After weeks of teasing and promo, Love & Hip Hop South Africa launched last night. 13 more episodes are due to air and the network, MTV Africa and Paramount Pictures, and cast promise a never before seen look into the lives of Da Les, Yanga Chief, Fifi Cooper, Gigi Lamayne, J Molley, Shane Eagle, Nicole “Nikki” Swartz, Money Badoo and Speedsta.
Love & Hip Hop as an International VH1 franchise has been known for the cast’s dramatic antics since its inception in 2011 with Love & Hip Hop New York, and the SA spin-off brought its fair share on its first episode.
The episode focused on relationships between Gigi Lamayne, Money Badoo and Fifi Cooper. While Gigi and Money Badoo seem to have a beautiful relationship, Gigi and Fifi found themselves clashing over some words exchanged in songs some years ago. They hinted at being pitted against each other by their previous label, presumably Ambitiouz Entertainment (they didn’t mention the name).
Da Les and Speedsta’s brotherhood is strong as they meet up in Les’ studio, share some laughs and Speedsta gets to play Les a No Comply song.
A lot has been said about the South African spin-off of Love & Hip Hop. When it was announced in January, it was met with mixed reactions. The most prevalent notion was that rappers turn to reality TV when they fall off. As J. Cole rapped on ‘1985’, “Just remember what I told you when your shit flop/ In five years you gon' be on Love & Hip-Hop, nigga.” That quote was flying around that day.
But the cast of Love & Hip Hop South Africa see things differently. Where everyone else sees shame, they see an opportunity for Hip-Hop to get a platform on a reputable international franchise and network. The cast spoke during the show's premiere at the Paramount Pictures headquarters in Bryanston. Speedsta was the only cast member who was absent during the event.
Below is what everyone had to say about becoming a part of Love & Hip Hop South Africa:
Yanga Chief, who was the most unexpected cast member, feels the show offers an opportunity for him to shine the light on not just his backstory but the Xhosa rap scene as a whole.
“I’ve built my brand based on amazing appearances on great songs,” he said, “but people haven’t been able to see exactly where I come from and what my come-up is. It would still be on-brand if I ended up on SABC. But the same way, my first performance was in front of 10, 000 people next to AKA, my first time on TV is on MTV Base / Paramount.
“And that message is important to me, it’s something I need to instill in the Xhosa rap culture. I stand here as a Xhosa rap culture guy and I’m pushing that forward so for me it’s always important to represent that side of me because people didn’t get a chance to see that before I won these awards and did everything I’m doing right now. Right now, this part of my career is to showcase where I come from and the amazing Xhosa talent that exists in this country that is doing so amazing.”
Da Les sees it as an opportunity to impart the knowledge he’s gained about the game in his eventful career since his days as a Jozi member to today as the revered North God.
“Love and Hip Hop is a big brand, I’ve been watching Love and Hip Hop for a very long time. Hopefully I can get to share some of the experiences I’ve had in the music industry to everybody,” he says. “I was here when MTV Base came to South Africa, being part of Jozi, I think we were the only group who won an MTV Base award that year. And MTV and Paramount Pictures are my second home.”
Shane Eagle is another rapper who fans had a hard time understanding his inclusion on the show. His response to anyone talking on Twitter: “I’ll just say, like 50 Cent said, if they hating, then let them hate and watch the money pile up. And as my man Yanga Chief said, if they talking that means we inside.”
He explained his thinking behind joining the show as follows:
“I’m one of the most unpredictable artists in the game, so you gonna have a hard time trying to understand me. For me, music is the vehicle to be able to do a lot of things. I came into the game through TV but I was rapping, music was the beautiful art that carried that through. Music is also the vehicle that’s allowing me now to make music for video games, I just signed a deal with NBA 2K23. I wanna do soundtracks to movies… MARVEL, you know, just dope movies. I feel like this is also a cool platform where my fans can get to see a little bit more of why I became who I became. It’s also an honour to work with Paramount and MTV, they’ve been on my vision board for a long time.”
Money Badoo who will be showcasing not just her music but her fashion and style side, feels the platform is bigger than just her. “We opening up doors and making women comfortable to be in the position that we are in,” she said.
Nicole "Nikki" Swartz
Nikki is all about the art. She mentioned that his bae, Shane Eagle, has been a huge influence to her as a visual artist and says she's looking forward to share a part of that journey with viewers. “I am excited for people to see how art informs Hip-Hop, when it comes to the album arts that we create, the art direction, styling, music video direction,” she said.
Fifi Cooper’s inclusion on the cast raised eyebrows as she has been missing in action for a while in the game. But, Motswako’s First Lady feels it’s important for her to share her story.
“When I left the record label, they took some of my social media pages so I had to start from scratch,” she said. “The only account I have is IG. So I’ve been doing a lot of things; I dropped a 21-track album under Mo Cooper Records and a lot of people don’t know that it was nominated for a lot of award shows.
“As an independent female rapper, it’s super hard. Already when you are under a record label, they put us against each other so for me, it’s blessing to be outchea to show all these youngins that are capable of doing it on their own to see that it’s possible.”
Gigi Lamayne said she will be sharing love on the show which goes beyond romantic love. “I’ve been deliberate lately in my narrative around the young male black child and feeling that he’s consistently being put in a position where he is criminalized and there’s a notion of him being an aggressor rather than a protector. As a young woman of colour, it’s my obligation to protect the man of colour in this world that we live in,” she said.
J Molley appeared more animated than he was the last time he was in the public eye, releasing music consistently and performing all over the country, a journey he documented on the NeverBroke Daily series. He broke down his reasons for being part of Love & Hip Hop South Africa as follows:
“There’s two sides to me. There’s the side that goes off and says he rocks designer. But that’s not really me, I’m actually a genuinely down to earth guy, I come from a poor family, I’m a real person that cares about people’s lives and their mental conditions. I’m not really superficial, it’s a persona that I put on because it gets me more views.”
Asked how he will deal with the backlash and vitriol that comes naturally with the show, J Molley said: “I am scared, I am very scared. I don’t wanna be famous, I don’t like people talking about me. I don’t know why I did this, but I did it. I don’t think I will watch this show while it’s airing, I will watch it four months later because I don’t wanna see the heat and everything.” On how he will deal with the reunion if he hasn’t watched the show, he said, “It will be like every weekend, every weekend I get drunk and don’t remember what I did, someone says you did this and I’m like oh I did that?”
So, is Love & Hip Hop South Africa a W or L for South African Hip-Hop? We’ll leave that to you to decide.
Catch all the Hip-Hop beef, the music industry ins and outs and get to know your favourite South African Hip-Hop artists a little better on Love & Hip Hop SA on MTV (DStv Channel 130), Mondays at 21:30 CAT.
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