Zim Hip Hop Awards 2023 Review: Winners, Snubs, Absences, and the State of Rap


HARARE – The Zimbabwe Hip Hop Awards (ZHHAs) celebrated its own 13th anniversary at the 7 Arts Theatre in Avondale, Harare on 15 December 2023 in a blend of triumph and unease. Hip-hop’s popularity, especially this year, has been on an upward and encouraging trajectory. It’s definitely not far from becoming one of the best genres in the nation, although there is still more work to be done, evidently.

Zim Hip Hop Awards 2023 Review and Winners
Image: The ZimTainment 

Holy Ten stole the spotlight, emerging as the biggest winner of the night at the 2023 Zim Hip Hop Awards; winning in three categories – Best Male hip-hop artist of the year, Best Hustle and People’s Choice award. 

Holy wasn’t the only big winner at the show—Malcom Mufunde and Voltz JT both walked with two gongs each—Malcom with Best Album (Treasure, with Synik) and Verse of the Year—and JT winning Video of the Year and Best Social Impact Award. 

The limelight was also thrust on collaborations, with special emphasis on OCD's Amaihwe (Slyme Foxx and Icey Ekxne) winning Best Collaboration. OCD also delivered an electric performance that left fans clamouring for more; a clear sign of their rising stock in the game. 

However, the absence of superstar Saint Floew from the winners’ circle left a notable void, casting a conspicuous shadow over the event, and raising all sorts of talk. (Zim Hip Hop Awards later clarified that Saint Floew requested that his name be removed from the nominations list). 

Concerns surfaced about the venue choice, with the awards coinciding with other festive events, prompting questions about timing and location. 

Despite these challenges, the night celebrated emerging talent, with Young Gemini and Kayflow clinching Best Female and Best Newcomer, respectively. 

Image: The ZimTainment

The ceremony also paid homage to the genre’s history with the Lifetime Achievement Award presented to the Incredible Munetsi.

We also loved live performances from Millz Million and Seven Cadre, although we have to say there is still much room for improvement. Kayflow’s performance stole the night, delivering a lively set on stage that showed his acumen as a formidable rap star in the making. 

Notable winners included Leon Mwana Wajoze for Best Gospel Act, Yaad Universe for Best Journalist, Club Danger for Best Brand Supporting Hip Hop, Mlue Jay for Best Diaspora, Sqatta (Capitalk) for Best Radio DJ, DJ Iroq for Best Club DJ, Dough Major & Dingo Duke for Best Hip Hop Group, Malcolm Mufunde for Best Verse Sweet 16, and Voltz JT & Blue Mordecai for Best Video Director.

Noluntu J [Image: The ZimTainment]

The event pulsated with the energy of the community, showcasing the depth and diversity of Zimbabwean hip hop. 

Amidst both celebration and uncertainty, the evening underscored the genre’s resilience and unwavering spirit. As the hip hop scene continues its evolution, observing how it navigates internal and external challenges on the path to greater heights will be intriguing.

Album of the Year 

It took Malcom Mufunde a lifetime to get here. And we are proud of him. Looking at his track record, it's a lifetime collection of treasure. 

Ironically, Treasure, with Synik, is the album that eventually won him that accolade. Although he did not attend the ZHHAs to collect his trophy, actual art won. Some quarters were not pleased with this decision, and it is understandable. But to be fair, for this particular gong, the ZHHAs have been mostly thorough on the art rather than hype. 

Sometimes, it is not everything from the mainstream that ought to take the awards. And the Best Album category exemplifies this. 

Lyricism, song construction, track sequencing, cohesion, story progression cadence, literature and used of language as well as sonic soundscape are some of the factors requisite in considerations of the Best Album category. That's 95% of everything that should matter as something strictly measured for it's artistic excellence.

Biggest Surprise: Bling 4

Bling 4’s Shiri Ngainaiwe, won Song of the Year, beating three other songs that were notably bigger crossover hits – Delilah by Holy Ten, Mfana Wepajecha by Kayflow and Gevha by Bagga,  all of which could have easily won. 

Biggest Snubs

It’s a coin-flip decision but Nagbeatz had a decent shout for Producer of the Year. We strongly feel, given his work ethic and indelible imprint behind many of this year’s hits, he deserved something. From another angle, it is not necessarily as big of a snub as the heading suggests but something worth noting. 

Controlla for Hip Hop Personality of The Year was something worth noting as well. Probably did not garner just about enough traction for the accolade but the impact did deserve a shout. It really did. We are glad he got the nomination. 

The state of rap in Zimbabwe

Genre forecasters have been hand-wringing like a knife because of the ZHH Awards:

ZHHA needs to do better

Winners won for the sake of winning

You’d think hip hop is on one steep decline. Maybe it was premature industry induced panic considering the timing. Because hip-hop is not on the decline. Far from it. 

The Zim Hip Hop Awards aftermath discourse about its supposed failure or disappointment came into vogue the moment it started relying on  charts/streams, music business, and popularity to affirm what good art is and what its future should be. 

Dingo Duke [Image: The ZimTainment]

The existential questions about the genre’s growth and how the awards play a part in ‘marketing’ the movement  are nothing new. In actuality, these conversations have always been there from the first edition of the awards, but here we are, over a decade later. 

It’s one thing to not agree to certain people missing out. Everyone has something they can probably call out and hold merit. But by proxy of being human, sometimes the they can get the winners wrong. 

There’s ‘industry heads’ who are quick to hold up knives and throw bricks. Forcing a narrative befitting a funeral. Popularity has become hip hop’s bread and butter. The more the merrier. 

Dough Major [Image: The ZimTainment]

But once we start using industry metrics to justify what the actual art is worth, it’s hard to stop. There is an incompatibility between music as an art and the music business. Accolades and business should never compromise the actual art. 

Perhaps that is the singular most important thing we ought to learn from award shows.

Here are the 2023 Zim Hip Hop Hop Awards Winners: 

Best Male

  • Holy Ten
  • Bling4
  • R Peels
  • Bagga
  • SaintFloew
  • MlueJay
  • Kayflow

Best Female

  • Young Gemini
  • Noluntu J
  • Brucella
  • Millz Million
  • Banshee
  • Natasha Muz

Best Hip Hop Group

  • Dough Major, Dingo Duke
  • OCD (Icey Ekxne x Slyme Foxx)
  • Malcom Mufunde, Yaad Universe
  • Holy Ten x Michael Magz

Best Producer

  • Nasper Incoming
  • Nagbeatz
  • Boy Tricky
  • VinceGoodBeats
  • Progisthename
  • VI The Law

Best Newcomer

  • Kayflow
  • Bling4
  • VirusZW
  • Bagga
  • OCD
  • Dingo Duke
  • Brucella

Best Brand Supporting Hip Hop
  • Club Danger
  • 3rd World Chronicles
  • Infinity Records ZW
  • Stars29
  • Voice of Zim Hip Hop

Best Album
  • Treasure – Malcom Mufunde and Synik
  • Less Talk More Action – Mlue Jay
  • Rangu Jira – Virus ZW
  • From Sheebenia with Love – Dough Major and Dingo Duke
  • A Boy and a Blanket – VI The Law
  • StoryTellers of the Culture – ZAZISE
  • Public Enemy – R Peels
  • When It’s All Said and Done – Boy Tricky
  • Ndonzi Beatx – The Shebeen Gospel

Best Promoter
  • Selector Base
  • Chucknosis – Feasta Feasta
  • Voice of Zim Hip Hop
  • Magamba Network
  • Woods Pub & Grill
  • Milan Family Restaurant

Best Diaspora
  • Mlue Jay
  • Synik
  • Chief Chino
  • Draze
  • TheLastLetter
  • Neville Sigauke

Best Radio DJ
  • Sqattar – Capitalk
  • DJ Mambo – UZ Radio
  • Lady K & Pd The Ghost – Zi FM
  • DJ Mox – StarFM

Best Club DJ
  • DJ Iroq
  • DJ Tk Beats
  • DJ Klique
  • DJ Ostalo

Best Gospel Act
  • Leon Mwana WaJoze
  • REAP3R
  • Chief Capone
  • Church Boy
  • Jason Gwanzura

Best Underground
  • VI The Law
  • Ndonzi Beatx
  • KLON
  • Seven Cadre
  • Malcom Mufunde
  • Benefit Tanaka
  • Wes The Rapper
  • Tidech

Best Alternative
  • Bagga
  • JoyRukanza
  • Banshee

Planet Dodger Oline Media Award
  • The263Post
  • The Curator
  • Yaad Universe Network
  • Cordless Plug ZW
  • Zimsphere
  • Greedy South
  • Bulawayo Arts News Online

Best Journalist
  • Yaad Universe
  • Tafadzwa Madzika
  • Takudzwa Chiwanza
  • Takudzwa ‘Manando’
  • Mkhokheli Zibengwa

Song of the Year
  • Bling4 ft. Voltz JT – ‘Shiri Ngainaiwe’
  • Holy Ten – ‘Delilah’
  • Kayflow – ‘Ramba Waka Dzvanya’
  • Bagga – ‘Nyarara’
  • OCD – ‘Amaihwe’
  • Brucella – ‘KING’

Video of the Year/Best Director
  • Voltz JT – ‘Same Drawer neGown’ directed by Blu Mordecai 
  • Boy Tricky – ‘Zvekudaro’
  • Chief Capone – ‘Get the paper’
  • VI the Law – ‘Magitare’
  • Bagga – ‘Nyarara’
  • Tasha – ‘King of Harare’
  • Kayflow – ‘Ramba Wakadzvanya’
  • R Peels – ‘Gold’
  • Bling 4 – ‘Shiri Ngainaiwe’

Best Live Act
  • Noluntu J
  • Mlue Jay
  • Brintz
  • Dough Major
  • Dingo Duke

Best Hip Hop Hustle
  • Holy Ten
  • Voltz JT
  • Bagga
  • Saintfloew
  • R.Peels

Best Hip Hop Verse/Sweet 16
  • Malcom Mufunde – ‘The Culture’
  • Soko Matemai – ‘VOTY’
  • RayKaz – ‘Chosen v2’
  • Synik – ‘Good Old Days’
  • Kayflow – ‘Hitlab Cypher’
  • Bling4 – ‘iHulumende’
  • Tidech – ‘Black’
  • Brintz – ‘Let Them Know’
  • Tasha – ‘King of Harare’

Best Hip Hop Personality
  • R.Peels
  • HolyTen
  • Voltz JT
  • OCD
  • Bagga
  • Young Gemini
  • Brintz
  • Controlla
  • Bling4
  • Saintfloew

R.Peels [Image: The ZimTainment]

People’s Choice
  • Holy Ten
  • Mlue Jay
  • Bagga
  • Saintfloew
  • R Peels
  • Voltz JT
  • Kayflow

Lifetime Achievement Award
  • Munetsi

Positive Social Impact Award
  • Voltz JT
  • Mlue Jay
  • Chief Capone
  • Banshee
  • Leon MwanaWaJose

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