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Kwaito & hip hop culture – an old love affair

As the Lakers aim to reclaim their former glory, Kulani Nkuna explores the beautiful relationship forged between sports and pop culture, making its impact felt all the way from LA to Soweto
Fri, Sep 18, 2020

Ziiimb' indaba madoda eLos Angeles!

While the Phefeni Glamour Boys Kaizer Chiefs, with nothing to show from the season that concluded, are celebrating the appointment of former Bidvest Wits coach Gavin Hunt, the purple and gold are perched on the precipice as they return to the NBA Western Conference Finals after a 10-year hiatus. Seemingly still lodged in the basement of the Los Angeles Lakers' home court, the Staples Centre, the Los Angeles Clippers came in with much pomp and ceremony but left with a whimper as they fell to the Denver Nuggets.

'Way-off P' (Paul George) and would-be contender to the throne, Kawhi Leonard, have made way for 'King James' (Lebron James), 'AD' (Anthony Davis), and 'Playoff Rondo' (Rajon Rondo), the real sterrings of the piece.

Mude mude sbham' senyoni, dubula Lebron James, safa yindlala. Like Kaizer Chiefs, The Lakers have come upon horrid times in a trophy drought run of biblical proportions. It has been half a decade for Amakhosi and 10 for the Laker nation.

Sports fans in the country are known for their fluidity and hearts big enough to invest in the exploits of Orlando Pirates, Barcelona, Lewis Hamilton and Serena Williams. The Lakers are back en vogue, courtesy of King James' intention to walk on the same championship path of Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O'Neal.

South Africa's renewed interest in the NBA stems from a larger history which saw the intersection of popular culture, fashion, music and sports. Los Angeles and by extension, the Lakers are familiar courtesy of Tupac Shakur, Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, Dr Dre and more recently, Kendrick Lamar and The Game.

Growing up, hip hop and kwaito were not antithetical ekasi. The tension between the two genres in the '90s battle to fully capture the minds of the youth is well documented. While some of us were more abom'rapper more than mapantsula, we nonetheless existed in communities largely prone to kwaito and house music. We were hip to the times and got down to TKZee and Jay-Z in the same breath.

As errant youth who frequented taverns, we would drink quarts and listen to hip hop which spoke of the '40s. When Snoop Dogg spoke of "his ol' blue Chucks", we referred to them as All-Stars.

We gathered around the VCR to watch Boyz n the Hood and Menace II Society and watched Bob Mabena almost come to tears when news of Tupac Shakur's death reached our shores on Studio Mix. Later on, Spikiri would channel Snoop Dogg and started chanting "Spikirikiwiki ooh wee", in the same vein Snoop does on Dr Dre's Still D.R.E.

South Africa's renewed interest in the NBA stems from a larger history which saw the intersection of popular culture, fashion, music and sports

At some point, hip hop fashion brand FUBU sponsored Trompies, and Speedy was never judged for his baggy ensemble and towel during the towering heights of Bongo Maffin's fame.

In a sense, amapantsula moved in a similar vein to crip walking rapper Xzibit. Tupac roped us in back in the day when he joined Death Row Records and had us throwing Ws in every throwback picture from the mid-'90s. His influence on youth culture cannot be overstated enough, as his bare-chested posters hung in every mkhukhu, backroom and suburban home. To this day, it is not unusual to hear To Live and Die in L.A. or Picture Me Rollin' blasting from a GTI.

This affinity to the Lakers is merely a rekindling of an age-old affair that started in the early '90s. These days we have wider access to content and we are presented with a more nuanced or different side of LA/California and blackness through shows like Issa Rae's Insecure and the music of Anderson .Paak.

As the black and gold (Kaizer Chiefs) look to turn the corner, the purple and gold must merely continue on this path and complete the reunion between LA and Soweto. Anything less will be deemed insufficient.