Blurred Lines - Zim Hip Hop Kingship, Best Rapper Lists, and Everything-In-Between

By Tawanda Chari 

Zim Hip Hop kingship has become an oft-debated topic in the present. More so given how even dancehall artists and comedians are catching the wave. It's good exposure for the game, definitely, but is it really hip-hop?

It seems that even certain quarters of artists who rap do not fully understand what they claim to represent. Fans like to make lists rating such artists. But the divergences and contradictions manifested in these lists are enormous because there is no clear understanding of what hip-hop truly encompasses.

Zim Hip Hop King Holy Ten
The likes of Holy Ten have sparked and intensified conversations around Zim Hip Hop kingship

The Difference Between Hip Hop & Rap

There is a palpable disconnect as regards the multi-faceted outlook of contemporary rap music and the real-world memories of the responsible artists – and it’s this disconnect and absence of authenticity that distinguishes various strands of hip-hop music.

But in terms of breakdowns, not all rap is hip-hop, and not all hip-hop is rap. And that may sound ethereal. This invaluable distinction is indispensably important for the hip-hop voices of tomorrow, and fans in search of music that speaks to their preferences and stories.

Quite often rap music tends to have a more depressing, realistic outlook than hip-hop music. With commercialization, the two terms have suffered infinite interchangeability so much in modern times that it becomes gruelling to decode the real difference. It is rather difficult to pinpoint one particular difference that unequivocally differentiates rap and hip-hop?

One thing to keep in mind: this is where rap and hip-hop exist in the contemporary. But things are constantly evolving.

What Is Hip-Hop?

The vast phenomenon called hip-hop, as it originated from the United States’ poor black communities, affects everything that it touches. Hip-Hop has a culture with four elements* – deejaying, emceeing, graffiti, and dance.

Existential ideas revolving around the issues of identity, community responsibility, self-discipline and personal expression are fundamental to hip-hop culture. Moreover, as a cultural practice, hip-hop tends to manifest itself as a community activity. That makes it an immensely useful tool for bringing people together, because it is defined by the people who are participating at that moment. It gives people a sense of being and collective identity.

Hip-Hop doesn’t always have the most honest or real lyrics but the person who is creating the hip-hop has a unique style and/or content that will be able to affect culture/society.

Hip-hop aims to encourage its listeners to look forward to a brighter tomorrow in tackling and overcoming the existential threats in the present. And this is done by the convergence and expression of the four elements highlighted above.

What is Rap?

We can generally sum this as an artful conflation of rhyming and poetry to a musical instrumental/beat.

To be completely honest, anyone can rap. Maybe not exactly anyone but the degree of skill used or possessed is what makes the difference. Even if anyone could be a rapper, not everyone can be a good rapper. There are levels to this, just like with any other art form or profession. It’s not hard to rhyme words and learn rhyme patterns and start rapping. But such rappers are not necessarily artists, in the full sense of the word. They are not pieces of culture that influence the way people live their lives or think.

Rap was and still is more concerned with what is going on in popular culture. Rap covers the prevalence of crime, political issues that they disagree with, or general elements of irregularity happening in the now. Rap music involves a group or individual striving to “tell it like it is”. Rap carries connotations of “lyricism.” That is if one is a rapper within the context of being an excellent artist. Rap is an expression of the hip-hop culture.

But for the purposes of easing the direction of this piece, it is a generally acceptable norm that the terms rap and hip-hop are interchangeable to the extent that the differences mentioned above are blurred. Because it is what it is.

Is there a Hip-Hop/Rap King Or a GOAT list in Order?

There's no such thing, and here's why: There's simply a lot to dissect.

 It is in fact a complex issue. One can draft a favorite top 20 list and get away with saying those twenty are the greatest ever to do it. Every artist has their different style, background and voice/vocal projection. Complex doesn't mean impossible. There are ways of giving some structure to that conversation. This maybe just one of them.

Hip Hop & Rap

If a particular artist is impacting a particular community, can rap, can sing, can dance and is fashionable, that artist is likely to top of any hip-hop kings list. There is already a definition of what being hip-hop is so that should be a bit easier. Consider the following names in the wide context of the hip-hop culture:

Ti Gonzi

Pro Beatz


Holy Ten

King Cal Vin (RIP)

KingPinn (RIP)


The names are just examples, there wasn't any malicious intent. People can say what they want about Mudiwa but he's definitely hip-hop. Internet users as well as many other sections of music consumers may not enjoy his music but hip-hop isn't just music so that's justified.

Sidenote: Hip-Hop artists can also be rappers!

Ranking rappers however is something entirely different. There aren't a lot of rappers that will have it all so we probably have to stick to a particular attribute perhaps.

Tangibles in Rap Music

These are the attributes we can quantify – technical ability (scheming, bars, flow, cadence, delivery etc.), sales, longevity, hits, beat selection, overall quality, among others of like nature.

Consider these few names (in no particular order of course) as examples:

Noble Stylz

Mu Netsi


Jungle Loco

Jnr Brown

Calvin (RIP)

Malcom Mufunde




Syko Tech


Ti Gonzi

Indigo Saint

Tulk Munny



Holy Ten

R Peels

They are tangible emcees. However, maybe one or two might have everything in their locker but some rappers are way better in specific areas. Mu Netsi is great at the art of rapping, so is Jungle, Malcom and Noble. They will rank high on a list like that.

Asaph and Holy Ten would rank high on a hit list. Make no mistake, Asaph can rap with the best of them. Just trying to make a point.

GZE has been around long enough to be on number 1 on a longevity list. Again, this is just an example because GZE can do about anything.


These are rap attributes you cannot exactly quantify but one could rank emcees off that. Power, influence, credibility, spouses, swag and monetary value.

Mudiwa and Stunner would rank high on the swag list. Perhaps the influence list too, arguable as it may be. They have the audience for that, and probably monied enough for that too. They are obviously the only ones who can make a list like that but it is important to make that point.

Factoring in tangibles and intangibles

By now it's evident how complex the issue of Zim Hip Hop kingship is. There's no way an all-time great list can be long. Nor can it be short. Twenty names seem like a lot because not every rapper has it all. It is not a stretch to think that a top 3 GOAT list is even difficult to get to.

The endgame

Some rappers are top-tier. And some are great at the art of rapping but may not be as great in other areas. Perhaps it's the Zimbabwean music industry that masks some things.

Then you have your GOAT's across the board and then good, average and bad rappers.  

Collaborations and Feature Verses

As music consumers, we inadvertently incline towards comparing artists. It comes with the territory and lyricists are the most obvious victims of this. Rapper A has a better verse than rapper B and vice versa. But more often than not fans rarely ever take a step back and try to understand why the artist wrote or said some things in that particular way. Sometimes the artist is not trying to out-rap the next artist at all. Sometimes it's simply trying to put a message across. This does not apply to features alone; some rappers do what they do because that's what they want to do and fans conventionally have problems with that. Then a disconnect is created.

That means when we say artist B had a better verse it's not necessarily the same as saying artist B is the better rapper. It is a lot more complicated than that.

There is no perfect list, or one overall king of Zim Hip Hop

There is no sole, overall king of Zim Hip Hop. That one is a cumbersome exercise because every artist in the realm of hip-hop as a whole is exceptional in their own right. There is never going to be a perfect list for whatever attribute there is to rank. One that can make sense and provide context is possible, but nothing is absolute. We compare artists and everything else because it's inherently embedded in human nature and also because we enjoy it. But there are no hard and fast rules in this game.

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