PRIOR to jetting out the country last week for the NYC Winter JazzFest, Nduduzo Makhathini likened the festival to umsamu, where the spirits of Jazz greats who’ve inspired him and continue to do so, dwell. And one spirit that continues to inspire him, is that of the late Zim Ngqawana who Makhathini was part of his Zimology Quartet the last time he played at the NYC Winter JazzFest in 2008 at the Knitting Factory.
Sharing knowledge with the audience during his performance at The Blue Note Jazz Club, Makhathini said “Thank you so much…there’s so many things that one could say, but I think what I have in my heart now is just one word, gratitude. I think there’s something special that happens, especially towards redefining what the anthology or cosmology of what an African people is about. And what I find to be very essential, is the idea or gathering, rituals or the coming together. We believe that when we come together, our ancestors are sort of with us and are enticed in that way .”
Makhathini played Modes of Communication: Letters from the Underworlds Project at the iconic Jazz Club last night, alongside a fine ensemble of musicians who complimented him. He had Burniss Travis on Double Bass, Nasheet Waits on the drums, Aaron Burnett on Tenor Sax, Logan Richardson on Alto Sax and New York based South African Trumpeter Lesedi Ntsane. The latter three made up the horn section in the centre of the stage on Monday night in New York.
The ensemble only had their first rehearsal on Sunday, literally a day before taking to stage, but from the videos shared on social media, their chemistry was on par with their musicality. They performed before husband and wife duo, The Baylor Project.
The JazzFest is a weeklong festival which takes place in several locations around New York. Celebrating its 15th anniversary this year, the festival attracts some of the finest musicians from around the globe to the Big Apple, all in the love of Jazz. Makhathini is also in New York with members of the Kaya FM team that includes station boss Greg Maloka, hosts Brenda Sisane and Collin Kgari.
The Blue Note Jazz Club is an abode of Jazz because of its rich history. It first opened its doors in 1981, hosting the genre’s masters; The likes of Sarah Vaughan, McCoy Tyner, Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Charles and Lionel Hampton are some prominent names which often frequented the club.
Makhathini’s appearance at the Blue Note Jazz Club received praise from his industry peers, including percussionists Azah and Tumi Mogorosi, writer Natalia Molebatsi, fashion designer Bathini Kowane and his life partner, singer songwriter Omagugu Makhathini.
“EVERBODY likes it raw,” said J.I.D unintendedly eluding to copulation, while answering a question about his new album DiCaprio 2.
J.I.D was speaking in Rosebank, Johannesburg at Universal Music where the listening session of his album was held on Friday night.
J.I.D released the first DiCaprio in 2015. The name of the EP was an ode to his favourite actor Leonardo DiCaprio, because they both had been putting out quality work in their respective fields, but not receiving acknowledgement for it.
“I was like wow, he doesn’t have an Oscar [award] he’s one of the greatest, and he’s putting out quality work. So this time around, I got a record deal, know what I’m sayin’…due to all the hard work I was putting in. I got a deal, he got his Oscar and I’m like this is perfect timing,” J.I.D said.
The rapper whose real name is Destin Route, said there isn’t going be another DiCaprio album, despite his fondness for the Titanic actor. But what has Leonardo DiCaprio said about his name and legacy being celebrated in this manner by a rapper he doesn’t even know? Not much.
The only time Leo found out about J.I.D and his project, was briefly through Q.Tip when the Dreamville artist was at Tip’s house just three weeks ago to play him DiCaprio 2. Q.Tip sent Leo a video of himself and J.I.D, telling the actor about the young rapper and his project. “Leo texts back in 30 seconds ‘oh thanks Ima check it out when it comes out, but fuck that, are you coming to my party?’ he was talking to Q.Tip -he just changed subjects real fast, so I got a few words from Leo, he knows I’m alive,” said J.I.D which had the whole room in amusement.
The trailer of the 14 track album was shown on the night, prior delving into the actual music. It was an intimate setting, with a manageable audience, who had opportunity to ask the J.I.D anything- the rapper even had time to take photos and have a moment with each of his fans after the listening session. The producer of Never, Underwear and some of J.I.D’s bangers, Christo was stationed behind the sound desk, playing each song on the album.
Most of us in the audience had already heard songs like Working Out, 151 Rum and Off Deez, in the months leading up to the release.
Explaining the track 151 Rum, J.I.D said the intro of the song was partly inspired by a doccie on mind control he watched recently “…it’s literally 20 tracks of me, my homies and home girls literally saying stuff that I want you to hear, I don’t know if you can hear it, but it sounds like a crowd chatter. What I learnt through the documentary, is that all that stuff feeds into your psyche.”
At first listen, the album goes in like a thong, with the trademark bass from Atlanta and with enough bop to accommodate J.I.D’s flow. The second track on the album, Slick Talk had everyone in the room at Universal Music in a craze, especially J.I.D’s second verse where he raps: This the type of shit that have niggas in beef, Dat slick talk followed by some stick talk then sleep, Pissed off, I done took my fifth loss this week, Big dog, I can scratch that shit off like flees, I got a lot of shit to say, but I’ma keep my list short, I know a lotta your favourites not gon’fuck with this part, When I’m done, please know that I was trying to diss y’all, ‘Cause if this is competition, then I’m setting this bar, In my city, who’s with me? I’m in my own lane Jack, Nigga said “J.I.D so flame, I propane rap” I’m from East Atlanta like Gucci and Travis Porter, But my story is similar to the hare and the tortoise
As he did before playing any track off the album, he broke down the story behind it. From the audience’s reaction, you would’ve guessed all types of drugs were being freely given out like candy after he explained what Off da Zoinkys is about. Zoinkys represent drugs, whichever your preference. The joint is a sample from a Rick Ross track, 3 Kings Feat. Dr. Dre and Jay-Z.
Y’all niggas need to lay off the drugs, Some of y’all need to lay off the dope, My niggas getting it straight off the boat, Pure cut, put it straight to your nose, I ain’t nosy, but I know what I know, Mr. Know it all, oh here he go I’m the GOAT, I never go with the flow, Throwing shots boy, blow for blow, I’m the nigga that kick the do’ with the dough
There was a brief unfeigned moment of sadness when J.I.D said Mac Miller was the one who arranged Skrawberries, which was produced by J.Cole, with Masego on the horns. The love song features BJ The Chicago Kid and was supposed to have a verse from Mac-after listening to it, I couldn’t resist the thought of Mac’s hoarse voice on the beat. The album has a fair number of features, some which are unexpected. Like Hot Box with Joey Bada$$ and Mehtod Man- you’d swear all three are native New Yorkers in how J.I.D doesn’t spit like a kat from Atlanta.
J.I.D was in the country for a week, spending some time in Cape Town and at the Kruger National Park. He cried immediately after landing from his flight from China. But what stood out was his sense of black pride and his soul’s satisfaction with being on the continent for the first time. “My whole message is about black plight bro, it’s about being a descendent slave…”
“I cry like a little baby bro, facts. Just because it was so beautiful, I didn’t expect this shit to look like this; they don’t teach us this shit in school, they don’t tell us about how beautiful this is, they only give us the negative. I’m not opposed to anything, I’m just super pro black. I fuck with all races, the minorities and the majorities, but at the same time I’m about this shit right here (pointing to his skin).”
DiCaprio 2 officially came out yesterday, a day after J.I.D performed at an event in Joburg, which Masego was supposed to headline too but was stranded in Europe.
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