Blending hip-hop, R&B, and African pop styles, Sjava became one of South Africa's most successful artists during the second half of the 2010s. Singing and rapping almost entirely in Zulu, he writes emotionally resonant sounds about relationships and family matters, and his songs effortlessly demonstrate how much common ground contemporary R&B and trap have with traditional Zulu musical forms. After breaking through with his gold-selling debut album, 2016's Isina Muva, his fame spread internationally when he was featured on the Black Panther soundtrack in 2018.
Jabulani Hadebe was born and raised in the small South African town known as Bergville. Later relocating to Johannesburg, he first found success as an actor, appearing in several South African soap operas, in addition to writing music for television series ranging from dramas to dance programs. His pop music career as Sjava didn't begin until he was past the age of 30, when he sang the chorus to Miss Pru's 2016 hit single "Ameni." Sjava's debut album, Isina Muva ("late bloomer"), appeared on Ambitiouz Entertainment soon afterward, and was certified gold in the artist's home country, in addition to winning Best Produced Album at the South African Music Awards. After Kendrick Lamar heard Sjava's music, the South African artist appeared on the Black Panther soundtrack cut "Seasons," expanding his international fan base. Following the release of the Umphako EP, Sjava won the Viewers' Choice award for Best International Act at the 2018 BET Awards. ~ Paul Simpson