I’d like to think I’m writing this after seeing the best video category from this year’s South African Music Awards nomination’s list.But it was rather going through a friend’s external hard drive and coming across 2PAC’s How Do You Want It with the brothers K-Ci & JoJo.
It was the triple ‘X’ in the title of the video that got my attention. Bar the excitement my body couldn’t hide from seeing erotic scenes, I actually sat there pondering for what seemed like an eternity, on the paucity of X-rated versions of music videos.
I grew up in a time where tracks had two versions of the video, the dirty one and the clean version for prime time television. Artists still make clean versions of their songs for radio and will have the explicit joints on their albums. Dirty doesn’t only pertain to women gyrating their rears in front of the camera; it is what viewers deem offensive. Be it nudity, unpleasant language or the depiction of violence in a music video-and more.
Rapper Jay-Z found himself in some trouble for his 99 Problems video. Shot in Brooklyn, New York the video depicts life for niggers in the hood and the city. In the last scene, a defenceless Jigga is shot at multiple times on a sidewalk. It was viewed as something done in bad taste. So bad, that MTV would only broadcast the video with an introduction from Jay-Z explaining that it was a metaphorical death, not a real one. I know right, my eyes rolled too.
Black Entertainment Television (BET) designated their late hours to these explicit music videos, in a programme called BET Uncut. Uncut aired from 2001 till 2006, playing mostly Hip Hop videos with gross sexual imagery that had many teenagers risk getting an ass-whipping just to watch their favourite artists, next to some of the finest booty you’ll ever see.
A slew of explicit Hip Hop videos aired in those five years but nothing was raunchier than Nelly’s Tip Drill which saw dudes in throwback jerseys, du-rags and Air Forces at a house party that probably had three naked women for each fella in the video. I remember first seeing the video on a friend’s computer while in high school, with a grin on my face marvelling at why we never have such house parties when we decide to bunk school.
BET Uncut came to an end after many complaints about the show being distasteful and constituting soft porn. Rightfully so, it was.
In South Africa, artists play it safe. If they create videos which are polarizing, it’s usually for their “strong” tone on politics or social issues.
Last year a complaint came to the Broadcasting Complaints Commission South Africa (BCCSA) about Kwesta’s Spirit music video. The viewer’s grievance was about the slaughtering of chicken in some of the scenes. The rapper was also accused of trying to score political points by burning the old South African flag in the video.
In 2014 The Zimbabwean government under Robert Mugabe’s rule, turned away South African band Freshly Ground as soon as they landed at the Harare International airport , with no reason as to why. But in 2010, the collective released Chicken to Change, mocking Mugabe’s stubborn grip to power since the country gained independence in 1980. Guess Uncle Bob couldn’t let them get away with what they did four years prior.
South Africa has banned more ads and artwork than it has music videos.
Music and videos that the average viewer might find offence, are not officially banned but ghosted. You wouldn’t find Die Antwoord’s videos on MTVBase, simply because a censored version would usurp the video of its punch.
The internet has given directors and artists the liberty in their video-making, to create without fear of being ostracized by mainstream media for their authenticity.
The creative freedom is refreshing,especially because for so long,men have dictated what images of women are shown. Now women can decide how they want to be seen, Beyoncé is a fine case in point.
A self-confessed foodie, SiR unfortunately did not get to experience true local cuisine, but fed the souls of many who came out on Friday night to see him perform at the Alchemy festival.
“I love to eat, so anywhere I go I always try to find the best food. Plus I smoke big trees, so anytime someone has some (when it’s safe) I partake,” says SiR speaking to Tha Bravado.
Due to his short stay in the country, he couldn’t really explore some of the country’s best food, admitting that he was subjected to some Porto Rican food the night before.
In a crimson room that would make a great makeshift Death Row recording studio, I sit with the singer, producer from Inglewood just before his performance, with his bodyguards stationed at the entrance.
He arrived in the country Thursday and was out Saturday. This being his first visit on the continent, like most tourists who come from distant lands where African people aren’t in the majority, SiR was pleasantly surprised by the ubiquity of black dominance. “It’s really good to see black people in power, working together with white people,” he said.
He’s signed under Top Dawg Entertainment, which is also home to Kendrick Lamar, Shoolboy Q, SZA and other stars. Ab-Soul and the latter have in the past spoken about their frustration with album delays at TDE, but SiR says he isn’t concerned by that. “Everything happens in its proper time. I’m patient. And I trust my team, we don’t have to rush what we do.”
His music is smooth as wine and quenches the soul’s thirst like glass of cold water, on a hot summer’s day. It’s mind bending that he initially rejected getting into music having grown up in a home where everyone is gifted in the art. His mother is a former backing vocalist for Michael Jackson, Yolanda Adams and Tina Turner and his brothers, Daniel and Davion Farris are songwriters who’ve been in the game for a minute. “I definitely had an appreciation for music early on. Growing up in the church taught me a lot about music, musicians and I’ve always had a place in my heart for Hip Hop,” he says.
His appreciation for Hip Hop is evident in the music he makes, no better than the song Jay-Z from his debut album Seven Sundays. “I was in studio with the fellas and wanted to tell that story that way. I’m from Inglewood California and when I talk about ‘head down Bird, make a left on Third…’ I’m talking about actual street names of where I’m from,” he says. During his performance on Friday night, he sang Jay-Z over Jigga’s Girls Girls Girls which had the audience tripping. It fit like glove in hand.
His introduction to the music was through sound engineering, but he worked on his song writing on the side, which led to him writing for some of the best musicians like Jill Scott and Tyrese. “I was very unsure of myself when I first started writing, but I had great mentors guiding me and I worked hard to overcome my insecurities,” he says.
He jumped on stage Friday night, with a show of humility greeting the eager screaming fans in Nguni, “Sawubona” he said. Wearing an oversized top with stripes,that looked like a rugby jersey, with a Chinese collar, he looked comfortable enthralling the audience with his array of soulful joints. The backdrop was the cover of his album, November which brought much needed visuals on the simple stage.
There were chants of ‘we want more’ at the end of his hour long set, after he performed the two leading singles from November, D’Evils and Summer In November. It was intimate while simultaneously being a jump. A telling sign of the kind of music he makes, which can be dubbed new age R&B in how it fuses sweet harmonies and melodies with thumping 808s. “I just know my sound is true to me. I’m still evolving as an artist as well. Who knows what my music will sound like in 10 years.”
You’d swear he was about to be knighted at the end of his set, kneeling in gratitude to the audience for giving him their time.
Make up sex is awesome but does the same energy translate into good music?
Following Solange’s karate kid antics in the elevator in 2014, Beyoncé’s revelations on Lemonade and Jay-z’s explanations on 4:44, it would appear that the Carters have overcome whatever issues they had in their marriage. Predictably , they are not the type of people to let a good crisis resolution go to waste, thus they dropped a surprise album on June 16 in order to add a couple of zeros to their already overflowing bank accounts, cementing their position as king and queen of American urban music.
The album opens with a ballad-like slow jam titled Summer in which the Carters lyrically paint pictures of sex on the beach, or on a yacht, surrounded by crystal blue waters without a care in the world. Luxury and marital bliss is the stuff that a big girl’s dreams are made of and Beyoncé flawlessly delivers with her sensually subliminal lyrics; I want you to come inside right now…so you know just how I feel, with Jigga expressing teenage boy like excitement with his adlibs. The whole joint feels like a honeymoon anthem which is meant to convince the listener that everything is love. I thought the whole album was going to carry this mood but on the following three records in the project, the Carters make it clear that they are on another level when it comes to the cheddar cheese. On the bouncy joint accurately named Boss, Jigger goes off on his haters, stating Niggers rather work for the man…than to work for me…just so they can pretend…they on my level…that shit is irking to me. Throughout the project the Carters make it clear that they are building a legacy for generations to come, which is a refreshing reprieve from the typical hedonistic tendencies of modern day Hip-hop.
The Pharell-produced Nice has to be my favourite joint on this project. It has a playful demeanour about it, with a funny moment in the song where Beyoncé gives Spotify the middle finger; Patiently waiting for my demise…cause my success can’t be quantified…if I gave two fucks about streaming numbers…when you pull up my name on Spotify…fuck you…fuck you…you cool…fuck you. I couldn’t stop chuckling by myself as I was walking to the shops to get some cigarettes.
Listening to the joint 713 it dawned on me that this might be the first time in Hip-hop history that we get husband and wife conversations on an entire Hip-hop influenced album. The Carters’ consistent Hip-hop references in the album feel organically refreshing, with Beyoncé pulling a young Snoop Dogg impression on 713; I’m representing for the hustlers all across the world…still dipping in my low lows girl…I put it down for the 713…and we still got love for the streets followed by a Jigger’s impression of Common I never knew a… love…love…love like this…got to be special for me to write this…queen…I don’t mean no disrespect -its disgustingly cute.
This is a strong project from the Carters, they manage to mix Hip-hop and R&B without sounding too pretentious, which was a pleasant surprise for me as someone who generally can’t tolerate sentimentality. There are no true radio bangers on this album, which is surprising considering the mainstream appeal of both artist. Perhaps the first single of the project, Apeshit might dominate the charts but I doubt it. The video drips with opulence but I think it will go over the heads of Trap-lords who are the main target of the song sonically. Niggers wanna see racks and Lambos, not the Carters mean mugging in front of the Mona Lisa because niggers don’t read. But regardless, Hovah and Queen B are gonna stay winning, best believe that.