Our favourite Back to the City 2017 performances ranked

If for nothing else, Back to the City Festival 2017 will be remembered for bringing back the legendary Zola

Imagine Newtown, Johannesburg being shut down for 14 hours of non-stop hip hop. Well that’s exactly what happened last night. And then some.

Across three stages and what felt like dozens upon dozens of stalls and experience zones, Back to the City came back stronger for its eleventh year running to showcase the undying power of hip hop.

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The main stage served to highlight the past, present and future of hip hop with everyone from Zola, Da L.E.S. and Tweezy electrifying the crowd with an energy that made you forget that temperatures had dived below 15 degrees.

But in a move to look even further into the future, there was an additional stage for up-and-coming rappers. The crowd’s choice stage came with an incentive of a R10 000 cash prize for the best newcomer but more on this when we speak to the winner.

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The wild card stage was one set adjacent to the 10k one. It was unique in that it allowed room for alternative bands to make a name for themselves. The one that caught our attention: The Urban Village. Look out for our exclusive interview with the band soon.

What you’re really here for is what went down on that main stage. So just in case you weren’t following live with us last night, here are all of our favourite performances from Back to the City Festival, ranked.

6. Maraza

It took Maraza a second to get warmed up but rightly so. Of any act of the night, his performance was the most ambitious. Armed with a keytar, flanked with a keyboard and geared with some autotune trickery, dude was ready to make history. Kanye West is shook.

5. A-Reece

“Over on this side, are y’all fucking with me? Over at the back, are y’all fucking with me?” A-Reece meant business when he hit the Back to the City stage. Mainstays “Mngani” and “Loyal” made the set no doubt, but he used the platform to push his new music too. “Ladies and gentlemen, I got a new song I’d like to play for y’all. Can I do that shit?” Hear it first above.

4. Da L.E.S.

Donning a massive beanie, Rihanna-esque white shades, and a desert scarf over all-black military-style attire, Da L.E.S.’s only mission was to showcase exactly why he’s earned the title of North God. From “Lifestyle” to AKA joint, “Real Stuff,” the man had the crowd eating out the palm of his hand. Just check out the dude we caught breaking it down to “Lifestyle” as proof.

3. Priddy Ugly

Give Priddy Ugly a mic and stage and he’s instantly “In the Mood”. Along with that fire bop, he also brought out surprise guest Youngsta for a performance of “Come to My Kasi”. If you’re one of the 10k contestants who maybe didn’t make it to the final round to win the cash prize, take cues from this guy.

2. Tweezy

You can’t tell from this video but scroll up to the top of the post and you’ll see: Tweezy opened his show with a drone in commemoration of Freedom Day. As he made his way to the front of the stage, a drone carrying the South African flag met with him just before he unclipped it and wore it as a cape. And if he did nothing else, he would have already had one of the best shows of the night. But there was obviously more. Mr Fuego ripped through some of his mainstay hits and also debuted some new cuts. Watch it all above.

1. Zola

“Umdlwembe.” “Ghetto Fabolous.” “Don’t Cry.” If those titles mean anything to you, you should have been at the Back to the City main stage last night when Zola made a return to the stage of iconic proportions. Standing in the crowd watching him perform, you could not help but think that the magnitude of this performance in a post-Mandoza world is simply immeasurable. And as though to read our minds, he went on to do a tribute performance of “Nklalakatha”. And we were never the same again.


Well, what do you think?