Jabba

Dear Jabba

The fact that you have attempted to take your life on a few occasions continues to haunt me. I cannot stop thinking, but why? You surely know that you are the man. I would like to believe that at least a million of your country men and women, like me, look up to you and idolize you. Your reach and influence in fact is felt across the continent of your birth. Why do you want to end your life?

I sometimes get bored of waking up and having to ‘live’ on a daily basis. The waking up, washing, eating, driving, talking, working, etc. Every damn day. No timeouts from what can be a really tedious routine. Either dead or alive. No elective coma for a week. Do you go through the same emotions?

I am really struggling with assessing what my successes are, and with accepting that I am not the success I thought I would be. Are you going through the same struggle?

You come across as a selfless guy. Someone that gives too much of their being and resources to making others lives better. That can be a problem. Trust me, I know. You end up living for the approval of those you sacrifice for. Weird, because they can’t disappoint you but when you don’t match their expectations you suddenly realise how empty your life is. We have to be careful and not live for the approval of others.

Did I tell you that my father hung himself just over 10 years ago? I am not sure why he did that but it has a bit to do with the fact that he had fallen flat on his arse. He had lost his status, wealth, dignity and his wife was about to leave him. He worked tirelessly to provide for us and supported his wife through her business adventures and experiments. In the end they were broke, in debt and he was an alcoholic. What was there to live for? Are you at that stage? Is that how you feel?

There are probably a hundred more angles to this thing including loss of loved ones to disease, violence and other causes of death. Being rejected by a lover, a child or a group you admire. Feeling like a relic or being outdone by others even though you have given it your all. Traumatic experiences some first hand, others empathized. I don’t know where you fit into the suicidal profile and it frankly is not my business.

Here I am going on and on about things I have no business going on about. Here is the deal. You gave me a style to run with. To this day I still think of myself as a hiphop pantsula. Today it is the most normal of things but when you came out a person was either or. I was weirdly both. Grew up in the hood but moved to the burbs. I loved rap from when I heard Hammer but I went to a kwaito school. I am the duality that is a HHP.

You gave us your life in audio format. Your rich tapestry in tasteful art form. The way you have rocked so many styles and set trends, with such confidence and successfully is simply amazing. You know that you are a huge reason there is even a hip hop industry in this country. Even these new age kwaito rapper kids are your seeds.

You have given me a lot to run with and I try to apply what I learn every time I listen to your music. Positivity, creativity, humour, language, business, friendship, family relations and community to name a few.

You have given me a lot so in return I give you my gratitude, respect and love. I ask you to choose life and to chose Leano but then that is what I choose for you. Ultimately the choice is yours.

Ka lerato leo!

Gangsta rap made me do it

gangsta-rap-beginners-guide-00

*This is not the song by Ice Cube, sorry. This is paraphrasing of my Toastmasters CC2 speech. Enjoy*

In 2008 there were 29 teenage murders in London. On a near daily basis the papers and telly would go on and introduce the latest victim and profile some of the gangs in killings. The city and country were in utter shock and in a state of panic. At the height of this murder wave, then London mayor, Ken Livingstone went on television offering his expert opinion on what could be the cause of this horrendous phenomenon. To little surprise, at least to myself, he placed the blame on rap music. He went on about how the art form is a scourge that poisons the minds of the youth with its glamourisaton of guns and violence. At that point I mentally logged out, switched off the TV, reached for my beloved 160gb silver iPod.

I put on my headphones and indulged in my favourite pastime; listening to rap music. Little known to Mr Ken and his type is the fact that rap music is an inspirational and aspirational art form. I have previously listened to rap for entertainment and to learn English and isiZulu when I was younger. Little known to myself was that the secret to my success was kept between the beats and bars trapped in that iPod. What I am getting at is that it is rap music that guided me into positively obsessing about ‘making it’. And to me making it means i) leaving a strong legacy, ii) achieving financial success and freedom, and iii) living a long and healthy life. Weird, isn’t it? A young professional giving credit for his success to rap music?!

Rap?!! Yes! Gangsta rap made me do it. If I were to be put on the stand in my old age I would gladly testify on the inspiration of my successes. I would testify how hip hop gangsta rap motivated me to study, achieve, live well and inspire.

Here is how rap has been grooming me;

  1. Leaving a strong legacy through having strength of character

The rhythmic poetry of Eminem, Common, 2Pac and Proverb taught me about harnessing knowledge of self and street/environmental awareness. Common themes included ‘keeping it real’, outfoxing your enemies, introspection, gratitude for life and opportunities, and assertiveness.

  1. Financial success and economic freedom

Before Juju and Floyd had the E.F.F, before Mandela and Mbeki’s B.E.E. I had the W.T.C., which is the Wu-Tang Clan telling me about CREAM. Cash Rules Everything Around Me. Another inspirational rap character Jay Z preaches and practices philanthropy, generational wealth accumulation, investing, diversifying in business and also encouraging prosperity.

  1. Health is wealth

Well, not in rap. In fact rap music’s lyrics are consistently filled with tales of drugs, violence and promiscuity. So in this instance I saw that this was a clear wrong and not something to look up to. With album titles such as ‘The Chronic’, ‘Get Rich or Die Trying’ and ‘Ready to Die’ sometimes all it takes a is wrong to appreciate what is right.  Rappers’ high mortality rate and low life expectancy helped me to appreciate healthy living, diet and mental wellness. I read a whole lot so that I do not come across as daft as some of my favourite rappers.

With that being said I have learnt so much more right than wrong from rap.  When faced with the prospect of a live of poverty hip-hop chooses to hustle. When stealing seems the way to go rap teaches one to create value. When life is boring and repetitive rap music offers creative and inspiration entertainment for the young and young at heart.

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Although they are being constantly accused and blamed for the world’s ills my unlikely heroes and inspiration in life are those caricature guys in baggy jeans and oversized shiny watches. Through their reality and aspiration based rhymes these fellas are guiding me towards my life’s goals of leaving a strong legacy, achieving financial success and freedom and living a long, healthy life. When the world admires my success I will be the first to proudly claim, “Yes, gangsta rap made me do it! “

 

 

 

I hate muzik – pt. 1

i hate music

u know how misery loves company?
this boys craves misery.
no mystery, this winter’s been bleak
even with this country’s miserable history.
i woke up midday on sunday – was like “eish, whateva”
10,000 more jobs to vanish n more freaking grey weather.
with a hangover,
but last nite oh-dee_i was sober.
yip, it must be the hunger.
jump out of bed drooling like when zuma fiending for a shower
on a hot night after unwrapping a gift gift wrapped with kanga.
could check ‘the times’ online but soon remembered it’s dizemba,
all the real journos are at home with a skuif n a steak.
so to the kitchen i escaped
cereal or cereal; what on earth will he take?
overlook the organic bcos that kak really tastes fake.
soon i was like “shait!”
i say “huh?”; i see – no clean dish!
was ready to flip n throw n bee-ef like a fit bitch.
so sorry i saw ipod cos then my day switched,
on.
bad mood – gone.
how could i not groove with barry white’s ‘my everything’ on?
then some saul williams
‘this type of love’ had me in stiches ‘cos i recognised the funny feelings.
did the dishes with a smile;
what a sight to behold.
ntate caiphus semenya n bra hugh gave me inspiration to be bold
be bold in life and not fear getting old.
like toys to a child, frown turned smile
so much for being mr miserable brit –
i wont be trying that in a while

Kwaito: Who killed it?

First of all – I love kwaito. The music, the language, the attitude, the culture. Secondly, harde! No hard feelings to whoever might get offended. This is my opinion piece; the way I see things. Should you feel otherwise, feel free to comment or otherwise write your own opinion piece. Since this write-up is about decline it will be more negative than most of us would like so it is what it is.

After reading an article on ‘5 things that killed hip hop’ my mind again revisited the monologue on what killed kwaito. Like many lay analysts I see a lot of similarities between kwaito and hip hop so the autopsies might have a few points in common.

Kwaito is dead. I hope and pray for a revival of that, you know, real Mzansi urban youth vibe music. That kick ass music with those intoxicating bass lines and half-rap half-spoken verses that made you f*cking alive and proud to be a product and resident of the hood. Kasi. Well for now you’ll have to dig up your CD collection and feast on nostalgia because for now, kwaito music is dead. By the way, I am not an old fart hanging onto the past glory of kwaito. I would rather have new kwaito to listen to. The ‘classics’ are too small a list and radio continues to irritatingly milk them. We need new classics to come out every few months but how is that going to happen with only one mainstream kwaito act making a noise?

As much as I am one for obscure (read ‘can’t get’) and under loved underground tunes I know that it is radio and commerce that is the life blood of a music genre and culture. Discussing that barely known Chakaroski album or that mildly interesting Amaskumfete trivia is cool, but we always need to have those bangers, or even crazy gossip about a genre and its stars. Sometime before 2010 the hits and the attention started fizzling. Zola was more of a Sunday Sun star than a kwaito and TV star. Brickz had been quiet for too long after that insane debut. Brown Dash’s star began to wane. I’m sho @TshepoStapura would agree but hey… Yfm agreed and hence shockingly, but understandably, they canned the Kwaito 9-nine. Dude, if you don’t know, Yfm and kwaito is like a township and night school ya ma-dice.

So, who or what killed kwaito music? In short we all did. We sucked our beloved dry and did not invest in its future. For the purposes of a higher word count I continue, in a more intelligentsia prose of course. Here is what killed kwaito.

Management

The saying goes something like, “too many chiefs and not enough Indians”. In kwaito everybody became a record executive, and a recording superstar at the same time. Everybody shunned ‘the machine’ and went ‘independent’. With only one album, or sometimes just a demo, everybody owned a label. The prospect of keeping all that cash in-house; think about it! Skimp on the A-grade producer – use DJ No Name. Skimp on the song rewriting and rehearsals – do 1 takes to save studio fees. Skimp on experienced A&R and executive producers – who says an album needs things like themes, concepts and a cohesive thread? Man, in the end our top notch kwaito artists came out sounding like how the haters used to describe kwaito – repetitive, uncreative and too simple. Kwaito got too smart and cut out experienced management. The quality of output became sloppier by the day and fans just stopped buying into it. Kwaito ran like another kasi-based enterprise gone wrong – the spaza shop.

Diversity 

Being a township sound about township life it only makes sense that Soweto dictated kwaito. Zola section in particular ruled in terms of the stars that came out. Zola is thugnificent; it’s hard and gritty, and the street language is Zulu. You don’t look and sound the part then you’re a victim – ask my friends from the Sotho sections of Tladi and Moletsane. Zola boys kept kwaito hot with that rugged street slang, stories of crime and regret, dreams of making it out the gutter. You know, that good hood ish.

But where them sisters at? The suburban cats? The regular okes? The mature kwaitonians? You know, after a while everyone started sounding the same. Even Tswana speaking fellas tried their luck but we could smell their fake Zulu from a mile away and we dismissed them. And we dismissed the girls from Boom Shaka and Nestum. When we moved out the hood and into the ‘burbs kwaito wouldn’t let us kick it. I mean TC tried hey. He had a serious publicity game and Thebe/ Kalawa showed him much love. Why didn’t TC get any love back? Even if he sucked, I’m sure we could have developed other ‘different’ talents from other townships. With the crazy rate of urbanisation that we have experienced for the last 25 years we should have kwaito stars representing from Seshego to Mdantsane.

With everyone looking and sounding the same kwaito got stale. Fatal move for a youth-oriented music genre. Let’s get a diverse cast of artists, producers, locations and executives for Kwaito 2.0.

Internet 

While the internet afforded every wannabee the chance to be seen and heard in America back here in Mzansi we shunned it. Too much of a good thing (in USA) killed hip hop, here too little of it has killed our music. Sadly our music industry shunned the internet until it was too late. With their resources the industry could have used their first mover advantage to direct us into the path that would serve them best, that is interactive and legal. Instead they ignored the internet at their own peril and here we are. Their potential customers are disconnected and illegally feasting off the industry’s output.

In 2008 I stopped buying CDs and instead started buying and downloading off the net but getting South African content was a tough pistachio to crack. For me, and the most of the rest of the youth/world, getting increasingly digital became a way of life. Not all of us have the time or privilege of going to Jet Music in the CBD to go and hopefully find the latest releases. Modern life does not allow that – but the internet allows us to be everywhere all the time. Websites, online stores, blogs, messenger apps and other social platforms allow us to interact and be a part of whatever movement we choose. Insufficient investment has been made into the online side of things and now kwaito is at the risk of being left in the past along with bubblegum music.

In 2002, when Skwatta Kamp released Khut n Joyn could you have foreseen SA hip hop exceeding kwaito in terms of popularity? As they say, numbers don’t lie. Check the stats for tweets, gigs, sales; hip hop be killing it yo! Hip hop made the greater investment – blogs, streets, websites, magazines. We are well and truly into the Information Age – is Kwaito 2.0 loading yet?

Money 

From where I stood as an outsider the late 1990s to the mid 2000s seemed like kwaito paradise. Finally kwaito got the shine it deserved – money, popularity and even a crowd with Madiba. Tjo, kwaito stars even started having drug problems! Too much of that paper I guess.

Cheap psychology would lead me to say that our kwaito stars came from financially poor backgrounds hence they could not cope with the money thrown at them. Nor the attention. Nor the panties. Another stereotype would indicate that the white powers at the record labels exploitted the kwaito boom and ran off with the loot while they still could. But what do I know? I would expect those profiting from this great product to tweak and develop it further so that they could milk it for more years to come (see Omo detergent).

From where I stand it seems like there was too much easy money for all parties involved. Labels skimmed on investing in their stars (learning music, planning albums, financial and emotional training) and the stars skimmed likewise. People went into the recording booth and just did it with a condescending attitude for the end customers, i.e. “they are too simple to appreciate good music” and “we are hot, and high, and rich – of course they’ll love it!”

They say money is the root of all evil. Did it kill kwaito too?

Appreciation

“Kwaito has been called the music that defined the generation that came of age after apartheid. Its pulsing dance beat evolved from styles such as mbaqanga and dancehall, as well as house and disco. It can also be viewed as a cultural product of the societal norms and historical context of the townships of South Africa which gave black people in the township a point of reference for their social situation and cultural norms to be understood, because back in the 90s it was the main form of self-expression and a way of life—it was the way many South Africans dress, speak, and dance. It was a street style as lifestyle, where the music reflects life in the townships, much the same way hip hop reflects life in the American ghetto.” Khuliso “Khukz” Maano, 2014.

Dress, speak, dance, cultural product, black people, township, self expression. Those are some of the words used in defining kwaito. Those words could also easily fit in defining culture, and to me that what kwaito represents – a culture. Where as people live and ultimately die no matter what, intangibles ideas/feelings/things can live forever but for that to happen we need to believe in them.

When Mandoza came out with weaker follow up albums did we believe in him? When M’du tried to be more musical and mature with it did we show our belief in him? When kids started dreaming of being kwaito stars did we invest in their knowledge of music and get them the required equipment? Do we have popular platforms that discuss and encourage kwaito in any depth? Don’t mention the 10 sentence review on new albums in your Sunday paper. Awfully shallow and without a clear rating. The clichéd interviews, “Who are you featuring on your new album? Who did you work with?”. Come on! Any kwaito-specific music and talk platforms in the media? Blogs? Shops and retailers? No. No. No.

Eulogy

Kwaito developed into a beautiful tree with the sweetest tasting fruit but instead of nourishing, pruning, reproducing and cultivating a kwaito farm full of these trees we ate off that tree until it got old and went barren. We consumed kwaito. To its death.