/ 3 March 2022

The streets lost a plug in Boss Zonke

Cotton Fest Festival
Riky Rick gave his heart to growing South African hip-hop culture and was a perfectionist not only in music, but in fashion and business. (Photo: Tyrone Bradley/Red Bull Content Pool)

After Riky Rick’s death, a predominant storyline has been how “the kids” and “the street” lost their plug. Riky was not your typical rapper. He realised that the “streets talk more” and supported that underground movement.

Through his resourcefulness,  he was a safe haven for kids on the come-up. The consensus from what people shared on social media about his influence, is that he inspired people to chase their dreams and championed the misfit because he understood this spirit underpinned hip-hop.

His death also foregrounded an underrepresented conversation in the arts industry. People came out in numbers to express how the entertainment industry doesn’t have structures in place for artists to speak openly about depression, anxiety and other related issues.

Riky Rick is said to have been suffering from depression. Whether he sought help is unclear, but what is obvious is that he dedicated his career to passing the baton to artists who need to keep “the light of hip-hop shining”, grow the industry and be game-changers. 

Riky was hip-hop personified because he knew that it didn’t matter where he fitted in, genre-wise. He was inspired by predecessors like ProKid and Jabba, who remained rappers even as they worked with other artists. He defiantly stayed on the radio every day, even though he once gave radio the middle finger.

After being signed by Motif Records in 2014, a  label owned by Tumi Molekane, he learned how the system worked, and how it didn’t benefit anybody. He did the unthinkable at the Metro FM Awards in 2017, where he won best hit single for the song Sidlukotini. The rapper who had no business advocating for “the people” or in this instance “the street” spoke out against payola. 

Although two years after the act Riky expressed how he regretted his speech, it was that speech that solidified him as an OG of the street and affiliated him with most of the young artists who are booming on online platforms. 

He always brought a new act with him when he performed at Back to the City, because he knew the effect of facing the crowd that attended this annual hip-hop festival. 

Born Rikhado Muziwendlovu Makhado, the artist is described by his family as a loving, caring, empathic person who was generally in tune with himself. His uncle, Khangale Makhado, said: “He is the spitting image of his father and was ambitious from a very young age. The family was not surprised when he became one of the most prolific rappers in South Africa, because he was destined for greatness and he believed that. 

“His love for music was nurtured by his father, who was also a performing artist. As he carved a path in the music industry, Riky would make mixtapes and sell them at the Ritual Store in Newtown.” 

“They were known as the “Cheese Boys” or the “North Guys” when he was hanging with fellow rappers Da L.E.S, as well as Bongani Fassie. His first song, Barbershop, was a crunk song that came out around the same time as Ying Yang Twins’ The Whisper Song . That’s how American he was when first made it to the music scene,” he said, laughing while recollecting these memories. 

A friend told Mail & Guardian that the late Riky used to hang around the Nike Concepts store at Melville where he met like-minded creatives like Okmalumkoolkat; Stilo Magolide, who was known as Chocolate at the time; Mome; Mkay Frash, and others who formed a conglomerate of artists who were finding themselves and moving forward with the same ideology. It was around the same time that the group BoyzNBucks was formulated.

“That’s where everything started: the fashion, the experimenting with music, travelling and exploring as a creative. He surrounded himself with people who are as ambitious as him and always challenged himself to be greater in his craft than yesterday. The fashion part was always part of him: he saw how people loved the way he put his outfit together and capitalised on that because it came naturally to him,” his friend said. 

One of his fans, Lihle Zwane, said she followed Riky because of his fashion sense. “I remember there was a time when people looked at what Riky Rick wore and would follow his trend. If I remember correctly, the day I decided this guy was a trailblazer in fashion was when he brought back those Kapa pants on trend. It was not about the label, but how he dressed up. If you were a student who spent most of your student life in Braam, you know the BoyzNBucks were your go-to guys when it comes to the latest sneakers and what is hot in fashion,” she said. 

As a stylist and model, Zwane wasn’t a follower of hip-hop but Riky got her to have an interest in hip-hop. “His ability to infuse fashion into hip-hop was legendary, because he wasn’t your typical rapper with baggy pants and T-shirts. Representation was everything to Riky, and that also helped me to pick my items when I thrifted for my clients,” she said. 

Riky gave his heart to growing South African hip-hop culture and was a perfectionist not only in music, but in fashion and business. 

His words on social media have alluded to a person who has made peace with dying, with his last tweet mining a line from his lyrics.