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.