South Africa is rich in diversity and culture, among this, the versatility of music in our country has shown incredible resilience over the years and has proved rapid growth in reaching international stages.
One of Mzanzi’s crowned jewels of music, is nestled right here in Cape Town. The acclaimed DJ king of Hip Hop music, Grand Master Ready D, real name Deon Daniels, gives us a glimpse of his journey in Hip Hop as he marks 40 years in the industry.
Born and raised in Lentegeur, Mitchells Plain; Ready D, as he is known, carved his name firmly in the Hip Hop industry; globally.
He told Weekend Argus: “My encounters with hip hop goes back 43 years. For some reason, the industry likes to put a round number on the thing called 40 years and the 50 year anniversary of global hip hop culture was celebrated from August last year.
“My personal encounters with a hip hop, started 43 years ago, I was introduced to a song called ‘Rapper’s Delight’ by the Sugar Hill gang and this is the first hip hop song that made it to a commercial platform during the 80s.
“I was later introduced to Curtis Blow as a kid, I didn’t know that this music was going to become a part of my life and a part of this huge global movement. This was while we were still living in District Six.
“In fact, we just had a few more months to go before we were moved out of District Six due to the Apartheid government’s Group Areas Act.
“When we moved into Mitchells Plain, I made contact with a friend that I grew up with in District Six, known as DJ Rozano X and he we ended up attending school together; he used to record these music videos on TV with people popping and locking and there was a bit of breakdancing.
“I started to pick up on what he showed me. We spent a lot of time in front of the TV back then and the technology was extremely ancient, it was video recorders called VHS and Betamax recordings, it was very difficult to rewind and pause and fast forward,” he jokes.
“But as time progressed, we started to get more involved with these movements, and this really interesting sound.”
He explained that breakdancing started to become very popular around the 80s, in mainstream media.
“It was very interesting because we were extremely active as kids or youth in Mitchells Plain and it just made sense for us to gravitate towards it
“We only came to learn that this whole thing was called Hip Hop probably about two years being into it.
“I got involved with all the elements on breaking, deejaying, being a graffiti artist, rapping and of course Hip Hop started going through this transition where black consciousness or knowledge of self became a very important pillar of the culture.”
Ready D recalls the measures he and his friends would take, to enjoy hip hop.
“We used to take trains into the city centre on a Saturday to go and dance and perform and beatbox for people on the streets. ”As it gained popularity, more crews came from all over Cape Town and we used to go out there to meet up with these crews and have all these street battles happening all the way from St. George’s Mall into the Golden Acre on the Grand Parade wherever we could find space.
“We used to carry our cardboard boxes all over Mitchells Plain.
“So it was very street orientated at the time, until we managed to get this matinee sessions going in this club called Teasers; It was not the strip club that people know, it was in Harrington Street and Teasers was this very cutting edge club that just to play punk rock music and reggae and that was the first time that we actually encountered white kids during the apartheid.
“So I'm taking you back to 1984, I then got the opportunity to go to the UK, I spent the month in the UK and when I returned from the UK came back with a lot of music like a whole lot of music cassettes and LPs and or vinyls as people would call it.
“Prior to that, one of the members in our breakdance crew used to send me cassettes every single month religiously with all the latest hip hop music on it and that’s practically how we manage to stay up to date and also stay ahead of everybody else with regards to the music.
“So getting back to 1986 on returning to Cape Town city, I came back with all this music and I came back with all this insight and experience and knowledge of how hip hop works elsewhere in the world.
“The first thing we did was the first 24-hour jam session at Teasers. Teasers shut down and then the venue moved to 88 Shortmarket Street and the venue was then called The Base and within Teasers and The Base, these are the venues that practically housed the culture.
“So many of the kids from all over the Cape Flats, the city, the suburbs, they all came to the space because of the vibe, the energy and the music because it looked and sounded like nothing else out there.
“Prophets of Da City was practically born out of these matinee sessions, we used to run a lot of battle cyphers with rappers battling in the club, myself, Rozzano and a few other DJs used to play at these venues on a Saturday and a lot of growth came out of that.
“So Prophets of Da City was born out of there, the likes of Black Noise... a lot of the members used to come through, Mr. Fat and early crews, the female group Sisters in Command, and Yo goals, Third Party.
“That was practically part of the beginning of the history of hip hop, music and culture in our country because what we did at The Base, influenced Joburg as well, to run a matinee club in Joburg.
The dad of two emphasised: “So they had a similar thing going in Joburg. So just want to set the record straight; these types of activities did start in Cape Town city first.
“Brasse Vannie Kaap, came to be as well, because we made friends and acquaintances with everybody. We were like one huge family that used to meet in town on a Saturday.”
With technology and access to the internet becoming more convenient today, Ready D says he was around before the luxury came and eased things up.
He said: “As time progressed, the technology started to evolve; we started to then have the internet and all of these things definitely helped with the pace and the exposure of hip hop culture.
“We have a very huge vibrant scene with so many different variables and variations of expression, so we have a very strong Afrikaans hip hop and rap movement going on and the new generation are exposed to this, different from us though, so the interpretations are slightly different.”
He dedicated his life to being an activist for the craft.
“The good thing is that there’s still a lot of activism within hip hop in Cape Town city specifically.
“Another thing that also contributed to the growth of the culture was my radio show on Goodhope FM, especially the night shows; we ran the cypher sessions for close to 10 years.
“We had so many artists, unknown artist, famous artist, established artists come through the doors to get into the rap Cypher and practically rap live on air in the moment type situations. ”