A recollection of why HHP once sued JR

HHP and JR at YBA Nights


On the 27th of January 1984, Coca-Cola’s biggest competitor was filming an advert with Michael Jackson, and then they set him on fire. Michael Jackson was trailblazing through the music scene having released his Magnum opus and the highest selling album of all time to date, Thriller.

The young Michael Jackson had just come from his iconic Grammy’s feat, had his album at number 1 for fifteen months and single-handedly launched MTV to success when he premiered his music video for “Thriller” on the channel, he had the world at his feet.

Pepsi, a world-renowned independent soft drink worth over $6 billion, was still Coca-Cola’s biggest competitor worldwide and so they signed Michael Jackson to an endorsement deal that would see him film at least one commercial with them. On this fateful day, the engineer set off the pyrotechnics just a little too early, and Michael was standing right close to them, Michael’s hair caught fire and he suffered second-degree burns to his skull.

Watch the video below of Michael Jackson’s accident;

He then sued Pepsi but it was settled out of court for over $1.5 million which he donated to a Burn center.

The below commercial was actually shot a few months later after the accident, but why would Michael work with Pepsi after being burnt badly by the crew? I have a few reasons why.

Companies have always found ways to advertise their products by paying musicians and public figures to endorse their products, the bigger the public figure, the more the companies will have a bidding war to sponsor the artist, raising fees upwards of millions of dollars. Michael Jordan was given his own shoe by Nike, Lebron James is still being paid $1 billion by Nike, so you can see how much artists will be seeking out these deals, one deal can literally sort you out for life.

Hip Hop Pantsula

On the 14th of September 1980, Jabulani Tsambo was born and raised in Mafikeng in the North West province of South Africa. In 1997 Tsambo would release his album, “Party” by the Verbal Assassins which was a hip hop group that he was part of. The album didn’t do much for the young Tsambo, he would adopt the moniker of “Hip Hop Pantsula” and in 1999 released his first solo album, “Introduction”.

HHP during his early days in the music industry
HHP during his early days in the music industry before he became a superstar.

Listening to the album, you get a sense that he was a kwaito star that was actually into rapping, his name was literally what his musical taste was. He would travel and hustle his way through Johannesburg until 2003 when he released his third album, “O Mang?”. At this point, he would receive his first taste of success when he released “He Banna”.

Listen to “He Banna” by Hip Hop Pantsula below;

This success though, would pale in comparison to the success of his first single (Tswaka) of the second rendition of his third album in 2004.

Watch the music video of “Tswaka” by Hip Hop Pantsula below;

After this, HHP was one of the biggest influences within the hip hop culture but this song would introduce him to the mainstream for the first time, he would be featured on popular magazines and television shows. He would finally achieve success once he released his seventh album, “Acceptance Speech”, this album had probably his biggest song to date, “Music N Lights”.

Watch the music video of “Music N Lights” by Hip Hop Pantsula below;

After the release of the above song, HHP the superstar was born, I mean he had Amerie in the music video getting sponsorship deals from brands like STATUS, being the first rapper to win “Strictly Come Dancing” (which is South Africa’s version of “Dancing With The Stars”) and hosting his own TV show, HHP had the world at his feet.

Rapper HHP
HHP had to work extremely hard to make it in the music industry, but his hard work eventually paid off.

HHP was probably one of the kindest people in the world, he would always greet people like he’s known them for years, he was an artist who was always kid enough to bring in new acts and help out upcoming artists.

Gata Le Nna

On 12 March 1987, Tabure Thabo Bogopa Junior was born in Bloemfontein, Free State and raised in Atteridgeville, Gauteng – which is recognised as a township in Pretoria, he would grow up to be the rapper, JR.

JR back in the days before celebrity status
JR back in the days before cementing his place in the music industry.

JR once handed his demo to HHP after an event in Pretoria, they would later work on music together while HHP would show JR the ropes of the music industry, a year later JR would release his first single, “Gata Le Nna”. Produced by 37mph, this song would literally take over South African hip hop, unlike HHP’s long career into stardom, JR’s first introduction to both the rap world and the mainstream world was this song.

This song would launch JR’s career into stardom where he would release his debut album, “The Main Event”, he would be nominated at the Metro FM awards and win record of the year at the Hype awards, this would score him a deal with Renault. After gaining success from his first offering, he would begin working on his next massive and even bigger single, “Show Dem (Make The Circle Bigger)”.

HHP and JR at YBA Nights
HHP gave JR a co-sign, this photo was taken after JR’s performance at YBA Nights.

Make The Circle Bigger

If you had to go to any party with predominantly coloured people in Gauteng between 2008 and 2009, you would always hear the phrase being chanted in the background, “Make the circle bigger”, what a massive song this was.

Watch the music video of “Show Dem (Make The Circle Begger)” by JR featuring HHP below;

Now the thing about this song is that because it was taken from a party with mostly coloured people in it, it crossed racial lines above just being mainstream big. You had people of all races enjoying the song, it was the anthem at every party and event. I wouldn’t lie though, the hip hop community was not happy with JR, I mean at some point his Twitter handle was “@fcukjr”.

None the less, JR would be approached by Vodacom and the legendary Vodacom deal was made between the telecommunications network and JR, this would have him at the forefront as his song was chosen for the Vodacom World Cup campaign.


Disclaimer: The next part of this article is based on my memory and an article written by Cheesa on her blog “Cheesa Chat” in 2011. It is very hard to find footage and evidence with anything older than seven years in South Africa.

So for the first discrepancy that we have, is how the song came about. JR claims that he was working on the song and HHP arrived to the studio and found him recording the song, however HHP claims that his engineer Stevie had the beat with him, JR would walk in on them and the beat. Both JR and HHP would lace the chorus but HHP claims that he came up with part of the bridge.

The second discrepancy is when the song was to be released, HHP said he needed time to release the song, he had two singles that he was looking to release before he was ready to release the music video for “Show Dem”. HHP wanted a simultaneous release of the song, however, JR couldn’t wait that long, he released the song and would shoot the video while HHP was in the United States of America, something HHP had no knowledge of.

When he returned to South Africa, the first thing that HHP would see was the music video all over television and on some commercials. The song had been held as JR’s song and that Vodacom deal was made with JR, this clearly wouldn’t seat well with HHP as he discussed this in an interview with DJ C-Live. He vowed never to perform the song again with JR, he also would show up on V-Entertainment to confirm his lawsuit against JR for the song.

The lawsuit seemed like it was based around the endorsement deal that JR signed with Vodacom, I’m unable to find any information regarding what the lawsuit ruling was but at least it gave us this legendary diss verse by Cassper Nyovest.


Endorsement and sponsorship deals between brands and musicians will always be around, the most important thing is that artists are able to build something of their own outside of these deals and their music catalogue.

I can gladly say that the relationship between JR and HHP was not destroyed by this moment, you don’t have to take my word for it, you remember how Jabba said he would never perform the song with JR? Well they performed the song together at the end of 2010 and they even shared a hug.

The truth of the matter is, it doesn’t matter how deep your issues could be with another human being, I mean HHP felt cheated by JR monetarily, if this isn’t a reason to have a lifelong beef with someone? I don’t know what it is. So if you have a grudge with someone, just calculate it for a second and figure out if it is worth it, because you don’t know how much time you two may have together and how quickly life could change in an instance.

In loving memory of,
Jabulani “HHP” Tsambo,
14th/10/1980 – 24th/10/2018.

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