Here Is Why VUZU’s The Hustle Season 3 Will Never Happen

Vuzu is a youth oriented channel that was made by M-Net, the channel had envisioned bringing new content monthly keeping up with the fast paced nature of the youth in South Africa. On Wednesday 22 April 2015, the channel announced that they are taking Instagram video submissions for upcoming rappers, record a 15 second video clip of yourself rapping and use the hashtag (#VusuHustle).

Twenty rappers were chosen from the pool of thousands of rappers by the three judges during a run through screening, when they arrived, they were told that only twelve can stay in the house, crashing the dream for eight artists before it even started.

Vuzu The Hustle Season 1 contestants
Season 1: Eight hopefuls were kicked out before they could even enter The Hustle Mansion.

Each episode had artists taken through a series of challenges which included making interviews, writing promos and workout drills. The challenges are supposed to embody the name of the show, the show was played over several weeks but it seemed it was shot within a couple of days which I’ll get to in a bit. The winner would receive R250,000, a record deal with Vth Season to the value of R250,000 and a music video worth R100,000 and R50,000 was added for the runner-up. After picking off hopefuls from the house one by one, the show’s audience would determine the winner of the show via SMS.

Guest judges were brought in from the third episode of the first season, almost every judge said something along the lines of “I haven’t seen you up to this point”, which gives more credence to the fact that the show was shot within a few days rather than week on week. The reason why Idols SA performs so well each season is because the audience is forced to connect with each contestant every week if they are meant to chose a winner.

VUZU The Hustle house
VUZU The Hustle mansion.

Too much focus was put on the challenges the rappers did, The Hustle was a great idea, however a show is run by the audience watching, without artists that the potential audience can root for week on week, people can easily lose interest especially when judges make a decision outside the scope of the audience members, which you then have left is the show rejects and hip hop enthusiasts watching.

Contestants

Contestants in the house included rappers from all over South Africa but for obvious purposes, I’ll only focus on the contestants that actually made it into the house.

The Hustle Season 2 Top 20 contestants
The Hustle Season 2 Top 20 contestants.

We were given small superficial glimpses into the personality of the artist rather than actually learning about who they are, certain personalities shined more than others. Mopheme had a great persona which was immediately recognized by Khuli Chana, he was funny and showed maturity and intelligence in the challenges that were given.

Probably the most prominent name to come out of both seasons of the competition, Shane Eagle was an easy character to dislike at first, he was the typical good looking high school junk that never grew up. It seemed in situations, he used his looks and physique to carry him in conversations, the more you watch though, you found glimpses of him being resilient and rising to the occasion when it needed him to.

Shane Eagle on VUZU The Hustle
Shane Eagle was a contestant in season 1 of VUZU The Hustle.

Shane talent past his looks and probably had one of the best PR presentations I’ve seen from a rapper. Shane Eagle went on to sign with JR’s Feel Good Music, then leaving the label later on and going independent – finding massive success and even going on to do songs with Dreamville artist, Bas.

Bigstar Johnson

The winners of each season were Bigstar Johnson and the less exciting Flex Rabanyan, the thing about Bigstar is that he actually has all the musical talent you can put in one human body, it was obvious why he won and he could easily be picked out from the first episode as one of the more memorable contestants of the season.

Bigstar Johnson The Hustle Season 1 winner
Bigstar Johnson won season 1 of The Hustle.

His career never really took off after the show, general consensus is that the label which he was signed to, Vth season, was the reason why. None of his music looked like it had the push that it deserved but at the same time, Bigstar didn’t really have an eye catching song until a few years later which featured Kwesta.

Flex Rabanyan

The first time Flex Rabanyan really made headlines was when he came to a decision not to sign the deal with Vth Season, choosing independence which would have been a great thing if he had a great plan after Vuzu Hustle to excel in his career.

Flex Rabanyan The Hustle Season 2 winner
Flex Rabanyan won season 2 of The Hustle but he turned out to be chaotic.

Flex tried to push his career using his Twitter feeds, however the arrogance did not help his case, his career would dwindle and he wouldn’t get the attention he thought he deserved.

On Wednesday 7 February 2018, he tweeted this;

I’m being ARRESTED for the SECOND time because of @OpelSA! The incompetence of your staff is costing me time and money. And the trauma of a f**king police VAN! #UnlockTheCar wasn’t enough. You guys are making me go through the f**king most

From that moment, we were given a run down of how Vuzu TV, Callback Dreams (the producers of the show) and Opel SA had failed to register the car into Flex Rabanyan’s name, he was essentially driving a car which belonged to someone else, first getting him arrested by the police on more than one occasion. Within this rant, he also dropped hints that his music was being banned from outlets like Channel O because he would not sign the record deal with Vth Season.

Flex Rabanyan's car prize on The Hustle
Flex Rabanyan’s car prize.

On Wednesday 12 December 2018, Flex Rabanyan posted on Twitter that he had paid R9,800 to a particular person at Metro FM to have his song played on the station. This is obviously a no more, it basically had the industry looking at Flex Rabanyan as a joke, starting a beef with rapper Reason and DJ PH which I might write about in a different article. Basically Flex Rabanyan was probably the worst person to have been chosen as the winner from the show, from the same season as Flex, we also got Manu WorldStar who had a massive hit song, “Nalingi”. From the first season, Quickfass Cass went on to do a song with the late and great PRO, none of the contestants however, with the exception of Shane Eagle – reached the kind of relevance resembling that of the judges, which gets me to my next point.

Judges

As I mentioned earlier, the show had three judges, Khuli Chana, who first started out as 1/3 of the group “Morafe”, then pioneering the independent rap culture releasing his first album, “Motswakoriginator” with no record label. He went on to found the Maftown Heights which is an annual hip hop festival.

Stogie T, whose claim to fame was being the main vocalist of the band, “Tumi and the Volume”, he went on to found Motif Records – which signed Reason and Riky Rick.

Finally the man who doesn’t really need much of an introduction, AKA. Probably the longest running hip hop music career in South Africa to date, releasing his first album “Altar Ego” in 2012, his mega album “Levels” in 2014, “Touch My Blood” in 2018 and the latest “Bhovamania” in 2020, at one point AKA was the pinnacle of what you could reach in the South African hip hop scene.

VUZU Hustle judges Stogie T, AKA and Khuli Chana
VUZU Hustle judges Stogie T, AKA and Khuli Chana.

All the artists on the judging panel had earned a seat at being allowed to be critics of artists on the come up, being a critic and developing an artist however are two different things, which is why I would argue that artist owned record labels don’t usually fare well. In fact I think the only artist label which stood the test of time is Jay-Z’s Roc Nation, which is why I personally think that choosing artists to make decisions about other artists careers was the wrong move.

Another reason why this was the wrong move is because the most sympathetic person to an artist’s plight is a fellow artist, however hip hop is a genre which is bravado driven where showmanship is appreciated in the culture. Outside of the culture though, it isn’t always seen as an intergral part of the music industry in general, knowing all of that, it’s hard for artists to play both sympathizer and egocentric rapper. The problem with this is that all three judges chose the latter. Another combination could have been one artist and two industry heavy headers like a label owner or artist developer, and a content curator such as a radio compiler or a music video playlister.

Ratings

This might be the number one reason for the fact that we have no season three, I’ve scrapped the entire internet and tried to find “The Hustle” viewership statistics and ratings, unfortunately these aren’t readily available for normal people like you and me to see. However, I have a few pieces of evidence that I have looked into which tell the story of the audience retention.

The channel which the show played on was a channel by the name of “Vuzu Amp”, a subsidiary secondary amplified channel to the original. Vuzu Amp was cancelled and dissolved into 1Magic due to the low viewership and expansion of the Mzansi Magic brand the same year Vuzu Hustle season 2 aired, automatically implying that – when there is no channel for the hustle, there’s no hustle at all.

The second season has literally been scrapped from the internet at the time of writing this article, clips uploaded by fans of the show, the show’s gallery and Twitter posts are the only evidence that the show ever existed. Flex Rabanyan could be a huge reason for this but ratings make more sense, even if Flex was problematic, if the show was big enough, the money made from people watching on Showmax and reruns would have made up for that.

Going through terms, I’ve searched through all of the top shows for each channel and during the time it run, The Hustle did not show up once, not even the finals.

Epilogue

Whenever TV shows are made, over and above the content, the most important factor is the audience, The Hustle was no different. Besides the scathing reviews that were given here and there by show outlets and fans alike, the show failed to gather an audience outside of the hip hop community, this is a subject matter which I feel very strong about.

The South African music industry is already small, let alone the hip hop industry, Costa Titch was able to elaborate on this more on the latest Lab live podcast. At the moment it seems like Blxckie is the only guy we watch, there’s definitely space for no artists in the industry and it is unfair that only one person is allowed or has the opportunity to eat at the hip hop table.

Keeping R100,000 from the winning prize would have been enough to pay for artists to live in The Hustle house for weeks instead of days. Having the audience vote for each contestant builds an audience for that contestant, once they leave the show, they can still have that core group that they can work on.

Also, judges cannot vote artists out based on individual challenges rather than the performances, for example, artists that were voted out in the beginning of the show could have fared better if the audience was able to choose which artist they will like to see make it to the end of the show.

Now when you make an opportunity to make stars out of rising artists and you fumble the ball so bad, brands and artists alike are given even more reason not to invest in young and upcoming talent. Shane Eagle is proof that if the show had a bigger audience, there would be a following for more than just the winning contender.

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