“Well in many ways Sharpa was my heart you know… from as long as I can remember… we had a really special bond. Given the age difference between us, he often joked that he knew me before I knew me… and he was right … yeah our bond was special… I mean this is the same kat who gave me the chicken pox as a five months old baby because he simply couldn’t leave me alone. Ha! … in retrospect, I’d say that was one of the greatest acts of love because I never had to experience it as a child, when one is more conscious of what itch, irritation and pain is etcetera,” says Teboho Semela, Ben Sharpa’s younger sister.
Such is their connection as siblings, that Teboho tightly grips at every memory that ties her to her older brother. Today marks a year since the iconic figure died from complications with diabetes. “As a family, his passing has definitely left an unfathomable void, but you know, we’re pushing on.”
We often think that a person’s public persona, or what they choose to show us, is all that they are. When one looks at Sharpa’s life from the exterior, it’s easy to make assumptions about who he was- a nocturnal hard-ass emcee, which only listens to Jak Progresso, in a dungeon somewhere on the outskirts. But Kgotso ‘Ben Sharpa’ Semela was a multifaceted dude, who had passion for humanity. “Sharpa may have come across as “hard” at times, especially in his music, but that guy was one the most loving guys you could ever know. It was just as he said ‘… imagine if you mix one-part hip hop, one-part love, one-part quantum mechanics and one-part God… then you’ll probably get close to what Ben Sharpa is about’…”
“I’ll let you in on a secret, that so called “hard” guy that brought us one of the most relevant records of our time Hegemony I will tell you that, before every single show we ever did together, no matter what or where, we would find a space, tune out the noise and hype, hold hands and pray together. Kgotso prayed, yo! … like a preacher … that man prayed. Through and through.
“… he was a true believer, in others, the raising of consciousness and quite simply, he was concerned for the human condition… he just believed… heck, he believed in me at times when I struggled to believe in myself… so to not have that… to not have that one person who truly got it, who got you… well… it’s the kind of hurt I really would not wish on anyone,” Teboho tells me.
That social side of Sharpa was evident last year after his passing, at his memorial service- a service which would be the envy of any Hip Hop show, in how Sharpa’s life was celebrated vicariously through Hip Hop. “Honestly, I always knew Kgotso was beloved but seeing it all in action was truly beautiful. Folk from all over the world reached out, stood in the gap, and quite simply showed up for Sharpa; and for this I could not be more grateful. On the whole, the Hip Hop community displayed such a sense of camaraderie in the wake of his passing that it is something that shall be forever etched in my mind.”
The tributes that came in were fully justified by the skill of the man and who he was, but the pity is that we gave him a floral garden when he couldn’t smell and appreciate it. “I wouldn’t be the upfront and reflective; chiselled by the sharpest knife in the drawer – Ben Sharpa – human I am if didn’t say that it is a damn shame that the magnitude of outright support for Kgotso in his passing, was not shown when he was alive to see it. Kgotso did not get the recognition he deserved, not fully. I genuinely believe that, but that said, it is done now and often the plight of many pioneers so more than anything else I perceive it as a call for us all to do better, be better. Look after our own, in life and in death.”
Sharpa was a classical violin player that was part of the youth orchestra, which is one of the things that connected her with Teboho who is also a violinist, singer and flautist- the two would often collaborate. So it makes sense that it’s his sister, making sure his name doesn’t wither with time. “So in line with what we consistently discussed – right up to the very last, I mean it was one of the various topics we touched on the last time I spoke to him before his passing – so in doing due diligence and honouring what I believe to be one the most eloquent rappers and beat makers of his time, this past year I’ve been quietly building the BSharpa Foundation.”
The genius emcee recorded a project before his premature passing, but Teboho is quite ambiguous about its release. “Chances are chances you know… so you all are just going to have to wait and see… I will say this, it is phenomenal.”
After the birth of his twins, the release of his album and just pretty much living his life, Reason HD addressed that abrupt beef he and Flex Rabanyan had at the back-end of 2018.
The cringe-worthy conflict between the two spawned form Reason giving the young rapper advice on how to carry himself in the game. This after Flex whined on Twitter about a failed payola attempt on Metro FM. Reason’s older -brotherly words of wisdom were used as material for a diss track targeted at him, by Flex in For Whatever Reason.
The lukewarm track didn’t warrant fire emojis for its dopeness, but for its shock value. The 2017 Vuzu Hustle winner took personal jabs at Reason, talking about how the former Motif Records artist lives off his partner and babymama Loot Love because she seemingly makes more money than him due to Reason’s unsuccessful music career.
Patiently waiting for over six months without really addressing it, Reason timely responded to Flex two months after the young’n complained on social media about being broke and having to sell his car.
Talk is cheap, but I’ma cross between
The type of blacks who speak rationally
Fuck with me
Then I’ma have you hiding where you at for weeks
Actions speak louder than an empty pocket testing me
Actually why that wack nigga try to flex on me
Look at my chick, look at my crib
Look at the shit on my wrist
Look at the hits, look at the list
Then you go look at your shit
Like, where do you live
Where do you get, my nigga why is you big
Show me the bitch that’s trying to get under your dick
‘Cause nobody know who she is
Rappers are dying and all of you niggas are lying or beefing on your timeline
Just for the sake of signing you lie to yourself like you all in the lime light
But why try, when all of you fly by
Should figure that time flies
You did it for high fives to nice tries
But let’s get to the bye byes
Talk about having the last laugh.
Reason also took the opportunity to let everyone know that he’s put back the HD in his moniker, following the embarrassing confusion from that Black Panther film soundtrack which introduced TDE’s Reason to the globe. On the joint Seasons, Reason from the US is alongside Sjava which led to people assuming it was two South Africans on the song.
It was Greek philosopher Plato, who said necessity is the mother of invention. And it is Lebogang Motsagi, who finds himself corned to create something out of nothing in order to get what is necessary- an education.
The 23 year-old photographer and fashion designer has been accepted at the University of The Arts London, London College of Fashion as well as by the London College of Communication and another Photography School in Berlin. “I unfortunately had to defer the offer, then I eventually lost my place for the 2018/19 enrolment. However, I got contacted by a guy named Tom, who works for UAL and was also helping me with my application. He stated that me losing my place for 2018/19 does not mean anything bad. All I need to do is reapply for the same course whenever I have my funds sorted out.”
“The process won’t be as complex as the initial one because the panel is already familiar with my application as well as my work. I basically have until January 2019 earliest, or either September 2020 latest to raise the funds,” says the maverick creative.
To raise the money, the designer took matters into his crafty hands and created unconventional chic bags. “I have been making and selling bags to help raise more funds as well as to pay for my food and rent due to the fact that my plans had completely changed. Everything went south. I was not planning to be here this long, so that too is a big problem. I also get booked for shoots every now and then. So that also helps a lot.”
The Kimberly born creative has a clothing brand, Elisa, named after his late mother. The bags compliment the clothes he also makes. “That is just one of the projects I am doing on the side to help get my work out there more. I am not ready to share any details regarding the brand so far. It’s still going through its early stages of development.”
The lanky young man has also opted for modern conventional ways to get out of the finance dilemma. He’s gone the fundraising route, setting up an account on Go Fund Me where he asks 500 000 people across the globe to donate R1 each, to help him reach his target.
“I have managed to raise about R10 000 so far, but I have spent some of the money on fabrics to make more items that would help me more money, as well as on my IELTS test, and other expenses I faced while having to travel to and from Pretoria to write the test,” says Motsagi.
Mesut Ӧzil is a great player, very few can deliver a pass like the German. But he’s only an asset to the team going forward- trust me, I’m an Arsenal supporter who knows how painfully true that is. The World Cup winner doesn’t toil with the rest of the boys when they need to win the ball back, rendering his services a luxury, at the expense of the Gunners.
This is similar to twanging that one would come across, when in the company of those who former President Jacob Zuma would label “smart blacks.” Hey, I’m not necessarily biased against people who have a nasally manner of articulation, because I have a bit of that too owing to where I went to school and even the Hip Hop culture I grew-up engrossed in. I just get annoyed when we as society begin to equate fluency in English, to intelligence.
I often find myself in spaces where conversations about a plethora of things are abound; from spirituality, sexual orientation, artistry, socio-economics and so forth. With these exchanges, various ideas and opinions come to the fore, which is all well and fine with me. But it’s the gang from multiracial schools who’d often show-off their well-spoken English, but essentially adding naught to the conversation. What makes the whole picture worse, is that more often than not, the other blacks would be so gobsmacked by the speaker’s eloquence, they’d be too intimidated to even rebuff what they just heard.
Go to any Higher Education institution around Gauteng, where you would find students who hail from Township schools and rural parts of the country being ostracised for not being as articulate in the English language. But these are the same students who are passing their courses-while the “good speakers” are stuck repeating classes.
This isn’t to suggest multiracial or Model C schools never produce top students, and that rural and kasi schools don’t flunk in university- but there’s a sense that we as young black people are polarized by how we speak this English.
But this isn’t unique to young black people. The older generation has been institutionalized to be intimidated by Caucasians, hence most black parents would take their kids to larney schools with a rightful hope for a better future for their kids, but these folks also do it to make sure their kids won’t be seen as inadequate for not being able to speak fluent English. I remember my family’s expectation for me to speak isilungu, in my first years at Primary. I didn’t understand that. The same way I don’t comprehend the jubilation of a pre-school kid’s parents, at the sound of a five year old twanging.
It’s not wrong for the child to learn a new language, but it is, to give your child ideas that their comfortability with the English language makes them better black people. I’m pretty sure that most black parents wouldn’t show off their kids’ ease with Tsonga, if their bundle of joy was able to speak the Bantu language.
It is this sort of thinking that creates a sense of Afrophobia among black people- irrational fear towards black people or anything that is of African descent. Afrophobia infiltrates everything around us, be it music, business and even media. Remember the bridge that collapsed on the M1 highway/Grayston drive which led to the deaths of two people in 2015? I bet that had that construction site been overseen by an African company, more heads would’ve rolled, rapidly. But because Murray and Roberts Holdings is white-owned, the inquiry to what happened is only taking place now, three years later.
No one dare questions white supremacy, or simply anything white. Look at what happened with the Steinhoff saga.
Previous Return of The Dreamers instalments had the make-up of a mixtape, the soppiness of a demo and were lethargic as those preseason warm-up matches in sport. But Revenge of The Dreamers III is purely a case of third luck’s a charm for J.Cole and the Dreamville squad.
The first ROTD was released in 2014 with the follow-up coming in 2015. The projects left one with a sense that Dreamville was just testing the waters. But this current shit here slaps, quite hard.
I’m only realising this as I write, that we were actually conditioned to expect more than we got from the previous projects, by the marketing gimmick Dreamville pulled earlier this year. They publicly invited artists they wanted to have on this project, on social media. I ain’t an artist and I’m not even in the US nogal. But those invitations didn’t only leave one excited, but just wana be in there…even nje just to witness the sickness. I can bet you my speakers that a shit load of artists, in the US were green with envy.
“Cole was like ‘man we should make invitations’ and then I was just like damn that’s actually kinda genius. We literally got it out to people the day we got here, we were supposed to do it ahead of time and then that day, we just stared seeing people posting, posting, posting,” said Ibrahim ‘Ib’ Hamad, President and co-founder of Dreamville speaking in a the documentary Dreamville Presents: REVENGE.
The album featured 34 artists and 27 producers, this is out of the 343 individuals invited to record it in 10 days.
“That shit worked out crazy like, people hit my phone, everybody wana come and everybody’s welcome at the same time, you know what I mean,” said Cole. “For me it was like, literally a golden ticket typa situation.”
Months flew and the excitement fizzled, but somehow, sporadically reignited by a J.Cole verse on other artists’ joints in the months leading up to now. But the eagerness for ROTD III came back to us quicker than Babes did to Mampintsha, after watching the enticing Dreamville Presents: REVENGE.
Sonically, ROTD III is refreshing…looking at where Dreamville comes from as a label. They were, and are largely still seen as one of the torch bearers of the Boom-Bap sound and that real rap shit. This album has various sounds, but each song never veers off what Dreamville seems to represents, realness.
It’s symbolic that Dreamville hosted a slew of artists, and even in the web of sounds, no one forgot that these dreamers are tryna pay revenge. The stable has grown in sound and artistry…the songs uniquely represented the folks at Dreamville. The seemingly organic chemistry they had with the outside artists, isn’t unusual for Dreamville because the stable has an assortment of artists, who hail from different parts of the country.
The weed joint, 1993 produced by Elite is so Wu-Tang. I’ve been listening to Buddy’s music for a year or two now, and his energy on shit is always palpable. He doesn’t rap on this track, but serves his purpose on the song. The blunt is seen as the microphone, and vice-versa to which Buddy is the conductor. Cole and JID complemented each other well with their verses, coming correct.
JID is Dreamville’s poster boy and he further proved why on this project. Ladies, Ladies, Ladies produced by Kal Banx has JID musing over past lovers alongside the big bro from ATL T.I. It’s a smooth ditty, delivered in an attempted to sound hard, but both kats come out sounding dope cute.
I would’ve liked to see Cole, Ib and Top Dawg’s reaction soon as they heard LamboTruck. I saw Reason as just a decent kat before this joint, but his cadence and pen game was above par. So was Cozz…and they both sounded deliberately humorous. The two West Coast kats’ comfortability with each other reminded me of the chemistry between East coast’s Method Man & Redmad. LamboTruck also represents the kindship between Top Dawg Entertainment and Dreamville, far more than just the business.
Ari Lennox, Dreamville’s empress, owned her space on the project. Self Love featuring Bas and Baby Rose is one of those songs that would sit well on an Ari project. She got swallowed up though, by Ty Dolla $ign on Got Me– if that beat was America, Ty Dolla $ign would be the white race. Omen hasn’t shrugged off sounding like Cole, but the Friday Night Lights/ The Warm Up Cole- nice, but still on the come up. The track is produced by Mdbeat, Deputy and OZ.
Bas can be a bit sluggish when solo, on his own shit but Abbas Hamad rapped out of his skin on Down Bad, rapping with stable mates JID, EARTHGANG, J.Cole and 21 Savage’s cousin Young Nudy.
Sacrifices, Wells Fargo, Oh Wow…Swerve are other songs worth mentioning that give the album more body and gravitas to even dare call it an album. There are songs the alum could’ve done without, like Swivel and Sleep Deprived .
It’s natural to wonder what will happen to the songs we heard in the documentary, which were recorded in the 10 days but didn’t make the 18 track cut. And I suppose it’s also natural to sit there and think why they didn’t invite so-and-so…because of the vast possibilities and expectations that come with putting together such a project. So it is what it is.
But Dreamville gave dreamers hope with this one, without being melodramatic about it.