In recent years there has been a rise in hip-hop record labels including iNkabi Records, Ambitiouz Entertainment, and Skhanda World, all giving rise to new talent.
Hip-hop in South Africa is arguably regarded as the music genre that, in recent years, has been integral in advancing artists from musicians to fully fledged brands with diverse interests.
With the likes of Khuli Chana, AKA, and Cassper Nyovest, most of these artists established themselves as independent artists, later partnering with leading and established record labels to create their own independent record labels.
Examples of these are AKA who has a deal with Sony, Cassper Nyovest’s Family Tree Records, and Khuli Chana’s recently established deal with Universal Music Group Africa. With that, in recent years, there has been a rise in hip-hop based record labels which are continually seeking new talent.
The rise of hip-hop based record labels
One of the most well-known Black and independent record labels in South Africa is Kalawa Jazmee Records, which was established at the dawn of democracy in South Africa. The success of the record label hinged on kwaito artists and groups including Boom Shaka, Mafikizolo, and Bongo Maffin.
It was only in the 2010s that the rise in hip-hop based record labels started. We saw the emergence of upstarts like CashTime Fam started by Teargas’ K.O, and the contentious but popular record label Ambitiouz Entertainment in 2015.
In recent years, more new record labels have entered the market in an effort to not only showcase new untapped hip-hop talent, but to initiate the move of rappers to music executives, establishing legacy artists.
Hip–hop record labels looking for artists in South Africa
Before sharing a list of the leading hip-hop based record labels looking for artists to sign, it is important that aspiring artists take caution and set realistic expectations.
Pointedly, record labels establish themselves through the initial artists that they introduce. Therefore, if you want a record label to sign you, it is important to understand that you will need more than just talent and a dream.
You will need to have evidence that you have previously worked on establishing yourself as a hip-hop artist. This includes efforts like having released music already, evidence of a growing fan base, and live performances you have done.
Should you not have any of the aforementioned, selling yourself to a record label will be difficult. Therefore, it is important to work on yourself as an artist before attempting to sign with a record label, small or otherwise.
Should you have done the work mentioned, take a look below at three hip-hop record labels that are always looking for new talent.
1. Ambitiouz Entertainment
Ambitiouz Entertainment is both a contentious, and one of the most popular and sought-after hip-hop record labels in the country. The record is credited with giving us popular hip-hop artists including Emtee, A-Reece, Fifi Cooper, and is currently the home to Blaq Diamond, Kid Tini, Malome Vector, and hip-hop DJ, Miss Pru.
A description of the record label reads:
“The summer of 2015 saw the birth of Ambitiouz Entertainment, the biggest independent record label defined and inspired by a passion for music and developing young talent. Living up to its principle “Defining an Era, Changing lives” Ambitiouz Entertainment is now home to young and fresh South African talent such as award-winning Afro-pop duo, Blaq Diamond, Lesotho born artists Malome Vector and Wave Rhyder, Cici, Miss Pru, Intaba Yase Dubai, LaSauce, Manny Yack, Fakaloice, Kid Tini, Sibu Nzuza, Dr MaVibes, Snymaan, Brvdley, Kraizie and S’Villa.”
2. iNkabi Records
iNkabi Records is one of the most popular hip-hop record labels in the country. First establishing itself through its leading artist and founder, Big Zulu, the label also found its footing as a leading record label through securing artists like Isiginci’s Mduduzi Ncube, and most recently Home’s Lwah Ndlunkulu and Siya Ntuli.
Seemingly, the record label is focused on introducing KwaZulu Natal natives and isiZulu speaking artists, as its name suggests. Moreover, since the record label does not have a website, demos are to be submitted via their social media pages or by contacting their founder, Big Zulu.
3. Skhanda World
Skhanda World is the newest of the hip-hop record labels established. The record label, management, and lifestyle business is the ‘second-time’s-a-charm’ attempt for co-founder and frontman, K.O.
The record label part of the brand was fully realised in 2021, when it introduced its four signed artists; Loki, Roiii, DJ Mr X, and Just Bheki, who joined K.O and Ma-E.
In 2021, the record label confirmed its deal with Universal Music Group Africa, which allows the record label a bigger budget to groom more new talent. The record label does not have an established website, therefore, all communication is via their social media pages.
In recent years there has been a rise in hip-hop based record labels introduced to the market. Most of these record labels are established by already well-respected hip-hop artists seeking more independence than signing to a major record label.
As a result, it is not the lack of hip-hop record labels that have prevented more new voices from being showcased, but rather, the lack of an established means of communication between labels and aspiring new talents which has resulted in gatekeeping in the industry, as record labels continue to work on formalising their record labels.