André 3000

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8min13810

“HELLO LIEFIES” is probably not the first thing you’d expect to spew from a dark-skinned fella rocking a wifebeater, chino pants with feet bare, in the backyard over Drake’s Pound Cake beat. But I guess that’s what makes Jabulani Majola- a Zulu man based in Cape Town, who has a slight lisp and enjoys his coffee- so unique.

“The word “liefies” is Afrikaans for lovers. It’s a word I started using a lot when greeting friends in the latter part of 2019 and it just stuck with me so I just started using it with everyone” Majola tells me. The young man from Greytown in KwaZulu-Natal, is one of the many emcee who stood-out during Stogie T’s refreshing Freestyle Fridays.

His geeky yet likable personality which is a mainstay in all his eccentric videos and Instagram posts might fool you into thinking Majola’s rhymes come softer than continental pillows, but the dude can actually rap. Enough to impress Stogie T.

“Every Friday during the early stages of quarantine Stogie T was hosting IG lives where he was looking for some bar spitters that would feature on his next Friday Freestyle. I joined him on one of them and he loved what he saw and that’s how I ended up on there,” shares the artist.

Stogie T’s Freestyle Friday movement reignited the love for dope lyricism, was entertaining and perhaps most importantly, shone the spotlight on dope emcees who rarely get the recognition for their skills. “I definitely think that Freestyle Friday has given me credibility as an emcee you know,” Majola says. “Being on platform like Freestyle Friday amongst some of the greatest bar spitters in the country and being shown love by one of the best to ever touch the mic. I don’t think people view me any different though. For most of them Freestyle Friday was the first time they saw/ heard me. For those that already knew me I think they always knew that I can emcee.”

Majola has been based in Cape Town for about five years now, after relocating to join a Christian youth organization called The Message Trust. “…I’ve been curious about Joburg, however never thought it was right to move that side over the years.”

During his time in the Cape Majola has been part of a band, Kinetic IV which can be categorized as a faith collective that has a strong pop sound- Gospel seemingly targeted at young people. But it’s the stuff he’s done solo that really slaps and is more compelling. The difference isn’t just sonically, but his rhymes and his storytelling have a wider reach than the material he records with the band.

“First and foremost I’m a big consumer of music, I listen to [it] all the time. I listen to loads of genres and in that I love to explore different cultures and sub cultures they represent,” Majola says. He is yet to release a solo project, but he’s done a number of freestyles which have managed to generate hype around him.

In a move that is of a bygone era of rap, he tried his luck on radio at Good Hope FM’s cypher sessions on a Thursday evening, and through that Majola left a mark on legendary DJ Ready D. “This [Thursday Hip Hop show] was a platform for all upcoming emcees to come through and showcase their skills and represent where they’re from and this is where we met initially. He then later on contacted me and started chatting on collaborating on a tune together that we then recorded at Redbull Studios.” The song is on DJ Ready D’s new album Ghoema Music.

Majola reminds me of artists such as André 3000 who are aesthetically-conscious in everything they do. This goes beyond being dapper or having drip, but having that innate knowing of what looks and feels good.

The Man holding the cup, Jabulani Majola. Photo by Zoe Hibbert.
The Man holding the cup, Jabulani Majola. Photo by Zoe Hibbert.

His vest and chinos combination with no shoes in the Freestyle Friday video is a case in point. “I use to thriftshop a lot, visit second hand bookshops, going to markets and art exhibitions. I love meeting new people and starting conversations. I’m also a writer, I write poetry and spoken word, songs and short fiction, I also love fashion. I read a lot of SA historic fiction and poetry and biographies.”

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13min3600

Chris Rock once juxtaposed complimenting André 3000’s artistic calibre, to showering a beautiful women with bouquets for her exquisiteness. At times it seems as though artists such as 3 Stacks, Kwani Experience, Sade and even Frank Ocean play hard to get with their cult-like followers, who are subjected to waiting aeons for any release.

“Don’t play hard to get, but play hard to forget.” This corny line by Drake aids my understanding as to why the great aforementioned artists are lauded. It’s not the excitement of dangerously flirting with the possibility of losing ardent fans, nor playing hard to get but artists who don’t fickle to industry pressure have this in common- they respect time and the muscle of art.

“…they’ve been asking for it [a solo project] since our first Las Day Fam album in 2008. So a huge expectation is certainly out there,” rap artist LandmarQ tells me. Over a decade later LDF has released two albums, Eternal Effect (2012) and Dissent (2017). The clique won the Best Group award in the now defunct Hype magazine Hip Hop awards in 2010, got a SAMA nomination at the 2013 South African Music Awards (SAMA) and won Best Gospel Rap at the SABC’s Crown Gospel awards in 2011.

THE MAN, THE MYTH THE LEGEND: LandmarQ finally standing solo. Photo by Clive Thibela
THE MAN, THE MYTH THE LEGEND: LandmarQ finally standing solo. Photo by Clive Thibela

But still, dololo a LandmarQ project. With no disrespect to Bonafide and Baggz, it’s an open secret that listeners fervently anticipate the LandmarQ verse on each LDF track. He has the sort of presence on a track, a mere punchline or clever wordplay can’t match. It’s not only in what LandmarQ says, or how he says it but shit sounds sick because it come from him- he has natural artistic integrity.

“It was inevitable that a time for a solo would come. I just never had a timeline/deadline for it. I also wanted it to be organic when it happens. I wanted it to be inspired and come from a good place. I believe creativity can’t be forced or pressured. It should be an outpouring of a natural process,” says LandmarQ.

Be that as it may, some artists shun going solo because of their discomfort of being the centre of attention preferring to “hide” within a group- there’s a plethora of reasons why some performers won’t pursue a solo career. “I am not uncomfortable about it. I just believe that there is a time and place for everything. In any show, the spot light moves to where it needs to, for the purpose of shining and highlighting the main performance act for that particular moment. So I’m happy to have the spotlight when it’s my time to perform.”

“IF THE MEDIA SAYS THERE’S A GENRE OF HIP HOP CALLED CHRISTIAN RAP, I’M NOT PART OF THAT GENRE. SIMILAR TO THE UNDERGROUND RAPPER TITLE…”- LandmarQ

Having pondered on it and even getting the nod from his LDF brothers, the spotlight is stationed on LandmarQ with the release of his debut solo project Envy and Avarice, a seven track mixtape which is first of a trilogy of mixtapes set to drop this year, inspired by the Seven Deadly Sins.

JUDGE THE COVER:The artwork was inspired by the flaws of human nature and the turmoil and complexity of of being human.
JUDGE THE COVER:The artwork was inspired by the flaws of human nature and the turmoil and complexity of of being human.

He says the decision to release was taken in 2019 “I met and consulted with several producers to craft a sound for the album. I also made several beats for the project but then decided an album might not be entirely a good idea especially considering that I haven’t put out music before as a solo artist. So therefore a different approach was required.”

He took the old school route, hopping on other people’s instrumentals which he tweaked a bit. “So the producer in me still found expression on this project albeit a little less than usual. However the route to follow the traditional mixtape method was crucial for me to do because it’s important that music lovers and fans alike get to experience LandmarQ on a wide variety of instruments/beats. The key thing however was creating a sizeable body of work.”

The reason he chose the Seven Deadly Sins as the concept for his series of mixtapes, is to bring awareness to the condition of society in general, and specifically the condition of the Hip Hop culture. J. Cole did something similar last year with the Kids On Drugs album, focusing on narcotics. A concept about Greed, Envy, Pride, Gluttony, Sloth, Lust and Wrath directly questions the behaviour of the inner self.

“We are all confronted with varying degrees of extremes of the Se7en (remember the movie by this title with Brad Pitt, Kevin Spacey and Morgan Freeman?) in our society at large and in Hip Hop. And the hip hop community is a lovely case in point i.e. tension between old and new cats, underground and commercial, this sound and that sound etc. And its manifestation in hip-hop is most notable because hip-hop as a form of expression is definitely brash/boisterous.”

The rap artist who hails from Tembisa comes from a group pigeonholed to Christian rap and with a solo project tackling a heavy topic such as the 7 Deadly Sins, there’s a likelihood of being trapped in that box as the preachy rapper. “I am not making a Christian statement with this mixtape series. I am making a statement on humanity, in the world at large and in hip hop culture,” LandmarQ says adamantly.

“The Seven Deadly Sins is not a Christian concept. After all, the seven deadly sins aren’t even mentioned in the Bible. Its origins are nebulous and likely trace back to before Hellenistic Greece. Historically, and especially in the Philosophical disciplines, the 7 Deadly Sins have been society’s way of trying to formulate a universal theory of the pitfalls that human beings face.”

But LandmarQ isn’t oblivious to how the simple-minded might perceive his choice of topic to be conservative and limiting especially because the media has dubbed him a ‘Christian rapper’. “That isn’t how I would describe myself. If the media says there’s a genre of Hip Hop called Christian rap, I’m not part of that genre. Similar to the ‘Underground Rapper’ title. I wouldn’t describe myself as an underground rapper.”

NOT HERE TO PLAY GAMES: LandmarQ in picture. Photo by LandmarQ
NOT HERE TO PLAY GAMES: LandmarQ in picture. Photo by LandmarQ

He continues “In Hip Hop we rap about our way of life. And because I am a Christian, I have and will continue to touch on Christian themes from time to time. But that’s no different than any rappers that incorporate their reality in their music. Chuck D of Public Enemy said rappers are like journalists. I’m a rapper’s rapper and have rapped alongside the best rappers in the country and have been featured on numerous songs that aren’t Christian and aren’t underground. And my message is universal. If you love Hip Hop that stands for something, I’m your guy. I however am a rounded human being. Sometimes my music is about having fun with wordplay, with different flows and metaphors.”

The project is out today. Listen and download it here

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THERE’s a number of international artists who will pack venues this South African Summer/Spring. And if Erykah Badu’s recent performance on NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert is anything to go by, South Africans are in for an unforgettable, engaging performance at this year’s Delicious Festival from the Queen of Neo-Soul.

Her career spans more than two decades and in that times she’s released five studio albums, a mixtape, one live album, played a number of sets as a DJ and also released a compilation project. But there are three things which stand out about Badu. If you’re fortunate to have a ticket for the Delicious Festival, look out for these three things when she’s on stage:

HER STYLE

Google her and see the images that pop-up. It’s just amazing to see how much her look has transformed through the years. On stage, her style is another presentation on its own accompanying the music. She’s done the all-natural look before the doek became fashionable, mixed it up by rocking an orange hued suit swathed in an indigenous blanked topped with a hat, she has worn dungarees with accessories all over her-but still somehow looks cool!

Erykah Badu on stage. By Pinterest
Erykah Badu in 2014 clad in Givenchy. By Riccardo-Tisci

But whatever change she embraces, those beautiful piercing hazel eyes are a mainstay of her beauty. Her unique style, which is not influenced by a personal stylist, has and continues to inspire men and women to embrace their uniqueness and the comfort of expressing it without feeling awkward about it, but rather appreciating the cathartic experience that comes with the fun process. Her style is a symbol of her personality- she tries, if it works for her it does, if it doesn’t then it is what it is.

HER PERSONA

Some artists can express themselves as good in person, as they do behind the mic. They have a sense of humour, they articulate their thoughts well and don’t take themselves too serious. In the live performances I’ve seen and heard of Badu, she always throws in some banter and shares her opinion about anything between her performances- similar to a Clarence Carter. She’s a 47 year-old with a young spirit, who manages to have fun with her band on stage, like a new artist would.

At the beginning of her NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert performance, while introducing her band she quipped that drummer Cleon Edwards is her son, Seven, whose father is André 3000, which had the audience in stitches. It’s not surprising that she’s pondering the idea of stand-up comedy. More than just being a funny sista, she’s also in control and in charge. She never switches-off when performing- she’s like that classmate who caused trouble but somehow, got good grades.

She walked butt naked on the street, in the Window Seat video in protest. “…it was shot guerrilla style, no crew, 1 take, no closed set, no warning, 2 min., Downtown Dallas, then ran like hell,” she wrote on her Twitter about the video shoot. It took place at the site of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. In the video, she walks on the pavement removing her clothes, until she arrives right where Kennedy was shot, stark naked.

In a television interview on, The Wanda Sykes Show she said “My point was grossly misunderstood all over America. JFK is one of my heroes, one of the nation’s heroes. John F. Kennedy was a revolutionary; he was not afraid to butt heads with America, and I was not afraid to show America my butt-naked truth.”

HER HIGH QUALITY MUSIC

I hope Jill Scott doesn’t read this, but Badu is the Queen of Neo-Soul. There is no other female on the planet, who truly embodies Queen of Neo-Soul as Badu. Record label executive Kedar Massenburg rightly dubbed it Neo-Soul, which is a better representation of our generation. What distinguishes Neo-Soul from other types of music, is that it embraces the other genres. Jazz, Hip Hop, Rock, R&B, Gospel, Soul, and everything else under the sun. Badu’s music captures that very essence, without compromising on the quality and her standards. The older generation appreciate her more because she’s like a conduit of great female vocalists of old such as Ella Fitzgerald and Nina Simone. While youngins connect with her funk and hop that even a young Janelle Monáe can’t match up to.

She’s a multi-award winning artist who equally receives love from the commercial space and also on the streets. You can’t deny her. She has five studio albums which include the poignant 1997 debut Baduizm and Mama’s Gun which has been changing the game since 2000 and three other albums to her name. The two aforementioned albums have classics which are favourites for a lot of her ardent and new listeners, but what’s pleasantly mind perplexing is how she keeps tweaking them but has maintains their core over the decades.

 

 


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