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.
IT was almost habitual for my friends and I to immediately, after watching a movie, meet at one of our backyards to mimic what we saw on film. The countless spinning-kick attempts after a Jean-Claude Van Damme motion picture, would make the actor blush with pride.
For us it was not only limited to film, even after watching the biggest reality TV show the WWE, you’d find one of us, depending on whoever has the most charisma on the day, being The Rock.
I was taken back to my childhood by reports that Refiloe Phoolo, better known as Cassper Nyovest, booked out the entire Mega City cinema in Mafikeng, for kids from his neighbourhood to go watch Matetwe. A great gesture by the rapper, to support local creation and also take these kids on an excursion they’ll probably cherish for the rest of their lives. Much like how Kendrick Lamar did for the kids in Compton last year, with Black Panther.
Directed by Kagiso Lediga and produced by Black Coffee, Matetwe is a film about two friends from Atteridgeville who are undecided about their life post high school and their adventures on New Year’s Eve which land them in some trouble. The two main characters Lefa and Papi, played by Sibusiso Khwinana and Tebatso Mashishi respectfully, opt to peddle their special weed called Matwetwe, with hopes of becoming instant millionaires. Nyovest poignantly had a moment of silence for Khwinana before the start of the film. The young actor was murdered at the height of the movie’s success at the box office.
Matetwe is enjoyable as finely rolled up Sativa, but I can’t help but wonder what the kids from Maftown took from the film. That pushing greens is the best alternative, when you’re out of options for life after school or has Matetwe triggered the curiosity to experiment with marijuana? Of course, there’s also the possibility that the bulk of kids who filled those auditoriums are well acquainted with Maryjane.
But when you look at how film has deliberately, placed it in our subconscious, that it’s a cultural necessity for one to consume alcohol for example, you tend to appreciate the nexus between motion picture and how we live. Countless scenes of people at a bar, a dinner table or even at a tavern jump at me, when I think of the consumption of booze on camera.
People’s passiveness while glued to a screen, is one of the main reasons why the film industry is so influential in the lives of many. Added to the fact that the average person isn’t conscious of their mental or even emotional intake.
Wars across Africa were commonplace 60 to 70 years ago, which have trickled to modern times in some states on the Motherland. But one can’t deny the influence Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo series of movies had, on young Africans’ appetite to carry Kalashnikovs in the 80s. Whether you were going over the borders of apartheid Suid-Afrika to join Umkhonto We Sizwe, or wanted to be part of Thomas Sankara’s Revolutionary Defence Committee in Burkina Faso…this selfless act was also fuelled by the desire to be a Rambo, the skilled killer draped in uniform, who could rid us of the bad guys.
Film can also be a great vehicle to inspire good in society; it depends on the underlining message. That films are portraying the impact in which patriarchy, racism, body shamming or any other form of discrimination has on people is a step in the right direction which helps to mitigate hate that some people are at the receiving end of, daily.
A movie can only do so much though. The same way a three minute ditty that lashes at government corruption can also stir you up as a citizen, it ultimately cannot stop the actual rot in public office. After all, not one of us in my group of childhood friends went on to become black belt karate students after watching Kickboxer.
VINCE STAPLES reminds me of those singers who have impeccable, unfathomable voices and energy, which remain on par live as on their records. I’m talking the likes of D’Angelo, Thandiswa Mazwai and The Brother Moves On.
Over the last week and a half I’ve been listening to Staples’ third studio album FM! and during that period, I was fortunate enough to see the 25 year-old from North Long Beach, California performing at Soweto’s Zone 6 for the Capsule Festival. I’m always fascinated by album titles and covers, in my first interaction with a musician’s project, before delving into the tracks. Often the name of the album and its art make sense as I listen to the music. Like pieces of a puzzle, it all comes together with each track.
FM! is themed as a takeover of LA radio station show, Big Boy’s Neighbourhood, hosted by Big Boy. It opens with Feels Like Summer which ironically is meant to celebrate how Long Beach always feels like summer, but Vince paints a picture of the dangers in his hood in the verses. He pulls from personal experiences, where he lost a friend at 15 years-old while they were just playing ball. I was slightly surprised to learn that Don’t Get Chipped where he features Jay Rock, is the first song where the two West Coast kats share the mic. I enjoyed the track, particularly the first verse where he raps…
Can’t wait ’til I’m rich, I’m finna buy a whole Crate of guns, for my naughty Crips, Shit I really come from the slum Time to represent, let me see you bang, where you from? Don’t be acting spooked, I’m a troop, I don’t give a fuck, I just wana live it up, use to make ’em give it up, Flockin’ is for hoes, I’ma take somebody soul, If he don’t give me what he own, now I’m getting what I’m owed, You ain’t seen me at a show? Oh, you missing out, Swear I bring the realest out, Everybody know me who’s somebody to know (Who somebody to know) Watch me mind my business my business while I’m counting my dough (Counting my dough) Stay away from citches who would clown me before (Would clown me before) On the road to riches, they gon’step on your toes Sammy told me that a change gon’come (Gon’come) I’m not going if my gang won’t come (won’t come) If you see me pull that thang, don’t run (Don’t run) Playing ball, if I swing home run
I can’t say I’m a Staples fan, I appreciate some of his joints. But more than that, I’ve always respected how he thinks and delivers his ideas and thoughts, on beats that can get any party started. He is quite dark, largely because of gang activity he witnessed growing up on the West Coast. But he merges that eerie side of him with the music, which makes for good art. The effect this contrast has on an audience when he’s performing, is good on the eye. Like when he performed Lift Me Up from his Summertime ’06 project, just before the end of his set at Zone 6, most of the club was in a jump.
His set at Capsule Festival was after midnight, with most of us tired and just waiting to see Staples on stage. He played tracks from his previous work from Big Fish Theory, Summertime ’06 and even invited Yugen Blakrok on stage to perform the Opps they did together for the Kendrick Lamar curated Black Panther soundtrack.
Vince’s fans in Soweto had familiarised themselves with his new album, that as soon as Outside! came on, the atmosphere in the club became feverish. Standing on the second floor, I could see the crowd’s unfiltered reaction.
“We didn’t expect this many people and I didn’t expect this much love, so thank you, thank you, thank you. But before I get out of here…shhhhh! I just need one thing, everybody repeat after me, ‘Oh yea, oh yea, oh year right…” said the rapper interacting with his fans, just before playing crowd favourite Yea Right.
There’s that scene in Love Jones where Darius Lovehall recites a poem, which was an ode for Nina Mosely at the Sanctuary, the poetry and jazz club that the two met and frequented often with friends.
As soon as Pieces of A Man was in my earshot, it was as though I could see and smell the clouds of smoke in the club, waitresses taking countless orders from those fortunate to get a seat at one of the few tables in the big room filled with those with the proclivity for bohemian vibes.
Depending on the performer, the entertainment value in poetry sessions can be equal to that of a simple book club. But this album is a gesture to Mick’s days as a poet in the poetry collective, Young Chicago Authors. He opens with a sonnet on Heron Flow setting the scene for the whole album, then the joint takes a soulful funk twist with some singing by Julien Bell.
Pieces of A Man displays Mick’s evolution as a young black man as well as an artist which excites me, that he’s only 27 years old creating such rich music. His bars pack the same truth as a Dave Chappelle joke.
From the jump, I built a connection with the song Ghost, one because of the beat that break so nicely on Mick’s flow and two, the content and his brash delivery. He hints at being a recluse who isn’t too concerned by superficial stuff that come with the fame because ultimately, he knows his worth.
N define worth to me,
’cause I won’t win the trophy
I been watchin’ it closely,
All that glitter’s just garnish
And I’m more partial to Parsley,
And all the medals will tarnish,
You played your hardest
And they ate your heart out
I found these lines particularly interesting because at age 27, most artists still harbour dreams of winning an award and receiving recognition from dubious industry gatekeepers. But Mick shows that in his isolation and in finding himself as a man, he’s made peace with the fact that he won’t be a celebrated kat like a Kendrick Lamar, not for lack of skill, but because of industry red tape.
One thing that most of us struggle with as we get older, is growing apart from friends that we’ve known for a years. This could be because they aren’t on the same level with you socially, financially and otherwise. He talks to that discomfort in Pull Up. He could’ve done without Grace & Mercy on the project-listening to the song was the equivalent of going to the lavatory during a great show for about a minute and 51 seconds, and then coming back for the enjoyment.
I find Corinne Balley Rae’s music insipid, it’s not about her talent. Her music simply doesn’t stick on me. But I found the Brit quite sexy in this song Consensual Seduction. It was like hearing a singer from my church doing sensual music, and actually finding her attractive. She’s a great feature and a surprising one too. If I had heard the song before she recorded her part, I would bet my life that Mick was gonna rope in a Ravyn Lenae. Soft Porn is another joint I enjoyed, the beat reminded me of Mick’s Get Up Get Down joint from his Waves project. Soft Porn is slower and raunchier.
Mick’s writing is enjoyable to listen to and even read through- listen to Barcelona to get what I mean. I disagree with a friend of mine though, who called me in excitement after the album dropped, to say Mick Jenkins is the lyricist of our generation. He’s an astonishing writer who perfectly puts his vocabulary into good use, but I don’t know who or what that doesn’t allow me to agree with that outrageous statement that he’s the best of our generation. To which includes, Kendrick Lamar, Joyner Lucas, Tobe Nwigwe, J.I.D, Lupe Fiasco and Acidrap Chance The Rapper among the long list. My definition of “this generation” is from around 2006 when the mixtapes went from spittin’ on popular beats, to actually creating bodies of work that can stand next to albums.
Fittingly titled Reginald, Mick displays his pen game and perspective. He places himself as a ruler and one to gives sound counsel on a few things, staying in pocket on the lazy beat, delivering poignant rhymes.
Don’t spend too much time in mirrors,
Reflections will get you cought up,
Connections will get you brought up in conversation,
You basing everything you know about me from moments,
I’m more a compilation of composition, it’s complicated,
I’ve contemplated so many perspectives,
Accommodated my vices, exonerated emotions,
And then I’m copin’ Macaulay Culkin,
I’m trappin’my demons over Bohemian Rhapsody
The theme around poetry is palpable, but Pieces Of A Man is quite complex. Poetry plays the role a conduit in the piecing together the man’s narrative . Gwendolynn’s Apprehension is based on African American poet, Gwendolyn Brooks’ 1959 poem We Real Cool. That Brooks’ words still carry weight as they did when her piece came out almost 60 years ago is telling of how youth, despite era, think they’re beyond reproach and just too cool for school.
BadBadNotGood’s working relationship with the Chicago rapper is a great match. The album’s last track, Smoking Song was sitting alone with Mick, sharing a joint by the corner of the club after he just gave the packed room himself.
Love Jones was a classic film that transcended the time, but unfortunately did not do well in the box office. Pieces Of A Man shares that sentiment of timelessness, I just hope it doesn’t get slept on.
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.