Dance music’s purity of purpose is something to be admired. There is no confusion about its reason for being, no ostentation. It exist to get bodies rhythmically moving to its high tempo and hypnotic groove as it mesmerizes the psyche into ecstasy and synchronizes our heart beats to its energetic bop. Which feels like freedom to the soul.
Muzi’s music also feels like freedom. Freedom from the negativity that clouds one’s perspective of the future, living in the Southern tip of Africa in the early 21st century. My first encounter with this urban Zulu’s music was after he electrified the crowd at the South African leg of the culture-vulturing Afro Punk festival in the new year of 2019 in Joburg.
I promptly went through his second album AFROViSiON after that related experience and then the album became a mainstay in my playlist to life.
AFROViSiON was implicitly an album about his struggles, laced with dance grooves which primarily employed catchy percussive progressions on attention grabbing synthetic chords and pads. What made the project unique was Muzi’s vocal texture, content and Zulufied model C cadence, which appealed to both the snotnose-Braamfontien arty coconut and the dusty Carvela-wearing mahlalela in Tembisa.
Crossover appeal is highly valued in the music industry, but usually limited to racial lines. In my not-so humble opinion, music that crosses over economic class is of a higher value, which is what Muzi’s music does so beautifully.
In his third offering, titled Zeno, Muzi maintains his masterful skills as a dance producer but in his lyrics one gets the distinct impression that the struggle is over.
In the Amapiano influenced pseudo love song Sondela, he drops a braggadocios mack on a shorty, making it clear that he is not intimidated by her social status or looks
Bangitshela ukuthi ungumpetha sondela ntombi
They tell me you are the shit girl!
I don’t give a fuck, come closer so we can get together.
A very loose translation…
Big boy now with the big dreams,
I see you in it, that’s a big dream…
Vans all day, I bet you know that.
I’m gonna be big, I bet you know that…
I Love how this dude exudes confidence through his music without coming across as arrogant or fake-humble. On Ngeke with Zithulele of BCUC, he attempts an acapella Zulu folk song, where urban ninjas are warned to rather step into the fighting circle to prove themselves as men. Instead of prancing around like peacocks thinking that they are better than the rest of the homies in a rural homestead, because that kind of behaviour could possibly lead to their families having to dress in black attire for a year mourning the death of their beloved son. That joint fills me up with a nostalgic yearning for my initiation ceremony where bitchass niggerisms were not tolerated, and heavy doses of toxic masculinity were indoctrinated into the impressionable minds of young men.
My favourite cut in the project has to be the more sombre Sunshine in which he relates his feelings about some sort of traumatic event that occurred in his life.
…Hoping all my blessing don’t go away,
I’m hoping the sun shines on me…
Ngisaba noku bheka isibuko, strangers in my room,
They didn’t take my life,
But it feels like I died that night,
Pushing away those I love,
Angazi kwenze njani,
but it feels like I died that night…
I strongly suspect that the ninja was a victim of crime as it is so often the case in South Africa. The feelings that arise from such an event are undoubtedly serious and persistent but what does not kill you should only make you stronger. Life in the concrete jungle follows the same as of nature. Only the strong survive.
In Untitled 45 and NguniLanding any misgivings about Muzi’s ability to produce house music in the purest form without vocals, but just ‘head-banging-while-your-tongue-is sticking-out’ beats on dope melodies. In the easily accessible Mncane he features Samthing Soweto with no vocal input from Muzi. I feel if he can get the video out for this joint it will raise the album’s buzz to new levels.
This is an excellent album, listen to it if you consider yourself a music lover, if not. Then why bother reading this shit anyway?
“The eye sees what the mind believes” and that is a scary thought considering that most of us as children of the soil, believe whatever they want us to believe. Zothile ‘Solo’ Langa wants us to believe that it is possible for a South African celebrity pretty boy to possess a high capacity for introspection and an above average level of critical thinking.
My default setting when it comes to dealing with pretty people is the prejudiced idea that evolution does not allow them the development of interesting genuine personalities and/or characters. Consequently, I was sceptical when a fellow shinobi declared that Solo’s latest musical project is fire and an essential addition to the playlist of anyone who considers themselves a mature Mzansi Hip-hop head. I have no frame of reference as it pertains to Solo’s musical journey or growth because this is the first time I have listened to any project by the Diepkloof native. I have always viewed him as a rap purist whose focus was more on lyricism than the music and I generally lack an appetite for such artists. After listening to Solo’s latest offering C Plenty Dreams, I feel bloated from the shit load of humble pie that this mo’fo has been feeding me and I have nowhere to hide my shame.
Sonically, Solo generally fuses kasi and isiZulu vocal samples with mellow melodies to create a laid-back and familiar sonic textures, which often feels uniquely South African without the usual pretentiousness that one gets from most mainstream Hip-hop artists trying to reach a wider market. Upon these textures he lyrically delivers priceless gems of wisdom to the young urban black youth of Mzansi. In the retrospective joint Imali he starts the track with a menacing sangoma chanting sample and later questions the instances of “bottle wars” that often occurs in SA’s nightclubs What is boasting anyway if it ain’t a hate on yourself…
On my favourite song on the album Imposter Syndrome, he explores the process one goes through in order to reach their dreams and/or goals by offering practical and authentic insights on how to approach such a dilemma “...jump on the stage while picturi’n people naked everybody naked, people just say shit, kodwa that’s one of my favourites…how do we walk around downplaying victories, highlighting miseries often eclipse…I’m talking about the delusion of chasing perfection while flaws are what sharpens the gift…”
It is clear that Solo has put a lot of effort into improving his creative process in order to become more musical without losing his lyricism. With that said one feels that the back end of the project he reverts back to his hold habit of monotonously rapping with generic vocal inflections which are void of any real emotions. In the kwaito influenced joint Promises, he predictably features Kwesta who recites some throw away verse to get that feature money and royalties. Solo delivers some wack ass rhyme scheme which one has heard a million times before “…I have had the visions since u pikinini ngi gijimisa u grot, figuring the business get my business get my niggers out of the woods…” In the following joint Ubuntu Babo he goes into a double-time rapping tiered which makes my eyes glaze over with disinterest over the entirety of the joint. Hypocritically though I love the last track Take me which is a boom bap tribute to Hip-hop legends who passed away in 2018 “…I have lost heroes that’s how villains are born…the cloth that I am cut from isn’t withering the storm , and what is a left is expensive fabric that you new niggers know nothing about… “
The two interludes in this project, Highlight reel and Show the Bloopers are touching monologues by his parents which leave a “broke-ass-know it all” blogger with daddy issues feeling a bit tender. In the first interlude his mother reflects upon the circumstances that have led her towards living a spiritual lifestyle and how that ended up influencing her children. In the second interlude Show the Bloopers, Solo starts the joint with a cold eight bars which contain a moving tribute to Gugu Zulu
“…I was a defrabulator with those with no pulse, really shouldn’t be looking in those parts, pull the fuse and leave the room with no spark, Gugu Zulu put me in a go cart, who would have later known later that I would be so clutch, hope his daughter knows he had the biggest heart”
This is followed by his father, who dishes out compliments about Solo’s work ethic “…to do the right thing…ireward of doing that…iyazizela…when a person thinks about doing good right.. some people say ‘I do good so that should I die, I go to heaven’…and let’s say there is no heaven but you would have lived a good life…If you do something correct, ireward iyayizela…I promise…you will see”
In totality this project is dope as fuck, not chart climbing and internet breaking kind of dope. The hidden gem kind of dope, buried underneath the pop singles of the Nasty, AKA or Casspers of the game. This album is an important contribution to Mzansi’s Hip-hop culture because it is a clear indicator that our music can be more than just a bottle pusher in the North of Jozi. Hip-hop can be an authentic contributor to this country’s story and legacy. Due to that fact, I can’t wait for the next album from this not-so solo any longer pretty boy.
Humanity is a disease to mother Earth thus motherfuckers don’t deserve my love. Why are we so destructive, unprogressive and hopelessly retarded in our pursuit of happiness? As I pen this piece of mind it is the 7th of May 2019. The day before South Africa holds its sixth democratic election to select the political organisation which will get to rule my home country for the next half a decade.
The winner will most certainly be the African National Congress. A well organised collection of liars, thieves and killers. Everybody knows what they are but nobody can prove it and most of us do not care. Admittedly lying, thieving and killing are a necessary component in a social struggle against oppression.
That does not translate well when a liberation movement becomes the governing party. The history of Africa since its independence bares testament to this unfortunate truth. Although that history is not without its heroes and heroines. Thomas Sankara, Steve Bantu Biko, Ruben Um Nyobè, Tambo just to name a few. Their courage in the face of Caucasian tyranny transformed their lives into monuments of beauty in this cold white world.
Beauty is the source of joy in life and for this not so humble writer, the beauty in anything lies in the thought behind it. This is why some of us as pretentious Hip Hop heads do not fuck with Trap music and refuse to acknowledge it as a fundamental part of Hip Hop culture. We simply do not understand the intent and the thought behind it.
I only started to appreciate the beauty of Trap after watching a documentary series called Noisy Atlanta. In the series a nerdy and scrawny white male follows influential Trap artists through the American city of Atlanta. The city is a critical transportation point for that country’s economy. Consequentially illegal drugs coming in from Mexico have to go through the city. This creates an opportunity for the disenfranchised African American population in the city. With a heavy drug and gang culture, Trap houses spring up all over the city like mushrooms.
A Trap house is basically a comprehensively fortified house in which dealers produce and sells narcotics. Those menaces to society live in a constant state of fear. They are always on the lookout for the pigs and snitches who try to put another black man behind bars, but there need for the all mighty dollar drives them to remain in the game. Some of these delinquents are able to express that state of mind through music. That is how Trap music came to be.
Generally Trap beats are filled with sonic textures that create an atmosphere of fear, which is contrasted with cheerful bells or strings. The lyrics are always about drugs, money and sex. With that said, when one takes a deeper listen to the music, you will come to understand that Trap is about the hustle. Trappers take pride in their work ethic and the ability to come out on top with the odds stacked against them. Which is quite effective when one is in the gym or on their way to a stressful meeting and they need to kill it. Trappers do not allow fear to get in the way of what they want and what they need.
Fear is a necessary evolutionary response when one finds themselves in a dangerous situation. It inspires action where a person either has to fight or flee to survive but fear stifles thought. Without thought there is no beauty and a life without beauty is a life filled with misery. This is the reason why the South African Bantu is such a sorry excuse for a human. We are filled with fear.
With 17 million people on social welfare, we have chosen to live on our knees rather than dying on our feet. We afraid of truth, sacrifice and change. The truth is that the consequence of capitalism is inequality. Free markets do not give a fuck about social cohesion and the common good. Its only concern is profits and losses. We as a people have to sacrifice luxury and a bit of comfort. In order to effectively address the issues that we face as a society. We are afraid of change. We need to let go of unprogressive tribal, cultural, and social norms that are no longer relevant in this current space and time.
Thus it is fear that retards our pursuit of happiness. It has turned us into illiterate, binge drinking and brash people. In other words fear has made us ugly.
In the majority of cases children are the unintended consequences of their parent’s reckless or ignorant behaviour. This goes beyond our instinctive dislike of latex between a vagina and penis which is the primary reason for reproduction amongst South African youths irrespective of the fact that most of you niggers call your children a blessing.
Who and what a child grows up to be is an unpredictable endeavour, with the existence of the pornography being sufficient evidence to support the above assertion. Thus in a fast changing world, family relations are becoming less homogeneous within a variety of demographic divisions. Through the prism of these rationalisations, I am bothered whenever the older generations express disapproval of our generation’s propensity to value friendship over family.
We are all slaves to our truths, with these truths being subject to our unique perspective. The previous generations truth was that in life, the Bantu had to find a person (or people) they could tolerate, control or love. Then they breed with that individual(s) with the primary purpose being the expansion of the paternal family name, through as many male children as possible.
While apartheid ensured that the Bantu had no need for silly abstractions such as self-actualisation and self-determination. Without doubt the life of the Bantu was difficult but on the up side it was a simple and humble existence. With minimal choices in life, the family was the corner stone of the Bantu’s sense of identity. Especially with the Bantu being forced to live in concentrated labour camps called townships, alongside strangers from different tribal, cultural and geographic backgrounds. Thus an ever present feeling of distrust for one’s neighbour always existed in the depths of the Bantu’s psyche on many different levels, which made friendship rather difficult to establish. This was not the case for the Bantu’s offspring.
The children of Bantu did not simply see the township as a labour camp instead they saw a place they could call home. These heavily myelinated rascals went bird hunting together and played soccer for hours until their entire bodies were covered in that distinctive red township dust. They did not communicate in their mother tongues when they were around each other, the Bantu offspring used a localised township dialect called Tsotsi taal and consumed copious amounts international cultural content through whatever medium was relevant at the time. Unlike their parent’s childhood, the texture of their reality was fragmented between home, the streets and sometimes the model C education they received in the suburbs of urban South Africa. Their sense of belonging was constantly called into question by the ever changing spaces that the found themselves in on a daily basis which created tension in the process of forming an identity. To para phrase a monologue from Alfa mist’s Potential, it is broken pieces that causes us to replace family with friends.
I am not assigning blame and I am not passing moral judgement, it is what it is. The effect of a cause upon our liner perception of time. It is intuitively natural for a parent to be unsettled when seeing a stranger in their own child. In the same breath people develop a lot of identities throughout the course of their lives, gravitating towards a diverse number of groups in the formation of their social identity. The reasons for this are different for each human being but biology is one amongst a plethora of explanations. Sometimes the family you choose is the healthier choice than the family you are born into. But only sometimes in a world with snakes and wolves disguised in sheep’s clothing.
It has been almost ten years since I was traditionally initiated in Xhosa manhood and I remember it like it was yesterday. The blood, the gore, the endless days of pain mixed with sleep deprivation, wishing that this archaic shit would end so that I could get back to civilization and resume my life in modernity. Personally I was indifferent to the whole idea of ukwaluka but at the time I was living under my parents roof and they are rural to the bone, so a ghetto kid did what he had to do to survive.
The ritual is designed to be traumatic so that the knowledge imparted unto you by elderly ‘wise’ men is seared into your memory like a brand on a cow’s behind. Unfortunately most boys come out of the whole shebang with a solid grasp on the finer points of misogyny and alcoholism.
Xhosa initiation rites seem to no longer serve their intended purpose, which was to nurture loyalty in young man and instil a sense of pride in them for being tough enough to survive the entire brutal experience. This was necessary in a precolonial South Africa, where bitch-ass-niggerisms couldn’t be tolerated because as the saying goes ‘you are only as strong as your weakest link’. The tribe could not afford to be weak, with megalomaniacs like Shaka Zulu prowling the land for villages to conquer.
Traditions should only survive due to the pragmatic value they have to a society or a community. If that set value is no longer readily apparent, then modes of thought, attitudes and behaviours become toxic. Their preservation is generally due to sentiment. As an economically poor people who do not have a working knowledge of our culture before colonialism, we desperately hold on to pieces of ourselves. Like a tortured soul tightly holding on to a piece of a broken mirror hoping to get a full picture of the beauty they once had. I think the reason we do this is because we want to feel like haven’t assimilated the coloniser’s way of life, it is reactionary.
Tradition is a function of culture, along with language, fashion, art and belief to name a few of its elements. Its unadulterated practice in isolation does not make sense because its intended function out of context will not bear the anticipated results. For example, educating children in their mother tongues but public and private institutions of consequence communicate is English. Having worked in the retail sector as a cashier, I saw the inferiority complexes that my co-workers had when they had to deal with an unreasonable Caucasian customer because they did not have a proper grasp of the English language. The very same people would have no problem dealing with an African customer who spoke the same language and exhibited the same kind of unacceptable behaviour.
I can already hear the culture Nazi’s shouting “in order to know where you’re going, you must know where you come from”. In principle I agree with this idiom, but in life I’m not a prisoner to it. I understand the profound desire that we have, as Africans, to be masters of our own destiny but we should not let it blind us in our actions. We should look at the world for what it is, rather than looking at it as what we think it used to be. The reactionary tendency to romanticize precolonial African culture is doing us no favours in reclaiming our sense of identity and sense of being. Instead we should consciously and consistently repurpose elements of our culture so that they are useful in addressing present day challenges.
For instance I think the tradition of ukwaluka should be used to instil:
· A culture of brotherhood amongst Xhosa men
· Tolerance for other people’s point of view and cultures
· The value of discipline and perseverance
· A demonization of alcohol and drugs
· An internalized understanding of how to treat African people regardless of gender, tribe or class