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.
“Being slept on, is when not a lot of people have heard your material but once they do, they’ll admit that you’re dope. Being underrated on the other hand, is when your material is out there and everybody sees you, but no one considers you dope enough to be in the top five or whatever,” said a friend of mine breaking down the difference between the two.
I picked her brain on this matter after watching Saba’s Tiny Desk Concert NPR. With a band made up of individuals who played an integral part in the creation of his second studio album, Care For Me which came out on April 5th this year; the band included producers, DaeDaePIVOT and Daoud, with Saba’s father, Chandler on the backing vocals.
Special music projects have been dropping like manna this year, more so in Hip Hop. Saba’s album is one of them and every time I listen to it I can’t fight the thought of how much slept on the Chicago rapper is. On NPR he performs songs from Care For Me, but short as it is, the performance draws you to appreciate the album even more. Its production, musicality and most importantly, its narrative. Like German online music platform COLORS SHOW, you always think you know which is your favourite NPR episode until they release something as potent, yet different but similar because the performers feed off the same vibrations.
I was subjected to nit-picking certain tracks in Saba’s previous work. I can literally listen to Care For Me from beginning to end- it’s cohesive and lets you into the artist’s life before he became a globally recognisable rapper, till now. It sticks like original rezla.
In an interview with Sway, he said he also believes this is his best work (but which artist doesn’t think that about their art?) “…This is the first time where I was like hundred percent confident that I’m making something undeniable and in the last five days, the results seem to be in my favour,” he said. He was on Sway’s Universe five days after Care For Me was released and charted #45 on Billboard.
Chicago is blessed with young talented individuals who have touched the world with their art. From Chance The Rapper, Noname, Mick Jenkins, Ravyn Lanae, Monte Booker and a sea of other gifted creative souls. But Saba’s name isn’t as familiar to many as his peers’-the same peers who feature him on their projects.
With the 10 track Care For Me, he reached a much bigger audience by being emotionally vulnerable-Saba’s rap skills have never been questionable, his musicality was just in deficient of assertiveness. Hence it’s uncomfortable juxtaposing him to the likes of Joey BadA$$ and GoldLink.
So Saba was fairly slept on, but thanks to the brilliance of his last album people have woken up to Tahj Malik Chandler’s music. With more eyes on him now, I’m curious to see what will follow Care For Me because only then, do I think we’ll see where the game will rate him. But that NPR performance raised his stock.
TRENDS in the South African socio-political space, always put a spotlight on racial tension among the country’s citizens. Bigots crept out their crevices, following news that William Nicole’s set to be renamed after Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.
“William Nicole opposed Bantu Education, translated the Bible into isiZulu and said blacks must go to school in their first language. Winnie put burning tyres around people’s necks. Renaming the road from him to that thing shows exactly what’s wrong with SA,” said Digibyte Africa on Twitter.
It’s one thing to disagree with a name change, but insulting the late and underrated Madikizela-Mandela and referring to her as ‘that thing’ is the stuff of extremists who were intimidated by the ANC stalwart. Not to suggest that there aren’t Africans who don’t endorse the name change, I’m just irked by the argument presented by most Caucasians who are incessantly infatuated with the radical Madikizela-Mandela.
One Gregory Harington went on to suggest that Madikizela-Mandela was the one who popularised necklacing during apartheid. “Winnie Mandela encouraged the practice of necklacing. I don’t know the name of anyone else who did. Her victims are silent,” said Harington. His reasoning reminded me of Desmond Tutu’s questioning of Madikizela-Mandela during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. “I was the only one in the ANC who was taken to the TRC by her own government,” said Madikizela-Mandela in a documentary.
Whether or not Madikizela-Mandela did popularise necklacing, why are her activities during the struggle still being questioned, over 20 years into democracy and months after her burial? A number of people were forced into violence during apartheid as a result of what the police and government was doing to black people, daily. Black men and women who are in parliament today or who are sitting cosy somewhere enjoying retirement, committed inhumane crimes in the name of furthering the struggle against an unjust system. Madikizela-Mandela kept the movement active on the ground while most of today’s celebrated politicians were in prison, exile or in diapers.
In an August Green song (on their NPR desk performance) female rapper Maimouna Youssef said being a female is like being black twice and even in her grave, Mam’Winnie remains a victim of the deadly tag-team of patriarchy and racism. Over 10 years ago the Johannesburg International Airport was changed to OR Tambo International and it too, received backlash from a number of people who were still in pains that the airport was no longer named Jan Smuts (the ANC insisted on changing the airport name when it came into power in 1994). But people’s reaction then, doesn’t match the current outraged over the suggestion of renaming a mere road after Madikizela-Mandela.
Complaints from white people about this come off as petty. Their lack of understanding that the country needs to be inclusive of everyone while simultaneously acknowledging that black people are the majority and everything in the country needs to reflect this. “White God is not recognised…please sit down with your white supremacy tendencies. William Nicole Road is coming to an end, making way to the dawn of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela Road/Street/Avenue…let it sink in,” C-Ya Mshengu Tweeted.
A number of black people welcomed the idea of the name change, while others preferred to focus their energies on the R17 per litre petrol price hike which has rocketed Mzansi this week. “I thought I would be seeing a plan to stop this petrol increase trending, instead I see changing name like William Nicole etc. When are we attending to petrol mara…”tweeted Docmedia Mlambo.
THERE’S nun more annoying than a female that raps about being a female who is a rapper. It’s in the ilk of old niggers spitting a bunch of remember raps-rhymes about how they were leaders of the game aeons ago.
Thank rap gods, Noname is neither. She can’t be classified an OG since her latest project, Room 25, is actually her debut album. She released her first mixtape two years ago, the critically acclaimed Telefone.
From the jump, you can feel Phoelix’s influence on this project. Dude has the executive production role in the album and officially features on two tracks. Because of this, the project is more musical than Telefone. It’s kinda bizarre that this is only Noname’s second project.
In the first track Self, she says this project will makes you question your reasoning on religion, relationships and even Kanye. But it’s her second that caught me, where she raps
Mr. Money Man, Mr. Every Day He Got Me
Mr. Wifing Me Down, Mr. Me-Love, Mr. Miyagi
Miscellaneous, Mr. Molly Inside My Sake
Incredible, incredible emptiness in my body
Heaven’s only four-feet tall, I set my ringer to it
Fucked your rapper homie, now his ass is making better music
My pussy teachin ninth-grade English
My pussy wrote a thesis on colonialism
In conversation with a marginal system in love with Jesus
And y’all still thought a bitch couldn’t rap huh?
Maybe this your answer for that good pussy
I know niggas only talk about money and good pussy
The Chicago rapper always spits shit that make you ponder on the extraterrestrial, without forcing it down your throat. Because of her poetry background, Noname always prioritizes the bars, but her Achilles heel is her monotonous flow. She isn’t the overly sexual Nicki Minaj, nor is she rambunctious and hella ghetto as Cardi B, drops bars as a Rapsody but maintains her uniqueness. Her flow is unconventional than most emcees in the industry.
But her music ends up sounding the same, even though it talks to a variety of things. On Ace, with Saba and Smino, Noname holds her own with some of her humorous lines-she has a great sense of humour which always suprises me because she seems a serious individual.
But because of her flow, she doesn’t lure your ear as Saba and Smino’s verse. She sounds dull next to these colourful rappers. This was the song where she flexed about being a dope all-round artist, but it also presented an opportunity for her to show us the ace up her sleeve in terms of flow. But dololo. The Dillaesque beat on Don’t Forget About Me sounds tailor made for Noname’s nonchalant flow.
This is lullaby music and bumping this album on a long drive to the other side of the country would be enjoyable. It’s good music. Every time I hear her rap, my ear itches to hear that old school Chance The Rapper. This is probably because Chance introduced the world to Noname.
On Montego Bae with Ravyn Lanae, she sounds like a woman out of high school more comfortable with her sexuality and knows herself more than she did when Telefone came out. On her previous album, she spoke about a lost lover on the disheartening Bye Bye Baby, but sounds a happier damsel on Montego Bae. Noname’s music feels like a hot cup of coffee on a cold day, enjoying it in a cosy warm bed. The track With You captures this feeling and is so relaxing, shame it’s a short song.
THE face of relief I had, standing in front of the urinal turned into bewilderment while in the lavatory of a pub this past weekend.
Thanks to aggressive marketing, which has advertisements in our faces even when we’re having a moment with our bodies. What had me confused was the flyer of the Tembisa Jazz festival.
From the artists on the line-up, it would’ve been better to name it an Afro-soul festival. Sjava, Zahara and Selaelo Selota are the main acts on the bill. Only the latter is a jazz artist. Sjava and Zahara are as far from being jazz artists as Joburg is to Abuja, by foot.
Understand this, this isn’t about the artists but event organisers who come up with these shows which disguise themselves as festivals. This isn’t a unique problem to the Ekurhuleni Township; there was a similar and more cringing case in Soweto during the youth month at the splendid Soweto Theatre.
Dubbed the Soweto Jazz International Festival, their line-up included the likes of rapper Nasty C, Sho Madjozi, Deborah Cox, Lady Zamar and Mi Casa.
Let that sink in.
Is this a case of the suits calling all the shots, instead of having knowledgeable individuals in these crucial positions? What puzzles me is why there’s this incessant obsession with jazz, when what you’re presenting to attendees ain’t jazz. It’s blatant misleading of patrons who actually appreciate jazz, but more than that it’s an unfathomable mind fuck on black people in the township who walk out of those events really believing that Loliwe is a jazz joint. Like how many people still think Kenny G is a jazz artist.
But in the defence of these kasi events, I also blame the inevitable growth of the Cape Town International Jazz Festival. What started out strictly as a jazz festival in 2000 under the name North Sea Jazz Festival- for five years, the festival was known by that name as part of the contract between the Netherlands festival and local events management company espAfrika.
From 2005 onwards, not only did the name change to what we know today as Cape Town International Jazz Festival, so too have the artists we saw on the bill. Artists who aren’t jazz kats, but whose music has elements of jazz that satisfy the genre’s aficionados like a 340ml, crept into the line-up.
As the festival grew, it was clear that it was morphing into a music festival for pure songs lovers- the BLK JKS, HHP, Zola, Louie Vega and many more other random artists have performed at the Cape Town event, even Lauryn Hill. But with their growth, the festival somehow manages to keep ardent jazz listeners satisfied each year, with a line-up that prioritizes jazz.
The Joy of Jazz still maintains its status as purely jazz festival, but over the years they have bent the rules, in a slick manner. Vocalist Bilal is one of their headline acts for this weekend’s instalment of the festival- but Bilal’s vocal dexterity just doesn’t permit you to box him anywhere, which allows the festival to get away with having him on the line-up. I was in the audience with former President Thabo Mbeki, enjoying music by Gregory Porter in 2014- he too, Porter not Mbeki, is one you can’t box. But in the same year, they had Billie Ocean on the line-up, which is the equivalent of having R. Kelly at a jazz festival.
As a millennial I know very well that the world is no longer as black and white as many people thought. There isn’t a person who is interested in the same thing, all the time. Human beings’ personalities have become more nuanced with time, largely due to the advancement of technology which exposes people to more than what is in their little village.
So the same person from Seshego in Polokwane who enjoys listening to Phuzekhemisi, also happens to be a fan of Mcoy Mrubata and knows Pharoahe Monch’s lyrics back-to-back. Having said that, organisers shouldn’t be thoughtless when naming festivals, in the name of pulling in a certain LSM- this is derived from the stigma around jazz which suggests that, the only people who enjoy the genre are the wealthy and sophisticated. There are many people in the swankiest places in our country who are ardent listeners of Zahara and Lady Zamar.
If your event doesn’t have a slew of jazz artists, don’t name it a jazz festival because it’s not, otherwise you’ll have us peeing on ourselves thanks to the shocking line-ups you have at these gigs.