I’M of the strong belief that the location in which one choses to consume music at, has an effect on how the songs are received. But specifically listening to an artist’s album, in a place where they were born sorta gives you a high-definition experience of the body of work.
This realisation came as I listened to Mandisi Dyantyis’s album Somandla, while in Port Elizabeth,his place of birth. I’ve had the 12-track album on my playlist for well over a month now; it’s a great body of work. But struu no lie, being eBhayi just for a few days, I would say gave me an unfiltered understanding of Somandla. This could also be a strong placebo effect. But ag, the latter fits well with me story.
The opening track Molweni is poignant in how it not only welcomes you with a warm greeting to this 59 minute journey, but it’s the only joint on the album without instruments. Dyantyis choses to sing this ditty in acapella, as if offering his true self first, to the listener. The acapella jogged my memory to The Soil, pre-Samthing Soweto-exit.
Dyantyis’s experience in music is ever present on the album, managing to genuinely cater for the hard jazz cat and also for the lover of soul, who enjoys sweet melodies and harmonies. Dyantyis works a lot in theatre, as a composer and arranger for plays and movies while he’s also been a church choir conductor and also played in a band.
The vivacity of the way the instruments are played and arranged on Kuse Kude, it can trip you into thinking the song is a jovial one, but a closer listen to the lyrics, you pick-up the irony. He talks about how far we are from getting it right as human beings, if we still live in a world where youth rapes their elderly and kids are sexually assaulted by adults.
I first came across Dyantyis through the title track of the album, Somandla with the well-shot video a few months ago. Made sense why the album has the said title. Most of the songs have an air of melancholy and are like a long conversation with the Creator, a dialogue which at times is without words.
The song Olwethu is a case in point. You need not get the backstory to feel the song’s sadness. Olwethu is Dyantyis’s late younger brother, whose passing hit the musician hardest. “I had lost some people before, but losing him, I could not deal with it because, for me he was a young life full of potential,” Dyantyis said in his EPK.
Kode Kube Nini is the kinda track I can play for most people-be it a struggling artist, a mother praying for their child to get off drugs or a damsel waiting for marriage- because it carries a universal question, ‘how much longer should I wait till things go right?’ The song talks to one’s patience and endurance.
I appreciated the slight change of mood in the latter stages of the album, with songs like Molo Sisi and Ndimthanda. Dyantyis has a beautiful voice, but the latter stands out as his best singing performance on the album. It allowed him to show off some dexterity and it’s also a dope joint of a fella simply macking on an attractive female. Ndimthanda also celebrates love and the beauty of attraction’s simplicity, even for a couple that’s been together for a long time.
This album has been nominated in the South African Music Awards in the Best Jazz category alongside Sibusiso Mash Mashiloane’s Closer to Home, Exile by Thandi Ntuli, Bokani Dyer Trio’s Neo Native and Tune Recreation Committee’s Afrika Grooves with the Tune Recreation Committee. He stands next to some renowned names in that category, but if Dyantyis doesn’t walk away with it, I advise the judges drive down to Port Elizabeth and listen to Somandla. They’ll get it.
I’d like to think I’m writing this after seeing the best video category from this year’s South African Music Awards nomination’s list.But it was rather going through a friend’s external hard drive and coming across 2PAC’s How Do You Want It with the brothers K-Ci & JoJo.
It was the triple ‘X’ in the title of the video that got my attention. Bar the excitement my body couldn’t hide from seeing erotic scenes, I actually sat there pondering for what seemed like an eternity, on the paucity of X-rated versions of music videos.
I grew up in a time where tracks had two versions of the video, the dirty one and the clean version for prime time television. Artists still make clean versions of their songs for radio and will have the explicit joints on their albums. Dirty doesn’t only pertain to women gyrating their rears in front of the camera; it is what viewers deem offensive. Be it nudity, unpleasant language or the depiction of violence in a music video-and more.
Rapper Jay-Z found himself in some trouble for his 99 Problems video. Shot in Brooklyn, New York the video depicts life for niggers in the hood and the city. In the last scene, a defenceless Jigga is shot at multiple times on a sidewalk. It was viewed as something done in bad taste. So bad, that MTV would only broadcast the video with an introduction from Jay-Z explaining that it was a metaphorical death, not a real one. I know right, my eyes rolled too.
Black Entertainment Television (BET) designated their late hours to these explicit music videos, in a programme called BET Uncut. Uncut aired from 2001 till 2006, playing mostly Hip Hop videos with gross sexual imagery that had many teenagers risk getting an ass-whipping just to watch their favourite artists, next to some of the finest booty you’ll ever see.
A slew of explicit Hip Hop videos aired in those five years but nothing was raunchier than Nelly’s Tip Drill which saw dudes in throwback jerseys, du-rags and Air Forces at a house party that probably had three naked women for each fella in the video. I remember first seeing the video on a friend’s computer while in high school, with a grin on my face marvelling at why we never have such house parties when we decide to bunk school.
BET Uncut came to an end after many complaints about the show being distasteful and constituting soft porn. Rightfully so, it was.
In South Africa, artists play it safe. If they create videos which are polarizing, it’s usually for their “strong” tone on politics or social issues.
Last year a complaint came to the Broadcasting Complaints Commission South Africa (BCCSA) about Kwesta’s Spirit music video. The viewer’s grievance was about the slaughtering of chicken in some of the scenes. The rapper was also accused of trying to score political points by burning the old South African flag in the video.
In 2014 The Zimbabwean government under Robert Mugabe’s rule, turned away South African band Freshly Ground as soon as they landed at the Harare International airport , with no reason as to why. But in 2010, the collective released Chicken to Change, mocking Mugabe’s stubborn grip to power since the country gained independence in 1980. Guess Uncle Bob couldn’t let them get away with what they did four years prior.
South Africa has banned more ads and artwork than it has music videos.
Music and videos that the average viewer might find offence, are not officially banned but ghosted. You wouldn’t find Die Antwoord’s videos on MTVBase, simply because a censored version would usurp the video of its punch.
The internet has given directors and artists the liberty in their video-making, to create without fear of being ostracized by mainstream media for their authenticity.
The creative freedom is refreshing,especially because for so long,men have dictated what images of women are shown. Now women can decide how they want to be seen, Beyoncé is a fine case in point.
Miles Davis once said time isn’t the main thing, but the only thing and had it not been for time, the band T.U.G wouldn’t have been unveiled. With a name like Time Unveils God, the significance and respect of time to this ensemble is apparent.
“I feel like time is the thing that connects us. Time connects the people who’ve come before, the future and us. It puts it in a line, and if you understand that line you pretty much understand the godliness about existence,” says Tony Dangler.
Made up of five black men; T.U.G is a Hip Hop collective with two emcees on vocals, Darkie Umnt’Omnyama and Tony Dangler with three masked fellas playing drums, acoustic and bass guitars. The three instrumentalist are unidentified, but elected to take up abbreviations from the band’s name, for the purpose of this interview. T plays the bass, U acoustic and G is the drummer.
“The important thing about time is that, we must work and make music for the people, heal them and carry on working,” bassist T, tells me.
“To me mfwethu, time is everything ya bo. Because everything happens in time. Time is lifetime. God is lifetime, there’s no start and there’s no ending,” adds G.
My photographer and I are welcomed by the scent of impepho, dank blunt and kindred spirits-I couldn’t help but embrace the calmness in T.U.G’s working space in Zondi, Soweto. I interview the band crammed on a couch, like TV-watching siblings. The masks bring a tad bit of awkwardness to the setting, as I struggle to make eye contact with the three players of the band.
“It’s the unveiling part-we’re unveiling what’s not unveiled in a way. In essence regarding music, it shouldn’t be about the guys in the background. With Hip Hop, it’s just the rapper and the beat, so we try to represent that,” says U, who is the co-founder of T.U.G.
“The mystery is kinda interesting as well. It leaves more room for people to think, ‘oh okay, I hear the raps, but what’s going on?’ and you end up not paying attention to us,” the guitarist adds.
Lebohang ‘Page’ More, Sun Xa Experiment’s manager, is the other co-founder. “We thought we should have two guys who aren’t the same, and luckily Tony is from PMB and uDarkie is from Jabulani and it made sense.”
It’s Hip Hop in that these kats rap, but more spiritual in the manner in which they present their art. Their music talks to identity and all round knowledge of self as an African child. According to Page, they had planned to have a beat-maker before assembling the band. “We were pissed [about not having the beat-maker] and ended up going with the band. So it’s an idea that came to all of us differently, maybe I spoke about it, but everyone contributed enough and equally to what it is today.”
T.U.G’s abode is also the Digging Thoughts headquarters and home to Zen Groove Project and the well-known Sun Xa Experiment. I’m uncertain if it was the carpeted floors, the graffiti-laden wall behind me, and the number of joints being passed around or simply the people who gave me a distinct feel of serenity and one that inspires creativity.
Being privy to the band’s rehearsals displayed how they benefit from working here, in this space. “It give us a lot of creative freedom, ya bo. Everyone plays a role in expressing themselves and creating ideas; he [pointing at Darkie] doesn’t necessarily play instruments, but he’ll come to me with a hymn and say to me ‘yo, I hear this melody in my head..’ so the creative process just keeps going,” says U. Darkie Umnt’Omnyama adds “Eintlik die dang e deep. It’s the thing you’re feeling-we can talk about it, but can’t explain it. What brought us together here is what we feel,” he says.
Darkie is more of an enigma than the masks covering the band- his dry humour has everyone in stitches when he answers questions and seems to assume the father-figure role in the group. But he and Tony Dangler complement each other pretty well, despite their unique differences which set them far apart. Like Q.Tip and Phife Dawg. While Tony is the animated rambunctious character with a fine twang, uDarkie Umnt’Omnyama is the reserved rapper who has the grit that can only be found in rappers from the hood-but both delivering rhymes with equal intensity and honesty, remaining in the pocket.
Darkie predominantly spits in vernac, while Tony raps in English but both are able to switch. Tony is known from Hip Hop clique Revivolution, which he’s still a member of. “Ain’t nun change man. A few of them niggers [from Revivo] were like ‘yo, what’s happening’ and some of them were like ‘ayt, it’s cool’. Illy pulls through some time to check out what’s happening and also, I guess it’s just a matter of time dawg. Some niggers have time to come through, some don’t. But everyone’s happy. Even Inferno’s back on his band business…it’s good that, that energy is vibrating out.”
T.U.G has only been together since late last year, but have performed at different places to gauge people’s reaction to their sound. They were at Smoking Dragon last year and will be at the Roving Bantu Kitchen in Brixton this Thursday. “So far yonke into e grand ya bo, I don’t recall us ever boring people; they can hear and understand what we’re about,” Darkie tells me.
They’ve also performed at Beverly Hills High school. “You hear that name and think ‘yoh, Beverly Hills’. It’s a school in the Vaal. We performed in front of those naughty kids, which felt like performing at a prison. But they responded well to our sound.”
“There’s a case where we performed for abantu abadala and e message e yaba thinta. We’ve also performed for drunk people and the message also went through. So the contrast of the audience is there,” Tony says.
Their association to Sun Xa puts them at an advantage, of gracing certain stages they wouldn’t have, had they been some random stand-alone band. They performed at one of Durban’s most sophisticated Jazz bars, The Chairman. But they are now carving out their own audiences, to distinguish themselves from Sun Xa, organically though they say.
Paraphrasing one of their songs, Heal Your Soul, Darkie says he wants people to walk away healed by their songs. “Kufanele aphole, phakathi na nga phandle. Whether someone has a headache or a sore finger, they should find healing and be good. This music doesn’t incite any violence or hatred, it makes the black person feel good.”
I sometimes feel like artists deny themselves classic albums, for the sake of streaming numbers. I truly don’t see the purpose of an album exceeding 12 tracks, in this day in age. A 22-track album could have 10 songs that are adequate for a masterpiece.
These and many other things swirled in my head while listening to YoungstaCPT’s album, 3T. It’s a combination of laziness and also being economical with my time, which makes me shun long-ass projects. It’s for this and many other reasons that till this day, I haven’t bothered myself to listen to Drake’s Scorpion.
I forced myself to press play on the 3T album and was gripped by the seven minute intro, Pavement Special. The sound of Adhan coming from the mosque, hooting taxis and a vendor hustling on the streets, immediately put me on a sidewalk in Cape Town. Long as it is, the intro served its purpose in pulling me into Youngsta’s world.
I’ve played 3T countless times now, and with each listen I appreciate its length because the album takes you through the world of a young coloured man, learning about his origins, through conversations with his grandfather. I’ve often felt like media has denied people of truly knowing the average coloured person you would spot in Eersterust, Rabie Ridge or in the Cape flats.
Not to suggest that Shane Eagle, Stanton Fredericks or Pam Andrews are less coloured than YoungstaCPT. The rapper from the Mother City genuinely put a spotlight on what it truly is to be a coloured person, living in South Africa today.
The first track is titled VOC,Voice of the Cape, but it could be easily interpreted as Voice Of the Coloureds in how this album places him as a mouthpiece of that community.
I was pleasantly surprised by his beat selection, I expected a barrage of Boom-Bap sounds that would accompany Yougsta’s undemanding storytelling. The shit slaps.
Ignorance is bliss they say, and my heavy consumption of music made listening to 3T slightly uncomfortable at times due to the familiarity of some of the songs on Youngsta’s album. Yaatie, where Youngsta pushes himself with the flow on the bouncy beat, reminded me of Kendrick’s Humble. While Pallet Gun cringingly jogged my memory to AKA’s Dreamwork.
YVR made me wana see Youngsta perform the song live, in front of thousands of fans jumping up and down, shouting ‘Young Van Riebeeck’ under a downpour.
There is something Nipsey Hussle-esque about Youngsta. More than just the music, it’s about their strong connection to their neighbourhoods, their street credibility, their inquisitive nature and the desire to share knowledge with those around them. To Live and Die in CA has such a West Coast feel to it, you’d swear Youngsta is from L.A.
Youngsta’s hook game on this album probably has some pop artist envious. Had it not been for the significant conversations he has with his grandfather, you could just press play and let the album flow at a party. The Cape of Good Hope and Just Be Lekker are some of the tracks with a catchy hooks.
Tik Generation and 786 presented a nice Boom-Bap interval from the Trap sound which dominates the album. Youngsta’s oupa talks at the end of Tik Generation, where he likens the 70s crack epidemic in the US’ Negro communities, to the drug problem in the Cape flats today. The conversations between the grandson and his mkhulu are important to this album as Cole’s Note to self outro on 2014 F.H.L.D.
I would understand why some people might skip their dialogue, but the old man drops so many jewels of wisdom, it personally made me wana to sit down and chop it up with the old man about other things.
3T is one of the better albums to come of Mzansi in the last five years, but could’ve easily become a classic with the slashing of some joints. But it’s well worth the listen.
“What makes Jim different, is my charisma and charm, made bold by my confidence and self-belief. Lyrically top tier and ready for an international stage. I feel like I’m so different that home feels smaller now,” says Jimmy Wiz.
The artist from Kempton Park comes from a long line of great emcees that have come from the East and he’s very much aware of this, but is certain of what makes him stand-out. “What’s crazy is, the East always breeds the best in the game. I swear there’s something in the water we drink.”
Jimmy Wiz was speaking to Tha Bravado, at the backdrop of releasing the So Into You freestyle music video. The song is a remake 90s R&B classic by Tamia, So Into You.
“The idea actually started off with Ella Mai’s Boo’d up song, which I also recorded on (Available on my Soundcloud titled Butterscotch) and had the ever so beautiful Pharoahfi as the cover of.”
“I then began to realise that people seldom hear this soft side of Jim, and so I decided to start a campaign called the Ladyz Love Cool James the modern day LL Cool J. A more female friendly Jim.”
The ladies and gentlemen that makeup the Hip Hop community were familiar with the lyrical beast and storyteller that is Jimmy Wiz, during his days as a member of rap clique P.STAT and also his time on Vuzu’s The Hustle. The So Into You remix features Carol S, Korusbird and Benzo who all served their purpose on the joint.
“This may not be an original as far as instrumentals go, but we owned the song. And it captured that nostalgic feeling with a new twist. Tamia and Fabolous would be proud,” he says.
The song officially came out on Valentine’s Day, with the video shot this month below dark skies, under the direction of Mgeezy. “I remember getting the call from the director like, ‘what you doing on the first? Matter of fact, postpone everything we shooting’ [lol]. Because of the trust I have in Mgeezy, there was no need for me to step into his creative space. He took the reins and I was ready for any and every idea he had.”
The So Into remix won’t be on Wiz’s debut album, Accordin to Jim. “The Song was made to celebrate love during the month of love, and to emphasise the growth of my artistic value through the Ladyz Love Cool Jim campaign. I went from ashy to classy as B.I.G would say it.”
“My debut album Accordin To Jim is set to take centre stage in 2019. I can safely say the album is complete, all masters have been handed. As far as sound goes, nothing short of great music. Matter of fact, nothing short of classic. If you thought you knew what to expect, then you have another thing coming. Accompanied by the incredible lyricism.”
Jimmy formed lifelong relationships with other emcees during his time on The Hustle, none better than finalist ShabZiMadallion. The two released a collaborative project titled, Look At The Team. But hinted that people shouldn’t expect collabs on Accordin To Jim with some of The Hustle alumni.
“But as far as collaborations go, that’s a question that is extremely hard to answer. Too many factors come into play, and because of that, sometimes things don’t happen the way you’d like them to. It’s all God’s plan.”