It was in May of 2016 that then SABC Chief Operations Officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng, temerariously declared that all the national broadcaster’s radio stations playlists will be dominated by home-grown ditties. The infamous 90% local music quota.
Motsoeneng was like the uncle who in his inebriated state at a family gathering, announced that the whole family should come to his house the following weekend for another get-together where there would be an ubiquity of food and beverages, without discussing it with his frugal wife.
The redundant radio station managers who never seem to sheath their appetite for payola, being the stingy wife in the analogy.
Although the move evinced Motsoeneng’s strange benign for artists, he never thought through the execution of such a catalytic move. In an interview with Nicky B on Kaya FM’s World Show around the same time, Nakhane Touré said one of the problems with the ratio is that listeners won’t be introduced to new music by radio stations. “Instead of hearing one Mafikizolo song a day, we’ll now hear two or three,” said Touré. Of course the Fog singer was making a mere example (he did say he loves the dance duo) but his point was clearer than a pair of new specs.
Of the countless utterances we’ve had to endure from Motsoeneng, I’m pondering particularly on this very one during the Covid-19 lockdown, because I’ve been immersed in South African music of different kinds for the last few weeks and I imagine how South Africa would be sounding like, had Motsoeneng’s wish been carefully granted.
To be more specific, it’s the Siya Makuzeni Sextet album, Out Of This World that has had me imagining a world where South Africans are exposed to their finest talent.
Siya Mukuzeni is an insanely talented artist who delivers her craft with ingenuity, ubuntu, vigour and in what looks seamlessness. The trombonist who also belts out notes has been in the industry for over 15 years now, playing in some of the biggest bands with fine musicians on world stages. She was part of Carlo Mombelli’s Prisoners of Strange ensemble between 2002 and 2011. She was also in the Blue Notes Tribute Ochestra where she played with the likes of Marcus Wyatt, Johnny Dyani and Chris McGregor. Together with another unique ensemble of equally talented artists, collectively known as Spaza, she released an album of the same name a year ago.
With the Siya Makuzeni Sextet, she put together some of her favourite musicians who she enjoys to play with to create a body of work that I believe more South Africans need to hear. The sextet comprises of Thandi Ntuli on piano, Ayanda Sikade on the drums, the trumpet being blown by Sakhile Simani, Sisonke Xoti playing the saxophone and Benjamin Japhta on bass.
There’s often the juxtaposition to bassist Esperanza Spalding because they both are female, sing and play an instrument. They’ll always be comparisons of females, especially in an industry without women in the forefront. Although the groove in their music is undeniable, Siya’s got the juice. That unfiltered African juice form the wells of the Eastern Cape.
Like on the title track, Out Of This World which teems with traditional Xhosa music from the first second, this while embracing modern sounds. Her voice is undeniably infectious as Stevie Wonder’s or Thandiswa Mazwai’s. The song New Age is a reiteration of a sought-out truth, while landing somewhat as a lament. Say Sibusile Xaba’s Uyahlupha. The joint has swing and it serves its purpose.
The seven track album has a fair balance for the padentic jazz ear that prefers songs without vocals, only the sound of instruments dancing. Another one composed by Makuzeni on the album, a Brazen Dream is a good introduction to Jazz for someone new to the abyss that is the genre.
I’m a sucker for great vocals accompanied by some dope show-don’t-tell typa lyrics which take the role of a travel tour guide, when listening to the music. Imagine a congregation singing Moya Oyingcwele in unison, truly in the spirit. It slaps umoya.
I feel the Holy Spirit’s presence each time I listen to this song-I’m overwhelmed with questions of how this song was conceived. With churches being open now, I believe choir conductors/worship leaders should introduce Moya Oyingcwele emasontweni, if they haven’t.
Out Of This World is just one of many great projects by a South African artist. People need to hear more of this and many other albums. To enjoy them, while simultaneously putting some randelas in the artists’ pockets. True “proudly South African” shit.
Chris Rock once juxtaposed complimenting André 3000’s artistic calibre, to showering a beautiful women with bouquets for her exquisiteness. At times it seems as though artists such as 3 Stacks, Kwani Experience, Sade and even Frank Ocean play hard to get with their cult-like followers, who are subjected to waiting aeons for any release.
“Don’t play hard to get, but play hard to forget.” This corny line by Drake aids my understanding as to why the great aforementioned artists are lauded. It’s not the excitement of dangerously flirting with the possibility of losing ardent fans, nor playing hard to get but artists who don’t fickle to industry pressure have this in common- they respect time and the muscle of art.
“…they’ve been asking for it [a solo project] since our first Las Day Fam album in 2008. So a huge expectation is certainly out there,” rap artist LandmarQ tells me. Over a decade later LDF has released two albums, Eternal Effect (2012) and Dissent (2017). The clique won the Best Group award in the now defunct Hype magazine Hip Hop awards in 2010, got a SAMA nomination at the 2013 South African Music Awards (SAMA) and won Best Gospel Rap at the SABC’s Crown Gospel awards in 2011.
But still, dololo a LandmarQ project. With no disrespect to Bonafide and Baggz, it’s an open secret that listeners fervently anticipate the LandmarQ verse on each LDF track. He has the sort of presence on a track, a mere punchline or clever wordplay can’t match. It’s not only in what LandmarQ says, or how he says it but shit sounds sick because it come from him- he has natural artistic integrity.
“It was inevitable that a time for a solo would come. I just never had a timeline/deadline for it. I also wanted it to be organic when it happens. I wanted it to be inspired and come from a good place. I believe creativity can’t be forced or pressured. It should be an outpouring of a natural process,” says LandmarQ.
Be that as it may, some artists shun going solo because of their discomfort of being the centre of attention preferring to “hide” within a group- there’s a plethora of reasons why some performers won’t pursue a solo career. “I am not uncomfortable about it. I just believe that there is a time and place for everything. In any show, the spot light moves to where it needs to, for the purpose of shining and highlighting the main performance act for that particular moment. So I’m happy to have the spotlight when it’s my time to perform.”
“IF THE MEDIA SAYS THERE’S A GENRE OF HIP HOP CALLED CHRISTIAN RAP, I’M NOT PART OF THAT GENRE. SIMILAR TO THE UNDERGROUND RAPPER TITLE…”- LandmarQ
Having pondered on it and even getting the nod from his LDF brothers, the spotlight is stationed on LandmarQ with the release of his debut solo project Envy and Avarice, a seven track mixtape which is first of a trilogy of mixtapes set to drop this year, inspired by the Seven Deadly Sins.
He says the decision to release was taken in 2019 “I met and consulted with several producers to craft a sound for the album. I also made several beats for the project but then decided an album might not be entirely a good idea especially considering that I haven’t put out music before as a solo artist. So therefore a different approach was required.”
He took the old school route, hopping on other people’s instrumentals which he tweaked a bit. “So the producer in me still found expression on this project albeit a little less than usual. However the route to follow the traditional mixtape method was crucial for me to do because it’s important that music lovers and fans alike get to experience LandmarQ on a wide variety of instruments/beats. The key thing however was creating a sizeable body of work.”
The reason he chose the Seven Deadly Sins as the concept for his series of mixtapes, is to bring awareness to the condition of society in general, and specifically the condition of the Hip Hop culture. J. Cole did something similar last year with the Kids On Drugs album, focusing on narcotics. A concept about Greed, Envy, Pride, Gluttony, Sloth, Lust and Wrath directly questions the behaviour of the inner self.
“We are all confronted with varying degrees of extremes of the Se7en (remember the movie by this title with Brad Pitt, Kevin Spacey and Morgan Freeman?) in our society at large and in Hip Hop. And the hip hop community is a lovely case in point i.e. tension between old and new cats, underground and commercial, this sound and that sound etc. And its manifestation in hip-hop is most notable because hip-hop as a form of expression is definitely brash/boisterous.”
The rap artist who hails from Tembisa comes from a group pigeonholed to Christian rap and with a solo project tackling a heavy topic such as the 7 Deadly Sins, there’s a likelihood of being trapped in that box as the preachy rapper. “I am not making a Christian statement with this mixtape series. I am making a statement on humanity, in the world at large and in hip hop culture,” LandmarQ says adamantly.
“The Seven Deadly Sins is not a Christian concept. After all, the seven deadly sins aren’t even mentioned in the Bible. Its origins are nebulous and likely trace back to before Hellenistic Greece. Historically, and especially in the Philosophical disciplines, the 7 Deadly Sins have been society’s way of trying to formulate a universal theory of the pitfalls that human beings face.”
But LandmarQ isn’t oblivious to how the simple-minded might perceive his choice of topic to be conservative and limiting especially because the media has dubbed him a ‘Christian rapper’. “That isn’t how I would describe myself. If the media says there’s a genre of Hip Hop called Christian rap, I’m not part of that genre. Similar to the ‘Underground Rapper’ title. I wouldn’t describe myself as an underground rapper.”
He continues “In Hip Hop we rap about our way of life. And because I am a Christian, I have and will continue to touch on Christian themes from time to time. But that’s no different than any rappers that incorporate their reality in their music. Chuck D of Public Enemy said rappers are like journalists. I’m a rapper’s rapper and have rapped alongside the best rappers in the country and have been featured on numerous songs that aren’t Christian and aren’t underground. And my message is universal. If you love Hip Hop that stands for something, I’m your guy. I however am a rounded human being. Sometimes my music is about having fun with wordplay, with different flows and metaphors.”
The project is out today. Listen and download it here
Most people generally lack the know-how when it comes to winning in this game we call life, or they possess the know-how but lack the necessary determination and self-discipline to get to that imaginary number one spot that we all dream of, but never work towards. The lack of fulfilment that failure breeds nourishes our obscene worship of those who seem to excel in pursuing their dreams and living their best lives. This behaviour often blinds us from the fundamental truth that we are all flawed and imprecise entities.
The entertainment industry ruthlessly exploits this pitiful and ever present blind spot that we all possess as people by carefully curating experiences and imagery that introduces artificial constructs of beauty and success into our minds. Brands are built around this simple concept and we all fall for on some level or another. Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mics and Men, a four-part documentary about the legendary Wu-Tang Clan, is an exemplary tale of how a multinational brand can be built by a bunch of raggedy ghetto boys with very little, except for a mic and a dream.
“…the Wu-Tang Clan is an extremely flawed thing that is not worthy of honour that comes with being addressed as legendary.”
One normally chooses ignorance when it comes to the personal lives of their favourite musicians because it is often uglier and realer than the stench of sewerage that consistently flows through the streets of Winnie Mandela Zone 4. Once you know, you cannot not know that the Wu-Tang Clan is an extremely flawed thing that is not worthy of honour that comes with being addressed as legendary.
The above opinion does not nullify the fact that a group of impoverished young black men from the grimy streets of New York’s ghettos banded together to build one of the biggest cultural brands of all time. Impressively they did this without embracing the perverting gloss of ostentation which is often essential when one to seeks be prosperous in the entertainment industry. Them ghetto niggas made some of the grimmest joints ever heard on either side of the equator, while selling over 30 million albums between the period of 1993 and 1998. The level of brand recognition that the iron wings logo achieved is easily comparable to that of any global business one can think of. Whether it be Apple, Coca-Cola, Nike, Red Bull or any other symbol of the Caucasians international hegemonic domination of economics, society and culture. Personally, as a House and a kwaito loving pre-pubescent child in mid-nineties South Africa, the iron-wings represented everything that was Hip-Hop in my mind.
Timberlands, baggy-jeans, an added bounce to your walk and a propensity to call every Hip-Hop head “My nigga!” Little did I know that I would soon become a fanatical Hip-hop lover, who refused to acknowledge or listen to any other genre of music that was not about these bars. Retrospectively I think the iron wings were the spark that ignited my chronic interest in in Hip-Hop. All this happened in the underdeveloped dusty streets of Tembisa. Which is a testament to the fact that Wu-Tang clan ain’t nothing to fuck with.
As a long time hip-hop head I have grown to realise that when it comes to the clan, a lot of people were (and still are) faking the funk, myself included. Shamefully I have only come to learn the names of all the clan members through watching Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mics and Men. I only knew and recognized GZA, RZA, Method man, Ghostface Killah and Old dirty bastard. Them other mother fuckers just didn’t command my attention with the weak ass calibre of their work. Beyond their big hit songs, Wu-tang’s music is so steeped in localised urban colloquialisms and experimental Hip-Hop beats that most heads don’t truly fuck with their music the way they claim they do.
Like any global brand, Wu-tang’s core offering is not universally loved but they looked cool as fuck and that’s what most people are after. The cool. Their aesthetics represented a ghetto brotherhood of the hardest and weirdest motherfuckers alive. Urban black youth was proud of the fact that people who looked and behaved like them were represented in mainstream media. Suburban white youth’s curiosity was aroused by the clan’s antics and in their minds Wu-tang represented how the other side lived. Additionally they could piss of their conservative Yankee parents by putting C.R.E.A.M on full blast as they refused to clean their bedrooms, the struggle of any immature white teenager (I think).
My disappointment with the clan stems from how they ran their business as friends and as a family. First of all, do not get into business with family or friends! I repeat, do not go into business with family or friends! One risks irreparably damaging a valued personal relationship and it is difficult to hold people you care about accountable when they are incompetent or insubordinate.
Secondly, RZA’s selection criteria when it came to picking clan members was unsatisfactory to say the least. Old Dirty Bastard is a prime example of this, he was a musical genius with serious impulse control issues. He was one of the first hip-hop artist to sing on hip-hop joints, ululating randomly as the joint went along while sounding gutter as fuck. He was a one man reality show. Keeping fans of the clan glued to their radios and television screens waiting to hear what shit the ODB got up to while they were busy exemplifying mediocracy through their shitty lives.
The dude would arrive late for shows, get wasted while performing, go on wild rants about whatever came to his mind, dissing whoever had the nerve to call him in to order while he was embarrassing the entire clan. Instead of cleaning up to fit in with them Hollywood types, ODB put his poverty on full display because he intuitively knew that white America would be enamoured by the whole spectacle because that’s how they wanted to see black people. As crass and something to be laughed at.
One could argue that Mohammed Ali employed the same tactic to increase his appeal as a public figure when he was coming up as a heavyweight boxer. With all that said, high levels of charisma and creativity are not the only characteristics that a professional artists should possess. Like in any other profession an artists must be disciplined, hardworking and pragmatic. Old Dirty Bastard was none of the above. RZA could not make him toe the line because he was a close cousin and that limited how ruthlessly he could deal with him as a professional.
On the flip side, some of the other clan members lacked the necessary level of talent to be professional recording artist. Masta killa, U-god and Inspectah Deck were subpar talent in my not so humble opinion. They were dead weight who added very little value to the clan’s brand. In the specific case of Ghostface killah he did more harm than good with his bad temperament.
During a HOT97 Summer Jam in 1997. He hyped the crowd into chanting “fuck HOT97”. He was disgruntled with the radio station because at the time HOT97 did not pay artist to perform at their events. They subliminally threatened artists with the possibility of never playing their music on their radio station, which is what they. This negatively affected the reach of their brand because HOT97 was the biggest hip-hop radio station in the mecca of Hip-Hop, New York. Shortly after this incident the clan cancelled tours because certain members could not get along. Simply put, there were too many egos at play and RZA could not keep them in check because he had personal ties with each Wu member.
Throughout the doccie it is clear as daylight that every member of the clan is unhappy with how RZA ran Wu-Tang Clan. Annoyingly nobody ever explicitly expresses this sentiment which makes the whole thing feel inauthentic to me. One suspects that this is because RZA was the one who got the financial backing to shoot the documentary. Thus nobody wanted to bite the hand that feeds them.
Which is why the Wu-Tang clan could not last as a brand. The image they tried to project in public was not an accurate reflection of how their internal processes actually ran as an organisation. That is the only way a brand can remain sustainable in the long term. That requires a logically consistent approach when one seeks to build a successful business and personal feelings are often disruptive to such an approach. Which does not change the fact the Wu-Tang clan ain’t nothing to fuck with.
In light of how the Coronavirus has gripped most of the globe, it’s more than understandable why people are being bullied by panic, anxiety and a legit sense of unease when they think of the ramifications of this outbreak. But Back To The City festival founder and organiser Osmic Menoe sees the glass half-full, despite being forced to postpone the annual Freedom Day festival to October this year.
“We had already bought [plane] tickets for the international artists, we had paid the security companies. We do our wristbands in China, so that was already paid for. There’s a project we’ve been working on, we’ve printed CDs and vinyl’s in America…there’s a sizable amount of money already that’s been spent, but the beauty about it is that none of it is a loss because all we just had to do was shift things you know, because these are suppliers we’ve always been working with,” Osmic tells Tha Bravado.
“All we had to do, was to say ‘look, just shift delivery to a later date. Security companies we’ve already paid you, instead of rendering the services in April, you now rendering the services in October’ and another blessing in disguise is that, six month later is another festival-it’s another Back to The City for 2021, so it also enabled us to renegotiate certain contracts and certain deals…and a month later [after October] is the Hip Hop Awards. That also assists in terms of renegotiating things. Yes, there’s money that’s been lost but at the same time, shit happens man.”
Ritual Media, which Osmic owns is behind BTTC, the South African Hip Hop Awards and the South African Hip Hop Museum. Drudgery is probably not the word to describe the work Ritual Media staff will go through, but they’ll be breaking their sweat in the next 12 months, looking at the proximity of their projects.
For over a decade thousands of youth have religiously gathered in Johannesburg’s Mary Fitzgerald Square in Newtown, to celebrate Freedom Day through Hip Hop. In what was supposed to be the 14th installment of the Back to The City International Hip Hop festival in a few weeks, will now take place on October 10th.
“Obviously we looked at the month of September, we thought there’s Heritage day which is the 24th possibly a lot of people will be doing stuff then. We obviously looked at June and we thought to ourselves chances are, the lockdown might either still be in effect or coming to an end. So for us, seven months away from the said date made a little bit more sense, because number one we’re able to spread messages about our new change and number two, we’re able to make sure that we’re in a safe zone.” October 10th also happens to be World Mental Heal Day.
The festival’s purpose is to celebrate Hip-Hop and youth culture through an afternoon/evening of live performances, graffiti and exhibitions with the aim of bringing the youth back to the city, in Joburg. The show features artists representing different corners of South African Hip Hop. This unique youth event is a first of its kind in South Africa. The showcase is always full of activities such as a mini educational Summit, live performances, skateboarding, BMXing, live graffiti art, merchandising and exhibitions, all under the bridge at the corners of Henry Nxumalo and Bree streets.
This year’s BTTC was understood to be the penultimate after Osmic announced that end of the festival’s run a few years ago. There was incontestable conviction about the festival not ever happening, with fans even being sold end of day ticket packages until a beverage broke the thirst. “Hennessy is now our official naming partner, hence the festival is called Hennessy Back To The City International Hip Hop festival. We’re joined at the hip for the next coming three years. For the fact that we’ve got someone [Hennessy] who believes in culture and whose been in culture for so long. It’s also something very new for them to partner with something that’s very large scale, you it’s an exclusive brand. It just goes to show how much they believe in African Hip Hop”
Bob Marley, Nelson Mandela, Miriam Makeba and Michael Jackson are all deceased; well of course this is a position held by those who dare not frolic in the arena of conspiracy theories. But yes, their bodies were left lifeless soon as the Grim Reaper came for collections. God knows what happens on the “other side”… but what we do know is that when some people die, their demise amplifies their legacy. Nipsey Hussle was one of those.
The rapper was shot multiple times in the parking lot of his store in South Los Angeles a year ago today. I recall coming back from a Sunday event after midnight, and learning of Nipsey’s passing through social media thinking that someone’s playing a sick April fool’s joke. But I woke up that Monday morning and realised it was for real, for real.
The subsequent days, weeks and months saw an outpour of deep condolences and tributes to Nipsey from different parts of the world I hadn’t even imagined listened to him. Even our very own DJ Sbu, the self-appointed representer of the African Hip Hop community, was in Crenshaw to pay his respects. There was an obvious knee-jerk reaction to Nipsey’s passing.
According to Business Insider, Nipsey’s music sold like amagwinya and a hot cup of coffee in the wee hours midwinter. Over 2,000 copies of his CDs were bought the day he died, followed by 9K copies on the Monday and 4,000 on the Tuesday. By Wednesday, his album Victory Lap was sitting comfortably at number one on iTunes with his 2011 mixtape, Crenshaw in fifth spot. He became a two-time Grammy Award winner in January this year, in the 62nd edition of the ceremony.
Nipsey was always deliberate about his passion for making his hood, LA a safer and all-round better place for everyone who lives there. Since his passing, some of the rival cliques in the hood have had peace talks, while there are young men who’ve formed a book club, The Marathon Book Club, which shares and discusses manuscripts which the rapper endorsed.
The alleged killer, Eric Holder Jr. is behind bars awaiting trial. Superstar filmmaker Ava DuVernay is said to be in discussions with Netflix to produce a doccie on the life of Nispey.
There are similarities between 2PAC and Nipsey, but the most startling is that they were both shot and that they had an incessant drive to fight for the betterment of the lives of black people, in black communities…which keeps their memories alive, long after pushing daises.