Chris Rock once juxtaposed complimenting André 3000’s artistic calibre, to showering a beautiful women with bouquets for her exquisiteness. At times it seems as though artists such as 3 Stacks, Kwani Experience, Sade and even Frank Ocean play hard to get with their cult-like followers, who are subjected to waiting aeons for any release.
“Don’t play hard to get, but play hard to forget.” This corny line by Drake aids my understanding as to why the great aforementioned artists are lauded. It’s not the excitement of dangerously flirting with the possibility of losing ardent fans, nor playing hard to get but artists who don’t fickle to industry pressure have this in common- they respect time and the muscle of art.
“…they’ve been asking for it [a solo project] since our first Las Day Fam album in 2008. So a huge expectation is certainly out there,” rap artist LandmarQ tells me. Over a decade later LDF has released two albums, Eternal Effect (2012) and Dissent (2017). The clique 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 Best Gospel Rap at the SABC’s Crown Gospel awards in 2011.
But still, dololo a LandmarQ project. With no disrespect to Bonafide and Baggz, it’s an open secret that listeners fervently anticipate the LandmarQ verse on each LDF track. He has the sort of presence on a track, a mere punchline or clever wordplay can’t match. It’s not only in what LandmarQ says, or how he says it but shit sounds sick because it come from him- he has natural artistic integrity.
“It was inevitable that a time for a solo would come. I just never had a timeline/deadline for it. I also wanted it to be organic when it happens. I wanted it to be inspired and come from a good place. I believe creativity can’t be forced or pressured. It should be an outpouring of a natural process,” says LandmarQ.
Be that as it may, some artists shun going solo because of their discomfort of being the centre of attention preferring to “hide” within a group- there’s a plethora of reasons why some performers won’t pursue a solo career. “I am not uncomfortable about it. I just believe that there is a time and place for everything. In any show, the spot light moves to where it needs to, for the purpose of shining and highlighting the main performance act for that particular moment. So I’m happy to have the spotlight when it’s my time to perform.”
“IF THE MEDIA SAYS THERE’S A GENRE OF HIP HOP CALLED CHRISTIAN RAP, I’M NOT PART OF THAT GENRE. SIMILAR TO THE UNDERGROUND RAPPER TITLE…”- LandmarQ
Having pondered on it and even getting the nod from his LDF brothers, the spotlight is stationed on LandmarQ with the release of his debut solo project Envy and Avarice, a seven track mixtape which is first of a trilogy of mixtapes set to drop this year, inspired by the Seven Deadly Sins.
He says the decision to release was taken in 2019 “I met and consulted with several producers to craft a sound for the album. I also made several beats for the project but then decided an album might not be entirely a good idea especially considering that I haven’t put out music before as a solo artist. So therefore a different approach was required.”
He took the old school route, hopping on other people’s instrumentals which he tweaked a bit. “So the producer in me still found expression on this project albeit a little less than usual. However the route to follow the traditional mixtape method was crucial for me to do because it’s important that music lovers and fans alike get to experience LandmarQ on a wide variety of instruments/beats. The key thing however was creating a sizeable body of work.”
The reason he chose the Seven Deadly Sins as the concept for his series of mixtapes, is to bring awareness to the condition of society in general, and specifically the condition of the Hip Hop culture. J. Cole did something similar last year with the Kids On Drugs album, focusing on narcotics. A concept about Greed, Envy, Pride, Gluttony, Sloth, Lust and Wrath directly questions the behaviour of the inner self.
“We are all confronted with varying degrees of extremes of the Se7en (remember the movie by this title with Brad Pitt, Kevin Spacey and Morgan Freeman?) in our society at large and in Hip Hop. And the hip hop community is a lovely case in point i.e. tension between old and new cats, underground and commercial, this sound and that sound etc. And its manifestation in hip-hop is most notable because hip-hop as a form of expression is definitely brash/boisterous.”
The rap artist who hails from Tembisa comes from a group pigeonholed to Christian rap and with a solo project tackling a heavy topic such as the 7 Deadly Sins, there’s a likelihood of being trapped in that box as the preachy rapper. “I am not making a Christian statement with this mixtape series. I am making a statement on humanity, in the world at large and in hip hop culture,” LandmarQ says adamantly.
“The Seven Deadly Sins is not a Christian concept. After all, the seven deadly sins aren’t even mentioned in the Bible. Its origins are nebulous and likely trace back to before Hellenistic Greece. Historically, and especially in the Philosophical disciplines, the 7 Deadly Sins have been society’s way of trying to formulate a universal theory of the pitfalls that human beings face.”
But LandmarQ isn’t oblivious to how the simple-minded might perceive his choice of topic to be conservative and limiting especially because the media has dubbed him a ‘Christian rapper’. “That isn’t how I would describe myself. If the media says there’s a genre of Hip Hop called Christian rap, I’m not part of that genre. Similar to the ‘Underground Rapper’ title. I wouldn’t describe myself as an underground rapper.”
He continues “In Hip Hop we rap about our way of life. And because I am a Christian, I have and will continue to touch on Christian themes from time to time. But that’s no different than any rappers that incorporate their reality in their music. Chuck D of Public Enemy said rappers are like journalists. I’m a rapper’s rapper and have rapped alongside the best rappers in the country and have been featured on numerous songs that aren’t Christian and aren’t underground. And my message is universal. If you love Hip Hop that stands for something, I’m your guy. I however am a rounded human being. Sometimes my music is about having fun with wordplay, with different flows and metaphors.”
The project is out today. Listen and download it here
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.
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.”