Big Zulu

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About Big Zulu

South African rapper Big Zulu’s fanbase extends beyond hip-hop as his rhymes are steeped in Zulu lore. Born Siyabonga Nene in Bergville, KwaZulu-Natal, in 1987, he is a staple artist in maskandi, one of the most popular genres in the province that greatly influences his music and image. The hook to his 2020 blockbuster single “Mali Eningi” interpolates lines from late maskandi legend Bhekumuzi Luthuli’s “Imali Yabelungu.” Such references come naturally to an individual who spent some time in the taxi industry before making forays into rap in 2008. Though extravagant and aspirational at times, Big Zulu’s raps, which are exclusively in isiZulu, tell stories of South Africa’s working class while incorporating a genre they are deeply familiar with—as a result, his rise was swift. He went from a backpack rapper of the late 2000s to one of the most notable crossover rappers heading into the 2020s.

April 7, 1986

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