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Featured Music Premiere Reviews

Passion, hope & intuition: Danger Power Ranger’s ‘Selfish’ re-release shows us why you should believe in your art

Releasing music is not an easy task. For many musicians, the creative process is easier because they get live in their element. The administration that comes with choosing a single for a project soon to be released, handling publishing and distribution, and liaising with collecting societies for royalty payments takes a lot of time and effort. Then there is marketing and public relations. Without the help of a machine, big or small, a musician often becomes inundated and a feeling of despondence often creeps in. Independence is a mission and funny enough for independence to work in the music industry, you need a solid team behind you to help you achieve your goals. They say no man is an island and that saying resonates beautifully within the context of the music business.

Beyond the miscellaneous activities that happen behind the scenes in the music industry, an artist needs three ingredients to have the impact they want when releasing music, which are: passion, hope and intuition. Passion is probably the first requirement when a creative embarks on journey of releasing work for public consumption and criticism. Vulnerability often sits deep within passion, as the very fabric that makes up the creative is often aligned to what the creative is passionate about and that is further linked to their destiny.

Mishaps and misses happen when releasing a body of work, so faith in your craft is what will often carry you through the failures. Hope accompanied by a powerful work ethic affords you leverage when the music is out. Intuition is what glues everything together and serves as your guide when things become cloudy and confusing.

Johannesburg-based creative, Danger Power Ranger, had to go back to the drawing board after releasing ‘Selfish’, his third single off his upcoming mixtape. The mixtape was set to be released last month but had to be pushed backed as he realised that he needed to build a proper roll out plan. This time around he had all the passion, the intuition and the motivation to release something better for the masses. He swings back with Selfish 2.0 with production handled by talented producer, ENKEI, who now produces for Pretoria-based crew The Wrecking Crew.

 

Image credit: Danger Power Ranger

The release is accompanied by groundbreaking visuals which give the listener a glimpse into Danger’s life, passions and his love for anime. Lyricism is what you’re always expected to receive from a Danger Power Ranger song. Danger captivates in Selfish 2.0, proving to us why he is one of Johannesburg’s best kept secrets.

There are two lessons one can derive from the re-release of Selfish: never give up on your art and your art is never complete. You can always re-work your art because it’s your art. Package it in a way that better represents who you are and what you are trying to achieve.

Stream Selfish 2.0 below:

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Music Reviews

Sweet sounds from the southernmost tip of Africa: Enter Honey Molasses’ dark, indie sound where she builds worlds only she can inhabit

When an artist fully gives themselves up to their artistry, something shifts in the universe. A divine act that carries information of a force that is beyond human comprehension. Beauty could only be the only result when an artist delves deep within themselves to uncover intimate truths that have the power to draw people in – to connect with people. We live in times where commerce supersedes art, and as much as a workable balance is required for an artist to live and keep creating, many often fall for the trap on prioritizing monetary gains over building genuine connections with people.

When using a lens powered by capitalism, honest artistry is easily seen as something that does sell and move, something that is marketable. Unfortunate if you ask me, but genuine art has something that rushed, bubblegum music does not have – staying power. If an artist invests in their artistry in a way that enables them to create timeless work, they inadvertently start playing around with the concept of immortality. How you may ask? Think of a renaissance artist like Michelangelo, a man born in the late 1400s whose name still lives on in the postmodern times that we live in. One could assert that Michelangelo is may be seen as immortal, his creative work gifts him immortality. In more modern times, we can speak of Jean-Michel Basquiat, an artist who is now late but has impact that far exceeds the amount of time he spent on earth.

In 2017, we have artists that are making impactful art and what’s more interesting is that they exist in our own backyards. Take an artist like Honey Molasses, a singer who is bubbling under and building a sizable buzz in the growing independent and alternative music scene in South Africa. With only a few songs online, she has enough talent to have any music head halt in their tracks to give her music a listen – a rare trait to come from internet-based artists. The beauty about her work is that one can tell that she does not separate her art from who she truly is, she is the personification of the expression – art imitates life.

Honey Molasses builds universes with her voice, she creates spaces that only an artist of her ilk can inhabit. The universes and worlds she builds offer a spectrum of emotion and feeling, a glimpse into her life. Her music is a journey, a trip and an experience that you would not find in highly commercialised music. Staying power and timelessness is what her art possesses and that in itself affords her seat in a realm of greatness. If she keeps digging deep within herself and nurturing the skill of creating what truly connects with people, she will be remembered forever.

Stream her latest single “Jeffrey Dahmer” produced by Hungarian producer, Glott.

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Culture Music

Under Pressure Sundays: A promise, a vision and a platform to celebrate South African beat culture

Cape Town is undoubtedly the hub for electronic music in South Africa. Some of the best and most recognised talent from South Africa hails from Cape Town. Sure, Johannesburg may have the biggest entertainment industry in Southern Africa, but Cape Town holds it down when it comes to unearthing talent that gets celebrated on the international arena. Christian Tiger School is a great example of such talent, which is backed by organisations like Red Bull Studios CPT.

As small as the Cape Town music scene may be, one would expect that the creative landscape of the coastal city is limited or leans more towards a more popular style of music – something that is clearly not the case. Small niche scenes exist on the edges of the entertainment industry – the music is not the most popular, the shows are more intimate and a spirit of comradery is what keeps the scenes afloat. Collectives like Under Pressure Sundays, play a massive role in not only growing the Cape Town electronic, bass and beats scene, but also creating a platform that celebrates South African producers who are often overlooked. In some cases, it is not even a case of producers being overlooked, but rather a situation where there is not enough media to cover the growth of niche communities in the entertainment space. It could also be there are not a lot of platforms that offer themselves up to help nurture talent in these scenes. This is where, Under Pressure Sundays comes in – providing solutions and not backing down from adversity.

It takes an unimaginable amount of effort to get a bunch of creatives scattered across South Africa to believe in something bigger than themselves and an even bigger task of ensuring that resources are there to keep the dream and mission alive. Under Pressure Sundays has been active in the electronic, bass and beats scene for about two years – having started out as something only shared amongst a tight group of friends to it being a home for some of the best talent the South Africa has to offer. The collective has to have its ear on the ground to find some of the best upcoming talent in the country, which means they have to take up A&R responsibilities to filter the chancers from the more serious acts.

With a catalogue that boasts 170 tracks from South African producers, you are forced to give props where they are due. And not only giving props, but also seeing the bigger picture and what Under Pressure Sundays is doing for the South African electronic beats scene. The amount of streams on the songs released through Under Pressure Sundays should not factor in when assessing the health of the platform and what it does. The collective doubles as a record label where talent can get their music heard and the impact may not be seen online, but the collective sure as hell has an influence on the ground, more specifically in Cape Town. An influence and impact that is slowly finding its way up to Johannesburg.

Under Pressure Sundays is a promise, a vision and a platform to celebrate and promote the South African electronic, bass and beats scenes. From events to releasing music, the collective has to be respected for what they do for the culture.

Stream the latest project by Under Pressure Sundays, which has work by artists such as STHRN, RxSolo, Vitu, Bonolo Thomas, Thobe and NDRZLA.

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Culture Events Featured Music

A culture rooted in experimentation & difference: How Buli’s EP launch connected a community that thrives on the alternative side of music

Friday nights in Melville are quite a sight to see, the bohemian suburb located on the west side of the Johannesburg CBD is littered with young people. Young people who crave a break from their demanding school schedules and for some – the pressures of having to balance their professional lives with, well you know, being young. A night out in Melville serves as a much needed guilty pleasure or a form of distraction where the youth, of different races, backgrounds and class can mingle and connect.

Within Melville, you are offered a variety of different communities, music scenes and hangout spots which you can pick and choose from depending on your interests. Each community and scene has its own rules of engagement and operation, but what’s interesting the small, often ignored communities and scenes, attract me the most. The people that choose to live life on the fringes of society, the weird and unique bunch which lead interesting lives. Now as a person who is fascinated by culture and people, these communities fascinate me.

READ: A deep dive into the world of murky, atmospheric beats crafted by Buli

My fascination and sheer admiration of these alternative communities led me to attend Joburg-based indie label, I Suppose Ja’s EP launch event. The artist that was the center of attention that night was Pretoria-based producer, Buli, who was launching his EP titled Lost In The Void. I Suppose Ja is invested in cultivating a scene that nurtures talent in that primarily makes experimental and electronic music, and as much they are record label their work prompts them to be more involved in the scene. The launch event also doubled as a label night and a creative showcase, as the founders of the label offered other producers a platform to share their music and the sounds that inspire them.

The crowd was small, allowing the performing artists to build more meaningful and intimate connections with the attendees. A sense of familiarity and genuine love existed in the venue and a beautiful atmosphere was created. The attendees were genuinely there to support Buli and the supporting acts, a beautiful sight to see. Thick, trance-like experimental music filled the room which got the crowd zoning out while short cuts from anime series were being projected on the wall as the acts performed.

Each set carried the personality and character of the act that was DJing and the transitions were smooth and provocative at the same time. It was as if the performing acts were relaying a baton to each other moving from set to set – it was seamlessness personified.

At the end of the night, as much as Buli was the focus of the night, the people who came to support were the victors because they all came to construct something beautiful and much more bigger than them – the local electronic and experimental scene. The supporting acts, namely Micr. Pluto, FRNGE and Vox Portent also contributed to the event, and proved to us that they are truly invested in the health of the scene.

Stream Buli’s Lost In The Void EP here:

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Culture Music Reviews

Listen to “Dust Vol II” by Pseudope, a Joburg-based urban entertainment platform

Founded by Khan Mabunda, a young creative who is based in the East Rand region of the Johannesburg area, Pseudope is a platform for the urban youth by the urban youth. The “urban wholesale” as the platform is called aims to connect young creatives in South Africa in hopes of building a solid industry where young people can grow, be educated and give back to their communities using arts and culture as tools for nation building.

Khan has been active in the youth entertainment space for a number of years, particularly being a member of Dapper Gang, Infinitivity Design & Innovation and the lead person behind PXY Media. A true soldier for the culture, with a deep passion for creativity and bringing innovation to his country, Khan is a creative that you need to take note of.

Khan brings us a short a short mix where he fuses his South African influences and his influences from abroad. In the 16 minute mix, you get to hear brilliant tunes from the likes of Brenda Fassie, J Dilla, Freddie Joachim, and more. Pseudope is being built to disrupt the local entertainment industry and we’re here for it.

Listen to Pseudope’s latest mix below:

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Music Reviews

The enclosures and opportunities of originality: A look at how Arcade Music uses originality to break into the urban South African entertainment space

When discussing originality, one is often forced to take a stance of neutrality as nothing is ever new under the sun. You have to view and break the concept or idea of originality through an unbiased and fair lens. Originality, like art and other talking points and mediums where subjectivity reigns supreme, is a tough topic to tackle. In the music space, imitation is unfortunately a standard in the entertainment industry which only a few artists see as a problem that needs solving. When everyone sings or raps about the same topics, the listeners are left with only a few options and an environment where frustration can settle and thrive is created. If imitation is seen as a problem that breeds mediocrity, originality then becomes a viable but complex solution to implement.

Let’s not get it twisted, we cannot deny that influence and inspiration does exist and sometimes the genius of “originality” stems from something that is already in existence. Only a few artists venture where only the brave go, defying current standards and challenging the status quo. South Africa, for one, is experiencing a revolt led by artists that are tired of hegemony of western culture, but here’s the catch – the artists are forcefully taking ownership of western styles of art and making them their own. We can see this in Hip Hop, where African rappers wrestle with finding middle ground between their own identity and the black American identity that is synonymous with Hip Hop.

South African crew, Arcade Music, treats Hip Hop like a lab rat upon where various experiments are conducted to test the limits of a culture that has given life to so many urban youth across the globe. The crew understands that they are in South Africa, they know who’s popping and who’s not and they know that there is a go to sound that everybody in music will gravitate to. With this understanding, they carefully map out their entrance and design the value that they want to bring to the South African listener and also attract international audiences.

Arcade Music’s latest single, Members Only, reeks of originality and is a blend of modern slang and vernacular language. The song speaks to the young South African that speaks and thinks in English but still carries the authentic South African flair. The slang may be borrowed from American Hip Hop, but the attitude is undeniably authentic and more homegrown. Vitu, with his distinct voice, trades verses with HOAX in a fluid manner and the different styles of delivery complement each other. The lyrics have traces of braggadocio, something that is an integral part of rap music, and a strong concept. The concept is maintained throughout the song and marries phenomenally with the beat produced by Subs.

Artwork by Jade Ayl

In the case of Arcade Music, originality is seen in how they craft their songs, what they choose to rap about and the different styles of beats they choose to rock on. Members Only is the first single from the 7 Gen 2 EP which is set to drop in the first quarter of 2017. The crew is probably one the hardest working group that is steady on the come up, especially after releasing so much music this year. We can’t even imagine what they have in store for us next year.

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Featured Music Reviews

The electronic pulse of the Swazi monarchy: The unavoidable efforts of independent label – Motherland X

The African drum is one of the most identifiable instruments in music. Loud, hard, energy-filled and powerful – the African drum is a physical representation, or rather a personification of the jolly spirit that African people have. The sound that emanates from the African drum is electric, swollen with character and personality, and carries an unmatched resonance that communicates the essence of being African.

In the postmodern times that we live in, culture and identity are malleable. The concept of being African is consistently stretched and tested, which goes to show that the generation that fearlessly holds the beacon of light for the betterment of humanity is more experimental than we could ever imagine. Ideas are not just ideas, they form part of the crucial fabric of the identities of young people, particularly those in the creative space. With bravery that is only exhibited by fictional superheroes, the creative youth are tackling the entertainment industry in hopes to usher in innovation. The youthful team behind small label, Motherland X, is a great example of bravery and tenacity, two traits that are crucial for success in the era we live in.

Coming from a small country where a monarchy still exists is probably the first obstacle that Motherland X will has to overcome. The mission is to not to be limited by the confines of their country, but to build a machine that will have a global appeal and reach. The label has already started covering ground and expanding in the South African music market, as Rendition & Ohpis are at the Red Bull Studios in Cape Town. A great move that sets the label up for greater things, access to a wider network and resources.

Moves like getting to record at Red Bull Studios, do not come at come through as a result of sublime luck – they are the result of consistently releasing music. The remix challenges that the label has been facilitating have been a strong entrance and introduction into the game. In this case, the numbers do not matter – only the music matters. Connecting Southern Africa is a mammoth task, but someone has to do it.

The energy in the label is high and the motivation is overflowing. This is seen in their latest remix pack, where they called on the production services of artists like Slotta, Devin Dee, KaeB, Code XVII and MLX co-founders, Vuma and Rendition. This time around they have remixed a song called 7 blunts by Botswana based rapper Veezo featuring WNDR. Stylistically, each remix is distinct and cannot be compared or linked to the original joint. Veezo and WNDR have an incredible way of handling language, their lyrics are filled with slang words that could be understood by anyone who is part of urban culture anywhere in the world. The flow and content create a world which the listener can live in and the different producers were able to build their ideas around the world that the two rappers created.

Image via Veezo

The latest remix pack should not be seen as just another remix EP, more is at play in this case. Three Southern African are connected and united in this endeavor, namely Swaziland, South Africa and Botswana. An international project that is shifting how artists, many of which started in the comfort of their bedrooms, collaborate. We have note one thing though, many of the artists that have gone through the Red Bull program have gone on to become very successful, think of Black Coffee, Julian Gomes and Youngsta just to name a few. The future holds incredible achievements for the small label that was founded in Swaziland – a label that is growing beautifully in the international market.

Listen to the remixes below:

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Music Premiere Reviews

Sounds from the diaspora: STHRN’s humble beginnings in Botswana to building his foundation in electronic music in China

For an artist, to find your sound is to find yourself. The experiences an artist collects, the places they travel to or inhabit and the people they meet all influence and inspire creativity and enhance artistry. In the case of Botswana-born China-based producer, STHRN, the journey into music is proving to be a fruitful one. From humble beginnings in Southern Africa’s most mineral-rich countries, Botswana, to applying himself to succeed in a foreign country in hopes to build a better future for himself. STHRN (real name Potlako Ntabe) is a medical student in China, who makes music in his spare time.

The act of sharing music online may seem to be small to some, but to STHRN it’s his way to prompt the world to listen to his music and connect with his story. Numbers do not necessarily matter when sharing art that is dear to you and if your heart is in the right place, you stand a chance to cultivate a healthy environment that allows your movements to gain traction. Traction is what STHRN is starting to see and that is not surprising to witness as he has worked on perfecting his craft for seven years.

Being in China does not limit him from connecting to his homeland as he prioritises including authentic African sounds into his music, which is more modern and electronic. He draws inspiration from some of the best and most progressive electronic, future beats and future bass movements such as Soulection, Dama Dama Records and artists like Bonobo and Toro Y Moi.

STHRN has been releasing music through Polish-based label, Icy Penguin, and has plans to release more music in future. The goal: flood the internet streets with good quality content.

We have the privilege to premiere STHRN’s latest track. Peep it below.

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Music Premiere Reviews

PREMIERE: Talented South African producer, KaeB, releases his long-awaited Stay Cozy Compilation

Who would have known that KaeB’s #CozyFridays releases were part of a bigger plan? A plan that includes shaking up the South African beats scene and sending a message to the world that KaeB is a talent that needs to be celebrated. The one thing that KaeB has managed to showcase is that hard work really does pay off. Releasing music every week for fifteen weeks is no child’s play, it is an effort that takes a lot courage and passion to accomplish.

KaeB challenged himself to create and push his sound further, boundaries were broken down and new styles have been birthed out of the #CozyFridays campaign. The campaign is unquestionably a first for any South African beat-maker/producer, so you can imagine what the results of this campaign are going to do for KaeB’s career.

Listen to the last #CozyFridays release, titled Friendzone featuring Sthibow, here:

KaeB is a passionate producer, with an undying love for music, who willingly shares his art with the masses and opens it up for appreciation and criticism. His efforts have resulted in a beautiful, experimental compilation album called Stay Cozy which you can buy on Bandcamp. The compilation album features talented artists such as Melo B Jones, Vuma of MLX, MelV, Hi-Lux and Sthibow.

Stream or buy the Stay Cozy compilation:

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Featured Music Premiere

Manxeezy: Multi-faceted creative who champions self-awareness and individuality

Image via Manxeezy

Johannesburg is one helluva of city, filled with interesting characters and dreamers – many of which were not born in the city of gold, but are here to try life in pursuit of greener pastures. The young people of Johannesburg are vibrant, determined, outspoken and free. Creative expression is undoubtedly seen as an asset to young people, and boy do they express themselves. The beliefs and ideas of young people in the city are encrypted in their art and shared through their preferred medium – the internet.

Manxeezy, a multi-disciplined creative from Johannesburg, is a personification of new-age African creativity. Equipped with an impressive array of talents such as writing and composing music, animation and design, Manxeezy slickly manoeuvres in the alternative entertainment space in Johannesburg. With his team, Milk Fam, behind him – he is well prepared to deliver groundbreaking creative work. Milk Fam is a creative collective that is fearlessly cultivating and curating safe spaces for artists like Manxeezy in the tough Johannesburg entertainment industry.

Manxeezy’s latest offering, ‘The Man’ , is a song about self-awareness (or more conveniently, self-cav), confidence and individuality. A song that carries a message that is much needed in the times we live in, where we have more followers than leaders. Although, in the song, Manxeezy assumes somewhat of braggadocious stance – the lyrics could easily motivate you to be more self-aware and be your own biggest fan. The production which Manxeezy floats over so eloquently is handled by Siviwe Smash who is an incredible talent in his own right.

Manxeezy shows us that South Africa has lyricists that are bringing innovative concepts to the masses, and we need that to cut through the fluff and the noise. The future is definitely bright for Manxeezy and his crew – Milk Fam.

Stream ‘The Man’ below: