Digital music platforms like Soundcloud have gained prominence over the last few years as a legitimate space for independent artists to not only experiment but grow their audiences. These developments, specifically across the rhythmic crossover spectrum, have ushered in a new school of artists locally. A big part of this movement is pushed by savvy young artists of high school and varsity going age, an array of who we’ve already covered on this blog like Malachi and Elohim. One of the figures at the forefront of this movement, fast-breaking into the mainstream fold is Tshegofatso Kungwane more commonly known as The Big Hash. Within this article we aim to dissect the rising star’s latest body of work, Young, whilst exploring what makes this 19-year old so compelling as a musician.
Over the last few years, The Big Hash has steadily built his name and fanbase within the Soundcloud space and hip-hop communities through the release of viral projects The Big Hash Theory and Life + Times of a Teenage Influence as well as unofficial compilation The Road to Young. The successes of which have lead to him becoming one of the first breakthrough artists born in this century entering the mainstream with major co-signs, collaborations and spotlights. These successes have also come with very specific sacrifices and fall-outs and it’s those fall-outs that thematically frame a large part of Young.
Conceptually, Young is a personal record that has multiple through lines that are explored throughout the album; the most consistent being his place as an outcast and within that, the fractured relationships that exacerbate that feeling. Save Me, the project’s opener, explores these themes through the lens of calling out the misgivings of a failed romantic relationship whilst introducing his mission statement as a person who’s not here to make friends. His focus on fractured relationships then turn to mentors and adult-figures in Nothing Comes Free as he calls out a slew of adults who’ve let him down or forsaken him from his father to figures within the industry. The Usual turns inwards on him reconciling with previous insecurities he’s had about himself, about his place in the world, his being an outcast in high school and a dropout thereafter. He references how at this point in time he would have been within first year, read university, but he flips that within the chorus as a flipping off of the individuals from his highschool that doubted him whilst also gaining confidence in his stature. There’s a consistent dichotomy at play throughout the record with The Big Hash being an ascendant youth figure confident in his position whilst at the same time a teenager grappling with rather complex and mature conflicts. It’s a unique tension and perspective that’s relatively unexplored within the streaming era of music.
Sonically, Young is a slick trap record that blends into sub-genres like classic hip-hop, afrobeat and contemporary R&B. Although he’s consistently pegged as a rapper, The Big Hash’s output and musical sensibilities speak to an artist who’s sonic palette is wider than rap as an art form and hip-hop as a genre. On a vocal front, the record begins with Hash consistently framed as just a rapper but as the record continues his other ambitions come to the fray. One the most interesting showcases of that ambition can be found in Circles. Circles reveals Hash to be a capable singer and melodic songwriter as he performs over one of his more inventive productions. Circles blends contemporary R&B (mid-2000s era) with trap and finds Hash playing both sides of the coin. The first half of the song finds him fully committing to being an R&B crooner before returning to his hip-hop roots in the second half without missing a beat. What this culminates in, is a song that feels classic but fresh at the same time. Another track, though not featured on Young, that finds him making a compelling case to be viewed as more than just a rapper can be found in Alone, a collaboration with blog-featured producer Stickx. Alone finds him infusing hip-hop sensibilities with pop melodies in a way that showcases his want to be viewed amongst the movement of intentionally genre-bending and blending artists that have defined this decade’s trends like Drake, Rihanna and Childish Gambino as well as younger trailblazers like Billie Eilish, Lil Uzi Vert, Normani and Chloe x Halle.
For all his successes and missteps, The Big Hash is someone who’s very much at the beginning of his career and is aware of that fact. A key element to The Big Hash’s imagery and messaging is his focus on his youth and age. Whether it’s within the titles of his projects (see Young and Life + Times of a Teenage Influence) or his songwriting, he’s extremely deliberate as a storyteller in injecting that perspective within whatever theme he chooses to explore. He’s extremely savvy in how he’s utilized the teenage perspective, to the point that he’s taken upon the moniker of Teenage Icon. It’s going to be interesting to see how he transitions from that imagery as he moves onto new chapters in his life. A new decade is on the horizon and the plains for it’s sonic trailblazers and key storytellers is wide open. With his current momentum, The Big Hash is staking his claim to be one of them.