I am based in-between Maseru, Lesotho and Cape Town, South Africa throughout the year. Recently, when in Lesotho, I decided to see how far the Hip-Hop scene had progressed, seeing that I have been involved directly in it for more than ten years. Some things impressed me, but most things did not. So I decided to give you an idea of what’s going down there in the form of a list of emcees whom I think will be making a considerable amount of noise in 2013.

http://soundcloud.com/l-tore-torey-tana/say-whats-real

L-Tore is reported to be the leader of a crew called Royalty Clique, which has, if my source is correct, names such as Nirex and Lynor in its midst. While he has been rapping for a while, building his name through the rank-and-file in street cyphers, it is only in the past two years that he has decided to stand on his own two feet. On stage he displays a confidence not unbecoming for an artist of his nature, both in build and personality. His mixtape, “The commercial mix”, will be out anytime soon.

I lived in Leribe at a place called Mankoaneng, Lisemeng during my secondary high school years. Big Bar’s song by the same name evokes memories of what the place used to look and feel like:

America was Mankoaneng’s nick-name, but far-removed in any sense of the word from the actual country, save for the LHDA Houses which accommodated workers during the early phases of  the project; workers from different nationalities, all holed-up in a compound of approximately 2 square kilometers. In as much as the mini-America was far-removed from its multiply-more successful big brother, so were these LHDA inhabitants from the surrounding community. Big Bar’s flow is stupendously-simply structured to place emphasis on the message. His story-telling ability makes him impossible to ignore, as he spits lines such as: “Ka leba Pelican, ke batla motho ke baba / nonyana li lutse batho holimo ba hlanya / joaloka bo-ntate ba mine TEBA ba khafa” [I went to Pelican looking for someone / exciting things were happening, people were excited / like men from TEBA paying tax]. Note: Pelican is a well-known restaurant in the district of Leribe. TEBA is the organisation which used to help Lesotho migrants find work in South African mines.

I saw T.U.R.K rap at Kommanda Obbs’s album launch towards the end of 2011. Apparently, a rapper called Z-Digi, once big on the scene but now temporarily disengaged, tweeted early on that Lesotho should be on the lookout for him. In a way, he mentored T.U.R.K. Does he agree? “You’d have to ask him that I guess. I just saw a kid with a skill ahead of his years coupled with mad passion,” is his considered response. He caves in and half-admits that he “tried [his] best to put him on and offered up all [his] connects.” T.U.R.K’s confidence and exquisite flow on the stage is bespoke, cocky, and er, dripping with swagga (his abandoned moniker). Does he agree: “No, not in the conventional sense… but he gave me a platform and I look(ed) up to him,” T.U.R.K answers. He might sound a tad bit American (okay, maybe a lot more than a tad bit, or maybe I’m still hung up about accents). However you interpret his style, the fact is that he is likable. (Note: he was the winner of a 50,000 Maloti competition sponsored by a cellphone company.)

I once battled Tieho in a park somewhere in the middle of Maseru. I don’t usually battle; I thought my style was dope that day. His brother was one of the judges. I lost. He got the free t-shirt. Like L-Tore, Tieho has slowly been building his skillset. He has the illest off-the-top moments; I have visual  evidence somewhere in my archives. The last time I had heard him, he was on my good friend Anonymous’s other songs. I wasn’t impressed; I preferred him in ciphers. He gained prominence around Maseru after joining the D2amajoe movement towards the end of 2011. I don’t know what to think of him yet, but judge for yourself with the video below:

Honourable mentions:

Isosceles and Future: rap tag-team intent on saving Hip-Hop from its own soul. Their release, “Olive Branch”, is available as a free download.

Charles Alvin: ubiquitous rap names aside, his live performances (as part of the duo Broken Record) are off the roof. Check out this video if you need convincing, over a beat produced by Nyambz (NB: muptee recorded on the beat in 2006).

* This is part 1 of my two-part reportage on Lesotho Hip-Hop. For an introductory piece to the scene, see here.