Deekaydidit has proclaimed herself to be #AfricasBestKeptSecret. A slick rapper who unapologetically identifies as lesbian in a heteronormative industry, she is not letting others and definitely not her sexuality define her career. But before the mic, her first love was basketball.
A young Zamasihi Madlala had aspirations to become a professional basketball player. An unfortunate accident left her right arm broken and subsequently supported by metal plates. All this happened not long after the passing of her father. With the loss of a loved one and basketball no longer a feature in her life, she had to court new dreams. Though she withdrew into herself after her father’s passing, she had drawn in all his musical influences and basketball had given her the tenacity of an MVP.
“I was captured by how bluntly and freely they expressed themselves on the beat”, she explains of her attraction to hip hop. “The lyrics stood out in the beat because the rappers did the most”. There is a clear old school hip hop influence in the Pietermaritzburg-born rapper’s stylistic delivery. “My brother would play old school R&B and then the next minute we are listening to Busta Rhymes. I find that a lot of my flow was influenced by him.”
She seamlessly switches between Zulu and English both in her raps and as she explains to me the origins of her effortless duality. “My family moved me to a school in the ‘burbs in grade 8/9 but my father insisted I started at a Bantu school.” The results of a rich cultural influence is a blended perspective that allows her to rap about her contrasting experiences ekasi and at high end strip clubs. All this whilst shifting from ispoti to a durag as if substituting Michael Jordan for Sheryl Swoopes – quality either way.
Dee’s self assurance is infectious. She assures me that this was not always the case. Though she had to build her confidence over time, her sexuality was never the source of her introverted personality as a child. “I’ve never seen anything wrong with who I am because at home they always supported and believed in me,” she explains. Raised in the small township of Imbali she assures me that there, “everyone knows ubuntu.”
“Growing up lesbian ekasi, there actually wasn’t an issue. People know you because they watched you grow up. It was only after I left that I experienced discrimination. Homophobia is a western concept,” she proclaims.
Dee is as smooth with her words as the lining in a basketball. Her delivery is suave, sexy and seductive. She chuckles as I admit to momentarily crushing on her. She admits that I am not the first gay man to do so saying, “It comes naturally. My dad was a pretty nigga and was smooth.” On “Somebody” she raps “…or better yet wake up to some head like I’m in King’s Landing with a pink satin wearing bitch in the cabin.”
Only Elena Delle Donne’s 2015 MVP season heroics in the WNBA could compare to the weight this kind of imagery has. It is no secret that globally, hip hop has harboured and honed homophobic sentiments that have alienated people of the LGBTQIA+ community. “My music is an extension of my character and personality. How long have guys been talking about their dicks?” She is unequivocal in her belief that “as soon as you have talent, your sexuality comes after.”
Despite her resolute appearance I have no doubt that as a black queer woman in hip hop, she tussles with what is often degrading culture of hip hop towards women. With rappers who identify as female, where it cannot sexualize, the culture in hip hop is to erase. Where feminine, they wish it masculine. Where masculine in aesthetic and delivery, the culture insists it be from a self identifying man.
“The culture (in respect to rappers who identify as female) is to ignore unless it appeals to their eyes.” She references Chika, a dark-skinned and full-bodied American female rapper who gained notable prominence after a co-sign from a man, P Diddy. Chika is talented and worthy of mainstream attention regardless of the co-sign. “Now is the right time to change it,” she muses. The emergence of more rappers who identify as female and lesbian such as Hanna and Zulu Mecca surely points to this shift.
She might be #AfricasBestKeptSecret but with such burgeoning talent it is only a matter of time before she gains mainstream attention alongside other rappers who identify as female. Any chance of unity?
“We can unite but fuck that kumbaya shit!” she exclaims coupled with a playful titter. “We don’t owe each other anything. If our energy vibes, we can work.” Dee is not looking for any free throws. She is taking three pointers, boldly backing her ability to score wins despite the prejudice.
She might not be balling on a court but she sure is a player in the rap game. Between her right arm and her records, Deekaydidit is bound to give us bars.