Israel yet again an Eastern Cape king

Ntombentsha Msutu

WELL-KNOWN Yahkeem Ben Israel is a South African Hip Hop Award nominee and activist, who was born and raised in NU 6.

Israel has been nominated for the second time in the King of the Eastern Cape category.

"It is an absolute honour and I am truly humbled by the nomination. It is a wonderful sign that I am on the right path. My humble efforts in the Eastern Cape have national impact and that's big," Israel said.

Growing up, Israel did not play the usual games of a child from the township, nor did he have any exceptional abilities that could set him apart from other kids. He spent most of his life creating images in his head, reading and cultivating his insight.

It was only in 2002, when he was 20 years old and after the formation of the "ghetto youth uprising", he says, that he started to take music seriously and considered it as a career.

He started rapping with one of the Eastern Cape's most celebrated groups, Trio Khululekani. This group opened a lot of doors not only for its members but for the entire Eastern Cape hip hop scene.

It was in 2009 that Israel's debut album was released, entitled The Spirit Level. This 14-track album was distributed for free – digitally and by hand – and can still be downloaded at

This unique album launched Israel as a national player in the industry. It was launched on Umhlobo Wenene FM's Jaivah Mzantsi, hosted by Luckeez Mfowethu.

In 2010 Israel released The One Who Builds EP, which saw him touring the Eastern Cape, Johannesburg and Cape Town – performing at top hip hop venues.

The project was a teaser for the much anticipated Concrete Thought album, dedicated to East London activist Livingstone Mqotsi.

Asked about his future plans, Israel said: "I will keep working and will remain in the province so that the generations after me see it is possible to make a global impact from the Eastern Cape. For next year, we are releasing two projects."