20 Most Groundbreaking Zim Hip Hop Albums of all Time

MMT

While there have been a shipload of great LPs over the boatload of years Zimbabwean Hip Hop has been around, not all have managed to have a lasting impact on the course of the infant subgenre’s.

By Malcom Mufunde

We’ve been blessed with some memorable ‘classics’ and a corresponding number of forgettable attempts that have since been placed wherever the Ezomgido S02E07 playlist is over the years. From the age of MauMau to the moon of whoever’s king now,—man, fuck this prologue.

20. Jungle Kid – Houz Of Hunger

(Not to be confused with House of Hunger- a sonically way more brilliant album) The big enchilada of Masvingo’s Stay Fly Clan dropped this effort at a time when the debate on which metropolis reigned supreme was flaming. With the main contenders being Harare, Bulawayo and Chitungwiza, Houz of Hunger was sort of a middle finger to the Big Three and guaranteed the ancient town a place in future barbershop talks. With wordplay, rhyme schemes and lyricism way ahead of their time- the debut served as a crowning moment and stepping stone for the crooning devil.

Lyricism: 70%

Commercial Success: Non-profit release

Production: 50%

19. Noble Stylz – MasofaPanze 1

Despite being a narcissistic, arrogant and sophomaniac troll, the Masvingo son also displayed the same microphone theatrics his fellow hometown kid showcased on his debut. There are moments of pretentious lyricism but the album set the tone for an arguably successful trilogy and imprint. How is it groundbreaking? This came at a time when Shona rap was definitely ‘dead’ and if MasofaPanze didn’t resurrect the dying craft, at least it resuscitated whoever did. In hindsight, we can all agree Noble may not have been better than Jungle Kid, but he definitely stamped a larger footprint on ZHH than the crooning devil.

Lyricism: 60%

Commercial Success: Non-profit release

Production: 35%

18. Clady Banks – Machena EP

Despite being a narcissistic, arrogant and sophomaniac troll (no déjà vu), Clady Banks not only remains the only Zim rapper whose government name is a mystery but also the only ‘critic’ who delivered. Banks completes the trifecta of him, Cashbid and McPotar- the Internet loudmouths. While McPotar served us a rotten dish of The McPotar EP (let’s just pretend this project never happened) and Cashbid avoided social responsibility and deprived the mouths of many orphaned toddlers (we cannot pretend this never happened), Banks critiqued and not only released an enjoyable and infectious debut body but a ‘see how it’s done?’ to whoever he’d trolled before. It still remains the only body of work by a ZHH artiste who put his money where his mouth was and did so with a long-ass middle finger.

Lyricism: 30%

Commercial Success: Non-profit release

Production: 80%

17. Few Kings – The Feeling Ain’t Fear

The second installment in the TFAF series might not have been as successful as its predecessor and have been a target for trolls like the two aforementioned douche bags but it definitely set the tone for marketing. A fake beef over the years, some media appearances, subs and four years later- a surprise announcement, and you have yourself an epitome of marketing genius in ZHH. The project may not have been as impressive thus not have lived up to the hype but the thing is…the ‘hype’ was there. Patience, planning and introspectiveness were key in unlocking the not-so-friendly ZHH market. And they’re at it again…who’s not hyped for summer 2023?

Lyricism: 60%

Commercial Success: Non-profit release

Production: 70%

16. MMT – MMTLP

Although the lead single of the not-so-meeting-the-hype debut was on all levels misogynistic, MMT certified the Rehab reign in ZHH. Tatea had crowned himself H-Town king with a poor album, Mariachi and Alkamai had ruined the name of Churchill with a pitiable collab album prior but all that was to change with singles Zvidhori and Party Yatanga. The months leading to the album’s release remain a historic era for HipHop in Zimbabwe. The trio are definitely responsible for the only moment since hameno we can claim belonged to HipHop- not the sick ZimDancehall or the dying Sungura, or the dead Gospel.

Lyricism: 35%

Commercial Success: 30%

Production: 70%

15. Fun_f – Good Ass Job

You are not a god producer coz anyone can name five ZHH producers from the top of their head who are way better than Fun when asked to. However, what the lad achieved with Good Ass Job was/is undoubtedly godly on all levels. Some beats were stolen fresh from the web (that’s a story for another day), and Chance and ‘Ye had promised an album called Good Ass Job (coincidence) but these ain’t powerful enough allegations to downplay the greatness that is GAJ. In an industry that is erected on the foundations of beef, you know you’re the shit when you can bring those whining fuckers together on one project. Maybe Fun ain’t god, but he’s a pretty masterful pacifier.

Lyricism: 50%

Commercial Success: 10%

Production: 80%

14. T1 Wema1 – Rugare

(Not to be confused with Rugare – a Buffalo Souljah/Winky D duet whose video has more ass than a stable). Rugare is T1’s sophomore and his chef-d’œuvre but there’s more to it than just being sonically beautiful. This is the album that inspired ZHH to finally rise up against the partisan dictatorship that is the radio. The project might as well be on its way to be the basis of a ZHHA boycott which is long overdue.

Lyricism: 65%

Commercial Success: ?

Production: 80%

13. Ti Gonzi – Hipu Hopu YekuGhetto

He sounded like Maskiri in every way, whether he switched octaves or not. His breakthrough hit had his rapper counterparts complaining it was ‘overplayed’. He had Harare on lock and just about everyone in HipHop not feeling him. Critics panned him for his offbeat delivery and his flow was a little too ghetto, his punchlines just too corny and cringeworthy. The media had everything from bad news to worst news to say about him. And in spite of all the negativity, Ti Gonzi delivered a long ZimDancehall-inspired debut that stuck an even longer toe up everyone’s ass. He represented the ghetto, and the ghetto showed him love. The moment was an awakening to many: in the end, it’s the fans that matter, and no one else.

Lyricism: 75%

Commercial Success: 50%

Production: 55%

12. Sharky – Soko Matemai

The King of Pop- Michael Jackson- passed on on June 25th and on the seventh anniversary of his untimely flatline, the Prince of Zim Hip Hop added another monumental memory to the day by releasing his debut. This was a mixture of marketing and collaboration- like an alloy of GAJ and TFAF2. The launch of the album itself has been hailed by many a fanboy as one for the books. Soko Matemai went on to prove a market for ZHH produce was available and certified Sharky as the Jackie Chan and Tom Hanks of HipHop in Zim. I mean…who hates Jackie and Tom?

Lyricism: 60%

Commercial Success: 80%

Production: 70%

11. MiLe – Trading Hours

The first Veryus offering came courtesy of a versatile blood. Though the concept was a bit Kendrick Lamar TPAB cliché, it worked and remains the best ZHH concept album to date…and there’ve been many. Maybe it was Verseless with the unparalleled production, or Vee with the good sax, or MiLe finally putting his all instead of another lackluster LIT but whatever it is, it worked! And that’s all that matters. House of Stone is the perfect embodiment of rap, soul, strings and wow, and was a groundbreaker in the acceptance of sung rap and conceptualization in Zim HipHop.

Lyricism: 80%

Commercial Success: 30%

Production: 85%

10. Karma – Chasing Moments

Yet another project with heavy Kendrick Lamar influences, in this case; GKMC. Rein.KAR.nation might have been ‘ok’ for a mixtape but Chasing Moments was ‘the’ album. It’s one of the earliest examples of instant classics hallowed by many and the praise is justifiable. Zilluminati is a poor man’s No Church In The Wild (nothing’s new under the sun) but still the album doesn’t fall short on the ingenuity test.
Karma could paint pictures and he took storytelling rap to a whole ‘nother level with this one.
Lyricism: 80%

Commercial Success: Non-profit release

Production: 85%

9. TehN – A Few Good Poems

If there’s anything afgp did, it showed us the power of a true fanbase and how big TehN’s balls are. The millionaire’s offspring dropped an experimental album for a debut at a time when everyone was beginning to grasp his signature sound. This is usually recipe for disaster but not if you have a bunch of sTehNs ready to hype even your shittiest stuff. The concept was cliché, the sound was everywhere, the lyrics were aha…this was a 50% project at best but Sara and the rest of ngoda dzacho broke the record for the most effective dickriding in ZHH history. I also started believing it wasn’t just an average effort. Nonetheless, this remains the most successful experimental body of work in ZHH to date despite being just another case of Kanye with Yeezus.

Lyricism: 60%

Commercial Success: ?

Production: 85%

8. Simba Tagz – Black

I think no single album in Zimbabwe- across all genres- has had the production and sonic beauty of Simba’s Black and that’s an assertion I make with hilarious confidence. I may have issues with the guy’s lyricism and in a way agree he’s a lower budget Anatii but as far as production is concerned, his only Zimbabwean competition is probably Metal Fingers DOOM. (Special mentions: Dutch, Take Fizzo and Verseless nonetheless). Black set the standard for production in ZimHipHop and everyone else has been playing limbo with the bar.

Lyricism: 50%

Commercial Success: Non-profit release

Production: 95%

7. King Pinn – Verbal Vitamin

Tonderai Makoni might be a victim of the Shakur Syndrome- the very acclaim 2Pac’s legacy suffers. A big portion of the ZHH community praises him simply because he’s either dead or they wanna sound like deep heads or they’re straight-out pretentious. Either way, the late King Pinn is considered the Pac of HipHop in Zimbabwe and who doesn’t chant “I Salute You” time to time? Verbal Vitamin is our Illmatic and will forever be the reference point of the zeniths of lyrical artistry.

Lyricism: 95%

Commercial Success: 70%

Production: 20%

6. Few Kings – The Feeling Ain’t Fair

2013 was a blessed year, at least for TehN, Breezy and Fizzo. The Feeling Ain’t Fair’s success transcended borders and brandished the sword of the Few to a global audience. The trio’s much one-sided feud with the less-marketable MMT might have played part in garnering the album some momentum but that’s only a speck amongst the logs of factors that pushed it to international acclaim. Brown’s ‘Kings Rendezvous’ with MC Chita was not that successful and TehN’s SOTG series had only been enough to garner him a couple of stans but TFAF was… TFAF is the most successful album in ZHH, hate it or love it.

Lyricism: 70%

Commercial Success: Non-profit release

Production: 85%

5. Outspoken and The Essence – Uncool and Overrated: God Before Anything

There haven’t been many double albums in ZHH and if there are any- given my druthers, I’d still choose Outspoken’s as the best off the lot. The album- or albums- is- or are- a showcase of the splendid results the homogeneous mixture of talent and hard work may produce. The Essence also introduced a signature sound that’s always going to be associated with nothing else but Uncool and Overrated: God Before Anything. The album, imo, is the peak of effort; 27 pieces of acoustic beauty with little features. I miss Chiwo, man.

Lyricism: 95%

Commercial Success: Non-profit release

Production: 90%

4. Maskiri – New Look

His wiki calls him Zimbabwe’s Eminem. I don’t know about that but New Look sure was his Recovery. Having fallen off for years to the point of pauperdom; ‘from top 5 to not mentioned at all’, the veteran suddenly crossed the Limpopo surfing the tsunami wave of Wenera. The album’s lead single resurrected the careers of a talented prick of an emcee and a legendary hookman. Wenera making bigger waves than Godo raised the hype for the album and boy did he deliver! A rebranded badboy made a miraculous return to the game he started. New Look for the win.

Lyricism: 70%

Commercial Success: 40%

Production: 65%

3. Synik – Syn City

This may be the most popular album in Zim Hip Hop to date. Never before had the uptown and the downtown, the critics and the fans, and the mainstream and the underground come to a common consensus and it hasn’t happened since. In an era where the it-thing was to trap the F out and contemporary HipHop was beginning to get its footing, Synik delivered a lyrical and conscious effort so out of time and yet easy to appreciate. Inspired by Sin City- a 2005 crime thriller directed by Frank Miller, Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, Syn City was directed by Begotten Sun, Enqore and Aura (the trio had also worked together on Enqore’s The Way of the Sage) and won over everyone…from award show academies to you.

Lyricism: 85%

Commercial Success: ?

Production: 70%

2. Comrade Fatso and Chabvondoka – House of Hunger

Before Zambezi News was a thing, Sam released the bravest and most controversial ZHH piece of work at a time when the whole world was in turmoil and Zimbabwe’s predicament worse and tenser. The album is neither disestablishmentarian, libertarian nor hipster but instead a bizarre combo of all three. The Comrade is still alive, by the way- and he panned politicians before it was cool. We may not have intricate details on his anatomy but we’re sure Fatso has both balls and guts. God, I miss Chiwo!

Lyricism: 85%

Commercial Success: ?

Production: 90%

1. Gudoguru DKR – Changamire

Tanganyika is god. Changamire is a combination of many aforementioned traits. It is the perfect concoction of talent, hard work, the power of collaboration, marketing, panning the system, production….phew! The band produced a work of art that unfortunately not many even know of. Nonetheless, the eight-track effort made practical the concept of ‘quality over quantity’ and introduced the art of sampling on a higher artistic level. God, I miss Chiwo.

Lyricism: 95%

Commercial Success: ?

Production: 90%

The commercial success figures were based on a regional popularity ranking and streams on iTunes, Spotify and YouTube and calculated against the assumed and standardized overall cost of album production. Airplay was also considered to an extent but the figures are highly likely to be inaccurate and are purely the mathematical opinion of the writer so—man, fuck this epilogue.

Also read: Are Hip Hop groups worth starting (Zim Hip Hop groups and where they are) 

About Ronald Magweta 493 Articles
Founder and Editor of The ZimTainment and Digital Media Strategist - @ninja_reezy

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