Kings of Zimhip hop:Cal_vin

Fitzgerald Munyoro

Many years from now, future generations will roll their eyes in disbelief as older versions of ourselves narrate to them in grim detail how the year 2020 left humanity with more questions than answers.

“Ramblings of old men and women”, they will say.

 Do they know that in 2020, we were besieged by a pandemic like no other? Little will they realize that we were forcefully ushered into a “new normal” culture that none of us had anticipated?

 Can they fathom that in 2020, death’s insatiable appetite swallowed yet another cultural icon in the form of Bulawayo rapper Calvin Mngcini Nhliziyo better known as CalVin?

It is no secret that the nature and circumstances of his untimely demise at the age of 35 is a tale on its own.

However, that is a tale that will best be addressed by law enforcement agencies when the far reaching arm of the law finally catches up with the perpetrators of the hit and run accident that turned a 4-year-old girl into an orphan.

That is not the tale that the late rhyme spitter was known for and it would be negligent to dwell on that.

It is only fitting to celebrate and acknowledge CalVin for the gift that garnered him fame and notoriety in equal measure, and that is his music.

It is in the music that Cal Vin made a proverbial and literal statement that shook the very foundations on which Zim hiphop was founded upon; declare himself King and wage lyrical war to defend and legitimize his claim to the Hip hop throne.

As a point of departure, it is imperative that an understanding of the hierarchies and intricacies that characterize Zim hiphop are established.

It is not a secret that as a form of musical expression and important piece of global black culture, Hip Hop is very much an ego driven genre where the bulk of lyrical content is an elaborate attempt to depict the artist as something that is larger than life.

Legendary rappers such as Jay Z who nicknamed himself as Jay Hov, which is a play on the Christian God’s title ‘’Jehovah’’ come to mind. New York rapper Nas nicknamed himself Escobar after the notorious Colombian drug king pin Pablo Escobar to add to his mystique and infamy.

In local circles, the unwritten yet widely acknowledged and accepted rule is that the throne of Zim hip hop is cemented in the capital city of Harare.

In hindsight, this might be due to the fact that Harare which when loosely translated means the city that never sleeps has always been at the fulcrum of all commercial motion and this includes the showbiz industry.

 As such, without disrespecting the efforts of Pieces of Ebony and Calvin&Muzi in the early 90s, the story of local urban music finds its roots in the establishment of Shamiso Entertainment which was driven by the artistic vision of producer, Delani ‘Step Aside’ Makhalima.

This stable would be the wheel that set in motion the rise of the Chamhembe movement which in earnest stamped urban music as a force to be reckoned with in local music circles.

 To date, the Chamhembe Vol 1 tape is one of the highest selling and most influential musical projects ever formulated in Zimbabwe.

The success of the compilation tape was hugely anchored on the efforts of artistes from Harare even though there was input from Mutare based group Project Fame and Bulawayo duo Double Trouble who sung the title track for the album.

As such, Harare artistes would feel a natural entitlement to being credited as those behind the success of urban music. The urban radio station at the time Power FM would have Harare artistes dominating airplay despite being located in Gweru.  

As time progressed and the media spaces expanded, urban grooves mutated into various sub genres that took on new life forms.

 However, the gospel that Harare artists are the natural heirs to music royalty would remain the status quo.

In 2011 this entitlement would play out in Zim hiphop. True to its competitive and cannibalistic nature, two claimants to the title of kings of Zim hip hop arose in the form of MMT comprising of Tatea Da Mc, Mariachi going head to head with Mc Cut and Few kings made up of Tehn Diamond, Jnr Brown and super producer Take Fizzo.

Through a series of subliminal shots directed at each other, the battle for the crown was fought and to this day, debate is still raging on who came out victorious.

What is not debatable however is that Few Kings manage to outlast MMT and became the new kings by virtue of longevity.

Though there was mutual respect in Few Kings, the truth was that the real king was Mbare born rapper Junior Brown.

For the next 3 years, he would reign supreme and be regarded as the premier rapper in hip hop music.

That is until 2014 when a spectacled light skin cat from Luveve in Bulawayo stepped on the scene with a bang.

Having honed his skill since 2004, Calvin’s hard work finally paid off in 2014 with the release of The Perfect Balance Album which featured the hit Bebengakolwa which received massive airplay.

He followed it up with the anthem Zikuphani which gained regional success. The remix featured South Africa superstar Casper Nyovest which was a co-sign that send Cal_vin’s artistic profile into the stratosphere.

A credible challenger was emerging from the City Of Kings and Harare was taking notice and rumours of animosity arose between him and Junior Brown who was taking notice of the infamy Cal_Vin was getting.

As a means of stamping his authority, Jnr Brown released a single titled We Run It and took shots at Calvin in the song.

The ever defiant Ndebele rapper replied with Used to Run It.

Critics and followers of hip hop grudgingly gave the victory to Calvin.

A new king had been coronated and a new hip hop capital had been established.

As if that was in doubt, Cal_Vin put an exclamation mark by bagging 3 awards at the 2015 Zimhip hop awards.

Cal_Vin walked away with male artist, song and album of the year for his sophomore project The Year of the Vin.

Cal_vin made people believe that life and musical royalty lives beyond the skyscrapers and light of Harare.

If there was no Cal_vin the road to success for artists like Asaph and Awa Khiwe would be increasingly difficult.

Long Live King Calvin.

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