“It’s hard for me to look at things [problems] and then have a simple answer for it. ‘These people hate these other people because of colour or this or that’-nah, it’s often really complex and people don’t wana hear that ’cause that takes thinking,” says Samthing Soweto.
“…Constantly, I find that in politics and a lot of things in life, that we want quick answers. It’s like ‘why do I suffer, I suffer because I don’t pray to God ka khulu if I prayed five times a day, six times a day, maybe things will be better'”
Referring to a Plato quote on democracy, Sam explains how most people want instant and simple solutions to their trials without necessarily understanding the process and order of things in life. No one is better positioned to talk about patience and process like Sam, who for a long time, carried the insipid tag of being a ‘former The Soil group member’ this is while the acapella trio sold-out shows, won awards and toured the world singing songs he wrote.
I have an interview with Samthing Soweto on the upper level at the Joburg Theatre; the red carpeted floor would have you thinking we’re inside a casino, but our conversations aren’t a gamble. The chat is the most earnest I’ve had with the artist, ranging from African history, audiobooks, and content creation to religion. This while rain gently comes down outside, all over Johannesburg. For two nights this weekend, Samthing Soweto will be performing at the Joburg Theatre for his Samthing Soweto Tribute.
In the last 24-36 months he’s detach himself from that aforementioned tag, rebuilding his brand and introducing himself to the greater South African public.
“They call me the feature guy now,” says the vocalist on Akanamali, bursting into laughter. “It’s nice man, it’s like a drug. There are very few things in life that you could do, to make people happy just to see you. Like literally you showing up, makes someone’s day. I only started understanding this recently to be honest. It’s a privilege at most, and it’s not something to be taken lightly. It’s fleeting- today that could be the case, but tomorrow I know that it might not be. Because now it is, I’m just happy to live through it-do I wana prolong it? Of course, it’s nice.”
The small contingent fans of the man’s music, long thought of him as a great artist, but the Sowetan has newfound fame and fans, who have faces of bewilderment when seeing him in a queue at a retailer or at the ATM. “People lose their minds and ask ‘why am I in line’. I guess ’cause people think nice song means money, but I’d ask the same people nami, how many of them actually bought the song? I’m not mad about that, I’m really happy.”
“…I truly believe music should be free, because like, everything else is money. I think having a song should be like a bonus to life. Like uvuke one day, if every artist drops music you can get it for free and then you pay to go see them perform or whatever.”
Samthing remains an independent artist, but signed a distribution deal with Platoon. “They are a distribution company and their core business is also artist development.”
The last three to four years haven’t only seen Samkelo Mdolomba become a celebrity, but the artist has also become accessible to his fans, whether through his One at One shows on Facebook or through the media where he’d detail his multifaceted past in interviews. His vulnerability indicates his growth. “I just know what it feels like not to have fans, like have fans that are fans of your music but not know who you are, I just know that….and because I come from that, The Soil. People knew my songs, they didn’t know I was the one singing there. Even the video ye Baninzi, abo Ntsika are literally singing like they’re me on that thing, and they had to do that because I wasn’t there and I respect them for that.”
He’s cool with his former crew, but says he’ll talk more broadly about his time with The Soil this weekend at the Samthing Soweto Tribute. “I think I’ll be talking about everything, I’ll talk about The Soil-because no one knows really. I have to talk, I’m tired of holding it in, and people need to know. And now that we’re fine with the guys and everybody, I think it’s time to speak now.”
His album is nearly done and should be out in the middle of the year. Late last year he released two singles, Telefone and iFridge which are lyrically Samthing Sowetoesque, but are sonically upbeat, something his new fans have gotten use to thanks to the collaborations he’s done with House producers. “It was a direction I wanted to take last year, but I’ll be honest this year I’ve taken another direction. I recently started working with DJ Maphorisa. We’re working on really dope songs, I can’t wait for everybody to hear them.”
“…He’s [Maphorisa] an amazing producer. He has an amazing team that does amazing work. He has this ear you know…he hears music in a different way and he’s very conscious of what use to work k’dala. He’s the type of producer who’ll say ‘ku mele siyenze ingoma efana na le’ he’s very nostalgic based and that’s where he wins ka khulu,” says Samthing.
MOST people get into thrifting because they honestly can’t afford the day’s fashion, so they take some vintage garments and tweak them here and there to get that drip. It’s a similar formula that Ntokozo Dladla used for his Queen Moraka T-shirts, but instead of using vintage attire he opted for a vintage character.
“Most of my friends had the vintage Rap Tour T-shirts and I really wanted one of my own but things on the financial side of my life were and are still all types of shaky,” Dladla tells me. So out of his need to fit in while simultaneously standing out, he came up with the idea to make his own T-shirt which would be more affordable than purchasing one.
“…I thought about making it about South African musicians, but there are already other street wear lines that have done this. It hit whilst I was thinking about gangster rap, that most of the rappers that told us stories of shoot outs, robberies, gang culture, etc. never even participated in such and all they were presenting to us as listeners was a character!!”
To Dladla, who’s also known as Danger, there’s no difference between Dr. Dre and Queen Moroka because they’re both fictional characters that he connected to while growing up in the streets of Vosloorus.
But like most darkies who grew up in the 90s traditionally watching Generations at 20:00 on Simunye We Are 1, you’d ask yourself why he chose to use Sophie Lichaba’s (formerly known as Ndaba) character, he could’ve gone for a Karabo Moroka, Julia Motene or Ntsiki Lukhele.
“I won’t lie, I found Karabo Moroka’s character too easy. Like she is definitely a crowd favourite and that comes with automatic success but even though Queen holds the same level of legendary stature, I feel like at the end of the original Generations run she became comic relief and her character could go weeks without showing up and it wouldn’t even effect the storyline. So I chose Queen because I have a warm place in my heart for the under dogs. Plus her whole vibe was about being glamorous which goes well with certain themes I want to play around with especially with clothing.”
The T’s have received good reception from people, with the likes of comedian Okay Wasabi and performer Fella Gucci spotted rocking one. They’re a limited edition. “My problem with most T-shirt brands is that they get one design that works and they just abuse it until we see Small Street put the final nail in the coffin, and I don’t want that I want to always have new ideas and let the old stay in the past,” the illustrator says.
The T’s are not under any fashion line, but him as a graphic designer. He sees the work as an addition to his portfolio work and merchandise. “My mentality now, is if I don’t have clients I’ll be my own client.”
PREVIOUSLY the local wine industry had its focus on the export market, but has in recent times recognised the local market as a significant player. The attitude towards wine and its consumption has drastically changed in South Africa in the last decade, especially among urban black people.
My supposition is backed by Dr. Carla Weightman’s 2018 research which focused on the perceptions of local consumers towards wine. The PhD graduate (in wine biotechnology) focused on two specific wine-consuming groups, urban black and white wine drinkers. In years gone by, the latter made up the majority of wine consumers in the urban jungles of the country, but thina abantu have become the leading consumers-accounting for 80% according to Weightman’s research.
But nothing demonstrates the urban black’s newfound relationship with the beautifully aging drink, like a 22 year-old African owning a brand of wine, purely from passion. He’s 26 years-old now, but Prince Moeng was that 22 year-old when he found Moeng Wines in 2015. “My first encounter was at corporate events and it was love at first sip. I started having wine with all my meals and trying different varietals with it. Then I would do food pairings. It got to a point where I tried a different bottle of wine every day. That is how I grew my love for wine and eventually had the idea of owning my own wine brand. That is when I started researching about the wine industry and the making of wine. I can’t say I grew up drinking wine as my parents were strict and them being pastors didn’t make my decision any easy,” says Moeng.
Four years in business now, the Moeng Wines is a self-distributed brand which has found its place at selected restaurants around Gauteng, while increasing its market presence through events and collaborations with corporates. “This means that people that want our wine can visit our website and order directly from there and the wine will be delivered. We also hand pick restaurants and wine bars that meet our standards to distribute our products,” shares Moeng.
Moeng didn’t want to disclose Moeng Wines’ demographics but his hosting of Wine Masterclasses at Mambisa’s monthly entrepreneurs gathering Startup Grind Tembisa, indicates that his brand grows in tandem with urban black people’s appreciation for wines.
The business was found in Mahikeng but is now based in Centurion. “Some of the challenges about running a winery include distribution, particularly with the high competition in the country. Being based in Gauteng also has its own challenges, with some of the key resources being based in Cape Town.”
Despite the adversities of business, Moeng has had the Deputy Minister of Small Business Department as a guest at their annual gala dinner and Moeng Wines has enjoyed the perks of product placement in the film She Is King.
He runs the brand with a small group of six but like any entrepreneur, he envisions expansion for his business. “We aim at being the premium wine of choice across the continent. We also look into introducing more young wine makers into the industry.”
Backpackers don’t get it confused, coz niggas is icy, it ain’t got nothing to do with the music.
Typically, if one were to be quizzed on which emcee dropped that line in a song, the most probable answer would be Lloyd Banks, The Game or a Fabolous, because of their fondness of ice-cold diamonds over their fingers and around their necks hanging like chandeliers. But that’s a line spat by J. Dilla in his track Make Em Envy.
Such is the deliberate and genuine contradiction of this genius producer, who will forever be known as a master sampler who gave our generation unimaginable sounds of Hip Hop, Soul and Jazz. The mention of his name will instantly have you thinking of classic albums such as Like Water For Chocolate by Common, Erykah Badu’s Mama’s Gun and Slum Village’s Fantastic vol.2. Because of the purity and good moral standing of the music he made, people were quick to assume that if he wasn’t behind his MPC chopping beats, he was on the street alongside the Black Panther party preaching Black Nationalism and saluting every black man as his brother. But that wasn’t the case with the man whose real name was James Yancey.
“People put him in a category of what they think he’s like, but they don’t realise he was about his links. Dilla was always telling Madlib ‘man you gotta get your chain, I know a place that’ll do it…” said Stones Throw Records founder Peanut Butter Wolf in documentary.
We often forget that before artists come into their own, they are normal beings that live in an environment that influences how they see and engage with the world. Dilla grew up in the cold streets of Detroit, Michigan around regular niggas you’d find in the hood, who are normally seen as vanity slaves for their appreciation of the finer things in life.
Dilla met T3 and Baatin in high school and they formed what would be known as Slum Village. After releasing their debut album, Fantastic Vol.1 in 1997, the group was hailed as the new Tribe Called Quest – the torch bearers of conscious Hip Hop and all things soulful and Pan African. The comparison bothered Dilla, because Slum’s lyrics weren’t anything adjacent to the stuff Tribe rapped about.
“It was kinda fucked up because people put us in that category. I mean, you gotta listen to the lyrics of the shit. Niggas was talking about getting head from bitches. It was like a nigga from Native Tongues never woulda said that shit. I don’t know how to say it. It’s kinda fucked up because the audience we were trying to give to were actually people we hung around. Me, myself, I hung around regular ass Detroit cats. Not that backpack shit that people kept putting out there like that. I mean, I ain’t never carried no goddamn backpack. But like I said, I understand to a certain point. I guess that’s how the beats came off on some smooth type of shit,” Dilla once said in an interview.
The quote highlights Dilla’s realness to himself and who he is. Being compared to Tribe and the likes of De La Soul, he could’ve easily switched up and ditched the Detroit fella he grew up as, but he never did that. Instead, he chose to vent out his ignant nigga shit through his alter ego, Nigga Man. “…definitely an alter ego, he called him Nigga Man. He’ll start talking about the Range, the Dilla ‘A’ with the fifth wheel on the back…” said August Greene’s Karriem Riggins in the Still Shinning documentary. Dilla’s hood element came out when he stepped in the booth and when he wasn’t creating beats.
It is known that he’s by far the best producer of our time, but his persona is often shelved away as something that wasn’t truly J.Dillaesque. So as you bump your head to some of his most charming beats on this Dilla Month, just get to know the man behind the beat.
Explaining his reason for having lyrics in the sleeve of Bob Marley and the Wailers’ 1973 album Burnin’ Island Records founder Chris Blackwell said in a documentary “This music, which at this point in time was novelty music, I really wanted to get across that this is not just novelty, what these words are saying, are words which have a universal appeal, they are not just Jamaican, they’re not throw away words. This man’s a poet really.”
Burnin’ was the group’s second album under Blackwell’s Island Records and at the time, Reggae wasn’t a popular style of music outside of Jamaica. The way the album was presented, its art and printed lyrics, made the marginalised genre more marketable to the rest of the world. Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer are immortal musical giants, but Marley is a pop icon that wrote most of the trio’s music. By 1974 the group had disbanded, which saw Marley go solo but supported by new band members under the same name.
Bob Marley had a lovable character and made music that effortlessly connected with people. Thanks to the music he left us with, generations keep falling in love with the man from Trenchtown, Kingston Jamaica. As today would’ve been Marley’s 74th birthday, we remember him through his words, be it written in lyrics or those uttered in conversation. Words which epitomize his character; for what’s a man without his word…
“FREE SPEECH CARRIES WITH IT SOME FREEDOM TO LISTEN”
“MY MUSIC WILL GO ON FOREVER. MAYBE IT’S A FOOL WHO SAY THAT, BUT WHEN ME KNOW FACTS ME CAN SAY FACTS. MY MUSIC WILL GO ON FOREVER.”
“NO ONE BUT OURSELVES CAN FREE OUR MINDS.”
“DON’T WORRY, ABOUT A THING, EVERY LITTLE THING IS GONNA BE ALRIGHT”
“I HAVE A BMW. BUT ONLY BECAUSE BMW STANDS FOR BOB MARLEY AND THE WAILERS, AND NOT BECAUSE I NEED AN EXPENSIVE CAR”
“MY MUSIC FIGHTS AGAINST THE SYSTEM THAT TEACHES TO LIVE AND DIE”
“ONE THING ABOUT MUSIC-WHEN IT HITS YOU, YOU FEEL NO PAIN”
“THE GOOD TIMES TODAY, ARE THE SAD THOUGHTS OF TOMORROW”
“HERB IS THE HEALING OF A NATION, ALCOHOL IS THE DESTRUCTION”
“THE BIGGEST COWARD OF A MAN IS TO AWAKEN THE LOVE OF A WOMAN WITHOUT INTENTION OF LOVING HER”