YoungstaCPT’s currently on his first Australian tour. It’s an independent affair, and follows another one to Europe where him and Swiss producer Maloon the Boom linked up to make music and perform at shows. The results of those studio sessions have now been unleashed on-line over the past two months. Prior to that, Youngsta had put work in with South African super-producer outfit Ganja Beatz. Those sessions produced the still-replay-value-worthy “The Cape and Good Dope”, an ode to ganja filled with so many trap anthems, the South African National Anthem should be quoting verses from it. When it does get changed.

Said Ganja Beatz’s Heemal Ganja, during a radio appearance in late November 2016: “Some of the beats that we gave Youngsta [were] beats that guys slept on […] This guy’s a machine. We did 8 tracks in 4 sessions.”

Youngsta, no longer AS young — he turned 25 in December 2016 — but definitely on track to be a star, SOME star, is an artist constantly on the move. This article tracks his journey up until April 27th 2016, when he ascended the Main Stage at Back To The City Festival.

Ah, YoungstaCPT…where to start?

For us, the beginning would be in 2010 or ’11 In Cape Town, where an 18 year-old Riyadh Roberts was recording mixtapes with his homie the Muffin Man — the deejay, producer and excellent barber. Youngsta quickly transitioned from a bedroom emcee and started making campus radio station appearances, getting onto the battle rap circuit, and employing any other tactic to get his name (and the music he recorded onto the mixtapes) ‘out there’, to ‘the people’.

The laaitie did make an impact. Within 18 months, he’d released 24 mixtapes, won battle rap competitions held ‘out there’, in Jozi, and begun building what’s now a cemented status as the leader of a new school of rappers in Cape Town — as well as rightful carrier of a true-school hip hop tradition which stretches back to a nascent DJ Ready D spinning turntables in his room and masterminding a forceful vengeance in the form of the socio-cultural vortex that became Prophets Of da City. Think of RZA, but from die Vlakte, not Staten Island.

“The reason why I endorse Youngsta and why I always have his back, before I even knew him, he’d built a track record for himself that showed complete commitment to hip hop as a culture, to his craft as emcee,” says Ready D.

The grandmaster speaks these truths at a car do organised by Clarkson and crew somewhere in the larney Nothern ‘burbs of Jozi. Youngsta’s A1 from day 1 Steady Life is hanging with respected b-boy Wouks nearby. Following the chat with D, we head outside to hustle for a spot with a television set and access to MTV Base. It’s a Friday, the night of the “Salutas” video premier.

Shot by collaborators TVC, the video portrays Youngsta at his home base in Cape Town. He’s lamming with the uber cool massive of his city, just being a dope bra.

Youngsta had to start a petition on-line in order for the video to get playlisted. People, guided by data bundles and Youngsta’s artist page on Facebook, hopped on to ensure that their homeslice and their city were represented. That the video finally got played is in itself a small miracle. But it’s one in a growing line of small victories which, combined, continue to build the certified artist Youngsta is becoming.

Salutas gave a glo-up to ‘the people’ Youngsta had been speaking, not for, but as a part of, by illustrating the emcee’s lifestyle with pin-point precision.

Steady convinces one of the attendants at a DSTV stand fitted with a big-screen television to let us watch. For the next 3 minutes, we’re in full geek mode, filled with inexplicable joy, eyes fixed on the screen. We also marvel at the might of the [un]holy triumvirate that is Internet god, Facebook petition and data bundle abundance to turn elusive dreams into on-going realities. Histories in progress.

YoungstaCPT in Hillbrow, Jozi (image: Tseliso Monaheng)

“I have vacated Kaapstad and moved to Johannesburg for the hustle, and Hillbrow is where we’re situated,” says Youngsta on the video for the Maloon The Boom-produced song “Music 1st” while the sound of moving cars — a currency of Jozi innercity’s madness — punctuates his words. The video’s part of his Visual Vrydag series, a concept which he’d been executing weekly for the greater part of 2015. (Youngsta and Maloon were still due to make the music that has resulted in two projects, released a month apart: The Y?Fi Mixtape, and the Yungloon Taliboom LP)

Show me any other rapper on the African continent whose output has been as consistent Youngsta’s, purely in video terms, and I’ll show you the path to a corruption-free African society. The Visual Vrydag series picked off where Salutas left off. If the latter sought to define the core of Youngsta’s identity, the former added the layers to the narrative. It galvanized him as a complex artist and a premier emcee.

Youngsta spoke the words above in September 2015. He’d arrived in Joburg at the end of May and spent that year’s Ramadan fasting in Hillbrow, aka the mega-traphouse of Joburg city. His arrival also coincided with the May edition of Kool Out’s rooftop parties. Youngsta spat shit-hot bars on the mic atop a familiar-sounding beat. His oeuvre of ooh- inducing ceremonial punchlines had its fair share of aaah’s from the audience. “Bump The Cheese Up (Kaapstad Remix)” emerged in June following a recording session with producer Mr. Instro one Wintery afternoon. The song was produced by Ootz for Reason, who made a hot single out of it. A remix followed. Youngsta, who’d been tipped to appear on it, was by-passed. He kept the verse he’d written, and it’s the verse he spits first on this remix.

The resulting video, part of the Visual Vrydag series, details bits of Youngsta’s daily experiences while living among the Tanzanian community which forms part of Hillbrow’s pan-African statehoohd.

“What I’m seeing here is like, a foreign hustle. For the most part, the values that they have, of sharing and always being united because they come from the same place — for me, I don’t see that at home [in Cape Town],” he said in the “Music 1st” video.

By September, Youngsta had managed to make a major breakthrough: his guest appearance on Nasty C’s “Way it go” remix — on which he featured alongside Tumi on a collabo masterminded by b-boy-cum-deejay, Switch — was on high rotation on the airwaves. Swathes of people on-line and in the club gravitated toward his rapid-fire wordplay, praising him for ‘bringing lyricism back’, which is always a curious case since, well, what the fuck else is a lyricist supposed to do but spit dope lyrics?

Youngsta, ever-modest but woke to the ways in which he’s changing rap fan’s perceptions of all things rap, responded thus when told that he outshone Tumi and Nasty C: “I wouldn’t say it’s an outshine, but I will say that he does what he does. Tumi’s thing is, he’s giving knowledge in that verse of his bra; he’s schooling, and he’s giving experience. And they say that there is nothing that you can do on this earth that can substitute [for] experience.”

In that moment, Youngsta demonstrated profound hip hop scholarship. He knows that the student can’t ever surpass the teacher, regardless of how much the streets may be gassing him up. He’s aware of the masters, and makes a concerted effort to pay due respect. His staple playlist boasts the most prized mid-90s rap jawns, which you’ll find him bumping on any given day. However, he’s attuned to trends and styles of flow, and pays them equal attention to that afforded the 90s stuff. That’s the essence of Youngsta: A true school emcee.

His verse is about a young guy who’s been let down multiples times: pushed down, had doors shut in their face.

Youngsta observes, in what calls to mind the petition to get “Salutas” playlisted, that: “People have their own theories: ah, you know you’re from Cape Town; ah, but you know you’re a kallit guy; ah, you’re only making music that’s specific to that region,” which are all qualified input in the context of a post-Apartheid South Africa struggling with who to let in and who to exclude, but a load of hogwash in the greater scheme of things. Because, when the person in a position of influence at a major television station lets you know that they won’t ever fuck with you because of how they felt affronted by something you said or did — something which wasn’t a personal jibe to begin with — you know there and then that the game’s all sorts of rigged; that the people running this mainstream media circus are fuckwits; and that you’ve no other choice but to remain charged, ready to roll.

Where “Salutas” upped the jig and blessed it with a club pass, “Way it go” camped to at the behest of power structures and screamed “Kaapstad Naaier” until someone paid attention.

“I have a certain level of fire that’s in me everytime I write a verse, or everytime I do a song. And not everybody wants to be attacked everytime they listen to a verse,” opines Youngsta.

Perhaps it’s his approach. Perhaps he needs to shut up; or to be a one-single-a-year artist. He knows one thing for sure, though: “I’m gonna continue playing the game the way that I want to play it.”

Not one to offer politically-correct answers, Youngsta elects to keep it 100 all the way!

YoungstaCPT in Berea, Jozi (Image: Tseliso Monaheng)

The emcee ascended the Back To The City stage in 2016. His maiden voyage was made even more special by the fact of the festival turning a decade old. He got onto the stage and asked Steady to hold the music for a bit. “I must wys you something…I wanna turn this motherfucker into Kaapstaad quickly. Can I hear somebody say ‘Kaapstad naaier’,” he hollered. “KAAPSTAD NAAIER!” the charged up audience hollered back in unison.

Youngsta then motioned towards his deejay. “They’re never gonna believe I ever told the crowd to say Kaapstad naaier,” he said on the mic.

And then the beat dropped.

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