Last Days Fam

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LIKE a first kiss, debut projects are timelessly unforgettable. Might be because artists create such work without pressure and expectation from the audience and themselves. Whatever it is, the music sticks for a lifetime.

Anyone who has come across music by Las Days Fam, will tell you about the clique’s Official Streets EP, which celebrates a decade this month, since its release in August 2008.

It’s funny how the days go by…you’d swear it was just a few months ago when the EP first came out. From the get-go, you can feel the spirit of Hip Hop and of Tembisa, as you’re welcomed to the EP by HI4P’s Madpro and their other followers in the intro, with soundbites recorded at Hip Hop sessions.

Authenticity in Hip Hop, is crucial to how an emcee is received by the culture. We knew, from the jump what LDF were about; an unwavering faith clique from Tembisa, that doesn’t hold back on the bars and on their truth. Whether you’re agnostic or an atheist who doesn’t agree with what they’re saying, you respect their realness. Being a Hip Hop group that openly talks about Jesus Christ can be quite tricky, as not a lot of people would be receptive to something that’s the equivalent of a sermon on beats. But LDF isn’t just that. Their skill and close-attention to detail has earned them respect from Hip Hop heads and music lovers around the world.

“I thought the real is back, when I first heard them. That was my first impression.  It’s real raps and the project was well mastered if I remember well- it was music with purpose and music with a real message, that’s the one thing that stood out for me when I listened to the project,” says Back To the City founder Osmic Menoe.

Unlike other neighbourhoods, Tembisa doesn’t have rappers who’ve cemented their place in the game.  LDF was first and remains the only clique to do that. Speaking to one of the finest DJs in the country, Illawon Kane who hails from the 1632, he says “Having known Thabang (Landmarq), from back when we hosted events in Tembisa, as a consistent lyrically fit emcee with a voice that makes you wanna extend your listening cap, it was one of those moments where one would take a breather and say ‘finally, the streets are going to hear what 1632 emcees are made of.’ An EP that represented kasi out of kasi because there are a lot of dope emcees that have good music but are unable to make the same impact that LDF had with this.”

Osmic, who owns Ritual Media which also had Ritual Stores at the time, says the LDF fellas brought the EP to him at the store.  “…obviously there was not many or not any record stores willing to sell local Hip Hop. The impact it had was from…the beats and the lyricism- you could tell the commitment that these guys were showing.  And I remember also, plotting with Mizi when he and myself thought ‘fuck man, these kats need to get some form of a deal or a distribution deal or some sort’…Mizi used the HYPE magazine to basically create meetings for the fellas to go and meet up, I can’t recall if it was Musica or a distributer- I could be wrong, but I remember that as well,” he says. Osmic was particularly impressed with the quality of the music.

Kane mastered one of the dopest joints, Think Twice Music. “….The song grew into me as I used to listen to it over and over to get the right sound it deserved. It’s a story teller kind of song,” he says.  “I was invited to the launch of the E.P as a DJ, which took place in Newtown. Proud moment it was.”

“Their consistency of releasing, at some point kinda stopped, but the beauty about making good projects is that they last long. Even if they don’t release for a good four or five years, the first project was strong enough to last a good 15 to 20 years,” says Osmic.

“Unfortunately the lucky never realizes they are lucky until it’s too late. Take yourself for instance; yesterday you were better off than you are off today but it took today for you to realize it. But today has arrived…” a quote from the Rabbi character, in the Luck Number Slevin movie is an intro to one of my favourite songs on the EP, Last Days Lullaby where everyone goes in on the beat with a barrage of bars that drag your ear to the speaker for close listening.

At the time of releasing the EP, LDF had four members; Bonafide, Landmarq, Kitron and Braintrain. The two latter members are no longer part of the group. The clique currently has three members, which includes new member Baggz.

In the 10 years since that EP came out, LDF has released two albums, Eternal Effect in 2012 as well as last year’s release, Dissent.  They 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 the Best Gospel Rap at the SABC’s Crown Gospel awards in 2011.

Las Days These days(from L-R): Bonafide, Landmarq and Baggz. Photo Supplied

According to Landmarq, they were planning of celebrating the anniversary through the release of a remixed version of the EP. “We had a number of producers lined up, but I got side-tracked.  We had planned to launch it with an event and guests.”

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The balancing of a bank statement seems a mustard seed juxtaposed to the balancing act faith rappers have to pull-off to produce quality rap without diluting their content.

Rap group Las Days Fam (LDF) has learnt to master the art for more than a decade now having officially been together since 2005.   From the release of their debut Official Street’s EP  in 2008  the group has continuously changed people’s perception of Christian rap without sounding like a TD Jakes on 808s but actually producing quality Hip Hop music. “I think some Christian artists tend to think mentioning Jesus in your music is enough and hence they don’t take enough care in ensuring that they produce quality music,” says Baggz.

The three-man clique from Tembisa is made up of Thapelo ‘Baggz’ Mpai, Tshepo ‘Bonafide’ Shabangu and Thabang ‘Landmarq’ Byl.

Hip Hop is competitive in its nature and one earns respect by how skilful they are with their rhymes, wordplay, delivery, etc. LDF doesn’t get sentimental love because they rap the Word of God and social issues, but because they are serious emcees who can stand their ground against the best, lyrically. “You have to love, appreciate and study the art form. There is no point of addressing such a serious topic with mediocrity in the art form,” says Landmarq.

They scooped the Best Group award in the now defunct Hype magazine Hip Hop awards in 2010. Being those ‘Christian rappers’ sounds a daunting task when you perform on big stages as Back To The City alongside industry heavyweights but Landmarq disagrees “…we cut our teeth on platforms like that. Especially because it was the whole package that got us recognized [rhymes, faith, beats].”

SHOWING DISSENT

They address serious topics in their latest project, Dissent released last year. These include the state of the music industry, religious establishments as well as other social issues. The country has witnessed opportunistic individuals posing as pastors in churches taking advantage of desperate people, be it feeding congregants grass or dishing out false prophesies-which to some extent tarnish the image of the Christian faith in the country, but Bonafide says people need to be savvy and consume the

Bible themselves.

“That’s what we’re encouraging the masses to do, cause we’re defenders of the faith we profess. Our listeners are deep thinkers who can distinguish between what’s right and wrong, and they know our stance on this issue,” he says.

Dissent is their third studio album after their well-acclaimed 2012 release Eternal Effect. The double-disc sophomore album received a surprise nod at the 2013 South African Music Awards (SAMA) after they were nominated in the best rap category. Although the award went to Khuli Chana, Landmarq says they walked away with validation. “Because on one hand we received acknowledgement from a secular body in a secular category (i.e.SAMA) and on the other hand also winning an award from a religious institution like the Crowns. It meant that what we have always believed and proclaimed about our music is not only an idea in our heads but a reality, for others too.”

LDF in 2011 won an award for Best Gospel Rap at the SABC’s Crown Gospel awards.

STAYING TRUE TO HIP HOP

Like their previous album and unlike a trend we’ve seen lately in rap and music overall, Dissent has a stretched track list of 19 songs. LDF still maintain the old school style of a long album and listening to the 90s influenced Boom-bap beats which are a stark different from the Trap sound that Hip Hop is currently immersed in. You’d swear the album isn’t a 2017 release sonically.

“Since our album title is Dissent, we didn’t want to do what everyone in the industry was doing, although the temptation was there to conform. It was a real struggle working on this album trying to find our voice and sound.  We had to chop and change some of the songs because they were not fitting for what we wanted to achieve,” says Bonafide who’s an audio engineer.

All members are married with lives outside of this rap thing. Landmarq is an Electrical Engineer while Baggz is a Theological student. The album is released under their own label Eternal Effect.


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