The African continent has a rich and diverse musical landscape, and the world of hip-hop is no exception. On the 11th of August, hip-Hop as a genre marked its 50th anniversary, and over the years of the genre’s invention, re-invention, and evolution, African rappers have carved out a distinct identity in the global rap scene, blending their unique cultural backgrounds with the genre’s rhythmic beats, intricate wordplay, punchlines, compelling storytelling, and powerful lyricism.
This article explores the top 10 best rappers in Africa, who have not only influenced the local music scene but have also left a lasting impact on the genre globally.
1. Sarkodie (Ghana)
‘’What else, obidipondi’’ is the popular tagline from the legendary Ghanaian rapper – Sarkodie, born Micheal Owusu Addo. The history of hip-hop will forever remain incomplete without mentioning him. Sarkodie is a true trailblazer in African hip-hop. Known for his intricate wordplay and socially conscious lyrics, he has gained a massive following both on the continent and beyond. His music often addresses issues like poverty, politics, and identity, resonating with listeners across borders. One amazing thing about him is the way he flows in his native language Twi.
2. M.I Abaga (Nigeria)
In the track “Number 1” by M.I Abaga, when Nigerian Afropop/Highlife artiste Flavour sings “African rapper number 1 yio, M.I microphone magician o, Everybody puta nu ka anyi tewu ya tewu ya,” he’s not engaging in hype or just boosting M.I’s ego; he’s simply speaking the truth.
Born Jude Abaga, M.I, often referred to as the “Chairman” of Nigerian rap, is celebrated for his intricate storytelling and thought-provoking lyricism. He’s been instrumental in the growth of the Nigerian rap scene and has collaborated with several international artistes like Nas, bridging the gap between African and global hip-hop.
3. Nasty C (South Africa)
Nasty C, who has garnered endorsements from notable figures such as 50 Cent and DJ Whoo Kid, as well as collaborations with T.I. and ASAP Ferg, has firmly established himself as one of Africa’s premier rappers at a remarkably young age. His seamless flow, coupled with his adeptness at creating relatable stories, has not only earned him acclaim within the continent but also propelled him to international prominence. Renowned for his prowess, he stands as a formidable rapper capable of holding his own against artistes worldwide.
4. Cassper Nyovest (South Africa)
Cassper Nyovest has gained widespread recognition for his dynamic stage presence, marked by high-energy performances that leave audiences enthralled. His ability to captivate listeners is further exemplified by his knack for crafting irresistibly catchy tracks that effortlessly weave into the fabric of South African hip-hop. As a pivotal figure in the genre’s evolution, Cassper’s contributions extend beyond his musical prowess; he has played a substantial role in elevating South African hip-hop to a broader audience, effectively becoming a driving force in its popularization.
5. Olamide (Nigeria)
Born Olamide Gbenga Adedeji, also known as “Baddo”, Olamide requires little to no introduction. He is one of Nigeria’s most successful rappers. No wonder he channeled Burna Boy’s line on Sungba which says; “My Problem is I too sabi” when he delivered his lines on ‘Eyan Mayweather’. Baddo is a Nigerian rapper who seamlessly blends hip-hop with elements of Afrobeats.
Olamide’s flow and punchlines burn so brightly your optician would advise against direct observation. He’s known for his catchy hooks and vibrant performances. Olamide’s music often reflects the urban culture and street life of Nigeria. He just released his 10th studio album – ‘Unruly’.
6. Stogie T (South Africa)
Born Tumi Molekane, with the stage name Stogie T, is a lyrical genius from South Africa. He’s known for his complex rhyme schemes and versatile delivery, effortlessly switching between English and vernacular languages. Stogie T’s introspective and socially conscious themes set him apart.
7. M.anifest (Ghana)
M.anifest is celebrated for his poetic lyricism and his ability to seamlessly blend traditional Ghanaian sounds with modern hip-hop beats. He addresses social and political issues through his music while also highlighting the beauty of his heritage. He has been active since 2005 and has won many awards.
8. Phyno (Nigeria)
Born Chibuzor Nelson Azubuike, popularly known as Phyno is one of Nigeria’s top indigenous rappers. Phyno’s unique style fuses Igbo culture with hip-hop, creating a sound that resonates with a broad audience. His impressive wordplay and ability to flow effortlessly in multiple languages have earned him a spot among Africa’s top rappers.
9. AKA (South Africa)
The late AKA, a revered South African rapper, profoundly influenced the hip-hop landscape with his music and artistry. Known for his charismatic stage presence and magnetic performances, he had a unique ability to captivate audiences with his dynamic energy and engaging shows. Beyond his stage persona, his talent was evident in his creation of unforgettable tracks that deeply resonated with fans, showcasing his mastery in crafting both thought-provoking lyrics and infectious beats that became synonymous with his name. As a pivotal figure in the South African hip-hop scene, AKA’s influence stretched far beyond his music, leaving an enduring legacy that significantly contributed to shaping the genre’s trajectory and impact.
10. Kwesta (South Africa)
Kwesta‘s mastery of raw storytelling and introspective lyricism has cultivated an unwavering fanbase drawn to his candid narratives. His music not only delves into personal struggles but also tackles pressing social issues, establishing him as both a resonant voice for the people and a highly esteemed figure in the realm of African hip-hop. Through his willingness to share vulnerabilities and confront societal injustices, Kwesta has transcended the role of an artiste, becoming a beacon of authenticity and advocacy whose influence extends far beyond the bounds of his music.
The African hip-hop scene continues to thrive and evolve, producing a diverse array of talented artistes who have left an impact on the genre. From socially conscious lyricists to versatile storytellers, these top 10 rappers in Africa showcase the continent’s rich musical heritage and its ability to contribute meaningfully to the global hip-hop landscape.
As these artistes continue to create, collaborate, and innovate, they have undoubtedly paved the way for future generations of African rappers to shine even brighter on the international stage.