Yakheem eyes that rap crown

Yahkeem Ben Israel
Yahkeem Ben Israel Picture: Makhi Concepts

Bay rapper and hip-hop activist Yahkeem Ben Israel (a.k.a Yahkeem the Mastabilda) looks to bring the crown back to the Bay for a third time after being nominated in the annual South African Hip-Hop Awards which will be held at the Lyric Theatre, Gold Reef City on December 14.

The Motherwell artist is nominated in the King of Eastern Cape category alongside reigning champion Tru FM Dj Lungelo “Trusenz” Nzama and Snesh Nota.

This is the fifth time that Israel has been nominated in the category. He has also won it twice before, in 2013 and 2014.

“I can best describe this nomination in one word and that is ‘consistency’. This title means that we have managed to remain relevant and serve as links between the Eastern Cape and the rest of the country. We stand as undisputed gatekeepers,” Israel said.

The South African Hip-Hop Awards, run by the Ritual Media Group, were launched in 2012 with the aim of celebrating and honouring achievements in the country’s hip-hop industry. Contenders are judged on their performance and achievements from last September to this September.

There are 24 categories, with the King of the Province made up of nine sub-categories. Public votes are admitted for the top six categories, namely best collaboration, best female, best hip-hop radio show, best male, best video and song of the year. The rest are judged by music industry professionals who are not related to the contenders or their labels.

The category in which Israel has been selected is judged by industry professionals and recognises an individual in each province who has contributed positively to the hip-hop movement as a whole.

Israel, born Makhi Fibi, got involved in hip-hop in 2003 as a member of rap group Khululekani, which later spilt up.

His stint as a solo artist has seen him perform on numerous major platforms such as Back to the City in 2014, the Corner Cypher at the South African Hip-Hop Awards in 2013, this year’s Grahamstown National Arts Festival, as well as the Nelson Mandela Bay Music Festival.

His contribution to hip-hop also extends beyond the mic, having organised numerous events such as the Urban Exchange – which featured appearances by popular national act Golden Shovel and Canadian rapper Spek Won – as well as the Grass Roots Arts Festival and orchestrating the hip-hop programme of the Nelson Mandela Bay Music Festival.

All of the events were organised under the banner of his company, Makhi Concepts.

Israel said Eastern Cape hip-hop was on a steady rise but still required a stronger support structure.

“Eastern Cape hip-hop is growing … but a bit slower as compared to the rest of the country. I believe with adequate support and investment from public and private enterprises it can easily be the face of the province.”

He says taking this title would not only be a victory for himself but for artists in the city as a whole.

“Winning would mean that irrespective of the odds and challenges which come with being an independent artist in Port Elizabeth, no force can stand before determination, hard work and vision.
“It would mean a lot for young Bay artists to see one of their own acknowledged on the country’s ultimate hip-hop platform.”

The ceremony, hosted by comedienne Nina Hastie and international actor and rapper Batsile Boy Wonder Ramasodi, takes place on December 14 and will premiere on MTV Base (DSTV Channel 322) on December 26.


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