Communal style: Riky Rick was always for the culture

Riky Rick admitted earlier in his career that he only had two albums in him. As a result, he wasn’t known for full-length projects — since his blow-up  in 2014, he released just one album, Family Values, and one EP, Stay Shining. But he released a consistent stream of singles throughout his highly decorated career. 

Tweeted AKA in 2020: “Riky is worse. He just pulls up every summer with a mean one then goes back to wearing pajamas,” commenting on Riky’s somewhat part-time approach to rapping and making music. 

As one of the country’s most successful slashies, Riky was running multiple businesses, including Cotton Club Records merchandise and the festival Cotton Fest, among many other ventures. 

As a lyricist, Riky compared to one of his biggest inspirations, 2Pac; focusing less on the intricate technicalities of rapping and, instead, prioritising raw expression. But he was still a skilled rapper with the ability to put things in the most effective ways. 

The following is a selection of his best guest appearances – seemingly his favourite mode of creating, followed by some picks of his strongest songs.

Riky’s 10 best guest verses

Priddy Ugly Every Mountain Got a Peak 

Riky met his match on this song — both rappers have the most solid deliveries and unique flows in the game. Riky’s verse is reminiscent of his verse on his 2015 song Fuseg by way of the curt lines that emphasise the last words of each bar. In the verse, Riky flaunts his longevity to his competition and takes time to shout-out A-Reece: “I put money on the streets; only one I see is Reece, Priddy Ugly make the cypher complete,” he rapped. 

Yanga Chief Utatakho Remix

“I fell in love with the mpahlas, I fell in love with the mpahlas” is one of Riky’s most iconic lines simply because it describes his love for fashion which became an identity of his as King Kotini. As if to flaunt just how comfortable he is with his rapping, Riky adopts an animated vocal tone somewhere in the verse and makes the assertion to being “the reason hip-hop is drenched” as a signifier to being one of the country’s biggest fashion killas. 

Frank Casino The Whole Thang (ft. Riky Rick) 

Frank Casino was at home over low-tempo minimal production. It suited his lethargic delivery style. But that’s when Riky Rick is done with it. Riky stacks his verse with a high volume of words, rapping lines that are now monumental Riky rapping moments: “I’m Conor McGregor I never lose” because it has aged so badly and “I don’t wanna be a Ma-E at 43” for its cheekiness. “I don’t wanna end up like Jabba, my nigga Flabba” is now chilling, considering his recent passing. 

Dr Peppa What It Is (ft Lucasraps, Chang Cello and Riky Rick) 

On Dr Peppa’s What It Is, Riky showed once again that he was as sharp as the new generation of rappers. His verse doesn’t only feel natural alongside Lucasraps and Chang Cello’s efforts, it stands out. He sounds comfortable, leaving enough room between his lines for catching his breath. He cleverly rhymes both English and IsiZulu words over a beat that’s a hybrid of hip-hop and amapiano. 

Espiquet Wait Outside Remix (ft Riky Rick)

At times, it seemed Riky was just showing how easy rapping was for him. His verses on Vaal rapper Espiquet’s remix for his single Wait Outside sound effortless. He brags about his influence, “I might just stop wearing Gucci and watch all these niggas die from confusion” while rapping surefootedly with a high-precision flow and matching conviction. In his second short verse, he declares, “I’m Steve Biko to the masses, you are Kardashian in Calabasas.”

Nasty C A Star is Born

A song that didn’t make Nasty C’s debut album Bad Hair owing to sample clearance complications, A Star is Born was leaked by Nasty C himself in 2016. A sentimental treatise on parent-son relations, A Star is Born sees Nasty and Riky reflect on their relations with their progenitors with vulnerable honesty. While the song marked one of the first instances in which Nasty C spoke positively about his father after slandering him in his early mixtapes, for Riky it was an opportunity to shine the light on the two women who’d been pivotal in his life and career. After his father “died at Helen Joseph”, Riky was raised by a supportive mother a la Kanye West and Donda. Riky’s wife (then-baby mama) was given her flowers in the A Star is Born verse: “A couple years ago baby mama covered the rent / Then she covered the gas to get my car to the studio / Threw in a 100 for cigarettes and a meal to go,” he rapped before sharing that his mother encouraged him, a “savage”, he “should be preparing for marriage”. “But I told her I’m traumatised cause my pops died broke / So fuck it, I ain’t tryna live average,” he retorted. 

Gemini Major Ragga Ragga (ft Cassper Nyovest, Riky Rick, Nadia Nakai) 

Riky Rick’s strength has always been form and delivery; from the clarity of his words to how straightforward he is with his expression. On Ragga Ragga, a song with an open-ended concept, King Kotini delivered a standout verse (alongside Cassper’s great effort) with unpredictable rhyme schemes through the use of syllable rhyming (for instance, rhyming “larger” “I got her”). He danced over Gemini Major’s bass-heavy trap instrumental with the flair and fortitude he was known for. 

Cassper Nyovest Le Mpitse 

On his verse on Cassper’s 2015 banger, Riky addressed his former Motif Records boss Stogie T’s line from the song Way It Go by DJ Switch. Stogie T mentioned that he was tired of being asked about Riky’s swift departure from Motif Records after a brief period with the label. “What happened to Riky? What happened to Riky is the same thing that happened to 50. What happened to you?” Riky struck back with unflinching fortitude as the baseline groaned in agreement.  The rapper explained the line, which most listeners found cryptic, during an unplugged performance on 5FM in 2019: “So, when 50 Cent came out, you have to understand he was in two record labels, two deals, and for him to get out of those deals, people were pressing him to pay money. And I was in the same situation; I had to pay my way out of my first record deal. And I paid my way out of it.”

Ice Prince Bae Coupe 

Riky’s verse on Bae Coupe deals with his ambivalence towards fame. “My life was crazy, remember mama was begging me,” he raps. “Now I’m begging mama like, ‘Please accept this hundred Gs’” before survivor guilt kicks in and it hits him that he’s one of a few in a country that’s plagued by poverty and resultant violence: “Fuck money, my niggas is getting murdered off in KwaMashu / The violence had us fleeing like birds / Got to Jozi, the system made us move to the burbs.”

AKA F.R.E.E (ft Riky Rick and DJ Tira) 

AKA’s 2019 summer hit deployed amapiano’s log drum and further made a connection with kwaito by the song’s overall feel. Riky Rick pulls off different flows in his verse to ride the song’s bouncy rhythm; his verse is delivered with the ease associated with kwaito while incorporating modern rap’s melodic flows.

Riky Rick’s 10 best songs (+1) 

I Can’t Believe It 

I Can’t Believe It, an explosive street banger, showed that Riky Rick was a deeply rooted rapper with a wide palette at his disposal. It has traces of early 2000s SA hip-hop — the conversational delivery could be attributed to Tha Hymphatic Thabs, but in Riky’s hands those flows are crafted to suit a bouncier rhythm that demands more than the head-bobbing of that era.  

Joy 

Riky Rick had a complicated relationship with fame. He embraced it and had presence. But, apart from remaining more accessible to the general public than his counterparts, Riky despised and dreaded the confines of fame. On Joy, the first full-length song on his 2017 EP Stay Shining, he grappled with the emptiness of celebrity which he still enjoyed. Joy is one of the most honest songs by Riky as he rapped about missing his life before the fame. He opened up about mistreating his wife: “Baby mama done everything for me / Sometimes I wish I was a better man.” But Joy excels in just how light-hearted it sounds sonically with a beat that recalls 1980s dance pop music while being one of the most poignant self-portraits in his oeuvre. 

Boss Zonke 

Tapping into the zeitgeist, Riky experimented with kwaito on his first independent single since leaving Motif Records. Boss Zonke, carried by an undulating synth layer and a frisky rhythm, grew into Riky’s flagship single. It was a nod to his Durban roots. The hook, performed by an anonymous woman, was synonymous with vocalist-helmed hooks that were popular in Durban kwaito and house in the 2000s and 2010s. The video of the song was filmed in Joburg, Cape Town and, of course, Durban, with cameos from members of Boyznbucks and other key figures in the three cities’ street culture scenes. In the video, Riky mixed with the masses as he asked the cheeky question: “Usabani usema suburbs’ini?” to which they later join in. 

Pick You Up

Pick You Up, a monumental collaboration from two of South Africa’s most beloved rappers, the faces of independence in SA hip-hop, concerns itself with the spirit of giving back. Riky Rick made a promise to the street, which he kept: “When I get rich I’ma lift you up,” he says in the hook, and goes on to say, “When I die, to remember me, hit the Gucci spend a hundred Gs / Make a million, put it on the streets / Live and eat, let my niggas eat.” A-Reece’s heartfelt verse revolved around his finesse in manoeuvering the game. The standout line, “Making Paradise was a living hell,” is precise but speaks volumes about his stint with Ambitiouz Entertainment, the label under which he released his debut album Paradise in 2016 before publicly exiting in 2017. A performance of Pick You Up at the 2019 edition of Riky’s Cotton Fest led to Reece shedding a tear on stage to which Riky responded with an affirmation to the young rapper pointing to King Kotini’s love and undying support of young talent.  

Sidlukotini

Sidlukotini 

In the mid-2000s, every South African rapper had to have a banger produced by super producer Tweezy — AKA had a whole album, Levels, which included the monster hits Run Jozi, Sim Dope and All Eyes on Me; L-Tido had Dlala Ka Yona; A-Reece had Paradise. Riky had Sidlukotini, a song in which he chanted the titular phrase (first mentioned in the posse cut Fuseg) over the Soweto-born producer’s pulverising bassline. Sidlukotini is an eternal club banger that still turns the party up to this day. Sidlukotini was one of Riky’s best performance songs because of its infectious energy and simple one-liner hook. 

Home 

After Riky’s untimely passing, Home now hits different. A line from the sampled vocals of US singer and songwriter Terence Trent D’Arby, “This land is still my home”, formed Riky’s last tweet. In the song, Riky hinted at a possibility of “leaving” which didn’t mean much at the time — aren’t rappers always threatening to “leave the game”? He rapped, “Sometimes I feel like I wanna leave it / If I leave, then who they gonna believe in? / How are they gonna receive it?” The rapper went on to say his mother encouraged him to stay on, amid the pressure. “That kinda pressure is a motherfucker,” he rapped. “Why did it have to be me?” What sounded like a reckoning mixed with rapper hubris is now a tearjerker swaddled in amapiano’s luxurious pads and all-present log drum. 

Amantombazane Remix 

The streets believe this is the best South African hip-hop remix of all time. Then signed to Motif Records, a label associated with lyricism, Riky gathered the game’s hottest rappers for an era-defining lyrical showdown. Maggz, Ginger Trill, Kid X, Kwesta, Nadia Nakai, OkMalumKoolKat and Riky himself all made a case for being the best out over a menacing instrumental. The result was one of the most discussed hip-hop song of the mid-2010s, a moment forever engraved on the fabric of South African pop culture. To this day, heads still cannot agree on the best verse on the remix. 

Buy It Out Remix

Three years since the release of Amantombazane Remix, Riky assembled another set of lyricists for another bar fest. This time around, the line-up consisted of emerging rappers: YoungstaCPT, J Molley, Frank Casino, Stilo Magolide, the singer KLY and like-minded peer of Riky’s, Da L.E.S, who played a huge role in the popularization of South African new age rap with a heavy US influence since his stint with the supergroup Jozi. Yet another notable moment of South Africa’s mid-2010s era.

Nafukwa 

Dramatic horns, subtle organ keys, a big bassline, add to that, trap’s customary high-time hi-hats and 808s. Produced by the superproducer trio Ganja Beatz, it’s a beat that requires the brazenness only Riky and a few other rappers could pull off. As a single-based artist, Riky Rick always made sure his singles were a notable event. Nafukwa was a bold statement from Riky, firstly paying homage to the controversial crew Die Antwoord by referencing their 2011 song Fok Julle Naaiers and paying homage to Brown Dash (he changed, “I miss my nigga Brown Dash, I pray to God, please bring back me back my nigga Brown Dash, that motherfucker would’ve been Boyz n Bucks”), all while letting everyone know he’s operating on a different plane. “Khohlwa amaJordan, we finished with that,” he declares. Nafukwa was accompanied by edgy visuals that are borderline poverty porn and also show Riky’s then-crew Boyz n Bucks. 

You and I 

You and I is a song one would expect from a rapper whose debut album was titled Family Values and centred the story of his upbringing. On You and I, Riky looked back at the trouble he had caused his wife in the early stages of their relationship. Even more emotive than the song, which could have been fiction, is the inclusion of his wife and two children in the music video. The refrain “You and I till the day we die, baby” now holds more weight as the rapper leaves his family behind. Even at his most personal, Riky still managed to make a catchy song that was bolstered by a soulful vocal hook by Mlindo The Vocalist. 

Sondela (ft. Zano)

Sondela, a smooth hip-hop love song, was a heartwarming record in which Riky Rick showed appreciation to his wife. The radio smash was built with the sheen of Afro-pop and Afro-house, Zano’s genre of choice. On Sondela, Riky was believable and relatable. The song’s visuals, which starred Pearl Thusi, showed the ups and downs of relationships and showed intimate clips of Riky Rick and his wife in the delivery room welcoming their baby.

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