Conversations about genre and sticking out in a room full of people were moot for Riky Rick.
It’s difficult to believe that it’s been a year since the death of South African rapper, singer, songwriter and producer Riky Rick, born Rikhado Makhado, on 23 February 2022.
Shortly after the news of his suicide spread throughout the country, his struggles with mental health came to light, bringing awareness of the effects of the illness in men, especially, within the creative arts.
Makhado’s death comes after fellow artist and Motswako rapper Jabulani Tsambo, affectionately known as HHP, also took his own life in October 2018 after years of battling depression.
The anniversary of Riky Rick’s death comes in the wake of the devastating murder of industry mate and award-winning rapper AKA, real name Kiernan Forbes, who was gunned down outside a popular eatery in Durban earlier this month.
Just a day after Ricky’s death, AKA took to socials to share a picture with the Boss Zonke hitmaker, criticising those questioning the reason behind his suicide.
“I hope that very soon we can address the issue of how damaged and broken the men in this country are. We have no-one to talk to, we just pat each other on the back and say, ‘get on with it, be strong my boi’, but in reality we are traumatised. Generational trauma passed down to us. Ladies, we are not perfect by any means … but we are crying out for your approval, your love and affection,” said the rapper.
Forbes had previously collaborated with Makhado on his 2019 song F.R.E.E alongside musician and producer Dj Tira, birth name Mthokozisi Khathi, that has a heavy Kwaito influence in its sound.
Riky Rick’s rise to fame came after the release of his 2014 hit single Nafukwa, scoring him an MTV Africa music award for video of the year at the 2015 ceremony. In the same year, the rapper debuted his studio album, Family Values, that would go on to cement his career in music.
It featured hit songs Amantomabazane, Boss Zonke, Sondela and Shining with guest appearances from artists Cassper Nyovest, Okmalumkoolkat, Zano and Black Motion.
Family Values bagged Makhado three nominations at the 2016 South African Music Awards for best hip hop album, newcomer of the year and male artist of the year.
Speaking in an interview with Slikour OnLife, Riky shared that his debut album gave him the platform to express some of the lessons and mistakes he’s made in the early years of his career.
“I was trying to put a little bit of gems and life lessons. Then I realised that people need to go through their own journeys. The same way that I have to go through my own journey to figure out what life and family is actually about.
“You have to make your mistakes to figure things out. There’s no successful musician or even entrepreneur that hasn’t gone through bad business dealing, But it’s all about focusing on what’s next and not feeling sorry for yourself,” he said.
Makhado’s rise to stardom didn’t stop there. The release of his 2017 EP Stay Shining, named after the project’s lead single and featuring award-winning musician Refiloe Phoolo, stage name Cassper Nyovest, continued to propel Riky’s star power.
The song’s catchy lines — “It’s gotta be right, it’s gotta be good, it’s gotta be nice, I do this for you, stay shining, Everybody stay shining” — have become words his fans have come to remember him by.
Rick and Nyovest have collaborated on a number of each other’s tracks, including Fuseg, Le Mpitse, Come Alive and Ragga Ragga, to name a few.
At Rick’s memorial service, Nyovest recounted some of the fondest moments he’d shared with the musician he considered a long-time friend.
“We formed a brotherhood. Some of the things I loved about Riky was, firstly, how honest he was. Riky would tell you the truth that everyone else was scared to tell you,” he said, addressing a crowd of the late rapper’s friends and fans.
Apart from speaking about Rick’s character, Nyovest also said that he enjoyed Rick’s singing voice more than his rhymes.
“I loved hearing Riky sing more than him rapping. I would always encourage him to sing. In one of his last video’s that he posted he was singing Sondela. For a lot of people it was surprising to hear Riky sing. And he and I were not on the greatest terms, even though we were speaking, and one of the things I regret is that I wasn’t able to tell him how much I loved that video,” Nyovest expressed.
Apart from Makhado’s musical gift he was undoubtedly a fashionista, or as he would like to put it a “cotton eater”. Whether the rapper was rocking a red transparent mask at an award ceremony or dripping in a black and gold Gucci poncho, one thing’s for sure, heads would turn.
And that’s one of the reasons the artist founded the Cotton Festival in 2019. The annual event that launched in Johannesburg was inspired by his 2016 hit song Sidlukotini (being stylishly dressed) created as a platform for both established and up-and-coming musicians to share the same stage.
Chatting to SABC News ahead of the first Cotton Fest, Rick said that the event was formulated as a space for self-expression and creativity.
“Like any venture I go into, I never know where it’s going to end up. I’m really keen on taking it to my hometown, Durban, taking it to Cape Town, and taking it to places like my Makhado city. I want to take it all around the country. But to do that, you really have to have a lot of support,” he explained.
His dream of bringing the festival to the Mother City came true posthumously in December last year. The event welcomed roughly 5 000 cotton eaters at the Paarden Eiland Park with guest performances by A-Reece, Blxckie, Felo Le Tee, Shekhinah and headliner Anatii, among others.
Although 23 February will remain a painful day in the South African hip hop and music scene at large, Riky Rick’s legacy will continue to live on through his art.
In his own words: “We never die. We multiply.”