South African Artists You Shouldn’t Be Sleeping On, First Edition.

We’re closing in on six months since this blog started! On this journey, I’ve been exposed to an incredible amount of young artists on the come-up creating good music and there are too many to individually cover at this point. So with that in mind I’ve decided to release this series where I’ll be covering independent songs and artists who are releasing great stuff. At the end of each of these articles there’ll be curated playlists with the featured artists music and other hidden gems. Without further ado, this is the First Edition.

Gvbriel

Basic Info: Gvbriel is a killer R&B/Soul vocalist hailing from Pietermaritzburg. Previously known as Austin Lurring, the 22 year-old artist made the lives in the first season of The Voice SA and for good reason; this kid has one of the warmest and disarming voices on the come up. Since The Voice, Gvbriel has grown not only as a vocalist but an all round musician; he independently produced most of Intuition, his first EP. Still About It, his first single, has started making rounds on Channel O and is soon to be a hit.

Recommendation: Get It Right. Gvbriel self-proclaims himself as ‘Drake’s Nephew’ on his Instagram page and this song evidences why. Get It Right is a confessional trap-soul banger that finds Gvbriel laying it all on the line for his latest conquest. The song’s deliberate mix of ‘braggadoccio whilst vulnerable’ lyrics makes it feel right at home with the best of Drake and Bryson Tiller’s trap-soul bangers. The main difference being that Lurring has a stronger set of pipes to show off, and he does so sparingly. He skillfully keeps the track simmering with vocal flourishes; teasing his lower-register with the tight harmonies as well as his vocal agility with light fluid runs. Get It Right finds him smartly treading the trap-soul path laid by his predecessors whilst teasing what he can deliver more differently. Soulful with a radio-friendly appeal, this song grows on you with every listen.

That Ego

Basic Info: That Ego is one of the sickest rappers coming out of Mpumalanga. His style is a modern twist on the classic hip-hop born from the mid-90’s. The 24-year old isn’t just a skilled wordsmith but a professional sound engineer and producer as well. His engineering skills are really showcased by how intricate and clean his productions are. With four sleek singles already out, Regrets, his upcoming LP, looks to be one not to miss.

Recommendation: Take Control. At one point in the song, Take Control finds Ego proclaiming “I’m a classic”, and whilst he’s still got a way to go in proving that in terms of output, this track shows his potential to be one. Sonically, this track is an irresistible mixture of classic and modern hip-hop. The track is grounded by a slinky female vocal sample whilst the beat balances the hard-hitting boom-bap drum patterns reminiscent of classic hip-hop with the snare flourishes that have made trap music so iconic. It does this in such a way that not only keeps you engaged to the song’s excellent production but the production itself doesn’t overpower the vocals. That Ego and Kat Michaels make the most of the indelible production with confessional and hard-hitting bars. Ego particularly shines on the song, expertly switching flows as he recounts a rather tumultuous relationship and the themes that come with it. If you’re a fan of classic hip-hop and it’s current renaissance, this is a track for you.

Amnesty

Basic Info: Amnesty is an incredibly multi-faceted creative playing her hands in multiple fields. At 20, she is currently an animation student and writer. Whilst being a student she’s started dropping music on Soundcloud. She released her first mixtape offering at the beginning of last year and has since followed it up with a digital single Spirit Chaser. Her style of music is incredibly diverse and an experimental mix of neo-soul, jazz, blues & afro-soul. An incredibly emotive singer, she lays the potential of being one of the key storytellers the next generation has.

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Recommendation: Wishful Thinking. Wishful Thinking finds Amnesty diving into the world of experimental jazz with great abandon. Backed by a piano and an unassuming drum pattern, Amnesty’s vocals take center stage. The song is a love letter that adopts an incredibly loose vocal structure that reads like a freestyle that manifested as it went along. In that looseness lies the magic of the song, the mixture of her stacked harmonies and her consistent beckons for her companion to come over feel all the more real. She navigates themes of infatuation and desperation, sans melancholy, that read as young love in one of its purest and rawest forms.

Stanley Kaye

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Basic Info: Hailing from Johannesburg, this 21 year-old is another one-man production. A singer-songwriter and rapper with a sound engineering background. He released his first EP, No Fool, at the end of May. Sonically, the project is an engrossing fusion of trap music and 90’s hip-hop that really puts an emphasis on atmospheric soundscapes. His vocal performances push his music into an alternative hip-hop space that is incredibly familiar & nostalgic whilst hinting at the fresh and new.

Recommendation: No Fool. The title track is a solid introduction to Kaye as an artist. This throwback jam is littered with an array one-liners and maxims that hint at the type of artist he is and wants to be. Although the song’s main hook is “Mama never raised no fool”, the entire project’s mission statement can be found at the end of the song’s chorus: “I write what I like and I like what I write”. The song confidently places Kaye as a newly liberated being that’s done pandering to other people’s expectations; moreso, he invokes the listener to do the same. The spectral production really makes the song feel anthemic. It’s laced with background vocals that continually hit at the song’s main hook, keeping the song consistently catchy whilst Kaye raps about his upbringing and current mindset. No Fool is an ode to independence and singularity that’s extremely fitting for someone owning their freedom.

Benny Afroe

Basic Info: If you’ve followed this blog at length you’d know that I’m a big supporter of this artist as I’ve already written two pieces on him, which you can find here and here. You can get to know more about him on those.

Recommendation: Blow It Up. Benny Afroe is an artist that consistently breaks and bends structural song conventions to varying degrees of success. Blow It Up finds him switching up multiple conventions and striking gold in innovative ways. Structurally, the song is a summery slice of afro-soul. It’s minimalist production places him upfront as he gives his most affecting performance to-date. Lyrically, the song finds Afroe at a crossroads commiserating a failed dream; however, the lyrics abandon a consistent rhyming scheme or rhythmic flow. His vocal performance not only justifies the abandonment of conventions but serves to amplify the pain and commiseration. Afroe attacks the song with the affected honesty of someone that has downed a few whiskeys at a bar and has now decided to vent his feelings to a nearby stranger or unsuspecting friend. The production manages to balance the blues from getting too depressive whilst the harmonies serve to comfort. This unconventional ballad is one of my favourite songs of the year.

Hidden Gems

The remaining artists on the playlist include musicians who we’ve covered before like Sam Fisher, Dibi and Reeza Thomas as well as other tracks from other trailblazers with upcoming releases who we’ll cover in more depth in the future like Sechaba Ramphele, We$Gang and Ngwato Mamiane. Enjoy.

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