SO I got hold of this album around the same time I got Kev Brown’s latest project. Both albums are by dope producers who are unforgiving in the dismantling of samples.
But what stood out to me when I began bumping Apollo Brown and Joell Ortiz’s Mona Lisa, is that these producers need to chill behind the mic and hand the scrumptious beats to dope rappers.
I couldn’t even get through Kev Brown’s project, it was dope but too long and listening to him rap makes me cringe. Apollo and Joell coming together is perfect as the black and white on a chess piece. It works.
Cocaine Fingertips epitomises the duo’s chemistry. Not once did I get a sense that Apollo compromised himself for Joell, nor vice versa. But like a perfect relationship, the two brought the best out of each other.
Joell is a fine storyteller I first came across a couple of years ago through Eminem’s passion project, Slaughterhouse-one of the dopest rapping cliques the game has ever witnessed. That he could stand out, standing next to Cooked-I, Joe Budden and Royce da 5’9” says a lot about Joell as an emcee.
I’ve listened to his work and till this day Free Agent remains my personal favourite in his discography, but Mona Lisa sits right next to it.
What makes Joell more pleasurable to listen to on this album, is that he’s on beats you wouldn’t often have him spit on. They are heartfelt thanks to Apollo’s penchant of cutting old school soulful joints. These are the sort of beats usually reserved for kats who would sign for Mellow Music Group- dope kats, but a bit too lethargic and quite frankly, too mellow. Joell rips these babies apart, bar after bar.
Joell does get on his mellow shit though on Come Back Home, being introspective about his career and life -admitting that he’ll never pop in the game like mainstream rappers do. The beat that reminded me of Apollo’s 11th Hour and Know the Time (both from his Clouds project). Despite being all smooth in narrating his story, there’s a part in the second verse of the track where the lion that is Joell cannot be tamed. Saying;
I keep it pushin’, beat cookin’ Rep Brooklyn, give whooping’s, Through the pen like it’s summertime in the bookings
Kats from Brooklyn rep their hood, with every opportunity they’re presented with and Joell takes you through Brooklyn projects and the goings on there in My Block. WIth so much pride. It’s a Hip Hop head’s joint, with a number of rhyme schemes he has on display.
Add ’em a lil’ water, that Eve, I hit the block Long as I got that ‘cain, I’m able to flip the rock, I swear to God, I finger-fuck this fortyorty, like we in a orgy, and have these bullets shakin’ up whoever comin’ for me, sexy thot talk from a G that pulls strings
Petty as Timberlan’d Up with Royce is, it’s a funny ass dope joint of grown men going hard on new age rappers. It would’ve been doper though, had the two went back and forth together in the last verse.
If you’re into dope raps on rich beats, then Mona Lisa is for you. It might be a bore to one who isn’t into real raps, but wants hooks and catchy beats. Joell has nice quotable punchlines, which helps make his music stick.
BY definition, a milestone is; 1. A stone of a kind that use to be fixed beside a road, to mark the distance between towns; 2. A significant stage or event in the development of something.
The latter is where we’re at. So nominees of the seventh annual South African Hip Hop Awards were publicised exactly a week ago.
There were a couple of eyebrow-raising names, or the lack of, such as AKA in any of the categories- he decided to snub SAHHA because as he put it “I no longer submit for award shows because I no longer believe in the concept of awards”. Ironically there is the return of Nasty C, with eight nominations, after choosing not to submit any of his music last year. Zakwe, Kwesta, Da L.E.S and Cassper Nyovest are the other leading nominees.
Founded by Sowetan Osmic Menoe, the SAHHA have upheld consistency for seven years now. Ritual Media’s dependability should be noted-we had HYPE Magazine Hip Hop Awards that fizzled in the past. Regardless of the winners of the night, one always leaves the SAHHA with more discernment of the South African Hip Hop landscape. They put a spotlight on people you’ve never heard of, from provinces afar, who love Hip Hop with the same passion of a Hip Hop head in Brooklyn. This whilst celebrating past and present leaders of the game.
But one guy who gets nauseating love from SAHHA, is Cassper Nyovest. For the fourth consecutive year, Cassper is the recipient of the Milestone award at this year’s SAHHA. The Mahikeng rapper is a hard working kat that could and should never, be juxtaposed to any of the fellas nominated in the best Lyricist category because he is not one. You could argue that he’s an artist, who found a way to manipulate the game in ways that many never imagined.
At HHP’s memorial service, he said the deceased foresaw his stardom. While HHP’s hype man, Nyovest would nag the OG to sign him, but Jabulani Tsambo would turn him down because he thought Cassper could and should make it alone. “He said I’m not an artist that should be signed, I could be a business man and should be as big as Lil Wayne,” said Cassper.
Unlike the late Tsambo, I would liken Nyovest with MC Hammer. The latter is considered the first mainstream rapper who had a financially rewarding career, by pushing boundaries and being smart enough to use gimmicks and other things around his music. Unfortunately Hammer was a spendthrift, which was one of the reasons for his disgraced fade. I don’t foresee Nyovest in those sort of troubles, especially because he’s an independent artist.
His filling of The Dome in 2015,the inaugural Fill Up concert, will forever be etched on the history of South African music. Prior to this he used his ponytail and beef with AKA as gimmicks to push sales, but Fill Up gave opportunity for Cassper to display his ruthless marketing skills.It was a success- success which swelled his ambition to turn a once-off concert to an annual event. Three years down the line, Nyovest has filled Orlando Stadium, FNB stadium and is currently fiery than a campaigning student activist, as he attempts to fill up Moses Mabhida stadium. He will have that beauty in Durban to capacity, come December first.
The dude is in his moment, and you can’t front on that. Now as much as these are great feats, do they warrant him the Milestone award for four consecutive years at the SAHHA?
Are we saying that should Cassper, as I expect, go throughout the country and possibly various parts of the continent filling other stadia, be given this award until he runs out of breath? This is not about Cassper. Let the black man get his bag while he still can. But he can’t be awarded for repeatedly doing the same thing, just at different venues. The novelty of Fill Up died after his concert at the Dome ended that night in 2015.
It’s just not logical for the awards to continue on this trajectory, with the Milestone award in particular. For the safety of not sounding like an advocate for anyone, but the country’s Hip Hop, I will not even suggest who besides Cassper, deserved the Milestone award in the last few years. But take my word, there are people who’ve put in work deserving of a Milestone award. Osmic didn’t respond to questions surrounding the award.
This ruins the awards’ credibility with the fans and artists alike. It could be the reasons why artists sometimes choose not to participate, with the fear of headlines that read “SO AND SO LEFT THE REST STUNNED AFTER SCOOPING ALL THE NIGHT’S AWARDS ” as to suggest that one’s music or work isn’t good enough nor appreciated by the masses because of a gong.
In the past few seasons, many fashion designers have proven that being narrow minded makes it hard to continue producing breath-taking collections. This comes after Hedi Slimane’s Celine debut collection, which needless to say, received so many backlashes. Leading fashion journalists and fashion critics didn’t have anything good to say about Slimane’s work and his take on Celine, a feminist brand, which has given a lot of women power and encouraged them to experiment with fashion.
The industry is still stuck up on the European fantasy world, forcing the same kinds of stereotypes to their customers. They also borrow from Africa and appropriate a lot of our cultural references. This is simple; we need to see more Black African designers to be at the helm of these brands.
Executives of these brands are very quick to quote Africa as their main inspiration, but they are shutting us out and take everything that is ours. The Loius Vuitton appointment of Virgil Abloh definitely made history; it spoke to the changes happening in the industry.
Virgil’s story is one of many; his debut collection had details of his personal experiences. It would be game changing to see an African leading a brand such as Celine etc. because they will be bringing something new, something that people can relate to, begin new ways of seeing Africa, attract new customers and reinvigorate the aesthetics of fashion.
The Business of fashion reports that “within a fashion industry, that touts itself as celebratory of difference, diversity and inclusion. Black design talent consistently remain, at best, marginalised and all too often plagued by systematic employment discrimination.”
If the conglomerates companies such as Kering and LVMH want to be inclusive and diverse, they need to look at our shorelines when they want to hire a new creative director to lead one of their brands. A lot of the big brands are booming in our retail industry and many of our consumers are buying because of the “hype” and wanting to be counted amongst the cool kids of fashion. But our fashion designers are not that supported when they release their collections, simply because they are not the Dior or Gucci standards.
For The Business of fashion “timing is everything, and the time has come for the industry to remedy the systematic marginalisation of black design talent”. If these designers were given a chance to have other options, they would change the fashion game. It so sad that fashion is still undermining Africa’s capabilities to be at their “level”.
The late Alexander McQueen became more successful after he was given a chance to creative direct for Givenchy, from his college days; he was supported and given a chance. Isabella Blow really believed in McQueen, she saw something that most people weren’t seeing. She dedicated her time to get McQueen to the right people; this attracted the fashion press to look at McQueen with a different eye.
Nowadays you don’t need to be French to design for a French House, you don’t need to be British to design for a British brand. Riccardo Tisci is a good example of this; he became a designer for Burberry, a very rooted British brand. Combined with his perfect eye for silhouettes, craftsmanship and subculture, he managed to build on where Christopher Bailey had left off.
These kinds of conversations are often avoided by the industry leaders; however, for fashion to continue growing, changing, diversifying and inclusive, certain things need to be addressed. People of colour deserve to be recognised in fashion, they deserve to be given the same opportunities.
If the fashion industry is struggling to see a way forward when it comes to things they can easily fix, then we may need to go back to the drawing board and demand the industry executives’ attention. They need to relook at their take on fashion, the industry is growing, and there are millions of young people waiting to see someone who looks like them to represent what they stand for and someone who will give them an opportunity to buy into their culture and inspiration.
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.