Pioneer Unit

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Cape Town

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Pioneer Unit is an independent Cape Town-based Hip Hop record label.

Hip Hop has taken an epic journey around the world from its birthplace in Africa. Our mission is to keep that journey alive by making innovative, politically and culturally conscious African Hip Hop that is at home anywhere in the world.

Authenticity is fundamental to our philosophy. We develop artists who understand the cultural significance of representing the reality of life in South Africa. Whilst deeply rooted in Hip Hop culture, we push aesthetic boundaries, both musically and visually, defining our own genre rather than following in others’ footsteps. Our sound is influenced by a wide variety of music, everything from Roots, Dub and Dancehall, to Electro, Detroit Techno, Dubstep, Grime and naturally, the sounds of Africa. Our music is equally at home at ghetto park jams on the Cape Flats, or on the world’s largest festival stages.

In the short time since our inception in 2007, Pioneer Unit has quickly become one of the most recognisable brands in South African Hip Hop. By bringing an intense level of professionalism, relevance and energy to everything we do, we have created major buzz, both in South Africa and internationally, and exposed a new wave of exciting world-class talent.

The label is owned and run by Damian Stephens, a London-born Hip Hop veteran of more than 20 years. He has produced material for Lyricist Lounge all-star, Wordsworth, Pro Kid, Ben Sharpa, Trusenz, Driemanskap & KONFAB. Stephens is also a pioneer of electronic music, having been one of the first artists signed to cult Dutch Techno label, DJAX-UP-BEATS, back in the early 90s. In The Power of the Underground, James Hymann from MTV Europe calls DJAX, “one of the decade’s crucial labels” and further “one of the world’s most talked about labels”.

Cult BBC Radio 1 experimental music maven Mary Anne-Hobbs (who is likened by many to the legendary John Peel) dubbed Pioneer Unit’s own Ben Sharpa and KONFAB, “two of the most inspired and agile lyricists in the world today”.

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