/ 13 January 2023

University of Cotton is back in Joburg!


Sporting a green bucket hat, and accompanied by a choir, South African rapper Rikhado Makhado, popularly known as Riky Rick, had a crowd of more than 10 000 people chanting his name during his final Cotton Fest performance in February 2020.     

What no one knew then was that two years later we’d be grieving the loss of Makhado, who took his own life in February 2022. Now whether or not it’s a coincidence that his death happened in the same month as his last Cotton Fest performance is not known and, more importantly, doesn’t matter.

His death sparked conversations about mental health in the hip-hop community in South Africa. It was revealed at his funeral that the musician had been struggling with depression, something award-winning Motswako rapper Jabulani Tsambo, known as HHP, also struggled with before his suicide in October 2018. 

In an interview with SABC six months after Makhado’s death, his wife Bianca Naidoo said that she knew he had been battling with mental health issues. 

“I don’t want to say that there were signs because I never thought it would have gone that way but I do know Riky was struggling. And it’s not just in a year or recent years but I feel like, from the time that we met, there were always struggles,” she said. 

Makhado’s last public tweet was made at 3.20am on the day he died, quoting lyrics from his 2020 song Home: “I’ll return a stronger man. This land is still my home.”

The KwaMashu-born artist left a legacy of great music and fashion, which he so eloquently expressed in his 2016 hit single Sidlukotini (loosely translated as “we are dressed fashionably”). He promoted music throughout his career, eventually creating the Cotton Fest in 2019. Putting accomplished and upcoming South African artists on the same stage, Cotton Fest celebrates style and creates a space for young people to express themselves. 

South African rapper Anathi Mnyango (stage name Anatii), who headlined the Cape Town leg of the festival in December 2022, shared in an interview with Slikour Online that his performance was a way of  “honouring the memory of Riky”. 

“Preparing for Cotton Fest has given me that feeling of, ‘I’m grateful on the highest level because Riky would have wanted this,’” he said.  

Like many other tertiary institutions, the University of Cotton will be welcoming back its students in the most epic way this year, with the Johannesburg leg taking place on Saturday, 4 February at The Station in Newtown.  

The one-day festival promises a lineup of some of the hottest amapiano and hip-hop artists — still to be revealed — on its three stages.   

There will be a food court and a sports area for basketball and skateboard fans. 

Doors open midday with tickets available at Webtickets and Pick n Pay stores nationwide from R200 and R395.