When the rapper Nomuzi said she was the new Brenda Fassie, Twitter had a meltdown. But are we being unfair on this rising star? Could she be the next MaBrrr?

One of the happiest childhood memories I have is of watching my mother and her sisters sing along to Brenda ‘MaBrrr’ Fassie’s Weekend Special during family gatherings. The women would be sitting around on garden chairs outside in a circle (discussing whatever middle-aged women who only get a break twice a year at best talk about in their down time) and as soon as the beat to Weekend Special began the glee on their faces was unmistakeable. Angry husbands were forgotten about, so were needy children and rude co-workers; when Brenda played they became young girls dancing in the long forgotten discos they used to frequent in their uni days – young, carefree and full of life.

MaBrrr’s flaws though, were never far behind in life – and therefore in conversation as well. As soon as my mother and aunts were done dancing it would be time to discuss Brenda’s latest misfortune – drugs, bad relationships, whatever was on the rumour mill lately, and there was never a shortage of rumours about her.

But despite that, she shone as bright as any star to ever come from our soil. She was a beer-drinking queer African woman who fought the world as hard as it came for her and in many ways she succeeded. Time and time again she picked herself up when the public counted her out and in so doing taught many African girls resilience and confidence.

She taught many a Black girl that we COULD – period. We could love who we wanted, live our dreams, stand up for ourselves, have a voice – we could exist how we wanted to, and no matter what’s said about her, that is the legacy she’s left.

If I’d had the opportunity to handpick my family, I’d take Brenda as my auntie and Lebo as my cool older sister.

She inspired young girls like Lebo Mathosa – who’d go on to become an icon herself – and if I’d had the opportunity to handpick my family, I’d take Brenda as my auntie and Lebo as my cool older sister. Looking back on it now I’m finally able to articulate why they were so important to not just me but thousands of young girls in Africa who still mourn their deaths today: they taught us autonomy.

Sure they had their support systems in their personal lives, and they fumbled a lot when it came to relationships, but they never gave young African girls the impression that you NEEDED a man to become better – and that, ladies and gentlemen, is one of the most important messages any young girl could receive in this world because most of our society says otherwise.

These audacious women, who wore what they wanted, said what they meant and meant what they said, and simply dared to be themselves, inspired a whole generation of young women to do the same: that was their true legacy.

When Nomuzi ‘Moozlie’ Mabena first appeared on our screens as a hopeful presenter/VJ, the former Miss Benoni was cute, adorable even, and already a head above the rest because, well, she was bald. Hair is apparently a woman’s glory, but its lack made no impact on the incredible young lady and in fact, helped her stand out more. She wasn’t just a pretty face, every other face in Joburg is pretty – she was a memorable one.

Over the years, she’d travel the globe hosting big named events, teaming up with brands and interviewing the likes of Miguel, Khuli Chana, Snoop Dogg, D’banj and Flavour. There wasn’t anything spectacular about her, she was just another pretty young woman trying to make it in Jozi, demure and pleasant in interviews, fun to watch and a wonder to behold, sure – but just like many other women had been before her.

The true turning point for not just her image, which had always been trendy, but her brand, came when she announced that she’d be joining Cashtime as not a mere affiliate, but an artist.

Nomuzi wanted to rap and Twitter had a meltdown.

The gatekeeper of South African rap, AKA even threw in his two cents about how sure, that was cool, but rap was more than looking cool and rhyming sometimes, it was hard work (Oh really, who knew, Kiernan?) and then it of course turned into a dragging session with many pointing out that new male rappers appear on the scene every day and he’s mum on it but now he’s got a lot to say when she proclaims she wants to do it. (Whatever that was has since been handled and Moozlie featured on AKA’s Baddest remix alongside Fifi Cooper, Rouge and Gigi Lamayne).

The jury’s still out on whether or not she’s good – personally I think she has her good days and her not so good days, but that’s the case with any artist.

So from the get go, the pressure was on for Nomuzi. She had to prove that she could run (or in this case rap) with the Big Boys and earn the public’s approval as a part of Cashtime, the biggest hip-hop collective in the country, and when the time came for her to do just that on Kid X’s Se7en, reviews were mixed. Some felt like she really shouldn’t have, but many more felt like it was a fair effort, and in the end none of that mattered because she continued to do what she set out to do. She went on to feature on DJ ViGiLante’s PASOP alongside Cashtime Fam and AKA’s Baddest remix and most recently released her own track Don’t Panic ft Speedsta and featuring on Da Les’ North God album on a track called 6AM.

The jury’s still out on whether or not she’s good – personally I think she has her good days and her not so good days, but that’s the case with any artist. Moozlie mainly gets flack because people don’t want her to win. They don’t want her to be a talented young African woman with multiple sources of income whose style can only be duplicated and never quite perfected. It’s a lot for people to handle, to celebrate, for a woman – especially with her rapping. 2015 saw hip hop embracing (and I use this world very loosely; these young women had to wrestle the mic from certain people) a few more women, but they were relatively unknown – underdogs. Nomuzi already had her spark, her money, her following and here she wanted MORE? It was unfathomable.

But she’s fighting for her shit – and despite all of her critics, she’s getting what she wants and feels she deserves. So when she said that she’s young MaBrrr (and Twitter had another meltdown) I acknowledged that it was a bold claim, but it was one that no one had bothered to explore yet.

It’s definitely too early to tell what Nomuzi’s legacy will be. Right now we can only assess her accolades and what she’s done and meant to people so far in her career.

The past few years have seen more and more young African women exercise autonomy over their lives and their bodies. The Born Frees – those born after 94 – have been revelling in their privilege and living lives their parents and ancestors never got to – to the resentment and glee of many. They’ve the luxury of discovering themselves through their own gaze, and one of the people they’ve looked to as a style icon, but an icon nonetheless, is Moozlie. She dares to dress as she pleases and her constant body modification – tattoos, piercings, chains and collars – has shown young girls and women who didn’t get the opportunity to experience the fierceness of Lebo or Brenda what taking ownership of yourself for YOUR pleasure could be.

She’s one of the most hard working young women the South African entertainment industry has.

As a performer, artist and career woman she’s one of the most hard working young women the South African entertainment industry has. Really, think about it, where is she NOT? If not touring with Cashtime, she’s at fashion shows, or in studios or flying around doing what she does for MTV. When does she sleep? She’s creating the life that she wants and going at it relentlessly. And isn’t that what Brenda and Lebo were doing? What they tried to inspire young girls to do?

Musically, no, we can’t say she’s made anything that will change a nation – no Nomakanjani or I Love Music – but nobody does when they’re starting out. So far, Don’t Panic for me has been her best work yet, next to her Se7en verse. On Don’t Panic she not only declares her manifesto, her lyrics are better than they’ve ever been and she comes off with the true bravado of a rapper. Heck, she even manages to cover street harassment (K’xheli oka nsheli abuth’ sorry/ke blom’e kamnandi na bo chomi/s’ka n’tshwara rough/na mahloni/futhi o bo mbega gatlhe ngi phum’Egoli’/Kixheli oska n’fosti, tsotsi) on a club track and those lines always take me back to Brenda’s Istraight Lendaba.

‘It’s no longer about telling people what to call us or who we are – this year we’re gonna show them,’ said Rouge recently on VUZU as she and Nomuzi discussed their new single, Mbongo Zaka – which they both promise will be a game changer. Nomuzi has now left Cashtime (with no album released under them) she seems confident that she can stand alone and create the image and career she wants.

She’s ballsy, she’s beautiful and she’s talented and over the course of her career Nomuzi might just come to stand for our daughters what Brenda stood for our mothers and Lebo for us – we’ll just have to wait and see.