Mseleni, plunged South Africa into mourning following their untimely deaths all at the same time.
The three youngsters, whose careers were on the rise, were laid to rest following their tragic death in a car accident in the Eastern Cape.
The trio died on the morning of April 28 along with two others when their car collided with another vehicle near Queenstown.
Akhumzi was a YoTV child star and producer for Urban Brew.
Siyasanga was a singer and actress best known as Siphokazi in Mzansi Magic’s soap opera, 'Zabalaza'.
Thobani was also an actor who had featured in the controversial film, 'Inxeba' ('The Wound'), as Babalo.