Happy Hour: Revisiting a Botswana Hip-Hop Classic

The tag of legend is easily dished out these days, but for SCAR it is a fitting title because it is equal to his impact on the local rap game, writes BONGANI MALUNGA

For an album to be considered a classic, it has to tick all the boxes of a timeless project, including top notch production, impeccable lyricism, versatile and consistent flow, no skippable tracks, catchy hooks (choruses) and solid theme.

Finding a classic album is therefore like looking for a needle in a haystack, it is rare in today’s rap game and it is somewhat of an urban myth.
Numerous rappers have released great singles over the years and built solid careers, but putting together a well structured opus separates great rappers from club specialists and one-hit wonders.
“Happy Hour, SCAR’s sophomore album which was released over 12 years ago, had all the ingredients of a classic album and it earned rave reviews for the Molepolole native in Botswana and abroad. It yielded three Channel O Music Awards nominations and catapulted SCAR to regional and continental fame.

Another hard act in hip-hop and music in general is following up a solid album with another great project. “Illegal Act” was SCAR’s introduction to the local rap scene and he overcame the sophomore curse with his acclaimed “Happy Hour” offering. While not many artists can drop consecutive solid projects, SCAR did so with relative ease. The follow-up album showed progression in an artist who had become a pioneer at the tender age of 17, putting the expectations of the nation on his shoulders and delivering yet another album for the streets and the corporate world alike to bang.

In the “Happy Hour” album, SCAR was able to touch on different topics while displaying his impressive lyrical range. He switched flows on faster playback pace songs such as the title track, “Happy Hour,” and another track called “Hae.” The beats required him to match up and he levelled up to the great production with a well timed flow which was switched up effortlessly.
It is often said that if the beats are better than the lyrics spat by a rapper, the producers become the stars. In this album, the great production offered by Presley ‘Prez Beats’ Methe and Gofaone ‘Goof’ Mapitse was complemented by the rapper’s genius touch on the mic. This perfect blend made the album a hit. “Metlholo” was the standout track in terms of hype and it did not disappoint as it became a national favourite. Here he certifies his place in the game with a public announcement of sorts, stating that he is not washed up, if any of his peers thought he was, in a relaxation mode.

Rappers are often associated with misogynistic material. Their songs may be humorous and with no intended malice even though the interpretation from fans may argue otherwise. “Psycho” is a playful track that might make females feel a certain way, but SCAR makes up for this with an ode to women around the country with the track titled “Ladies,” a song that proved that the rapper caters for all audiences. The cherry on top was inclusion of Jezabelle who was tapped to provide assistance in the tribute track.

On “Nandos” the rapper is in prolific form as he lays out hot verses while proclaiming how he has an edge over other rappers in the game. “I’m the butter and the toast / I’m eating MCs like they’re the starter and the roast / They stutter when I’m close / I’m a gunner with the flows,” he confidently raps while underlining his claim to the rap throne.

“Dansit” is another versatile track. This one particularly caters for the dancehall genre lovers while “Voices” gives a “Me against the world” feel where he is fighting within himself as well as with outside voices of criticism and expectations of people in and around him. This introspection and addressing a different side to the feel-good part of the first few songs of the album further proves that he can touch on different topics and still make a hit song of it.

As a street savvy rapper, SCAR knew that his album was due to become a street anthem and he delivered it through Khenya. this is the type of song that could be played at a neighbourhood gathering with the kasi guys, a drinking session or at the carwash. It is easily relatable and resonates with the urban street life. SCAR cleverly shows that he can blend in with different crowds through this track, “Ke lenyora MaCaten / mara o ka ntshwara di flatteng,” he raps in the well orchestrated street anthem.

Overall, the album has an eclectic feel to it because it covers all bases. It gained him an international audience and his body of work will be a point of reference when discussing local hip-hop albums. “Happy Hour” qualifies as a classic album, given its impact and the way it made local rappers structure their albums.

SCAR is still regarded as one of the best rappers of all time in Botswana. Through his music offering he walked so that today’s rappers could fly. He paved the way and left rose petals for the younger generation to flourish. The tag of legend is easily dished out these days, but for SCAR it is a fitting title and one equal to his impact on the local rap game.