VINCE STAPLES reminds me of those singers who have impeccable, unfathomable voices and energy, which remain on par live as on their records. I’m talking the likes of D’Angelo, Thandiswa Mazwai and The Brother Moves On.
Over the last week and a half I’ve been listening to Staples’ third studio album FM! and during that period, I was fortunate enough to see the 25 year-old from North Long Beach, California performing at Soweto’s Zone 6 for the Capsule Festival. I’m always fascinated by album titles and covers, in my first interaction with a musician’s project, before delving into the tracks. Often the name of the album and its art make sense as I listen to the music. Like pieces of a puzzle, it all comes together with each track.
FM! is themed as a takeover of LA radio station show, Big Boy’s Neighbourhood, hosted by Big Boy. It opens with Feels Like Summer which ironically is meant to celebrate how Long Beach always feels like summer, but Vince paints a picture of the dangers in his hood in the verses. He pulls from personal experiences, where he lost a friend at 15 years-old while they were just playing ball. I was slightly surprised to learn that Don’t Get Chipped where he features Jay Rock, is the first song where the two West Coast kats share the mic. I enjoyed the track, particularly the first verse where he raps…
Can’t wait ’til I’m rich, I’m finna buy a whole Crate of guns, for my naughty Crips, Shit I really come from the slum Time to represent, let me see you bang, where you from? Don’t be acting spooked, I’m a troop, I don’t give a fuck, I just wana live it up, use to make ’em give it up, Flockin’ is for hoes, I’ma take somebody soul, If he don’t give me what he own, now I’m getting what I’m owed, You ain’t seen me at a show? Oh, you missing out, Swear I bring the realest out, Everybody know me who’s somebody to know (Who somebody to know) Watch me mind my business my business while I’m counting my dough (Counting my dough) Stay away from citches who would clown me before (Would clown me before) On the road to riches, they gon’step on your toes Sammy told me that a change gon’come (Gon’come) I’m not going if my gang won’t come (won’t come) If you see me pull that thang, don’t run (Don’t run) Playing ball, if I swing home run
I can’t say I’m a Staples fan, I appreciate some of his joints. But more than that, I’ve always respected how he thinks and delivers his ideas and thoughts, on beats that can get any party started. He is quite dark, largely because of gang activity he witnessed growing up on the West Coast. But he merges that eerie side of him with the music, which makes for good art. The effect this contrast has on an audience when he’s performing, is good on the eye. Like when he performed Lift Me Up from his Summertime ’06 project, just before the end of his set at Zone 6, most of the club was in a jump.
His set at Capsule Festival was after midnight, with most of us tired and just waiting to see Staples on stage. He played tracks from his previous work from Big Fish Theory, Summertime ’06 and even invited Yugen Blakrok on stage to perform the Opps they did together for the Kendrick Lamar curated Black Panther soundtrack.
Vince’s fans in Soweto had familiarised themselves with his new album, that as soon as Outside! came on, the atmosphere in the club became feverish. Standing on the second floor, I could see the crowd’s unfiltered reaction.
“We didn’t expect this many people and I didn’t expect this much love, so thank you, thank you, thank you. But before I get out of here…shhhhh! I just need one thing, everybody repeat after me, ‘Oh yea, oh yea, oh year right…” said the rapper interacting with his fans, just before playing crowd favourite Yea Right.
“EVERBODY likes it raw,” said J.I.D unintendedly eluding to copulation, while answering a question about his new album DiCaprio 2.
J.I.D was speaking in Rosebank, Johannesburg at Universal Music where the listening session of his album was held on Friday night.
J.I.D released the first DiCaprio in 2015. The name of the EP was an ode to his favourite actor Leonardo DiCaprio, because they both had been putting out quality work in their respective fields, but not receiving acknowledgement for it.
“I was like wow, he doesn’t have an Oscar [award] he’s one of the greatest, and he’s putting out quality work. So this time around, I got a record deal, know what I’m sayin’…due to all the hard work I was putting in. I got a deal, he got his Oscar and I’m like this is perfect timing,” J.I.D said.
The rapper whose real name is Destin Route, said there isn’t going be another DiCaprio album, despite his fondness for the Titanic actor. But what has Leonardo DiCaprio said about his name and legacy being celebrated in this manner by a rapper he doesn’t even know? Not much.
The only time Leo found out about J.I.D and his project, was briefly through Q.Tip when the Dreamville artist was at Tip’s house just three weeks ago to play him DiCaprio 2. Q.Tip sent Leo a video of himself and J.I.D, telling the actor about the young rapper and his project. “Leo texts back in 30 seconds ‘oh thanks Ima check it out when it comes out, but fuck that, are you coming to my party?’ he was talking to Q.Tip -he just changed subjects real fast, so I got a few words from Leo, he knows I’m alive,” said J.I.D which had the whole room in amusement.
The trailer of the 14 track album was shown on the night, prior delving into the actual music. It was an intimate setting, with a manageable audience, who had opportunity to ask the J.I.D anything- the rapper even had time to take photos and have a moment with each of his fans after the listening session. The producer of Never, Underwear and some of J.I.D’s bangers, Christo was stationed behind the sound desk, playing each song on the album.
Most of us in the audience had already heard songs like Working Out, 151 Rum and Off Deez, in the months leading up to the release.
Explaining the track 151 Rum, J.I.D said the intro of the song was partly inspired by a doccie on mind control he watched recently “…it’s literally 20 tracks of me, my homies and home girls literally saying stuff that I want you to hear, I don’t know if you can hear it, but it sounds like a crowd chatter. What I learnt through the documentary, is that all that stuff feeds into your psyche.”
At first listen, the album goes in like a thong, with the trademark bass from Atlanta and with enough bop to accommodate J.I.D’s flow. The second track on the album, Slick Talk had everyone in the room at Universal Music in a craze, especially J.I.D’s second verse where he raps: This the type of shit that have niggas in beef, Dat slick talk followed by some stick talk then sleep, Pissed off, I done took my fifth loss this week, Big dog, I can scratch that shit off like flees, I got a lot of shit to say, but I’ma keep my list short, I know a lotta your favourites not gon’fuck with this part, When I’m done, please know that I was trying to diss y’all, ‘Cause if this is competition, then I’m setting this bar, In my city, who’s with me? I’m in my own lane Jack, Nigga said “J.I.D so flame, I propane rap” I’m from East Atlanta like Gucci and Travis Porter, But my story is similar to the hare and the tortoise
As he did before playing any track off the album, he broke down the story behind it. From the audience’s reaction, you would’ve guessed all types of drugs were being freely given out like candy after he explained what Off da Zoinkys is about. Zoinkys represent drugs, whichever your preference. The joint is a sample from a Rick Ross track, 3 Kings Feat. Dr. Dre and Jay-Z.
Y’all niggas need to lay off the drugs, Some of y’all need to lay off the dope, My niggas getting it straight off the boat, Pure cut, put it straight to your nose, I ain’t nosy, but I know what I know, Mr. Know it all, oh here he go I’m the GOAT, I never go with the flow, Throwing shots boy, blow for blow, I’m the nigga that kick the do’ with the dough
There was a brief unfeigned moment of sadness when J.I.D said Mac Miller was the one who arranged Skrawberries, which was produced by J.Cole, with Masego on the horns. The love song features BJ The Chicago Kid and was supposed to have a verse from Mac-after listening to it, I couldn’t resist the thought of Mac’s hoarse voice on the beat. The album has a fair number of features, some which are unexpected. Like Hot Box with Joey Bada$$ and Mehtod Man- you’d swear all three are native New Yorkers in how J.I.D doesn’t spit like a kat from Atlanta.
J.I.D was in the country for a week, spending some time in Cape Town and at the Kruger National Park. He cried immediately after landing from his flight from China. But what stood out was his sense of black pride and his soul’s satisfaction with being on the continent for the first time. “My whole message is about black plight bro, it’s about being a descendent slave…”
“I cry like a little baby bro, facts. Just because it was so beautiful, I didn’t expect this shit to look like this; they don’t teach us this shit in school, they don’t tell us about how beautiful this is, they only give us the negative. I’m not opposed to anything, I’m just super pro black. I fuck with all races, the minorities and the majorities, but at the same time I’m about this shit right here (pointing to his skin).”
DiCaprio 2 officially came out yesterday, a day after J.I.D performed at an event in Joburg, which Masego was supposed to headline too but was stranded in Europe.
KABELO TSOAKO is convinced he’s neighbours hate him. Nothing screams conviction like two EPs, unambiguously titled My Neighbours Hate Me.
“I make a lot of noise wherever I live. I can imagine how my neighbours feel,” Tsoako tells me. I can’t imagine the annoyance one would have to live through, having a music producer right next door constantly making music, often in ungodly times.
But I doubt the same “loathing” neighbours imagine that, their noisemaking makhi is one of the country’s most slept on musicians.
Being slept on is,when not a lot of people have heard your material but once they do, they’ll admit that you’re dope. Being underrated on the other hand, is when your material is out there and everybody sees you, but no one considers you dope enough to be in the top five or whatever, said a friend of mine differentiating the two.
Young, gifted artists who put in the work, are rarely celebrated which can trigger mental issues in some creatives. But it’s fruitful for one’s mental state, to learn to define self, outside of their art. “I’m probably depressed three or four times a week [laughs]…but you gotta soldier on bro. I also think this mental health thing affects every artist differently.I know I make nicer music when I’m down and it’s all about trusting the process,” the producer also known as KaeB tells me.
With material that can sit well on most urban radio stations around the world, KaeB has consistently released music, under the radar for a couple of years now. The young man from Tembisa is currently pushing his single, Crown featuring Parley Wang also from the 1632. Crown is on KaeB’s six track EP My Neighbours Hate Me II that came out earlier this year.
He’s been making music since high school days, but ever since his #Cozyfridays where he dropped a track, at the end of each working week, he’s shown growth in his music and consistency.
“…I used these releases to challenge myself to make a song in a week, come up with an artwork and drop it on Friday sort of like a drill. This helped me understand how to rollout a release. The record label/agency transition happened when I had to release a compilation tape for all the #CozyFridays and I kinda just setup my own label/agency,” says KaeB.
The Stay Cozy Group is his brainchild, but he has an external management agency for bookings and his day to day management.
Slept one as the fella is, KaeB is beginning to reap the rewards of his sweat and consistency. His bouncy track Right Now with ECHLN and EMAMKAY has been receiving warm reception from those who’ve been fortunate to hear the re-released song which he first posted on his Soundcloud in Feb this year . While just over a year ago, a track he produced C&L by Melo B Jones, was on the Kaya FM playlist-still is.
“People do like what I’m putting out; I run into people who always have positive feedback about the music. I also think being more visible on social media this year helped a lot and that’s how I connected with ECHLN to redo Right Now and put it out.”
To date he’s released three projects since his first release, the Ruh Tape in 2012. His sound has grown with the pace of pubic hair in adolescence and with the graceful evolution of a caterpillar to a butterfly. When I first came across his music, he was a Hip Hop head who cut samples that would give Boom Bap rappers wet dreams. That was in 2012. In 2016 he produced a song that warranted him airplay on Joe Kay’s show on Soulection. It was a remix of Justine Bieber’s All That Matters. They also play his music on electro music label based in Singapore, Dakerthanwax.
The evolution of his sound is a result of his maturity as a listener of music, who constantly forces himself out of any box.
The Beat Makers Market took place last month in Joburg, which KaeB didn’t attend or participate in. He never competes in beat making/producer competitions. “[Laughs] I peeped the ‘line-up’ and it was not my type of music. I’ve outgrown that style of music. I wouldn’t even enter such an event I’ll probably lose to someone who is currently making that type of style,” says KaeB.
Melodies and harmonies are a mainstay in all his music. Listening to the first My Neighbours Hate Me EP, I couldn’t shake off the feeling that dope lyrical rappers or any other artist could richly benefit from working with a producer like KaeB. Such collaborations would also dispel notions around beat making competitions which seem to be focus on just Boom-Bab beat makers.
On the same note, you will find that artist who get on these rich soulful, futuristic bouncy beats, do not do the music justice. The feeling of the song is often prioritised over its lyrical content. A balance is needed.
On his music making, KaeB says “The process varies with the mood but I always start with my drums and then I’ll add the melodies and harmonies. I’ve also made it a habit to add a hook, mostly me singing as an idea that I can build on later on.”
Hearing beautiful music come together is a joy. That’s the reason I don’t think KaeB’s neighbours hate him. In fact, the EPs probably should’ve been called I Think My Neighbours Hate Me, because quite frankly, no one from next door has complained to his face about the noise he makes.
· Apart from him, KaeB says these are some of the producers to keep an eye on in the near future. Sheeesh. Skinniez, Tsukudu, Ctea, Tweezy, Trust B1, Benny, Wichi1080 , Enkei, Sptmbr Yngstr, Daev Martian , ECHLN, Hi-Lux, Gina Jeanz, Ben Rasco, Broken Transient, Muzi, Vthevowel and Zuks.
MBUSO KHOZA’S performance at the Market theatre this weekend is akin to an adult meeting their former high school bully after years, for the first time. It’s life coming into full circle.
Having left home in 1999, to pursue his dreams in the City of Gold, Khoza found himself homeless for months. “As a young man around 2000, I would always sit outside the Market Theatre and see artists walk in there and I would dream of performing there one day,” Khoza tells me.
Nearly 20 years later, he will for the first time have his own show at the historic Joburg Theatre. “This is the most fulfilling thing for me” he says over the telephone.
His one man show this weekend will be the first time he headlines his own concert at the Market. “I performed here in 2013, doing backing vocals for Mam’Sibongile Khumalo, and it was around the same time of the year.”
I talk to him just after the completion of his first rehearsal, hours after arriving in Joburg from KwaZulu-Natal. “We left Durban at 1AM and got here around 6:00 in the morning.”
His band is based in Gauteng, while he’s down in the KZN, but this won’t affect his performance he says. He performed with the same band at this year’s Joy Of Jazz which received warm reviews. Comparing a performance at the Theatre to that of a festival he says “It’s [the theatre] more intimate and there’s no space for talking, but just the music.”
“Performing at festivals like the Joy of Jazz, is different because there are different artists there- it often feels rushed because you need to make way for the next artist. A show like this one this coming weekend is different because people specifically buy a ticket to see you- so the setup and preparation will be different,” Khoza says.
He has two supporting acts for his show this weekend, Zawadi Ya Mungu and Nandi Mzobe from the Legacy of KZN Mentorship Program who both have been performing with Khoza on his African Heritage Ensamble. Part of his performance this weekend will be him presenting research he’s done on heritage together with the Wits School Of Arts. “I’ll be narrating it myself, but a part of it will be music.”
His set will include jams from his critically acclaimed 2012 debut album Zilindile, together with some of his new compositions. The concert will take place for three consecutive days but Khoza says he’ll make some tweaks for each day.
Remember when Cassper Nyovest told Sway he was South Africa’s Kanye West, or when Nasty C said he had not experienced racism in South Africa- the rappers were speaking their truth, but one can’t help think that they could’ve worded their statements differently and with more astuteness.
On both occasions, the youngins gave skewed representation of what really happens in South Africa. People were divided in opinion about their presence on the radio show. But what’s been evident since Stogie T’s appearance on Sway In The Morning, is the unanimity in which everyone was in praising the OG.
Comedian Kagiso Mokgadi joked that “The Rand strengthened one percent vs the doller today. Thank you Stogie T.”
While Osmic said the verse should be studied in labs, high school and university, to which OG rapper Wikid agreed with, commenting “He murdered it”. The most random adulation came from former Orlando Pirates soccer player Kermit Erasmus. “Our own legend, @TumiMolekane spittin barz, this gave me goosebumps.I had to call him to let him know,” wrote Erasmus on Twitter. While South African sprinter Akani Simbine dubbed Stogie the “Undisputed lyrical king.”
“From the interview to the best freestyle I’ve ever heard on Sway show. Personally…I am thoroughly represented here,” tweeted rapper Solo.
But there was no bigger nod than that of The Roots’ Black Thought, who sent Stogie a message simply saying “You a beat bro.” Which left Stogie speechless.
“The moment you feel like dumming shit down, go play @TumiMolekane freestyle,” said Rougue.
Fellow lyricist of the year nominee at this year’s Hip Hop awards, PdotO tweeted “We were well represented on Sway. Thank you for that king. Mean! Mean mean.”
No has ever doubted Stogie’s pen game, but what made South Africans proud was because most people felt that his skill has long warranted him to be on such platforms.
He articulated himself well in the interview, narrating to Sway South Africa’s Hip Hop history. He did the stuff of globally celebrated South African athletes or pious politicians, in how he gave the country that fuzzy feeling inside.
It was also a win for local OG rappers, after the tough year they’ve had losing three giants who impacted the game on different levels. Wherever HHP, Pro Kid and Ben Sharpa are, they glowed with pride upon hearing Stogie rap.
Sway aptly said “Stogie T, South Africa’s finest,” as he was about to go in. He not only represented South Africa, but the African continent. His bars had more weight than Biggie, Pun and T from the V sitting on a park bench. He brashly started by saying
There ain’t a French bottle we ain’t pop
A fresh article we ain’t copped
Benz top that we ain’t dropped
A dress model we ain’t knocked
A festival we ain’t rocked
Destined to be this hot,
He was basically saying to the American audience listening that ‘hey, I might be from that dark continent but, you ought to show me some respect’
Rapping about how in today’s South Africa, struggle heroes are raising spoilt kids and the opulent only meeting the deprived when the latter come clean after them. Directly talking to the country’s inequality.
He challenged stereotypes that Americans always pin on Africans, whilst also showing appreciation of Hip Hop culture in the US and Malcom X.
I’m a Kool G Rap alumni,
These my handlers, the kufi Nas from NY,
Jesus medallion, reading Langston Hughes,
El-Hajj Malik el Shabazz and them,
Shit in the pocket like the Audubon assassin
I couldn’t help but think of Irish poet, Oscar Wilde’s quote, “with age, comes wisdom,” after watching the whole interview. He showed wisdom, not only in conversation with Sway, but also with his raps which got a lot of people pondering on a lot.
He posted a photo of himself at what looked like the Roc-Nation offices, with a caption implying that someone there wanted to meet him. He said going on Sway was something on his bucket list, but it might just be the first step to next level shit for Stogie,since Tumi from The Volume dun did that and got the T-shirt.