HHP, motswako maestro, has died at the age of 38

Hip hop Pantsula. Photo: Sowetan/ Vathiswa Ruselod

Hip hop Pantsula. Photo: Sowetan/ Vathiswa Ruselod

Jabulani Tsambo, known to many by his stage name Hip Hop Pantsula has died at the age of 38. While the cause of death is unclear at this stage, he was widely known to have been dealing with depression, opening up to the press about his previous attempts at suicide.

On Wednesday afternoon, publicist and HHP’s wife, Lerato Sengadi, confirmed his death with TimesLive saying that she was with the family.

Endearingly known as Jabba, he was a prolific recording artist whose career had several peaks, with hits including Tswaka, Jabba, Harambe, Mpitse, Music and Lights, Bosso ke Mang and others.
He also had some notable international collaborations, hooking up with the likes of Asheru, Omar Retnu, Lutan Fyah and Amerie.

Jabba’s musical career started out with a group called Verbal Assassins, whose debut and only album, Party,  was produced Chicco.  Two weeks ago, HHP dropped an EP titled Feels Good to Be Back. This was followed by an interview at Metro FM where he talked about his music hiatus, among other things, on The Drive with Mo Flava and Masechaba Ndlovu.

“I’m rediscovering myself, “ he said on air. “ I mean like, beginning of the year has always been something where I try to rekindle the love for music… I came off in an industry where I was being steered to go in a certain direction and as time went, I sort of started finding my own voice. But in finding my own voice, I started to explore how [much] more can I do it. There’s nothing worse than a creative being boxed and typecasted.”

Speaking about his EP, Jabba said the album had been his biggest project since last November, produced under a cloud of the passing of his longtime DJ. “So much has happened with that,” he said. “DJ Zondi passed away last year November due to a stroke and that really took a knock to me because he was my big brother, someone I leaned on.”

Over the years, Jabba had been incensed by the ahistorical tendencies of younger rappers, and the way the music industry was increasingly becoming formulaic, telling the African Hip-hop Blog that, “For me man, trap music… I literally cannot stand it. I love the music but I hate the content, they just about the same shit, bitches, champagne and cars that they know they can’t afford. These youngsters are so disrespectful.”

Although he didn’t start the style, Jabba is considered by many as a motswako pioneer, raising the bar for the style and influencing a generation of rappers such as Cassper Nyovest, Fifi Cooper, Notshi, JR and others. You can’t really mention the term motswako, without mentioning Jabba. After all, he is said to have given the group Morafe their name.

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