By now you’ve probably seen or heard of the #DuduzaneChallenge that has got social media streets buzzing ever since the festive season kicked off. Duduzane Zuma posted a video of himself, flanked by his bodyguards, walking with Imali Eningi playing in the background. Imali Eningi (which loosely translates to ‘Lots of money’) is performed by rising star Big Zulu. But who is this Big Zulu who’s on people’s lips for dropping such a big song?
Who is Big Zulu?
Born Siyabonga Nene in a small village called Bergville in KwaZulu-Natal, Big Zulu is a songwriter, actor and rapper born in 1987. Big Zulu has always loved music and it was the sounds of Scathamiya and Maskandi that honed his skills to become the top vernac rapper that he is today.
What many people may not know is that Big Zulu worked as a taxi driver for over a decade before he finally put down the key to pick the pen up in 2008. He remained an independent artist for six years before his music caught the ears of Universal Records, the South African branch of the world’s biggest record company Universal Music Group, and signed with them.
Since then, Big Zulu worked his way up and the contest ‘Back to the City’ crowned him ‘The King of Rap’ in 2013. In 2018, he released his debut album under Universal Record titled ‘Ushun Wenkabi’ that detailed his life as a taxi driver and documented his life experiences. But the album didn’t live up to expectations. As much as he had not yet blown up as a musician that year, Zulu was landing gigs as an actor on Mzansi’s popular soapies including Isibaya, Uzalo and Isithembiso.
Even the brand that manufactures the iconic pantsula pants ‘Brentwood’ approached Big Zuluto be their ambassador. The popular shoe maker Carvella also jumped on board and named Big Zulu as their ambassador as well. At first glance, you’d swear that Big Zulu was actually a Maskandi artist because of his dress sense. But that is precisely why he’s got supporters even outside the hip hop genre. He is hailed as being one of the few mainstream local rappers that rap in vernac, hence his music appeals to people who wouldn’t normally listen to rap. In fact, Big Zulu has dubbed his unique sound ‘Inkabi rap genre’ with ‘inkabi’ translating to ‘an ox’. Big Zulu is the inkabi that’s charging at his counterparts in the game.
Mzansi gives Big Zulu the nod
In 2019, towards the end of the year, Big Zulu dropped a song titled Vuma Dlozi featuring Mnqobi Yazo but Mzansi didn’t instantly click with the song. That same year, he featured some of the biggest artists in South Africa including the late PRO, Cassper Nyovest, Kwesta, Emtee and Sjava just to name a few. Big Zulu has even been in a song with Bob Marley’s son, Damian Marley.
It was mid 2020 that Big Zulu joined the league of other Mzansi musos who own record labels by starting a record label. The first task for Inkabi Records was to release a music video for Vuma Dlozi. Vuma Dlozi soon took over local radio stations and people were singing along to its catchy hook. The music video has garnered over two million views since it was dropped in August.
It’s safe to say this is the song that solidified Big Zulu’s position in the hip hop fraternity and Inkabi Records is only getting ready to attack like the ox that appears on the label’s logo.
The popular #DuduzaneChallenge…
In November 2020, Big Zulu announced that he had a single titled ‘Imali Eningi’ that would shut down the internet and it featured top rapper Riky Rick. The song became an instant hit and by the end of its day of release it had already topped charts and broken records. Seeing how Mzansi had positively received the song, Big Zulu decided to strike while the iron was hot and released the music video. In just under two weeks since the video dropped, the views are approaching 2.5 million on YouTube.
Big Zulu has attributed the song’s success to the viral #DuduzaneChallenge as Duduzane already has a massive Instagram following that he had shared the song with. The challenge saw many famous faces participate including DJ Fresh, DJ Tira, rapper Riky Rick and many others.
“I just want to express my heartfelt gratitude to SA. I want to say thank you for the love that you have shown my song. It has made us so happy to see the song rise. I also just want to particularly thank my brother Duduzane Zuma, for the challenge that he created using our song. I don’t have much to give, just words from my heart to say I’m truly grateful. Thank you so much,” he said in an Insta video he posted.
Big Zulu’s humble beginnings as a taxi driver prove that your past doesn’t determine your future. You can become anything you want to be as long as you set your heart to it and work towards achieving your dreams every day. As Imali Eningi lyrics go, you can have lots of money and a bloated wallet too if you work for it…
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Tell us: What did you learn from Big Zulu’s journey?