South African Hip Hop Series: Thoughts On The Late Rapper Mizchif

I was home alone one Friday night around 2001 watching, as was tradition, one of the music shows which came on at SABC 1 during that period. It could’ve been Studio Mix during its dying years, or Basiq with Azania, or Castle Loud with Unathi and Stoan.

The first video played after a Telkom ad. It featured a tall-ish man in an afro with what looked like a (mobile) telephone; I assumed it was a continuation of the advert. Roughly ten seconds in, I realised that this was an actual music video and began to pay attention.

I immediately pressed record and managed to capture Mizchif’s “Fashionable” video premiere in its entirety. It was my introduction to an emcee who went on to release one of my first South African hip-hop CD purchases in the form of his 9-track EP Life From All Angles.

He’d be on YFM during the Sprite Rap Activity jam providing a crucial dose of hip-hop news, or on Channel O presenting some video programme or another. He even had a breakout hit with kwaito artist Mavusana called “Summertime” which was big on national radio.

Then, silence!

Forward to 2008. I ran into Mizchif in Cape Town; introduced myself and let him know how much of a fan of his work I was. A year later while hosting a hip-hop show on the campus radio station, listeners would regularly request Mizchif songs to be played.

My copy of Life From All Angles had since been misappropriated, but we managed to find a copy of “Fashionable” on the campus’ local area network and would play it. And thus began my brief re-introduction to Mizchif’s music.

It’s easy to fall into wistful nostalgia and wax philosophical about how ‘great’ and ‘legendary’ he was. Indeed he was a dope emcee. But much like Robo, King Daniel, and to some extent Mr. Fat, Devious, etc., Mizchif has joined a growing line of fallen soldiers who were/are all but forgotten by the movement they helped build.

Instead of reinforcing the ‘poor, starving artist’ trope so commonplace in the music industry, perhaps it’d be best if South African hip-hop came up with ways not only to chronicle its present, but to ensure that the contributions of its purveyors don’t fade into obscurity. If anything, we should do it for posterity, because it’s paramount to ensure that the culture isn’t muddled in the fleeting romance of celebrity. We can start by acknowledging that there are people whose stories need to be told and re-told, because they too matter.

The first (and last) time I saw Mizchif perform was at the South African Hip Hop Awards in 2013. I cannot say I was moved. Not only was he in bad shape, he could barely remember the lyrics, choosing instead to rap over certain parts – as a fan rapping along would. It wasn’t a good sight.

The music lives on!

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*Opening image: Mizchif performing at the South African Hip Hop Awards, 2014

*This article is part of Africasacountry’s series on South African Hip-Hop in 2014. You can follow the rest of the series here.

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