South African Artists You Shouldn’t Sleep On, Fourth Edition

This is an article series where I cover independent songs and artists who I believe are releasing great stuff and have amazing potential. 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 Fourth Edition. You can read on the first, second and third edition here and here and here.

Llucky

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Basic Info: Our first artist, Llucky Lluck, is a 21 year old rapper hailing from Centurion, Pretoria. This third-year business management student has been building a catalogue that dates back to January 2017 with the release of his debut tape, Beginner’s Lluck. His range of music explores different strands within hip-hop’s expansive banner. Thus far, he’s released three projects; the aforementioned Beginner’s Lluck, collaborative EP Double L Dollar$ with producer Doou$hii and his latest tape which dropped in October 2018, The Good, The Bad, The Lucky, hereby referred to as TGTBTL.

Recommendation: Who Better. Llucky is very much a rapper in the classical sense. His music is front loaded and tailored to accentuate clever word-play, intricate flow switch-up and deliberate bars, often without the need or use of a chorus. Llucky’s music often inhabits the braggadocio space of rap and in Who Better we see one of his best displays of it thus far. Conceptually the track is very simple, it’s a braggadocious call out. Llucky gives out a challenge to find any of his peers that are better than him whilst simultaneously detracting the might of those same peers. Such content requires rappers to be batting on 10 to make it believable and Llucky rises to the occasion with blistering confidence. Backed by a sample of Angie’s Stone’s Wish I Didn’t Miss You, which is an interpolation of The O’Jay’s Back Stabbers, Llucky provides one of his standout vocal performances on TGTBTL. The song does an excellent job of framing Llucky’s persona and skills as he makes his case for greatness in two verses before blog-favourite Tron Pyre takes over, closing out the song with a series of melismatic riffs that build on the song’s title. Very reminiscent of the rap-styles of the late 90’s and early 00’s, Who Better is a good listen for classic rap lovers that positions Llucky as a possible innovator of that sound for hip-hop connoisseurs.

Love, Sechaba

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Basic Info: Our next artist is a multi-talented entertainer that’s currently based in Midrand, Love, Sechaba. Born as Sechaba Ramphele, this 24-year old is most known for his acting skills, appearing on multiple adverts as well as on acclaimed tv productions like The Road, but his talents also diversify as a singer, music producer and filmmaker. His style of music can best be described as experimental and fusion, often infusing elements from across the blues spectrum as well as hip-hop, jazz, R&B and swing. Love, Sechaba has previously released two EPs, titled 3.9 and 4, and a collection of singles. His next body of work titled godot is due for release next year.

Recommendation: Open Doors. One can expect that the references found in an artist like Love, Sechaba to be extremely diverse given the nature of how experimental he is. Love, Sechaba is armed with a flexible and wide baritone range that can encompass a wide set of musical landscapes and when you add the fact that he produces his own music, it means that every now and again you’ll get a track from him like Open Doors. Conceptually, Open Doors is an existential trip that finds Sechaba trying to reconcile the actions of an inebriated night. Musically, the track is the blending of various opposing sounds mastered together for an incredibly rich listen that continuously alludes to danger. The opening synth, that runs through the entire track, is ominous in a way that would fit perfectly on a score of Stranger Things, the drum pattern straddles the line between kwaito music and dance, and Sechaba’s Michael Jackson-esque vocal only adds to blurring those lines into a genre that’s hard to pin-point. The result of all this blending is a listen that is both familiar yet distinctive, reminiscent and futuristic but at the core of it all, it’s progressive. Open Doors is the sign of an artist that’s actively trying to forge their own lane even if that lane lies within uncharted territory.

Ngwato Mamiane

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Basic Info: Hailing from Acornhoek, Greenvalley we find another entertainer hybrid with Ngwato Mamiane. This 25-year old is an actor best known for playing the role of Nyiko Masilo on e-tv’s Scandal but he is steadily building a name for himself as an artist. Ngwato Mamiane is an alternative hip-hop artist whose music takes strong influence from 90’s era hip-hop and contemporary styles such as trap and infuses it with various styles including alt-rock, blues and baroque pop. Ngwato has dropped two bodies of work thus far; Sunsets which dropped in May 2016 and Spencer which dropped in September 2018.

Recommendation: The Lights. Ngwato is an incredibly precise and revealing storyteller. He has a great knack of not only inhabiting music landscapes but he also engrosses the listener into it at the same time. The Lights is one of the songs that finds Ngwato not only inhabiting a landscape but reveling in it. At its core, the song is a defiantly triumphant anthem where Ngwato celebrates the feeling of peace he currently has in spite of the darkness he’s endured. The song’s verses consistently contrast his current joy with his past depression in a way that makes the song feel like his hard-earned moment in the sun. Sonically, the song is a cinematic slice of alt-hip hop that infuses elements of trap and baroque pop. Mamiane vocally navigates the different styles with a layered vocal performance that finds him conversational and introspective in the verses, before completely exploding in the chorus with a defiance and liberation that recalls punk. Artistically, Mamiane is carefully crafting his own sound and lane with Spencer standing as one of the most sonically cohesive indie projects I’ve come across this year. The Lights stands as a delectable glimpse into the psyche of this trailblazing entertainer.

Nirvana Nokwe-Mseleku

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Basic Info: Nirvana Nokwe-Mseleku continues the trend within this article of entertainers operating in multiple fields. Although she’s best known for her music, this 22-year old also works as an actress, a podcaster, vision mixer and a filmmaker just to name a few. Her music is a rather eclectic and experimental mix of sounds that range from new wave, blues and pop to hip-hop, trap and soul. Thus far she has released two bodies of work Xhulu and The Travel Playlist as well as a slew of stand-alone singles. Her next body of work, Cosmic Bae Trilogy III, is scheduled to drop 14 February 2019.

Recommendation: Medusa. Nirvana’s musical library of references is extremely expansive and it shows in how diverse her discography is. One of the things that stays relatively consistent is her enchantress-like approach to her music that manifests itself through her atmospheric soundscapes or her cooing vocal performances. Thematically, Nirvana likes to explore ancient mythologies and this song finds her sights set on one of Greek mythology’s most iconic figures, Medusa. Conceptually, Medusa finds Nokwe at a crossroads dissecting her notions of companionship. She builds imagery that plays to how fleeting and futile love can be whilst still beckoning the process anyway. Musically, Medusa is a pop ballad that injects New-Wave sensibilities with soul and PBR&B to create a sound that recalls 80’s power ballads in a way that feels current. Vocally, Nokwe provides one of her most layered vocal performances, showcasing her signature falsetto flips whilst also servicing all her other registers. Medusa is a gorgeous pop track that feels perfectly crafted to act as a soundtrack to romantic moments and films

Sam Fisher

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Basic Info: I’ve previously done an individual article on Sam Fisher which covers his basic info that you can read about here.

Recommendation: What You Like. Sam Fisher is incredibly versatile as a hip-hop artist that positions himself almost as a rapping crooner. One of the key factors which bolsters his versatility and makes him unique as an artist is his vocal phrasing and placement. Fisher takes great care with his delivery of lyrics; each line feels considered, not only in the cadence but in the style as well. That type of consideration showcases a maturity and understanding of vocal dynamics not commonly employed by a great deal of Fisher’s his contemporaries. One of his most fruitful lanes is when he’s able to inject soul music into his pieces, as seen in What You Like. What You Like is backed by an infectious sample from Leroy Hutson’s, lead singer of The Impressions, 1973 soul classic So In Love With You with Hutson’s vocals serving as the track’s hook. The song at its core is an incredibly simple love song. Lyrically, the track finds Fisher musing over the feelings he has for a girl he’s been courting for a few months and moreso how comfortable he is with her. His musings come off as more introspective than performative; he comes to realize not only how much he’s in love with her, but the reasons that back up that claim. Within that introspection and simplicity lies the magic of the song and it transports hip-hop soul into the space of young love.

Hidden Gems

The remaining artists on the curated playlist include musicians who we’ve covered before like Malachi and Tron Pyre as well as other tracks from other trailblazers with upcoming releases who we’d like to cover in the future like Elizee, The Big Hash and Lucille Slade. My personal favourite tracks despite the one’s previously highlighted are Lucille Slade’s What You Think About That, Tron Pyre’s City of God and Elizee’s Ruthless. Enjoy and I will see you in the new year.

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