Sipho Has The Gift But Will It Bring Success?

There’s no doubt that Sipho The Gift can rap but in an industry where success isn’t determined by talent, is it enough? Sthembelo Dlamini breaks down Sipho’s first release after a long hiatus.



It’s been 3 years since K.O. dropped Cara Cara and changed the landscape of South African mainstream hip-hop forever, by taking loyal house and kwaito fans and converting them into hip-hop heads. Cassper Nyovest released his most popular song to date, Doc Shebeleza, in 2014 as well, proving to South Africa that you don’t need to be a lyrical genius to be the ‘best rapper’ on the continent. 2014 was the year a lot of kids actually first started rapping and realizing that a couple of mixtapes on Kasi MP3 could get you guest lists to some dope parties and a couple hundred followers on Facebook, and the ones who suffered the most were the cats who had been taking their craft a bit more seriously.


With hip-hop being firmly at the top of every chart worth paying attention to in 2017, it begs the question… Who has Next? Do people still care? Does the general population really want another struggle rapper on their radio in 2017? I feel like we got through a wave of struggle rappers in the ’14 and ’15 season and now everyone we listen to on MTV should be at least a billionaire by now. You see, I thought about these things when I went through Sipho the Gift’s mixtape Kinstugi for the first time. Let’s put the overall theme of the tape (something about Japanese what-what…) aside for a second and think about a couple of things.


My brother Ndi is my plug for all of the new music in my life. Lil Pump, Lil Peep, Lil Xan, Lil Uzi etc. I found out about all of them and other Soundcloud rappers through him. When I asked him if he knew who Sipho the Gift was, however, he was stumped.


“You’re telling me you know a guy called Slug Christ but you don’t know the song ‘Phanda More’ with the nigga in a bucket hat, who raps at random strangers in a township about studying and making beats?”


Why is that the case? Sipho is definitely without any doubts a talented rapper (check out how he murdered a remix of Riky Ricks ‘Buy it Out’ if you don’t believe me), but with the rise of super labels backing semi-talented individuals with millions, talent alone doesn’t cut it in this country anymore. I mean how many songs can we listen to where Emtee tells us he came from nothing? How do the truly talented underground rappers of SA emulate the Lil So-and-so’s of the States, and break out of the noise of being a Soundcloud rapper to become a mainstream success when they don’t stand a chance against politicians who have interests in radio and rap? For most, it will never happen. The loyalty to the game is too strong and being an up and coming rapper in your mid-30s is not really as bad as being a puppet for a label, as long as you stay true to yourself. On the other hand, some cats try to change their sound to cater to an A&R guy who has a brand new Macbook Pro from said super label. They are so willing to sell their souls and integrity in order to have their 4 min song on TV just once in their lives. Changing your sound takes loyalists away from what you have taken years to build. Being different is good but being downright weird is not. If you stick to what people know and love you for, then I rate the only thing going against you is time… and the fact that you don’t have a millionaire sponsor.


Now back to the tape, Kintsugi, which is the Japanese practice of repairing broken pottery with precious metals like gold or platinum thus making it more valuable and beautiful that it was before. I get it but I don’t get it.


A couple of years ago I was convinced that The Gift had Next. He was rapping better than pretty much everyone, his beats were decent and he was garnering a decent amount of respect from a lot of prominent blogs. But much like blogs, his hype kinda died out and apart from a feature on Lwansta’s ‘Should’ve stayed at Home’, he’s been quiet for a long time.


The tape is exactly what you’d expect from an artist of his nature, mellow in some parts and hype in others. I’m not particularly fond of both of the tracks co-produced with Yum Yuk as they sort of have a The Creator feel about them, but don’t let that take anything away from a truly stellar body of music that deserves to be heard by many but lacks the talent (financial muscle) to make it on mainstream radio.


Blessed is standard Sipho the Gift quality with its thought-provoking lyrics and liquid-smooth jazzy beats. The Long Way Home is brilliant, kicking off with some spooky howls that remind me of a thriller I watched as a child called Hlala Kwabafileyo. My other favourite track on the tape is New Wave, an obvious attempt at something to attract a new audience with a catchy hook and popular sounding beat. There’s nothing wrong with that, as long as it’s done right and the track sounds dope, which it does.


I encourage you to give Kinstugi a listen. It won’t make you rich, it won’t make Sipho the Gift rich either. It won’t make your skin glow or your teeth whiter, but it’s better for you than whatever is playing on your radio right now in a way that home-cooked food is better than fast food.


2 Responses to “Sipho Has The Gift But Will It Bring Success?”
  1. Concerned Citizen says:

    You guys should start putting the author’s name somewhere on the article. This is some pretty quality work.

  2. Radmin says:

    The Author’s name is in the byline at the top of the page.

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