Boom-Bap

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OF ALL the periods in Hip Hop’s few decades of existence, there still hasn’t been an era that heads sentimentally connect and long for, like the ’90s era.

This nostalgic feeling is driven by the reverence in lyricism, the holy sampling, the endearing Boom Bap sound and the purity of the genre right before the immorality of the new millennium. It’s for this reason that even in this current Trap era, there are still emcees who uphold the above-mentioned 90s era “principles”. Simphiwe ‘Sim’ Mabuya is such emcee.

This is by no means a suggestion that his 12 track album Perceptions should be relegate to the 90s. Nah. The project is refreshing, particularly because it came out just this year.

IN THA STREETS: Simphiwe 'Sim' Mabuya. Photo supplied
IN THA STREETS: Simphiwe ‘Sim’ Mabuya. Photo supplied

The 90s Hip Hop head enthusiast inside me listened to the album in one sitting and appreciated it. Mabuya’s music is like something you’ve heard before, but always wanted to hear again. His storytelling is amplified by lived experiences, his vulnerability and the wisdom that comes with those lived experiences. He makes grown-ass black man music.

The emcee from kwaZakhele, eVuku in Port Elizabeth has a Drama background having studied at the University of Cape Town. “My drama/theatre background has always played a huge role in influencing my music. The stylistic writing, the vivid storytelling, the bringing of emotion / mood to the music and of course the poetry.”

“The project took me about 8 years or so to put together. Meaning the writing of the songs, a few songs I’ve had to rewrite, followed by a fun but long process of beat selection. Its authenticity mostly stems from real experiences, direct and indirect, reflections of my (and my society) daily experience plus stories living and growing up ekasi under difficult and horrific circumstances.”

In just 3:44 he managed to package some of these horrific circumstances, like being stabbed in the eye, to the rays of sunshine in his life, the birth of his daughter for example, in the beautifully laid Ngasekhaya. “I intentionally chose a variety of producers for the project to be diverse without losing that Jazzy, Boom Bap Hip Hop feel,” says Mabuya.

The album’s producers include Adon Geel, Bulelala Ngodwane, Xolani Duai Skosana, Planet Earth and Christian Monashe.

“Pain, joy, loss, daily struggles, achievements, conversations with self, traveling, reading …and a longing for a meaningful and empowering piece of music,” Mabuya tells me of what inspired this body of work.

A REBEL WITH A PURPOSE: Simphiwe Sim Mabuya. Photo supplied
A REBEL WITH A CAUSE WITHOUT A PAUSE: Simphiwe Sim Mabuya. Photo supplied

Unlike a Costa Titch album, Perceptions isn’t bombarded with features of other emcees-there’s no confusion about whose album this is, his voice is rightfully consistently present on this work. Mabuya only had one emcee on this project, with a few vocalists negotiating some of the choruses and hooks.

“I felt I needed to show my pen capabilities, above all …share a chunk of who I am, thus the album title Perceptions. Also I find it challenging to work with energies that aren’t on the same musical / spiritual plane as I am: pen game is critical, authenticity/ originality are key and a positive working energy,” says Mabuya. His first offering was 2007 Social Poetics, which he says was discontinued due to poor production quality.

On the song Tata he openly talks about the hurt brought by his Popps’ absence in his life. The joint is so real, he shares with listeners that the only thing his dad ever bought him was a belt. It’s one of those essential songs in the crevices of the album which will never be bumped on radio and probably won’t be a fan favourite nor a music video shot for it. The song highlights father-son daddy issues on a similar level that HHP’s Danger on the uRata Mang album did for teenage pregnancy.

Perceptions was released in August this year and Mabuya’s work has been received well by listeners. “Frankly, the project has been doing great, gradually gaining meaningful traction within a space of just three months of its release. I’ve been receiving great comments or feedback from everyone that has taken time to listen to the project and am truly thankful and humbled by the response so far.”

THA STORYTELLER: Simphiwe Sim Mabuya. Photo supplied
THA STORYTELLER: Simphiwe Sim Mabuya. Photo supplied

So well that his music has been used on popular television drama series Gomora. “I had sent the music to a friend, she loved it and thought the album would be great for Gomora. She requested I forward five songs I felt would be proper for the show and I did so. A number of days later I was requested to send the entire album, I guess the show’s producers loved the project. I was blown away by the response I must admit, it proved that we, Home Grown Concept, had done a stellar job. So…yeah, it’s quite exciting and dreamy that the music will be heard from the award winning TV show,” a thrilled Mabuya tells me.

The album can streamed here on Spotify and here on Apple Music. You can also stream it on YouTube.

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Previous Return of The Dreamers instalments had the make-up of a mixtape, the soppiness of a demo and were lethargic as those preseason warm-up matches in sport. But Revenge of The Dreamers III is purely a case of third luck’s a charm for J.Cole and the Dreamville squad.

The first ROTD was released in 2014 with the follow-up coming in 2015.  The projects left one with a sense that Dreamville was just testing the waters. But this current shit here slaps, quite hard.

I’m only realising this as I write, that we were actually conditioned to expect more than we got from the previous projects, by the marketing gimmick Dreamville pulled earlier this year. They publicly invited artists they wanted to have on this project, on social media. I ain’t an artist and I’m not even in the US nogal. But those invitations didn’t only leave one excited, but just wana be in there…even nje just to witness the sickness. I can bet you my speakers that a shit load of artists, in the US were green with envy.

“Cole was like ‘man we should make invitations’ and then I was just like damn that’s actually kinda genius. We literally got it out to people the day we got here, we were supposed to do it ahead of time and then that day, we just stared seeing people posting, posting, posting,” said Ibrahim ‘Ib’  Hamad, President and co-founder of Dreamville speaking in a the documentary Dreamville Presents: REVENGE.

The album featured 34 artists and 27 producers, this is out of the 343 individuals invited to record it in 10 days.

“That shit worked out crazy like, people hit my phone, everybody wana come and everybody’s welcome at the same time, you know what I mean,” said Cole. “For me it was like, literally a golden ticket typa situation.”

Months flew and the excitement fizzled, but somehow, sporadically reignited by a J.Cole verse on other artists’ joints in the months leading up to now.  But the eagerness for ROTD III came back to us quicker than Babes did to Mampintsha, after watching the enticing Dreamville Presents: REVENGE.

Sonically, ROTD III is refreshing…looking at where Dreamville comes from as a label. They were, and are largely still seen as one of the torch bearers of the Boom-Bap sound and that real rap shit. This album has various sounds, but each song never veers off what Dreamville seems to represents, realness.

It’s symbolic that Dreamville hosted a slew of artists, and even in the web of sounds, no one forgot that these dreamers are tryna pay revenge.  The stable has grown in sound and artistry…the songs uniquely represented the folks at Dreamville. The seemingly organic chemistry they had with the outside artists, isn’t unusual for Dreamville because the stable has an assortment of artists, who hail from different parts of the country.

The weed joint, 1993 produced by Elite is so Wu-Tang. I’ve been listening to Buddy’s music for a year or two now, and his energy on shit is always palpable. He doesn’t rap on this track, but serves his purpose on the song. The blunt is seen as the microphone, and vice-versa to which Buddy is the conductor. Cole and JID complemented each other well with their verses, coming correct.

JID is Dreamville’s poster boy and he further proved why on this project. Ladies, Ladies, Ladies produced by Kal Banx has JID musing over past lovers alongside the big bro from ATL T.I. It’s a smooth ditty, delivered in an attempted to sound hard, but both kats come out sounding dope cute.

I would’ve liked to see Cole, Ib and Top Dawg’s reaction soon as they heard LamboTruck. I saw Reason as just a decent kat before this joint, but his cadence and pen game was above par. So was Cozz…and they both sounded deliberately humorous. The two West Coast kats’ comfortability with each other reminded me of the chemistry between East coast’s Method Man & Redmad. LamboTruck also represents the kindship between Top Dawg Entertainment and Dreamville, far more than just the business.

Ari Lennox, Dreamville’s empress, owned her space on the project. Self Love featuring Bas and Baby Rose is one of those songs that would sit well on an Ari project. She got swallowed up though, by Ty Dolla $ign on Got Me– if that beat was America, Ty Dolla $ign would be the white race. Omen hasn’t shrugged off sounding like Cole, but the Friday Night Lights/ The Warm Up Cole- nice, but still on the come up. The track is produced by Mdbeat, Deputy and OZ.

Bas can be a bit sluggish when solo, on his own shit but Abbas Hamad rapped out of his skin on Down Bad, rapping with stable mates JID, EARTHGANG, J.Cole and 21 Savage’s cousin Young Nudy.

Sacrifices, Wells Fargo, Oh Wow…Swerve are other songs worth mentioning that give the album more body and gravitas to even dare call it an album. There are songs the alum could’ve done without, like Swivel and Sleep Deprived .

It’s natural to wonder what will happen to the songs we heard in the documentary, which were recorded in the 10 days but didn’t make the 18 track cut. And I suppose it’s also natural to sit there and think why they didn’t invite so-and-so…because of the vast possibilities and expectations that come with putting together such a project. So it is what it is.

But Dreamville gave dreamers hope with this one, without being melodramatic about it.

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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.


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