For South African artist Sho Madjozi, rapping was quite the accident. Born Maya Christinah Xichavo Wegerif, Madjozi’s first love was poetry. It’s how she got her start performing, and how many were first introduced to the now-rapper’s spirited delivery. But soon, poetry was falling flat. She became frustrated with its limits, telling Noisey that her circles were becoming elitist. “"In the village I’m from—which is very rural—people don’t understand what the fuck I’m saying. And these poetry circles can feel like we’re just preaching to each other... It didn’t have the impact I needed it to have, so I left the community.”
Not only is Madjozi’s impact larger, she’s changing how the world sees young South African rap artists. Performing the festival circuits has created a constant buzz around the star, whose high energy flow pairs well with Gqom beats. And fans include director Ava DuVernay, who called her Global Citizen performance the “highlight” of her South Africa trip in December. She still holds on to the spirit of those poetry days, however, blending her art with social commentary and deliberate nods to her culture; her decision to rap in Xitsonga is notable for an artist whose star power is reaching global status. And it’s how she stands apart from the pack. “With my music now, I rap in Xitsonga, so I reach way more people,” she said.