Chris Rock

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13min2600

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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10min1861

Solange’s Don’t Touch My Hair served as a declaration for black women, that their hair is an extension of who they are and that it’s their crown of glory. India.Arie’s I am Not My Hair was a bold statement from the inner being, vehemently saying the scrutiny she faces can’t be based on the exterior. The contradiction of the two ideologies in the songs is an epitome of women’s differing feelings towards hair. Moriri. Izinwele. Misisi. It can be such a contentious topic.

I’ve had the fine thread stands in my head for the past few days since watching Chris Rock’s 2009 doccie Good Hair again a few days ago. In addition to that, I’ve been witness to a salvo of posts from female friends on social media about their anxiety of being unable to do their hair during this lockdown. While some females are shit scared that they’ll be looking like Ol’Dirty Bastards lost daughters during this time, others see this as an opportunity to just let their hair down and not worry about looking the part for anybody, for the next few weeks.

“Actually I’ve never really thought about that, ukuthi izinwele zami yicrowd. Eish angazi” says Smangele Vilakazi, laughing.  She currently has cornrows and says she usually wears her hair natural as an afro if she doesn’t feel like wearing a weave. “No, this lockdown hasn’t brought any anxiety because my hair doesn’t require too much work. I just wash it, let it dry and then it’s good.” Smangele changes her hairstyle every month, depending on what style she’s wearing.

“I have locks, I never call them ‘dreadlocks’ because there is nothing dreadful about my hair,” Nobantu Baba tells me. “Currently with the lockdown, I let my hair hang loose only indoors, I usually have it in different styles or wrapped up in a turban, but I never strain it with tight pulling hairdos. I try to keep it simple.”

A photo of well done cornrows.
A photo of well done cornrows.

Conspiracy theorists will be happy to know that Nobantu is more concerned about the virus making home in her hair, than the anxiety brought by not being able to visit a salon. “I’ve heard theories of the virus getting stuck on your hair, so I don’t take chances. With grooming it, I don’t stress much because it probably needs a break too. I’m also lucky to have my boyfriend who has experience grooming natural hair, so he mixes up special oils to keep the skull nourished and he styles it when needs be.”

Thando Dhaza loves her mane, but doesn’t see it as a crown. “I have cornrows, I always have cornrows if not braids,” she says. “[The lockdown] has caused some anxiety because I do my hair every three weeks.”

Similar to Nobantu, Nicole Ling-Ling Sidell finds herself on lockdown with someone who can do her hair. “I’m not a salon person, I do my hair myself. But with the braids, I got lucky because I’m in lockdown with my sister-in-law who is really bomb with hair. And she did it for free,” Nicole says.

Clair Mawisa with her well-taken care of locks. Clair Mawisa Twitter.
Clair Mawisa with her well-taken care of locks. Clair Mawisa Twitter.

She bats for Team Solange in that she sees her hair as her pride. “Let me tell you something. Hair is very important to women, but for me it goes a level up because I’m a fashionista. It completes my looks, an outfit can be really dope but without the perfect hairstyle, might as well not rock it.”

“I’m currently growing my natural hair from scratch because it got damaged as a result of my recent obsession with bleach. I wear a wig most of the time, but since the lockdown I got box braids. Really long ones, been wanting to do them for a while but didn’t have the time to. So now well, we all got time currently,” says Nicole laughing. She washes her hair every three days and applies a special mixture of crushed marijuana seeds and coconut oil.

I like it natural. Black Enterprise
I like it natural. Black Enterprise

Felicia, who is a hairstylists says the lockdown has affected her to a point where she has to operate as though she’s selling contraband. “I firstly never took this [Coronavirus outbreak] serious but I realised that big companies and big stores are being closed and we’re forced to be isolation. Me and a friend of mine manged to get a permit, which we had to fix at the internet café by adding our own names and details so that I’m able to go to Joburg to stock up.”

Her salon of more than five years, is situated in a double-garage in her yard and was forced to close by police last week.

Sitting with her, Felicia plays me WhatsApp voice notes from some of her customers who are inquiring if she’s open for business. “My business is operating, but I do house calls although it’s a challenge because you get there and someone tells you they forgot about the appointment or that they aren’t home.”

One of Felicia's custormers. Photo supplied.
One of Felicia’s clients. Photo supplied.

Whether you’re Team Solange or Team India.Arie, only you as a black woman know what your hair means.



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