BORN under unusual circumstances, Benjamin Button springs into being as an elderly man in New Orleans and ages in reverse.
That’s the summarised plot of the Brad Pitt movie, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. The 2008 film’s narrative regurgitated in my mind as I listened to Stogie T’s latest project, Honey & Pain.
As a mark of growth, artists tend switch from their alter ego monikers to being known by their I.D names on stage. Just this week, on Tha Bravado I wrote a piece about Selema Writes not going by the names Sledge Lee and Dice Mak anymore but embracing the name he was given at birth.
Artists who are genuine about this, will have their art as witness to this change. When Stogie T announced he doesn’t want to be referred to as Tumi anymore in 2016, the veteran rapper wasn’t taken serious. But his music has shown that there’s definitely been alternations.
Don’t get me twisted, Stogie T’s raps are of Tumi’s quality. Stogie has more bravado and doesn’t seem concerned about what his bars do to the environment. In the intro of Rapture where he features Jay Claude, Stogie raps:
The verse Kodak, decoded that
See it through the eyes of those
Living where there ain’t no hope at
Dealt a better card, I wasn’t
Made up like a joker
Add my legacy to the ledger
I won’t be broke Jack
Stogie’s patterns and rhyme schemes are an amusement park for a genuine Hip Hop lover. That’s why Tumi And The Volume will forever be etched on the memory of South African Hip Hop because Stogie is a superb emcee who was in a band with great musicians, creating timeless songs.
The music on Honey & Pain doesn’t have replay value, except a few songs, this is mainly due to the things he raps about. On Big Boy Raps he’s on his remember raps, in the last verse sounding like a petty OG talking about cars he drove, juxtaposing himself to rappers who are currently in the forefront of the Hip Hop.
It’s when listening to such, which makes me comprehend Andre 3000’s reason for his retirement from Hip Hop because it’s a young man’s game, especially the braggadocio side of things. Listening to some of the songs, you get a feeling Stogie’s tryna prove that he’s also got swag. You’ve got it bro, you need not prove anything.
Stogie T the storyteller is what he needs to give us more of, which he did on the track Numbers Game. The joint has YoungstaCPT on the hook and surprisingly he doesn’t have a verse on the song. I found the song quite timely considering the scrutiny that has been on the coloured community and the prevalence of gangsterism there. Stogie tells the story of one who grows up in the coloured area and the adversity they face on daily because of the barrage of social ills.
On the 14 minute long God’s Eye he went hard on a number of beats (about eight) dropping verses not accompanied by any chorus. It reminded me of his project, The Powa Mixtape in how he talked to important issues such as the pursuit of a better life by immigrants from war-torn countries.
It was good hearing Maggz on the project’s single, Pretty Flower and the new kid J Molley. The latter served his purpose on that hook. Stogie T has a good ear for talent, which guides his choice of features. Rouge is the equivalent of a Kevin De Bruyne on Side Chick, her hook holds the song together plus she raps, while Ayanda Jiya’s gentle voice gives the song that tenderness to counter Stogie’s patriarchal stances on the verses. It’s a good song which I imagine should do well on radio.
I appreciate Joharzardousburg for the vibrant beat, its length and of course the raps. I haven’t heard anyone do a song about Joburg, painting a picture of the complex and colourful city-it’s such a rapper’s rapper thing to do. It also sells Johannesburg to those who’ve never been here.
Stogie has the rare condition of the Button disease, in musical terms at least. He came in the game making music way ahead of his time and beyond his wisdom-ironic that Button was born in New Orleans and Tumi’s music had strong jazz elements in his early days.
Now I believe he’s at his adolescence juncture, enjoying music and ripping the mic, just for the sake of it. The longer he goes though, his sound may become primitive in the name of being a young person who’s having fun.
IT WAS Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu who said the key to growth is the introduction of higher dimensions of consciousness into our awareness.
The artist we know today as Selema Writes, is an individual whose shown consistent consciousness of himself in each juncture of his life which has allowed him to embrace change that comes his way.
It’s commonplace for artists to change or minimally alter their stage names as a sign of growth or introducing fans to their alter ego. Tumi, of the Volume is currently doing this using moniker, Stogie T-a nod to his affection for cigars and his personal growth in the game. Mos Def switched to his Muslim name Yasiin Bey originally in 1999 but was publically known as Bey six years ago. Each individual has reasons for why they do this; even the absence of ‘Lil’ from some rappers’ names has poignant meaning. Just maybe.
Selema Writes, who last week shared lengthy posts on Facebook chronicling his life story was doing so as a way of reintroducing himself to his fans. He came into the game as Sledge Lee, a name which many know him of. But in 2014, right after winning the End of the Weak international freestyle competition in Uganda, he developed a sense of detachment to the name.
“I realized that I had achieved everything I ever dreamed of for Slege Lee. I had no more hunger to prove that I was the illest. I had a new hunger. A hunger to speak from the heart and tell my story. Everything that motivated Slege was no longer there,” Selema tells me. Sledge was the grimy nigger who was about the streets, cliques and the beefs that comes with it.
“My perspective was different but I still wanted to rap. I still wanted to express myself through Hip Hop but my consciousness was rising and I couldn’t be the kat I used to be anymore.”
Without a moniker, Selema had to find a name which would accommodate this experimental phase he was going through. It’s ironic that he went with Dice Mak, because he gambled on his look and sound which people knew him of in the past. “During this period I formed a band with my peoples Tha Cutt and Bonibass, I rocked suits on stage and I even experimented with trap music,” he says. The ‘Mak’ in his name was a gesture to his father’s surname, Makgothi. “It was only after some time that I saw that even Dice Mak is still an Americanization. Hip Hop is already so American and for me to have a name that sounds American on top of that was too much for me.”
The harsh realization of the inequality in society, the rise of the EFF, dialogs about land and even movements such Fees Must Fall and Black Lives Matter in the US and other things have made home in the black psyche, which result in a growing sense of pro blackness in most Africans, on the continent and in the diaspora. “Pan-Africanism and Afro-consciousness are two ideologies that I believe in strongly since I was very young. The difference is that when I was younger, getting respect in the streets was more important so that is what I focused on. Now that I’m grown, speaking for Africa and lifting up the children of Africa’s future is more important to me. And this was also a common theme with Bra Hugh. So I was inspired to be myself, an African. Not just in my beliefs but in my name too. With the hope that this will inspire other young Africans to embrace who they are as opposed to just parroting what we see from Americans.”
The mention of Bra Hugh was not just in passing, but Selema’s final evolution as Selema Writes is connected to him being part of the Hugh Masekela Jazz Band. Many aren’t aware of this but the late Masekela, was Selema’s uncle. “But as quite a proud individual I vowed that I would never use his name to get me anywhere. So all along I never told a single soul about my relationship with the great legend. Upon his passing all of that changed as I was asked by my family to represent in honour of his memory.”
Selema sings in the band which travels and honours the legacy of Bra Hugh with their unique tribute shows. “So far, I have been tasked to focus on the legendary song, Stimela. We’ve had several performances this year. Most notably at the Cape Town Jazz Festival and last month at the Joy of Jazz Festival.”
Yesterday the artist released a dopely executed video for his track Toothache, which introduces him to the world. Directed by Tazna Slater and Selema himself, the video is set in a scrapyard where Selema roams around the vicinity by spitting bars with the ferocity or Slege Lee, the swag of Dice Mak and alla that in Selema’s authenticity. Mark Anthony Duckitt was the creative director. The shots and editing were neatly done.
The track is a remix of a song by a UK artist Jaykae, which Selema heard while watching series. The track basically talks about his story which involves the changes he’s gone through over the years. “This song was something I wanted to give the people after a long time of not hearing from me. It’s a way of showing my evolution from both a lyrical standpoint but also from a content and sound standpoint. I’m quite proud of it.”