This Studio Of A Life–Portraits Of Rappers And Producers

I can’t recall when I first fell in love with hip-hop, but I do know that the first song I transcribed was Coolio’s ‘Gangster’s paradise.’ Transcribing lyrics in ‘songbooks’ was a big deal in the mid-nineties; it was shortly before I discovered that existed, around the same time I was heavy into the culture of cassette-sharing. Myself and a primary school friend would exchange kwaito tapes — M’du, Mashamplani, Trompies, B.O.P — every second week.

On one of those tapes — Mashamplani’s Never Never — I heard the instrumental version to ‘Is Vokol Is Niks.’ A year later, I was in my first year of high school and left to my tools on a Saturday afternoon. I put the instrumental on loud in the main room, took an empty cassette tape, inserted it into a boombox, pressed record, then proceeded to kick my first ‘rap.’

Which brings me to the topic — This Studio Of A Life!

I was born ten minutes’ drive from Maseru’s CBD. I started hanging around rappers since I was 12 years old — in studio, at rap cyphers, and at shows. I’ve been to a lot of studios in that time, but it’s only in the past year that I’ve attempted to capture the electric energy and creative impulse present when artists congregate inside a studio.


Further Reading

A power crisis

Andre De Ruyter, the former CEO of Eskom, has presented himself as a simple hero trying to save South Africa’s struggling power utility against corrupt forces. But this racially charged narrative is ultimately self-serving.

Cinematic universality

Fatou Cissé’s directorial debut meditates on the uncertain fate and importance of Malian cinema amidst the growing dismissiveness towards the humanities across the world.

The meanings of Heath Streak

Zimbabwean cricketing legend Heath Streak’s career mirrors many of the unresolved tensions of race and class in Zimbabwe. Yet few white Zimbabwean sporting figures are able to stir interest and conversation across the nation’s many divides.


After winning Italy’s Serie A with Napoli, Victor Osimhen has cemented his claim to being Africa’s biggest footballing icon. But is the trend of individual stardom good for sports and politics?

The magic man

Chris Blackwell’s long-awaited autobiography shows him as a romantic rogue; a risk taker whose life compass has been an open mind and gift to hear and see slightly into the future.

How to think about colonialism

Contemporary approaches to the legacy of colonialism tend to narrowly emphasize political agency as the solution to Africa’s problems. But agency is configured through historically particular relations of which we are not sole authors.

More than just a flag

South Africa’s apartheid flag has been declared hate speech by a top court. But while courts are important and their judgments matter, racism is a long and internationally entrenched social phenomenon that cannot be undone via judicial processes.