IRV BLAMES JAKEis not just a regular DJ. The Johannesburg-based multi-talented creative is a storyteller that does not use conventional methods to communicate and express his lived experiences. For IRV BLAMES JAKE, music is visual and packed with lessons. With that perspective, he is able to create a more rounded and full experience for the people who listen to his DJ mixes. Unlike most DJs, IRV BLAME JAKE curates mixes that are accompanied by images he took and conceptualised with artwork that he has art directed to fit what he feels when he listens to electronic music. World-renowned creators, like Australian creative Ta-ku, have a similar model – a model that is clearly working.
IRV first took to the internet with a slew of mix releases on SoundCloud, equipped with nothing but a laptop, a smartphone and dope mind, he created a name for himself. The launch of his 10-part mix series, THIS IS SEX, was the beginning of his breakthrough and cemented his name as one of the best electronic DJ exports from South Africa. The mix series attracted thousands of listeners from different countries and allowed him to gain a lot of respect from his peers. The unique selling point of the mix series was the out-of-the-ordinary creative direction and roll out.
To end the series off, IRV BLAMES JAKE took a rather interesting approach when it comes to the track selection. The songs are more bouncier, more fun and energy-filled signalling a climax or the end of a mind-blowing experience. Beautifully curated, the last mix succeeds in ending a well thought-out initiative.
Johannesburg-based producer, Cephas OFS, has been quietly making waves on the internet and innovating within the growing South African future beats scene. With a production style that is uniquely South African, Cephas never fails to impress. For his Sukwe Series, a beat series where he Africanises future beats, he puts his best foot forward and digs deep within his African roots to create beautiful soundscapes.
In the Hip Hop world, February is a special month. For one, it’s the month of birth of one the greatest Hip Hop producers to ever live – J Dilla. Secondly, it’s also the month of J Dilla’s death. Following J Dilla’s death on the 10th of February, 2006, the month has been regarded as a month to celebrate his greatness and genius.
Every year, producers the world over release Dilla-inspired tracks. Johannesburg-based producer, KaeB, has released his own Dilla tribute titled ‘Dilla’. The song has vocal chops from Look Of Love by Slum Village and the drums are referenced from Dilla’s unique method of laying drums.
Thiaps, a multi-talented creative, from Johannesburg has a rather interesting approach to creating and sharing art. With an open-mind, he surges forward with an unrivalled confidence and style. Unapologetically South African in how he manoeuvres, Thiaps is impressively captures the South African story.
Following his last release titled ‘Snegenege Vol. 1’, a short EP that was released towards the end of 2017, Thiaps managed to garner a significant amount of attention within the Joburg creative scene. Dibirie, a stand-out track from the EP, was featured on popular Youtube social media commentary show The Microwave Boys. Praised and heralded by his creative peers, Thiaps managed to set the precedent for what he has planned for 2018. One of the most unique selling points about Thiaps is how he understands and respects the process of creativity and how he breaks down art as a trained artist who, in his professional capacity, trades his creativity to earn a living.
To kick things off for 2018, he calls on his Mzansi Mnandi compadres to express the experiences collected as young black men figuring life out in the city of gold, and this is captured in a song. The track features two talented Joburg-based artists, B1 and Teddy, who bring a fresh energy to the song. All three artists represent Dipopaai with production handled by KaeB who happens to be a close associate of the camp. This song serves as the first official release from the collective for 2018.
Atlanta, Georgia based Nigerian artist, zarionuti, is innovative and on a journey to create the next African sound. Being based in America does not weaken his connection to the continent, in fact he is gifted a sense of pride that he can fearlessly display as he takes on the first world. Armed with an unshakeable spirit and a knack for creativity, zarionuti challenges conventions set for African music. A perfect example of a true world citizen, zarionuti pushes himself to create music that connects the world and music that is unapologetically African.
We were given the honour and the privilege to premiere the young singer’s latest single titled FINITO featuring AYLO. It’s a West African affair headed by two impressive Nigerian artists that are breaking boundaries.
South African has beautiful history. One that is documented by the many committed soldiers of the culture. With a documented history and timeline we can follow, the South African Hip Hop landscape can be expanded and grown into an advanced self-sufficient community that can foster an environment where successful businesses can thrive.
Hip Hop is not singular, it has different tiers each supported by different sub-cultures and movements. You have the trappers, the true schoolers, the ones that play within both spaces and the ones that play in the experimental realm of the genre (i.e. art rap). The different sub-cultures make Hip Hop the beautiful beast that is. Within each sub-culture, there are mavens who are gifted duties to take the highlight the glory of the community that they are a part of. In the case of the South African true school community, where the traditional elements of Hip Hop are still valued, DJ Q1 is a mover-and-shaker that is doing impressive work.
We had an opportunity to speak to DJ Q1, a respected DJ, turntablist and producer, who is based in Durban. A well-travelled Hip Hop scholar and entrepreneur, DJ Q1 has spotted a gap in the market and went full-force in building platforms for his demographic. We chopped it up with him about his recent venture – Radio Steez. Read the conversation below.
People within the alt Hip Hop scene know and respect you as producer, crate digger and DJ that fearlessly champions true school Hip Hop. The game has changed, the landscape of Hip Hop has changed and with that being said, how do you stay true to what you do with all the changes that happen to Hip Hop? DJ Q1: First of all thank you very much for offering us such a great opportunity to share our story with your audience and beyond. I just recently finished reading the ebook “Who Moved My Cheese” by Spencer Johnson and I have to admit that after reading the book I have asked myself some serious questions about change regards to the current state of South African Hip Hop and the world at large. Things have changed, pants are tighter, clothes are brighter, beats sounds different and even the atmosphere on radio and television platforms somewhat speaks this sudden change. With the same token, I have recently read “Start With Why” by Simon Sinik and to answer your question, knowing why, how and what made us fall in love with Hip Hop has always kept me going. The old school keeps me inspired, be it collecting, reading old school magazines, listening to tapes, sampling vinyl and turntablism. What has kept me going is knowing why I’m an artist and what motivates me as a person. I know out there, there is someone like me; who is looking for a platform to express how he/she feels without having to adhere to industry stereotypes and current trends. In a way we might be shooting ourselves in the foot but as a big fan of Apple I sometimes think it sucks but they have their ways of doing things which inspires me with what we are trying to achieve with Radio Steez. Some DJs have never touched or seen a vinyl record but that doesn’t make them whack and it does not makes us dope either. In a way we are trying to push a positive message, spread love and promote consciousness through the means of a digital platform without hurting anyone’s feelings but doing what we love. Hip Hop!
Where did it all begin for you? Many people know you as DJ Q-1 and now the founder of a digital media platform for the heads by the heads. How did your journey in Hip Hop culture begin for you? DJ Q1: The streets.
Your determination and passion is admirable. One can clearly tell that you love what you do and this also seen in how you have gone on to create your own platform, Radio Steez, which aims to be a much needed voice and platform for heads that appreciate “alternative” rap. What inspired that? The move to build the platform. DJ Q1: Besides doing a bit of photography at hip hop sessions like Splash Jam and 1808, in 2010 I started a digital magazine (Phresh Magazine) that focused on publishing stories of South African Hip Hop at the time I had been studying blogging and internet marketing for a while. When I sold the magazine to a Pretoria-based media company I moved to the Eastern Cape just a when I self published my book “100 REASONS WHY SOUTH AFRICAN HIPHOP IS IN DANGER OF BECOMING EXTINCT”. This book got me a 3 hour slot on a local radio station “Alfred Nzo Community Radio” where I’d also co-produce an indigenous music show. I fell in love with radio from there and my inspiration comes from seeing the need for a radio station that will not just bridge the gap between commercial and underground but the aim is to change the whole landscape. We trying to create a platform where listeners, advertisers and artists understand the importance of each other, because I believe they all co-exist. Lastly, as far as the state of South African Hip Hop, there is no need for another radio station that will repeat the stuff that’s playing on radio and television currently. From most music conferences and workshops I hear heads complain about how HYPE MAGAZINE changed and how radio sucks but we never do a thing about that. I personally think it’s high time we become part of the media and create platforms ideal for the kind of hip hop or environment we desire for our kids and start putting serious contributions to the preservation and heritage of African Hip Hop. Tell African stories to the world with an African perspective without trying to americanise our content for the sake of being accepted. The international audience is hungry for untamed African content and we are right here, we need to tell our own stories.
The internet has been a major tool in breaking down the industry walls in our country in the last 3 years. As someone who has been in traditional radio and other media circles in South African Hip Hop, why do you think it’s more important now to take to the net to share and build your ideas? DJ Q1: Remember what Ricky Rick said about the internet at the Metros? He was right. Not so long ago, AutoTrader completely moved to digital with a host of other companies like I SPEAK HIP HOP MAGAZINE, and Hype Magazine had plans to move to digital. The internet helps us have instant access to information, customers or instant reach to anyone in the world. I think it’s important now to have a balance in the media. From hip hop blogs with the raw content and online magazines who will publish great stories from the hood. Traditional media is cool but I guess that’s where I am able to embrace the change you spoke about. Where a Vinyl shop is still able to sell physical vinyl records and cassettes through the post office on the internet using sites like Bid or Buy, Amazon, Gumtree or EBay. In a way it’s like analogue meets digital.
As much as you’re moving into the digital arena with your online radio platform, you’re also an analogue head that chooses to do things a certain way, which is something that adds a rather interesting dynamic to you and what you do. How are you planning on incorporating your love of analogue into your digital platform? DJ Q1: The radio is an extension of what I do. The songs people send me would make it into my live dj sets and sometimes when I am out digging I find a nice album that makes it into my beat making sessions. Sometimes when playing a live dj set I spot a couple of loops and breaks that inspire songs. Just recently, we decided that we going 100% digital without a physical studio or address which makes it fun but people will still be able to find us running pop-up radio on international music festivals, music conferences, hip hop sessions, art galleries and the likes. In a way we can be in Johannesburg today and broadcast live in Cape Town tomorrow and Zimbabwe or Canada the next week. Being an analogue kid in a digital world helps identify some loopholes where you can marry the two like an MPC2000XL session on PRO TOOLS. By the way my sampler was released in August 1989 and that thing can take less than 40 seconds sample time so I always have to be creative of how much chopping is done but Audacity has been helpful. So the marriage works quite well.
What is your take on the indie media landscape in South Africa? Are we heading into the right direction? Are you seeing more positives than negatives in our space? DJ Q1: I always tell artists, the independent route is the best route at the moment and a friend of mine BYLWANSTA always proves me right. I see more positive and more opportunities through DIY indie labels, cassette labels and vinyl labels. My company also runs a digital indie vinyl/cassette label that’s focused on promoting beat makers, crate diggers and DJs. But our label (VINYL MONK) is currently put on hold as we’re rebranding & planning to do reissues of old South African Hip Hop from labels such as Pioneer Unit, Beats Against The Beast, Iapetus Records, Outrageous Records, etc… The digital space is the right space for being disruptive at the moment.
The launch of Radio Steez comes at time where the creatives you built the platform for were becoming more and more disgruntled due to the fact that they have no avenues to share their art. A lot people were thrilled to see the launch of your platform as it was a longtime coming. Have you noticed a lot of love and support since launch? DJ Q1: Yes. In the three months since we launched Radio Steez we have received so much love. We getting submissions from Spain, USA, France and other places I never thought we’d reach so soon. From the numbers, France is the largest supporter of our radio station after South Africa. Going digital was the right choice and I am hopeful that by the end of the year we will continue to touch a lot of heads and contribute our share in the preservation and promotion of our hip-hop heritage.
What are some of the challenges that you are facing with running Radio Steez? In Africa, internet adoption is slow and data costs are high, how are you working your way around this to make sure that your vision reaches as many people as possible? DJ Q1: It’s crazy! The data costs are too high but the same service provider would charge less fees in other parts of the world. We currently working on the launch of our new app, and getting that project done is sort of a mission because of limited funds. Content marketing is the biggest thing right now and as a digital platform we want to dive in as early as we can but limitations in funds and data have been a hindrance. Another challenge is getting the right people to work with, the plan is getting people who already doing things, for example; with shows it’s better to get someone who has been creating podcasts for a while than get a someone who doesn’t understand how this works but we are open to learning because we understand no one is perfect and later whoever gets on board has to grow. To see them get grow is more important. We just recently got offered an opportunity to partner with Our Portion Property Developers to get space but because of funds this has been a slow process. But also from our side in deciding whether we need a studio space or keep things strictly digital is another issue.
On that note, do you have any interests in expanding to other African regions and collaborating with other African brands playing in the same space as you? DJ Q1: We are definitely open in partnerships and brand collaborations with brands from the African diaspora and abroad, I believe this would allow us opportunities to learn and grow.
We’ve noticed that you have called on two well respected heads and active participants in the South African Hip Hop, namely Zakes and Elsirven, to join you as you build Radio Steez. What prompted you to call on them to assist you as you build and grow? DJ Q1: They are both people I highly respect in terms of the contribution they have put in the culture, when they approached me to do a show I was excited to offer them a platform to expand what they do in Johannesburg. We expecting more OG’s to join too. Having people with knowledge of the culture is what motivates the decision to say yes. I used to attend DJ Zakes Mixmaster’s legendary Splash Jam back in the days and it’s an honour to have him do a show on Radio Steez. In a way it helps him and Elsirven reach more people. There was really no need for us to start another radio station if we were going to do what the rest of the station are doing, I am praying and hoping we get more knowledgeable heads to do talk shows that speak the language of the streets, Hip Hop, Boom Bap, current state of Hip Hop in Africa and the world, socio-economic issues, political landscape, and a whole lot of other things including
entrepreneurship, Pan-African topics and the likes.
Let’s talk about balance a bit. How do you balance being a DJ, producer, husband, father, and entrepreneur and the main man behind Radio Steez? DJ Q1: Very soon I would like to hand over the many responsibilities of running the initiative to someone else and watch this dream grows. This is not mine and I do not own hip-hop, and hip-hop is a very complicated culture to be part of. I have someone I share all these ideas with before they come to life and she has been very supportive. I give my wife all the attention she deserves and my son is doing well too. He knows how to do a baby scratch and that puts a smile on my face but would never force him to be a DJ or a Hip Hop head. My wife likes books and writing so we sometimes go digging together. I’d be digging a lot of personal development books, vinyl records and old school magazines. I would like to send a big S/O to my wife for being so supportive.
Follow and support Radio Steez on social media to help the media platform grow and expand.
Twenty-year old producer, AmoBeatz (real name Jitotwe Tshombela), is remarkably talented. Having grown up in Zambia’s third largest city, Ndola, AmoBeatz is tasked with taking Zambian creativity to greater and newer heights. When we speak of African music, we often look to more prominent countries with budding music industries like Kenya, South Africa, Ghana and Nigeria – an evident injustice committed by the world. Talent is buried in some of the most unsuspecting corners of the continent, producing work with an international appeal.
Interestingly enough, AmoBeatz is currently stationed in Botswana. Steadily strengthening his name in the streets of Gaborone, accompanied by a group of like-minded and creative compadres. Like a true generation Z kid, the internet is where he chooses to share his creativity and artistic complexity with the world. The connections and networks he builds are products of his interactions in the virtual world and as much there is not a lot of offline traction, the buy-in from online music communities is enough for now.
As young as AmoBeatz is, he has achieved a decent amount of accolades for his career, from being a sought-after producer in the Botswana Hip Hop and R&B scene to being behind the production of chart-topping singles by prominent acts in the Southern African country. Having produced for names like Veezo View, AMMo Ski Mask and BanT, AmoBeatz has built the right connections for himself which ultimately leads to weight added to his name. The consistent work allows him to evade the boundaries of the local music industry in Botswana, as his music is slowly penetrating the South African industry.
A truly gifted and multi-disciplined artist, AmoBeatz is gearing up to be Africa’s next big thing. He could blow as a singer/songwriter or as a producer. The thumping, futuristic beats that he produces easily draw in fans from the West and the urban African spaces.
London-based singer/songwriter HURUis one of the best black British artists to come out of the UK in the last two years. With her avant-garde style and aesthetic, she draws you in with her aura and her soothing voice. Stylistically, the music she makes could be regarded as alternative because of how it sounds and the topics she chooses to challenge generally do not fit into the general pop mould.
On her latest release, she speaks about love and time, and the understanding that is required to make a relationship work.
We were given the privilege and the honour to premiere this brilliant song which you can stream below:
Following a stint in Vuzu’s The Hustle, Obe Bomayehas gone on to reposition his brand and shift his focus. The new year brings a changed artist, an artist that has managed to transition from the internet and into traditional media platforms, more specifically TV. Now, as much as The Hustle was a competition, it thrust him before the eyes of the South African Hip Hop game. The mission became bigger than simply growing his online following. The focus went from chasing online streams and downloads to leveraging TV screen time to further his vision and stretch his reach. For any artist, getting an expansive reach and access to an audience that has already been built and nurtured is a dream come true.
Being in front of thousands of rap fans, who are often judgemental and unreasonable, brings in a lot of pressure and expectation. Obe has not crumbled due to the pressure, he has kept his head down and worked to prove to us why we should pay attention to him. And this time around he has a lot to say and to prove, which brings us to discuss Pile On – his latest single produced by Bonolo Thomas. On the single, Obe assumes a braggadocious stance as he confidently raps over Bonolo’s electronic-influenced Hip Hop beat. In his lyrics, he details the inner workings of his mind, vocalises his thoughts on the game and comments on the moves of his peers. The one powerful element about the track is how he reclines into a nonchalant, easy-going way of delivering his lyrics. He finds comfort in the beat and delivers the raps with style and flair.
Obe has set the tone and the standard for 2018, with an approach that is more rounded and more daring creatively. Testing different textures, sounds and experimenting with his voice and rap delivery will help him stand out from the pack. And he is undoubtedly on the right track.
South African independent music is growing at an alarming rate. From Pretoria’s prominent Amapiano scene to the youthful trap scene in Johannesburg’s East Rand region, South African music lovers are spoilt for choice. We no longer have to look beyond our borders to be inspired or worship artists from the West as creative gods. When an industry grows, smaller scenes also sprout out from the borders of popular culture. These scenes, as small as they may be, are upheld by passionate individuals who are instrumental in laying the foundation for the scene to grow and reach more people. Structures and systems need to be built, and that creates a need for labels to be founded and digital distribution companies need be established.
On the point of small scenes, Durban has been at the forefront of the lo-fi, dusty beats scene. Many may have thought Johannesburg or Cape Town are the cities that are leading in terms of the growth of boom bap based lo-fi beats talent. Movements and initiative like iqoqo leqoqo and Radio Steez, have been working tirelessly to build the scene and grow the scene. Many of these movements, as much as they analogue-focused, have taken to the internet to share want they do with the masses. Armed with the understanding of social media and other digital platforms, these movements are building solid online communities which go on have a positive offline effect on the scene.
Recently launched label, Jooba Records, is one of the labels that are taking these new sounds and culture to bigger heights. The label focuses on unearthing talent from different corners of South Africa, connecting them and getting people to support the music. The label’s vision is simple: curating a modern African sound under the umbrella of instrumental Hip Hop. The label has a digital and physical release strategy – a strategy that a lot of international alternative-music focused labels are using.
The label has built a solid roster that stretches three three provinces, namely Mpumalanga, Gauteng and Kwa-Zulu Natal. The artists are some of the best talents to come out in the local beats scene with Jazteq (founding member) leading the pack.