The originators of the Mzansi Mnandi sub-genre have returned after not being visible since we first got to know them through their breakout single, Madala.XMPL is one of the few South African urban music groups that are heralded as the innovators pushing the boundaries in sound, style and language. Innovation can definitely be expected from XMPL, as the members – Bringo (real name Sthembiso Mpehle) and KaeB (real name Kabelo Tsoako) are young creatives who are seasoned in other elements of creativity like animation, sound and motion design.
The vibe XMPL curates can be described as a new age South African bounce that can easily draw international listeners. A glimpse into the experiences of young black South African males are perfectly captured in the new project – Voicenotes & Breakfasts. The project is highly conceptual as the theme lays reference to the raw, unguarded and exposed state that people find themselves in with regards to the relations that they have with other people. Technology has made it easy for millennials to communicate with each other and the ease of communication, as convenient as it is, has created new problems with how young people communicate with each other.
Bringo has an idiosyncratic personality and nature, somewhat quirky yet hard-hitting and packed with gems of knowledge. Simply put, Bringo is an aficionado in what he does – the style of writing, delivery and cadences are incomparable. He delivers most of the raps on the project and has talented, up and coming singers, namely Naye Ayla and Lisa Tobi, joining him to extend and heighten the vibe. The last track on the project, titled Tyda, is structured in a posse-cut manner as XMPL calls on their associates to create a vibe-filled track.
The production, which is handed by KaeB, is dreamy and complements Bringo’s vocals. In all honesty, rapper-producer duos are rare in not only South Africa, but the entire African continent – so the duo is playing in a space which has a lot of opportunity. The duo is enterprising, creative and innovative as they usher in a much needed fresh energy in the African music landscape. The Mzansi Mnandi sound is undoubtedly going to rival popular African genres like Afrobeats – a genre that has been embraced wholeheartedly by the world. One of the unique selling points of XMPL is that they are comfortable in their own skin, they trust and know that their creativity is more than enough for them to create a lasting legacy.
Looking for a sound that is authentically South African, but also has an international appeal? Well, XMPL has that and more. They are not only setting an example of how other acts should manoeuvre and create, but also creating a culture which has the potential to take over African youth culture.
South Africa is seeing a healthy rise in the innovation of authentic music, culture and the avenues used for expression. The country is experiencing a defining moment where young people are untangling themselves from societal holds as they begin understanding how important it is to own their identity and their representation. The current generation of youth, even with their own unique struggles and problems, is relentlessly finding new ways of expressing itself which invites onlookers, local and international, to have a real view of South African youth culture through a lens that is owned by the brave and creative youth of South Africa.
We cannot deny the power that the west still has on how young people in Africa view themselves and this is due to the magnitude and influence of western entertainment. As time proceeds, more young people in Africa are paving their own way, creating and telling their own stories. One group in particular that is pioneering a new wave and is undoubtedly shifting youth culture to a good place, is none other than the Johannesburg based duo XMPL.
We recently connected with the duo online and found out more about them and how their musical and creative journey started. Through back and forth conversations via email, we managed to knock an interview with them which turned out to be very interesting.
First things first, we would like to thank you guys for giving us your time. Let’s jump straight in, tell us more about XMPL? From what we’ve gathered online, XMPL is a duo. Who forms part of the duo? XMPL: Firstly XMPL would love to thank you guys for the support we really appreciate that.
XMPL comprises of two good friends namely Producer/Animator KaeB (Kabelo Tsoako) Songwriter/Vocalist and Animator Bringo (Sthembiso Brian Mpehle).
Where did your journey in music begin? How long has it been? We exist in a really beautiful time when it comes to how boundaries are being pushed in South Africa, musically that is, you guys must have an interesting journey on how it all started out for you.
Bringo: We’ve both been highly influenced by music ever since we where kids, both local and international music. I used to perform way back in primary school, reciting Andre 3000, Skwatta Kamp and Pitch Black Afro lyrics to my classmates. I wrote my first official verse in grade 7 after watching the movie 8mile.
KaeB: For me music has always been a thing but I can say it officially began in grade 10.
What is the significance of the name XMPL ? Mind letting us in on how it came about?
Bringo: The concept behind XMPL came soon after KaeB and I officially met at an Animation company we both used to work for. We would have long conversations about the music industry in our country and more often than non we would complain about how a lot of emerging artists where literally just mimicking other artists and not really creating or adding value to the craft. This was when we decided that instead of always complaining about the game, lets rather be an ‘example’ of what we feel the game should be, from our sound, visuals to our overall brand. Hence the name XMPL which is pronounced example.
XMPL has a different sound which is definitely innovative. Your approach to Hip Hop is quite refreshing. Can you tell us more about your style of music and how it came about?
KaeB: Our style really comes from various genres of music, from Jazz, Neo Soul, Boom bap, Kwaito, House Music the list is endless, also us not trying to conform to the norm is what helps us find our style, and remain fresh and unique.
How are you guys planning to leverage the power of the internet? The internet has made it possible for artists to fully adopt a DIY approach to make sure that their ideas come into being.
KaeB: We exist mostly online, that’s where most of our reception comes from honestly. About a year ago, one of my beats was played by Soulection Radio, which just goes to show how much power we have online. Also we are known for the Kronikles of Hip Hop which is an online animated series created by Phaatoonz, which was founded by Bringo. In a nutshell the net has really helped us push our brand in many ways and we will continue to exploit it!!LOL.
What do you guys make of the South African music industry? Do you think that it is accommodating to drastic changes which have the potential to shift culture? Because in all honesty, you guys offer a creative release which is authentically South African which can easily be exported to other countries.
Bringo: I honestly feel like there’s much more that can be done to improve our industry, this is why we exist. The biggest problem is we’ve developed what I call an “Import behaviour” which means all we do is adopt styles, cultures from abroad and convince ourselves that they’re authentic and originally South African. This becomes a problem because all we now have are a bunch of cheap imitations, we are like the China of music. That time we have so much original and authentic cultures, styles, and sounds that the world has yet to experience, this is what we are trying to put out as XMPL.
Can you describe your creative process? What can one expect from a XMPL studio session?
Bringo: A lot of laughter, mumbling and freestyling. We usually vibe out as soon as KaeB creates a melody on fruity. The writing process usually comes way after, once I’ve come up with a few catchy flows.
Who are some of your influences, locally and internationally?
Bringo & KaeB: Mdu, Andre 3000, J Dilla, Madlib, Flying Lotus, Thebe, Hugh Masikela, The Internet, Joe Nina, Pitch Black Afro, Thandiswa Mazwai, Micheal Jackson, Bonobo, The Streets, Mike Snow, Mr Scruff, Twistyle, Mawilis, LOL the list is endless.
There are ongoing talks within Hip Hop circles globally about the disconnect between the new generation and the old generation, where the old generation is talking down on the new generation and the new generation is saying well F it, it’s our time and we’re going to do Hip Hop or music in our own way. What is XMPL’s view on that? Do you think it’s important to pay homage to those that laid the foundation for you to do what you do?
Bringo: I’d just like to clarify something, XMPL is not a “HipHop” Duo, our catalogue of music comprises of more than just Hip hop. We would like to think of ourselves as Mzansi Mnandi. However to answer your question, it’s always good to pay homage and understand where any and every genre began, this makes it easier for you as an artist to break the rules and come up with new ways of communicating ideas. I feel the problem comes when people become purists so much that they want to preserve the art in such a way that it doesn’t grow. Hip Hop is the fastest growing genre of music in my opinion, from the culture to the sound, everything about Hip Hop is always changing every day. So I think the disconnect comes when the old school doesn’t want to let the kids live!
What can someone who is not familiar with XMPL expect from a XMPL project?
KaeB: Well a lot of different sounds ranging from House, Kwaito, Jazz and Neo Soul all fused together, Alongside Bringo’s crazy unorthodox melodies, flows and harmonies.
Are you guys working on any project that we should look out for?
KaeB: Yeah we are currently working on a project titled Voicenotes and Breakfast, with our first single being Madala, which is currently out on Soundcloud, Itunes and local radio stations such as Yfm. We also shot a dope video you can check out on youtube; XMPL-Madala.
We’re nearing the end of 2016, what are some of your plans for 2017?
Bringo: Well we have a lot in store for the coming year, like dropping our first project, more music videos, crazy collabo’s, innovative live performances, merchandise, touring and TV shows.
In three words, describe what being a creative/artist in South Africa entails?
Bringo: Perseverence Patience Poverty LOL.
In closing, where can people follow you online? Any words for your existing fans and potential fans?
XMPL: You can find us on Instagram, twitter @XMPL_ZA and on YouTube XMPL- Madala also for bookings email us on email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you very much.
You can check out the Pha Toonz Youtube channel here.