This COVID pandemic has done wonders for the South African music industry. Obviously Nathi Mthethwa and his ilk have ruthlessly filled their pockets with Madiba notes meant for the arts in this god forsaken country of ours, but that is no surprise. Gangsters will be gangsters.
What I think has improved is the level of creativity in our music. While celebrity musicians have been making all kinds of reality TV shows in order to sustain their seemingly glamourous lifestyles, the ‘up and coming’ are pursing new and game-changing sounds, instead of chasing a big cheque with an easily forgettable club banger. New Joburg based musician Fatheroursons is one artist trying to father new dope sounds.
His debut EP titled Child, is a self-aware daddy complex project which swings between remorse, inconsideration and neglect.
In the opening track Bluewaters, the young man affirms his need for absolution as a sinner. “…bluewaters…cleanse my skin, I have sinned…our farther…our farther true forgiveness comes within…bluewaters…how far is it to fall?…but through it all you know yourself “
On the closing track Stupid bitch, Fathoursons chastises some poor soul for not knowing their position in his life. “…drink some water, your blood is thickening, close your eyes and start listening, don’t make me say it more than once, you little stupid bitch…you are a bitch I am a monster….keep pretending you know shit, the truth is you don’t know shit….you little stupid bitch”
The tension between these two antonymous perspectives existing within one entity is a condition which haunts the Bantu male to no end. Fatheroursons explores this curious tension in his debut project. He poetically recognizes the monster he sees in the mirror as a product of circumstance who ironically perpetuates a karmic cycle of pain. He is both the villain and the victim in his story. He just can’t help himself.
Fatheroursons operates on top of low tempo percussive grooves which are filled with all sorts of delicious pads. He has a minimalistic approach to his music and I am generally not a fan of such an approach to sound but the length of the project negates any such inclinations. While his writing slaps harder than your momma after you lost her change on your way back from the store. A case in point is the fourth track on the five track EP, titled Don’t call me.
“…Don’t call my phone, I don’t want to hear it, the thought of you makes me nervous, don’t call my phone, we’ve been here before, that shit used to work on me, it don’t work no more, don’t call my phone…” The level of relatability I have with the above words is beyond my powers of expression.
The Child EP is a fire introductory project for Fatheroursons. It forced a serious bout of self-examination even though it won’t stop me from smashing the thirsty hun in my DM’s who clearly got daddy issues by the ton. It is what it is.
In this installment of Urban Ish On Lock we present Open Ended Talk. This is where the guys are joined by a new member to the team, Tsheola Mapalakanye and on this episode they’re talking pornography and the role it plays in society.
Be it setting unrealistic expectations regarding the deed or how it exposes our insecurities around our bodies.
This is only the first part of a long and tantalizing conversation you don’t wana miss.
Leave a comment and let us know what kind of relationship you have with le punna.
This segment of the show is aptly titled Dripping On Drip. Where Bukho and Finesse Keys each select a stylish personality and pit those individuals against each other in three different rounds, to determine which personality has more drip.
Each episode will see one fashionable female against another…and will have two style-conscious males face-off. The first episode features Black Coffee and Thapelo Mokoena.
Who decides the eventual winner? You do as the viewr.
The first time I heard songs from William Ello’s debut mixtape, fittingly titled Kasi Norms, I heard the hood calling out to me in an unfamiliar voice of sophistication and subtlety. The Kasi is a loud space where there are no traditional modes of behavior due to its relative infancy.
Johannesburg is a petulant teenager when it is measured against its middle aged counterparts. Cities like Cairo, Berlin, London, New York or Hong Kong, have been around for centuries. They have endured through plagues, war and famine, developing unique personalities as generations of Homo sapiens are born and buried within their ever expanding artificial boundaries. Johannesburg is only a 120 years old, thus its ghettos are dusty neglected toddlers, whose nappies are full of shit because their mother is out hustling in the streets looking for a blesser with a weave she bought with her SASSA card. Consequentially Mzansi ghettos do not know how to act, they do not know how to behave. Mzansi ghettos do not possess a fully formed culture.
Culture is pragmatically defined as the way societies and communities do things. The manner in which they approach daily living that best expresses their sense of a collective identity. Culture, amongst other things, can be broken down into traditions. Traditions can be broken down into customs. Customs are broken down into norms. Norms are how emerging communities are identified and Kasi norms are a thing to be hold.
Given the fact that South Africa is one of the most economically unequal societies in the world, scrappiness is an essential quality for those who are disadvantaged in the fast paced rat race that is modern day urban living. William Ello explores this idea in his opening track of the project, titled Gereza. In between war like drums and luscious chords infused with a churchy vibe, he inspires his congregation towards self-sufficiency and independence.
…As’lali lana siphilile(we don’t sleep here, we are alive), Busy…Ubsuku bonke(the whole night), busy…Sek’puma ilanga(the sun is coming up), umutu uyagereza eh(a person hustles)…
In the hook he makes it clear that he sees nothing but a bright future for the kasi even though he is surrounded by depravation and despair.
We gon’ rise…Homie my heart full of hustle…Stay on the grind…We gon’ shine…Bright like the light from God’s candle…Tell no lie!…We gon’ ride…All the way to the top they ain’t gon’ stop us..These are the vibes…We alive…All my people gon make it I know…
This is pathetically naïve in my not so humble and objective opinion. But I get the cocky pessimism smacked out of mouth, every time I blaze this joint. It slaps like your mama after she’s been nagging your lazy ass to do the dishes for four hours straight and then she catches you glued to the TV screen, watching re-runs of Generations on a rainy Saturday morning. Ello is not a great singer by any stretch of the imagination. His vocal range is very limited and the level of his vocals gets a bit too low sometimes because I think he is conscious of his constricted vocal dexterity. The interest of his music resides in the novelty of his sonic demeanor. The Kasi perspective is often expressed through a lens of vulgarity and crassness. In contrast, Ello’s music is mild mannered and thoughtful. Every element in his beats exist for a particular purpose, which critical considering his minimalistic approach in this project.
The opening bassline on Never Setis is a prime example of his curious attention to detail. It vividly arouses images of 90’s South Africa when kwaito was at the peak of its popularity and the only place the urban Bantu could turn-up was in smoke filled taverns which only used beer crates as chairs. In Asi vaye the drums take on mid-tempo hypnotic sequence punctuated by a percussive bass sound which always puts me in a frenzied state of head nodding. As I lovingly embrace my dusty inner hood rat and tell him it’s ok and that there is nothing wrong with where he comes from and who he is.
Kasi Norms sounds like nothing I have ever heard before and I like it, for the most part. The one major problem I have with the project is its length. I feel thirteen songs is too long considering how experimental and chilled the songs are. I am of the firm belief that projects that sonically push boundaries should not demand so much time from their listeners. This is the primary reason that, while I love Kendrick Lamar’s To pimp a Butterfly, I hardly ever go back to it as a project because it is so taxing to my psyche. Experimental albums should be short and sweet, this is to ease the listener into new sonic terrain so that they are not exhausted by the experience but rather are left feeling excited and satisfied.
William Ello is definitely a talent to watch out for in the future and with the proper support, hard work and a shit load of luck. He is defiantly going to pop. Maybe?
Most people generally lack the know-how when it comes to winning in this game we call life, or they possess the know-how but lack the necessary determination and self-discipline to get to that imaginary number one spot that we all dream of, but never work towards. The lack of fulfilment that failure breeds nourishes our obscene worship of those who seem to excel in pursuing their dreams and living their best lives. This behaviour often blinds us from the fundamental truth that we are all flawed and imprecise entities.
The entertainment industry ruthlessly exploits this pitiful and ever present blind spot that we all possess as people by carefully curating experiences and imagery that introduces artificial constructs of beauty and success into our minds. Brands are built around this simple concept and we all fall for on some level or another. Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mics and Men, a four-part documentary about the legendary Wu-Tang Clan, is an exemplary tale of how a multinational brand can be built by a bunch of raggedy ghetto boys with very little, except for a mic and a dream.
“…the Wu-Tang Clan is an extremely flawed thing that is not worthy of honour that comes with being addressed as legendary.”
One normally chooses ignorance when it comes to the personal lives of their favourite musicians because it is often uglier and realer than the stench of sewerage that consistently flows through the streets of Winnie Mandela Zone 4. Once you know, you cannot not know that the Wu-Tang Clan is an extremely flawed thing that is not worthy of honour that comes with being addressed as legendary.
The above opinion does not nullify the fact that a group of impoverished young black men from the grimy streets of New York’s ghettos banded together to build one of the biggest cultural brands of all time. Impressively they did this without embracing the perverting gloss of ostentation which is often essential when one to seeks be prosperous in the entertainment industry. Them ghetto niggas made some of the grimmest joints ever heard on either side of the equator, while selling over 30 million albums between the period of 1993 and 1998. The level of brand recognition that the iron wings logo achieved is easily comparable to that of any global business one can think of. Whether it be Apple, Coca-Cola, Nike, Red Bull or any other symbol of the Caucasians international hegemonic domination of economics, society and culture. Personally, as a House and a kwaito loving pre-pubescent child in mid-nineties South Africa, the iron-wings represented everything that was Hip-Hop in my mind.
Timberlands, baggy-jeans, an added bounce to your walk and a propensity to call every Hip-Hop head “My nigga!” Little did I know that I would soon become a fanatical Hip-hop lover, who refused to acknowledge or listen to any other genre of music that was not about these bars. Retrospectively I think the iron wings were the spark that ignited my chronic interest in in Hip-Hop. All this happened in the underdeveloped dusty streets of Tembisa. Which is a testament to the fact that Wu-Tang clan ain’t nothing to fuck with.
As a long time hip-hop head I have grown to realise that when it comes to the clan, a lot of people were (and still are) faking the funk, myself included. Shamefully I have only come to learn the names of all the clan members through watching Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mics and Men. I only knew and recognized GZA, RZA, Method man, Ghostface Killah and Old dirty bastard. Them other mother fuckers just didn’t command my attention with the weak ass calibre of their work. Beyond their big hit songs, Wu-tang’s music is so steeped in localised urban colloquialisms and experimental Hip-Hop beats that most heads don’t truly fuck with their music the way they claim they do.
Like any global brand, Wu-tang’s core offering is not universally loved but they looked cool as fuck and that’s what most people are after. The cool. Their aesthetics represented a ghetto brotherhood of the hardest and weirdest motherfuckers alive. Urban black youth was proud of the fact that people who looked and behaved like them were represented in mainstream media. Suburban white youth’s curiosity was aroused by the clan’s antics and in their minds Wu-tang represented how the other side lived. Additionally they could piss of their conservative Yankee parents by putting C.R.E.A.M on full blast as they refused to clean their bedrooms, the struggle of any immature white teenager (I think).
My disappointment with the clan stems from how they ran their business as friends and as a family. First of all, do not get into business with family or friends! I repeat, do not go into business with family or friends! One risks irreparably damaging a valued personal relationship and it is difficult to hold people you care about accountable when they are incompetent or insubordinate.
Secondly, RZA’s selection criteria when it came to picking clan members was unsatisfactory to say the least. Old Dirty Bastard is a prime example of this, he was a musical genius with serious impulse control issues. He was one of the first hip-hop artist to sing on hip-hop joints, ululating randomly as the joint went along while sounding gutter as fuck. He was a one man reality show. Keeping fans of the clan glued to their radios and television screens waiting to hear what shit the ODB got up to while they were busy exemplifying mediocracy through their shitty lives.
The dude would arrive late for shows, get wasted while performing, go on wild rants about whatever came to his mind, dissing whoever had the nerve to call him in to order while he was embarrassing the entire clan. Instead of cleaning up to fit in with them Hollywood types, ODB put his poverty on full display because he intuitively knew that white America would be enamoured by the whole spectacle because that’s how they wanted to see black people. As crass and something to be laughed at.
One could argue that Mohammed Ali employed the same tactic to increase his appeal as a public figure when he was coming up as a heavyweight boxer. With all that said, high levels of charisma and creativity are not the only characteristics that a professional artists should possess. Like in any other profession an artists must be disciplined, hardworking and pragmatic. Old Dirty Bastard was none of the above. RZA could not make him toe the line because he was a close cousin and that limited how ruthlessly he could deal with him as a professional.
On the flip side, some of the other clan members lacked the necessary level of talent to be professional recording artist. Masta killa, U-god and Inspectah Deck were subpar talent in my not so humble opinion. They were dead weight who added very little value to the clan’s brand. In the specific case of Ghostface killah he did more harm than good with his bad temperament.
During a HOT97 Summer Jam in 1997. He hyped the crowd into chanting “fuck HOT97”. He was disgruntled with the radio station because at the time HOT97 did not pay artist to perform at their events. They subliminally threatened artists with the possibility of never playing their music on their radio station, which is what they. This negatively affected the reach of their brand because HOT97 was the biggest hip-hop radio station in the mecca of Hip-Hop, New York. Shortly after this incident the clan cancelled tours because certain members could not get along. Simply put, there were too many egos at play and RZA could not keep them in check because he had personal ties with each Wu member.
Throughout the doccie it is clear as daylight that every member of the clan is unhappy with how RZA ran Wu-Tang Clan. Annoyingly nobody ever explicitly expresses this sentiment which makes the whole thing feel inauthentic to me. One suspects that this is because RZA was the one who got the financial backing to shoot the documentary. Thus nobody wanted to bite the hand that feeds them.
Which is why the Wu-Tang clan could not last as a brand. The image they tried to project in public was not an accurate reflection of how their internal processes actually ran as an organisation. That is the only way a brand can remain sustainable in the long term. That requires a logically consistent approach when one seeks to build a successful business and personal feelings are often disruptive to such an approach. Which does not change the fact the Wu-Tang clan ain’t nothing to fuck with.