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Featured Music Reviews

Umlobi Wezinkondlo Nesiqi: Willing Listeners Forum Is A South African Hip Hop Anomaly

When people speak of real rap, the conversations are almost always centered around lyricism, braggadocious confidence and impactful content. The standards and prerequisites are pretty clear in the real rap realm of Hip Hop, and everyone involved in the culture is well aware of what is expected for rhythm-and-poetry practitioners. Rap today has fast become a humongous commercial beast, beating genres like rock and pop in popularity. It is almost unrecognizable from its beginnings which were characterized by beating the odds, using societal strife to fuel creativity and aiding the process of repairing the systematic destruction of communities of people of color. With a school of thought, rules and ideologies developed, the culture spread like a wildfire globally, so its prominence is no surprise.

One of the most fascinating aspects about Hip Hop is how malleable, adaptable and welcoming the culture is, and for that very reason it has been taken in by different cultures all over the world, repackaged and adapted to fit certain demographics. In South Africa, a country that is blessed with eleven official languages, rap is not just linguistic exercise that people randomly latch on to pass time, but it serves as a medium of expression that is heavily influenced by life – the good and the bad. We have some of the best wordsmiths in the game who are feared, respected and adored in the continent in the mainstream and underground realm. With a thriving mainstream Hip Hop industry, it is easy to forget that we have a healthy underground scene that produces world-class artists that can go toe-to-toe with the world’s best. Willing Listeners Forum, a rapper and producer from Pietermaritzburg, is a soldier for the underground – pushing for impactful, competitive and impressive rap. Fighting off the urge to dumb it down or dilute his artistry seems like it is a struggle that troubles him as he innovates within the perimeters of the true school – gritty beats, bars and great concepts.

image of wlf
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Fusing IsiZulu and the Queen’s language, he paints a picture of his life, builds imaginative worlds and offers advice to his peers in the game and consumers of his art. Over the years, he has released a number of releases which have allowed him to amass a decent following online and has built a dope network of like-minded artists. To kick 2019 off, he released a seven-minute teaser where he flexes his lyrical muscle and genius. Rapping over dust beat production from Coryayo and Cosmic Analog Ensamble, he raps his heart out expressing himself. He does not only speak of real rap but he shows it, displaying his talent in an exceptional performance. He is an anomaly in the South African Hip Hop and he carries the badge confidently as he carves his own path.

Listen to his latest offering, Nip Swag, below.

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Featured Music Premiere Reviews

Unapologetically Bantu: Willing Listeners Forum accentuates the daily experiences of young Bantu men in alternative culture

Pietermaritzburg born creative, Willing Listeners Forum (real name Sbongiseni Dlamini), is unapologetically Bantu. An individual who chooses to live his truth beyond the boundaries of mass culture, Willing Listeners Forum is a necessary anomaly within the creative industry. An artist, more often than not, does not choose to exist and communicate their art in the alternative realm – it’s often who they are. A story of who they are, their upbringing, their influences and the knowledge their ancestors passed down from generation to generation is expressed and relayed in their art. Their artistry is connected to the very fabric of who they are, their make-up and their purpose.

With the help of longtime friend and frequent collaborator, Blue Fluff, WLF (short for Willing Listeners Forum) has shifted the surface within the South African alternative and underground rap circles. Having started out in Kwa-Zulu Natal, he has gone on to move to the city of gold, the city where dreamers journey to in hopes to make their dreams a reality – Johannesburg. Armed with nothing but his unique artistry, he has tasked himself to accentuate the daily experiences of young Bantu men in alternative culture. The music he makes pays homage to greats of old, elevates and breaks boundaries of modern rap music. Simplistic in its nature, the songwriting is enhanced by WLF’s understanding of music which allows him to curate a vibe – a skill that only a few artists possess.

After working tirelessly trying to get the attention of the masses, WLF has gone on to release the long-awaited Misto EP. He called on fellow artists and frequent collaborators, Johnny Wxlf, Orakill and Heatwave Deniro. Twelve of the thirteen tracks were produced by Blue Fluff, with only one song produced by the talented Harrismith-based producer, Swish 8-8.

Stream/Watch our premiere of the first single of the Misto EP.

The Misto EP is a collection of experiences and life lessons, captured beautifully by WLF as he hovers so elegantly on the beats. As much as the EP may be a reflection of where WLF is in life, but it also serves as a work of artwork created out of defiance. How you may ask? The word “kaffir”, a derogatory word used to describe people of colour in South Africa, is reclaimed and given a new meaning. Like the word nigger in the States, kaffir communicates the same thing but has been reclaimed by the marginalized as a new term of endearment in an act of defiance. WLF boldly does the same thing, strikes a nerve and forces you to think of the power we often give to words used to describe people of colour. The genius behind what WLF does with his music is that the often ignored and uncomfortable topics are embedded in his craft, sometimes unnoticeably. The gems of knowledge that are communicated in his music are coated eloquently by the atmosphere created in his music.

The rapport between WLF and Blue Fluff is a sublime act of the universe, where the universe showcases its power by connecting two creatives that understand each other so groundbreaking work can be delivered. There is something about the music, something you cannot find in mainstream music – the connection and the vibe. Ideas are given an opportunity to flourish, innovative concepts live within the music and courage is also displayed. Courage to avert from creating what is popular.

The themes communicated in the Misto EP are something you’d rarely hear from a South Africa rap project. The topics range from African pride, love, women, youthful ignorance and the struggles of life.

Stream The Misto EP below: