Cape Town African Swag

(Photo by @ Luke Daniel)

The first time I heard about rapper Youngsta (government name Riyadh Roberts) was during Public Enemy’s tour of Cape Town, in a club awkwardly named @mospheer. Chuck D and Flavor Flav rocked the crowd that night, with a high-energy performance lasting longer than two hours (according to Flavor Flav’s giant clock necklace). In the middle of their set they invited a few local MCs to get on stage and drop a couple of verses. A lanky and charismatic young man with a big grin, introducing himself as Youngsta, stole the show. His warm engagement with the crowd and funny, witty freestyles made him the clear favorite. This guy was going places. The next time I heard of him he was opening for Lil’ Wayne.

Youngsta claims very much to be doing what he calls “straight up Cape Town hip hop” and I have to admit I hadn’t been this excited about a local MC for a long time. But then I checked out this music video, called “Baggy.”

It’s evident in the video that his style is imitation American. (Let’s not even talk about the second rapper on the track.) I get the sense that he is doing this forced, derivative“swag” to appeal to a mainstream audience. Since he is trying to make a career out of his work, can one really blame him? This is what sells, right? I get the feeling that audiences have developed somewhat though (even mainstream). I don’t think sounding American is quite enough to cut it. I also think he is a lot more talented and relevant than he is showing us here.

Some of his work taps into “coloured” cultural politics, such as doing an interview and photo shoot over a Gatsby (a working class Cape Town version of a sub sandwich), and he has a clever, infectious homage to Cape Town, “Salute Ya” (a popular Cape Flats greeting) sampling Afrobeat and giving a shout-out to Cape Town hip hop legend Mr Devious. In his artist biography he blends his brand of self assuredness, with some sense of Afro-centricity: “It seemed as if no one was willing to step up and put the city on the map among the others in Africa — until now.” His Facebook page suggests he is quite embedded in Cape Town’s hip hop scene.

(It would be interesting to see what a veteran Cape Town rapper like Emile of Black Noise — in this video getting a group of coloured school children to at least recognize that they’re African — would make of Youngsta.)

Youngsta prides himself on being somewhat of a mixtape king, having released 22 mixtapes in two years, and he has just released an album, Guyfox. He seems to have a restless energy in him, which makes him all the more interesting to watch. While his talent and output is prolific, I only hope he decides to focus less on the amount of work he puts out, and more on putting out good work. But less swag please.

7 thoughts on “Cape Town African Swag

  1. I respect his artistry a lot. He also knows how to interact well with his audience. But wait until he releases his work with CT-based producer Arsenic…oh my goodness!

  2. I just saw the baggy video today and I have to say I was pretty disappointed.

    I’ve been wondering about the “American” hip hop sound in local music for a long time and I just can’t take those cats seriously at all. Ill skillz is another example..

    Ill Verse? Give me more of that shit!

    A year ago a friend introduced me to a local MC (music wise) called Isaac Mutant. I think he is probably one of our most talented MC’s ever and also relevant as fuck(too relevant?) if you come from the Cape Flats. He doesn’t sound american and doesn’t have flashy videos and… although he did feature on a track by Die Antwoord, he hasn’t made it.

    If youngster’s swagger appeals to a crowd with enough buying power, he’ll have it made… which, I guess, is every pop musician’s dream.

    Let’s see how it plays out.

  3. Atleast we know Youngsta can appeal to the reat of the world, so for those of you who really wanna hear local feel why aren’t ppl showing attention to his mixtapes? Available for download, look out for “Area 51 – Fresh Prince in nike airs vol 2”, and remember what happened to all our local artists? They remained local and most them can’t afford to make more music, so accept that Youngsta a versatile artist, when he did local no-one took note, fuk, our locals don’t even want local anymore if it is they want it all for free…

  4. Youngsta is def. the real deal for Cape Town rap music today. As we all know other rappers or singers who represent South Africa, they have their own style and sound – Roberts is original, there’s something about this boy that makes you wanna gather or listen to one of his tracks (even if you don’t agree with his music…)

    Do we wanna see Youngsta do more for our city/country? Sure! What we wanna see is not just a drop-dead, handsome, swag rapper on our streets, but a young man making a difference.. since government does nothing! (haha…)

    We wanna see the music video’s that are fully Cape Town, we live in one of the most beautiful cities in the world! (c’mon bra) Yes, we know boys wear their jeans Baggy but give me more of who you are Roberts and where you came from… (yes, you are a Wynberg Boy – tell us how school was for you, what growing up was like, your first crush, first time you cried, etc…) Some of us know you from a personal level which is awesome, others don’t know Riyadh Roberts.

    I wish the Best for You and Your Team Youngin’ Muffy keep it up with your epic beats! (haha… you the bomb)

    Let’s Gather Strong and may 2012 be Better & Bigger!

  5. First tym i heard Youngsta was at the wayne concert. Dahm, what an opening… i emailed him d very next day ova facebook,saying what an awesome show he had, what a humble guy…. Salute ya as i ended the mesage. Youngsta just keep repping, coz of you i have faith as a colord rapper that my career will sky rocket soon lol…

    best wishes
    Omnipotent James

  6. Local isn’t selling – the people keeping saying yeah u not local enuf – we have plenty of local but the people won’t support – our people prefer these america style – there’s youngsta with major talent but os people showing him support – we got the 5 elements (jean pierre) , hemelbesem ,ect weres there support its suppose to be us – but we not giving it- so before we judge our artist we judge ourself’s first that’s why our artist goes over to (johannesburg – overseas)

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