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.
A YEAR ago when Anatii and AKA came together for a collaborative album, one of the things which stood out for many was the latter’s rapping in isiXhosa in the song Don’t Forget To Pray.
Anatii’s latest project Iyeza is the Don’t Forget To Pray verse in the form of an album. The sound on the 10 track album is authentic, current yet there’s novelty to it. I remember over a decade ago when rap clique Jozi created the Motherland Crunk sound through Bongani Fassie’s sampling of Vusi Ximba’s rich African sound. Iyeza took me back to those days, difference is that Anatii manipulated the current trap sound and fused it with authentic African sonics.
It’s difficult to say this is a Hip Hop album, but rather a manifestation of different sounds coming together to be the backdrop to Anatii’s story. I loathe the Afro pop sound and I was welcomed by it on the tracks Wena and U Sangthanda Na? These love ditties are steeped in that sound, I swear I thought Robbie Malinga or Sjava was gonna belt a note on one of the songs. Anatii gave life to the lethargic sound by modernizing it and giving it his twist.
Another Afro pop-influenced song is Ehlatini, whose guitar riffs are Mbaqangaesque. But Ehlatini is a dope, easy listen about the hard life of the hustle and the bustle of Johannesburg.
Kids in the burbs know Anatii’s work fairly enough to formulate an opinion about his music, but I don’t see them having this joint on repeat. Anatii hasn’t etched his sound and music on the minds and hearts of ghetto and rural kids across Mzansi and Wena, is the joint which lubricates that awkward relationship the artist has with some black audiences. In fact the whole album will have mothers in the Township know who Anatii is and get coons in the suburbs feel more in touch with their Africaness, if marketed properly.
The song Ngozi has a dreamy psychedelic feel to it. It was like hearing the sound of spring water dripping in the spring of the Drakensburg. He sings about people’s relationship with money, which is tainted by bad decision making of most individuals.
The album is dense and concise, with a running time of just above 30 minutes. But the Naija-influenced Zion Interlude ruined the flow and feel of the album; he really could’ve done without it there. The song Ntloni is one of the freshest joints I’ve heard in South Africa in a while. It’s such a fun song; I feel bad listening to it as I type this in my working space. Songs like this should be listened to at a pool party somewhere, dancing with beautiful damsels from Ebayi who are infatuated with going to Dubai.
Thixo Onofefe has been the album’s single and it makes sense why. It’s a jam. It’s an authentic South African song which isn’t limited in our own sounds, but borrows from other parts of the world. I can hear it on a Black Panther movie as T’Challa kicks some arrogant butt.
Iyeza is a Xhosa word for medicine and Anatii has found a remedy for most South Africans sleeping on his sound. It’s like his reintroduction to the South African market which his sound was previously never able to stick on. Welcome home Anatii, welcome home.
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.
THE premise of Ubuntu is sharing and understanding that I can’t be, if you’re not. On a night themed Celebrating African Song, Dumza Maswana was guided by Ubuntu sharing the stage with other talented artists.
“I like sharing my platform. The people I called on stage are my friends in the industry. Before I’m an artist, I’m a fan of the music,” says Maswana. His show took place at the Orbit in Johannesburg on Friday night. The theme was inspired by African indigenous music. “Our music is still relatively very strong, but it weakening daily, as we lose or ignore the older expert musicians. As a young artist myself I feel we should expose this music to our people, make it fashionable,” says Maswana.
Speaking to The Bravado, Maswana says the invitation to artists who were there to support and enjoy his music, was impromptu. Poet Jessica Mabngeni was called to stage by Maswana during the first half of his performance. “Jessica Mbangeni is an ever ready artist, she has the heart and love I have for traditional music. I knew I can call her any time and she’d kill it, she’s also one of my best friends.” True to her preparedness, Maswana joked that Mbangeni was gonna recite two more poems, had he not taken the mic from her during her time on stage which the audience enjoyed.
It was during the performance of crowd favourite Molo which Maswana unleashed his plethora of talented friends on stage. They were all given a chance to flex and show their vocal dexterity, but former Idols SA contestant Thami Shobede not only sang but also displayed some skill by mimicking the harmonica with the mic. “I love these guys, they deserve to be seen. It’s a way of showing my appreciation for always supporting me. Also I am never in competition, we are all gifted differently, there’s space for all of us.”
Guided by one of the waiters to the stage after a short interval, visually impaired pianist Yonela Mnana showed why Maswana enjoys working with him. He reluctantly but superbly sang on Molo too. “I enjoy working with the pianist Yonela Mnana, it appears we have the same heart for music. I have done a lot of shows with Thembinkosi Mavimbela, the double bassist, worked with the drummer Lungile Kunene for 10 years now. It was my first time working with the guitarist Keenan Ahrends. I’ve always wanted to play with him, he’s an amazing musician.”
The night’s special guest was grade 11 pupil Vuyolomzi Solundwana, who serenaded the audience with Maswana’s heartfelt composition The Letter. The young lanky singer had eyebrows raised literally from the moment he opened his mouth to sing. “He is still finding his voice, his groove and learning. I’m glad he chose me to mentor him. Our voices are similar, but he’s smoother and jazzier. He’s very much inspired by Jazz, he likes scatting and all. I knew people were gonna fall in love with him, and I was happy.”
“I will lend him the microphone whenever I can but he’s still in high school, I told him to focus on his studies more for now. He has a bright future ahead of him,” Maswana says.
The Jazz club allows for intimacy between the performer and the audience, who are just a hand stretch away from the stage. The sound of utensils on plates wrestling with food, chatter among those fortunate enough to have a table and countless bursts of laughter were the order of the night between Maswana’s performances as he entertained not just through his music but with his wit. “Friday shows must be fun, also I must show that side of me on stage because people think I’m too serious, in reality sometimes it’s just nerves but not seriousness. I have so much respect for my audience, I’d never take that platform for granted. I also think the repertoire was a bit light and fun.”
The club was packed, with some people subjected to enjoying the show on their feet. “Every time I’m at the Orbit I perform for a full house. The feedback I’m getting from the audience is that my shows are unpredictable, different all the time, so they always look forward to my shows.”
Maswana recently recorded his first ever live DVD & CD and that project is currently in post-production. He is currently working on a project with genius musician Nduduzo Makhathini.