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].”
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
“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.