WE’RE mortal beings whose existence on this planet has an ending, but through a legacy one can live forever. Ask Bob Marley, Steve Biko or Flabba, who today would’ve celebrated his 41st birthday.
Real name Nkululeko Habedi, born in Soweto but raised in Alex, Flabba passed away three years ago after an altercation with his girlfriend Sindisiwe Manqele, who stabbed him. I remember that Monday morning in March when former Skwatta Kamp member Infa, confirmed that Flabba was no more. The whole Hip Hop community was frozen in shock, that ntja ya Gomora was gone.
Flabba left us with music he recorded with his group Skwatta Kamp, but we were fortunate enough to get one solo project from him which was the 2006’s Nkuli vs Flabba. The album won Best Rap album at the South African Music Awards in 2007.
I write this listening to a track from the album which he did with Lira, Gotta Let You Go. In the short song, he talks about the battling pain of losing his father and brother. This was a rare appearance by Nkululeko on record talking about his emotions, something which Flabba wouldn’t do because he was Nkuli’s Black Label drinking out-of-this-world alter ego.
Like the Kea Go Rata skit on the album where he’s in a club with a girl, tryna mack on her over loud music, but changes his story as soon as the music abruptly goes silent. He gave us himself in the album, the ying and the yang.
It wasn’t a traditional Hip Hop album marinated in lyricism and intricate rhyme schemes, like the stuff Proverb and Zubz were doing at the time. But like a proper comedian, he was far observant of what’s happening in society than people gave him credit. Kats like Lil Dicky are being given tags such as a comical rapper, while Flabba exposed us to such years ago. He was ahead of his time.
Zubz’s Heavy 8 is probably South Africa’s best posse cut, but Flabba’s Is’Bhamu Somdoko remix follows close behind. It pinned down the various Mzansi rap styles in one song, with everyone trying to channel their twisted sexual side which Flabba did so seamlessly. On the track Nkuli Habedi, he says he’s not your average rapper, but your favourite porn star. Flabba could rap, but was wise enough to avoid sounding like everyone around him who was chasing that US flow and style. He carved his own lane.
Gifted individuals live with an unfathomable and sometimes careless realness as if they know that their time on this earth won’t match any country’s life expectancy number. His clique, Skwatta Kamp was often juxtaposed to the US’s Wu Tang Clan because of their influence in the culture and also because both groups were bigger than the average Hip Hop collective.
Writing this, I can’t help but think of Flabba as SK’s Ol’Dirty Bastard. Both are deceased, they were both comical, abrasive, genuine and intelligent. Thank goodness he wasn’t part of Club 27, otherwise we wouldn’t have received what he gave us in his last 10 years on earth.
JUST as those South African political activists stuck in exile years prior 1994, Reason’s fans are eagerly waiting for the release of Azania.
Yesterday the kat from the Eastrand asked his followers on Twitter, if they’d be mad at him should his album come out next year.
“The whole point of me actually putting out this tweet, to be honest with you was to create a dialogue between me and my fans. I think in the business world they would call this market research,” says Reason speaking to Tha Bravado telephonically.
Recording of the album is finished and getting mixed and mastered as I type this. “At the end of the day, as great of an album you may have, the business aspect always has to kick in, you know. Because you have to follow through with a launch, you have to follow through with marketing it, shooting videos, taking those videos out, making sure that you have maximum reach, radio airplay…there’s a lot to consider.”
Just a day before Freedon Day Reason released the heartfelt album title track Azania, which has US producer Swizz Beatz and renowned songstress Sibongile Khumalo on vocals. He’s also dropped the grimy Wu Tang featuring Frank Casino.
“We live in a world where, I could’ve asked that question, and people could’ve said we don’t give a damn about your album. Because there’s so many artists out there and so many albums out there, it was very easy for the consumer to turn around and say to be honest with you, we don’t really give a fuck when you’re dropping this record.”
The rapper’s fans clearly do give a fuck, looking at the salvo of responses to Reason’s tweet. “Uzakube uyaseqhela,”tweeted Linda Majuba. While one Malakia Motaung said in a tweet “No need to drop this year, early next year would do sir. Although the world need this project, we are patient.” An unforeseen fan and clear competitor, AKA said “end of April…we will be cool.”
But Bheki Nondabula’s suggestion is what Reason seems to have heeded most. “Release a young single to keep our heads ringing till you’re [sic] ready G…so unfortunate that the Azania single is so slept on,” the tweet read. In a few weeks Reason will release Gemini Major produced Osuna Mang. Just as the song Azania, Osuna Mang sees the rapper embracing a group effort again, in the form of roping in Kwesta and Kid X.
“Funny, the next single was supposed to be a single I do by myself which is a song called Nkosi Yam’ and it’s only recently when we added two songs to the album, that Osuna Mang ke le teng came out. The sentiment of Azania (the album) was built around collaboration though, but not just collaboration with artists, but collaboration with producers, collaboration with writers, and collaboration with singers,”
Recorded on a farm in Magaliesburg over two weeks, he says creation of his fourth studio album was guided by accepting and receiving advice from the aforementioned collaborators who came to add to the project. “It’s such a strong album because it has so many ideas, from so many different people.” Reason says.
He didn’t say when the album would come out, but if the first song that came out is anything to go by, then this album is indeed a strong project that should be worth the wait.
ECONOMIC and emotional instability, the disunity among Africans and the loss of sense of self are some of the symptoms of a colonial babalaas that most black people suffer from today in Africa.
Artists Ronald Muchatuta and Patrick Bongoy are addressing this monkey on the back of Africans in their exhibition, Feso A Thorn In The Flesh. Translated from Shona, Feso is a clandestine African plant which reveals itself through unexpected pain when stepping on it.
It’s known as the Devil’s Thorn because of its two distinct horn-like protrusions. Muchatuta and Congolese artist Bongoy see colonialism as an emotional feso etched in the lives of African people across the continent.
“The exhibition interrogates partly ‘Post-Colonial Theory’ using our places of origin including those of other African states , engaging with the effects of colonialism and current realities that post-colonialism has driven us to,” Zimbabwean born artist Muchatuta tells me.
“My work speaks in response to the global reality of literal and figurative environmental pollution. This encompasses the entire spectrum from the erosion of economic viability, the impact on community and individual behaviour and socio cultural decay of the rural and urban landscape,” said Bongoy of the exhibition. Feso A Thorn In The Flesh opens this Thursday at the Ebony Gallery in Cape Town.
A multi-disciplined artist, Muchatuta has been in South Africa for more than a decade now, based in Cape Town and hasn’t been to Zim in a number of years. “The political discourse in Zimbabwe is also an African discourse. The desire for the so called ‘sweet democracy’ that we wish as Africans affects us in many ways. The militant ways in Zimbabwe are a reflection of the oppressive apartheid era only difference is that it’s the legacy of the liberation leaders that’s devouring its citizens. That militancy inspires the proactive nature of my artworks,” he tells me.
Muchatuta is a qualified Master Mosaic Artist from Spier Arts Academy in Cape Town, where he completed his studies in 2012 and primarily works through the mediums of drawing, painting and creating mosaics. Currently, three of his artwork are up in the Melrose Gallery as part of a group exhibition Reinventing Materiality.
It is at that exhibition that renowned playwright, Mbongeni Ngema saw his work and asked to use Muchatuta’s work as his album art for his upcoming album. “I respect Mbongeni for his lifelong contribution to the South African theatre and music sectors and for the valuable contribution that his productions like Sarafina! Woza Albert and Asinamali made to promote the evils of Apartheid and the struggle for freedom to massive global audiences. It means In addition that there is a creative understanding and appreciation that my work has. The narrative of the work resonates with his music and one can only understand in that context,” Muchatuta.
Works such as this are the antidote to the hangover that a number of people suffer from because not only do the artworks aesthetically turn one one, but they spur conversations which give people the opportunity to engage with who they really truly are.
BORN under unusual circumstances, Benjamin Button springs into being as an elderly man in New Orleans and ages in reverse.
That’s the summarised plot of the Brad Pitt movie, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. The 2008 film’s narrative regurgitated in my mind as I listened to Stogie T’s latest project, Honey & Pain.
As a mark of growth, artists tend switch from their alter ego monikers to being known by their I.D names on stage. Just this week, on Tha Bravado I wrote a piece about Selema Writes not going by the names Sledge Lee and Dice Mak anymore but embracing the name he was given at birth.
Artists who are genuine about this, will have their art as witness to this change. When Stogie T announced he doesn’t want to be referred to as Tumi anymore in 2016, the veteran rapper wasn’t taken serious. But his music has shown that there’s definitely been alternations.
Don’t get me twisted, Stogie T’s raps are of Tumi’s quality. Stogie has more bravado and doesn’t seem concerned about what his bars do to the environment. In the intro of Rapture where he features Jay Claude, Stogie raps:
The verse Kodak, decoded that
See it through the eyes of those
Living where there ain’t no hope at
Dealt a better card, I wasn’t
Made up like a joker
Add my legacy to the ledger
I won’t be broke Jack
Stogie’s patterns and rhyme schemes are an amusement park for a genuine Hip Hop lover. That’s why Tumi And The Volume will forever be etched on the memory of South African Hip Hop because Stogie is a superb emcee who was in a band with great musicians, creating timeless songs.
The music on Honey & Pain doesn’t have replay value, except a few songs, this is mainly due to the things he raps about. On Big Boy Raps he’s on his remember raps, in the last verse sounding like a petty OG talking about cars he drove, juxtaposing himself to rappers who are currently in the forefront of the Hip Hop.
It’s when listening to such, which makes me comprehend Andre 3000’s reason for his retirement from Hip Hop because it’s a young man’s game, especially the braggadocio side of things. Listening to some of the songs, you get a feeling Stogie’s tryna prove that he’s also got swag. You’ve got it bro, you need not prove anything.
Stogie T the storyteller is what he needs to give us more of, which he did on the track Numbers Game. The joint has YoungstaCPT on the hook and surprisingly he doesn’t have a verse on the song. I found the song quite timely considering the scrutiny that has been on the coloured community and the prevalence of gangsterism there. Stogie tells the story of one who grows up in the coloured area and the adversity they face on daily because of the barrage of social ills.
On the 14 minute long God’s Eye he went hard on a number of beats (about eight) dropping verses not accompanied by any chorus. It reminded me of his project, The Powa Mixtape in how he talked to important issues such as the pursuit of a better life by immigrants from war-torn countries.
It was good hearing Maggz on the project’s single, Pretty Flower and the new kid J Molley. The latter served his purpose on that hook. Stogie T has a good ear for talent, which guides his choice of features. Rouge is the equivalent of a Kevin De Bruyne on Side Chick, her hook holds the song together plus she raps, while Ayanda Jiya’s gentle voice gives the song that tenderness to counter Stogie’s patriarchal stances on the verses. It’s a good song which I imagine should do well on radio.
I appreciate Joharzardousburg for the vibrant beat, its length and of course the raps. I haven’t heard anyone do a song about Joburg, painting a picture of the complex and colourful city-it’s such a rapper’s rapper thing to do. It also sells Johannesburg to those who’ve never been here.
Stogie has the rare condition of the Button disease, in musical terms at least. He came in the game making music way ahead of his time and beyond his wisdom-ironic that Button was born in New Orleans and Tumi’s music had strong jazz elements in his early days.
Now I believe he’s at his adolescence juncture, enjoying music and ripping the mic, just for the sake of it. The longer he goes though, his sound may become primitive in the name of being a young person who’s having fun.
TIME and time again we hear the story of the struggling artist, but what’s never talked about is their purpose of going through that struggle.
What’s this dream which makes one put on blinkers and focus on this lifelong mission? For playwright Menzi Mkhwane, the answer is building a sustainable theatre company.
“No one has built a black audience for theatre. I mean a black paying audience. I could list so many external problems such as, comedy for instance gets more support more so than theatre and so does poetry. But internally. I will say I have only began concentrating my efforts into offering consistent entertainment which is plotted on a calendar stretching all the way to November next year. I have a five year plan of how we plan to take over Durban with theatre so in a nut shell people will warm up to me,” Mkhwane confidently tells me.
An actor of eight years now, Mkhwane has seen enough in the industry to stir up his passion and desire to create something bigger than himself, from the bottom up. He was part of musical theatre Twist which travelled to Holland and Belgium late 2010 and early 2011. He made his debut with his poppa, celebrated actor Bheki Mkhwane in the production Belly of The Beast.
While in 2016 he won the Best Newcomer award at the Naledi Awards– this was for his portrayal of Sponono in the play A Voice I. Currently, he’s working with young artists who have great potential simultaneously sharpening his skill as a director and an all round playwright.
“People know more about Tira than they do about Menzi Mkhawane’s Master Classes. And I get it. This is why I am closing that gap,” Menzi Mkhwane
Last month he was overseeing a one woman comedy play Babazile, written by Aphiwe Namba starring Penny Ngayo, at the Bat Centre. Babazile tells the story of a lady who sits behind her stall in the market talking to customers about a number of things from Ben 10s and takes you right up to the pulpit of corrupt pastors. Namba asked for Mkhwane to direct the play, to which he jumped at the opportunity of directing his fourth project. “Aphiwe has something that everyone who thinks and desires to be writers has – the natural and tremendous natural flair of writing. Aphiwe can go away for a week and come back with a solid script.”
The play struggled to put bums on seats, as a measly five people attended on opening night. “These are friends including one of my friends Jayshree who is one of the main presenters at East Coast Radio. People received the show pretty well considering that this is my first comedy ever. It was hilarious and doing it with an actress who is only 22 years old and still in training stretched it even further,” Mkhwane says.
“I understand that what I am building which is a life time sustainable theatre company from the ground up is not a short term goal. So in essence it will take a long time, a couple of more shows down the line before I build a solid audience. I’ve been in the industry of theatre and performing for almost ten years now. Not a long time but not short either. In that time I have ‘studied the game’. And from what I have gathered there is no one building an audience of young black people under concentrated efforts in a company setting. I might be the first to do it in this way in the whole country.”
His foresight and ultimate vision allow for the artist’s optimism to freely roam his psyche, despite encounters on his journey. “Do I want to quit when struggles hit me? Without a doubt. But my reaction to those adversities has matured. I’m building a company…building a house that will revive theatre in Durban which is dying a slow death. No one else is a role model. I’m modelling the role for myself. So I never get surprised when extreme challenges new to other people hit me hard.”
Working with young people who don’t have a strong pull to get enough audiences could also contribute to the reason for the paucity of theatre goers in Durban. But Mkhawane believes in the young talent so much, he doesn’t want to use that as an excuse. He believes casinos are the perfect place for Babazile, he’s earmarked Izulu Theatre inside the Isibaya Casino as a platform to try.
“It’s hard to weigh the reaction of a city that hasn’t been offered consistent black theatre around the clock from all types of genres in theatre. The fact is no one is doing that. People know more about Tira than they do about Menzi Mkhawane’s Master Classes. And I get it. This is why I am closing that gap. I’m smart enough. Infact intelligent enough. Experienced enough. Influential enough. Young enough in terms of energy to drive. And just in the right head space to offer Durban audiences better theatre from black producers. So the answer is broad. They haven’t been given great quality and nothing has been communicated to them enticingly enough for them. I’ve rolled up my sleeves and through my growing influence on social media I’m offering all of that in growing degrees of perfected execution. We still make mistakes and learn.”
Currently Mkhwane is co-director together with award winning director and writer, Samson Mlambo on a play Shoe Man that opens in two weeks at Bat Centre. It stars Anele Nene, who depicts all the characters in the story.