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

It’s been a minute and this one has been long overdue but here we are with the sixth edition of SA Artists You Shouldn’t Sleep On. This is an article series where I cover independent artists who I believe are releasing great stuff and have amazing potential. In this edition, I bring forth four more artists with compelling discographies and so without further ado, here is the sixth edition. You can read on the first, second, third and fourth edition hereherehere, here and here respectively.

Lucille Slade:

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Basic Info: Our first artist is one born and raised in Galashwe, Kimberley and now based in Johannesburg; Lucille Slade. Lucille Slade is an AFDA Performance Graduate and started gaining prominence through her viral reworkings of popular local hip-hop anthems. Her style of music is often contemporary and plays within the realms of rhythmic crossover and R&B, stylistically infusing hip-hop sensibilities with more adult contemporary themes. Her attack and positioning of it all places her as a propulsive pop-star in-waiting. Thus far, she has released a debut project, Scratch The Surface, and a string of stand-alone singles building up to a release of an upcoming EP, currently titled Love Me Slowly.

Recommendation: Velvet. Slade is armed with a powerful weapon that comes in the form of her singular tone. Slade’s distinctive tone has a remarkable way of piercing through instrumentation evocatively; this added with her skill makes her quite versatile as a vocalist. She can play yearning and coy, as seen in Touch You, as well as she turns on her attitude and command in her current hits like Khuluma Nami and her featured turn in DJ Zinhle’s Go; all of these elements come into play effectively on her bedroom anthem Velvet. Velvet takes Slade into the realms of quiet storm with incredible precision and playfulness. Conceptually, the song finds her fascinated with exploring her lover’s being in all its textures, both physical and mental. At its core, Velvet is a come-on in which Slade asks her partner to be truly intimate with her. Backed by a sleek mid-tempo production, the song acts as a canvas for Slade to show off a multitude of vocal colours and emotional layers. Within one verse, she provides a lilting vocal that starts as coy and flirty whilst switching into a more demanding presence bodied by her low register. Each chorus is given a different approach in its vocal and instrumental production, from sparse and coy to explosive and euphoric, each approach matches the arc of the song. Slade attacks each section with confident precision. As R&B’s renaissance as a genre and space continues to build, Velvet finds Slade laying claim as to why she should be a considered figure.

Tyson Syba Teli

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Basic Info: Borne from Umlazi, KZN and Pretoria-based we find 21-year-old rapper Tyson Syba Teli, also known as Tyson S.T. Teli is a multi-faceted creative who not only raps, but has produced music, music videos and artwork; having produced title art for other acts like Thato Saul, Doou$hii and IllRose. As an artist, his music fits squarely into the realms of hip-hop, and his specific style of rap is a melting pot of influences that range from the gangsta era of rap of the the mid-to-late 90’s, all the way to the crunk era of the mid-2000s. Thus far, he has released multiple bodies of work including his debut body of work SYBA, a collaborative project with Thato Saul’s At Your Service, and a slew of stand-alone singles and collaboration.

Recommendation: STATSThere’s a consistent level of grit and bounce that pervades his productions that would fit seamlessly in playlists with the likes of The Flatbush Zombies and Earl Sweatshirt. His music is often a forceful burst of swagger, attitude and masculine energy that harkens back to hip-hop’s, for lack of a better term, harder days; best seen with the affectation he naturally drops into his vocal performances, coupled with his DMX-invoking adlibs. Bar for bar, he’s an incredibly adept wordsmith with a playful energy as to how he rides his flows. When that skill is placed within the context of unique personal tension, magic can happen, and that’s exactly what Stats feels like. Conceptually, the track frames Teli at a crossroads of sorts; that of a confident and hungry artist who’s not yet at the level they crave. It’s a tension with which Teli masterfully paints the stakes he’s playing against and the mindset with which he wants to attack it. The format of the song gives him ample room to do so, as it reads like one long freestyle book-ended by the song’s hook. His storytelling abilities are on full display as he contrasts different imagery together; from his aspirations and lessons he’s learned whilst holding down a job to the things he stands to lose from failing to make it, including a life of crime and further fractured family dynamics. All this tension is further amplified by the trauma and existentialism of death pervading him, having attended three funerals in one month. Doou$hi provides one of his most intense productions that’s carefully crafted to match and heighten Teli’s ferocious vocal performance, the result of which is a track that is spellbindingly relentless. Backed by a tongue-twisting hook that is both catchy and triumphant, Stats is the statement of a boisterous personality ready to take his place in the game.

Andrei Damane

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Basic Info: Our next act is a singer-songwriter hailing from the Eastern Cape, Andrei Damane. Damane is a graduate with in Political Science and International Relations, that currently works within the marketing space whilst being an active performer. He has a storied history with music and theatre that dates back to his childhood and highlights including making Idols’ SA Top 50 twice. His style of music is quite experimental along the planes of pop; it ranges from baroque pop to pop soul with themes that would be counted along the adult-contemporary spectrum. He has released a full body of work titled In and Out of Time, released in March 2019 as well as a slew of standalone singles.

Recommendation: Don’t GoAndrei Damane is a consummate balladeer, who feels very classical in his approach to music. He has a great command of his voice and an innate understanding of how to build tension within his music. Often you’ll find his music leaning towards being love lorn and torchy, one of his most compelling showcases of that is found on Don’t Go. Don’t Go is a pop ballad that finds Damane desperately trying to hold onto a breaking relationship, even if it’s at his own expense. As a ballad, it finds Damane at his most lovelorn and vulnerable within In and Out of Time, the opening lyric sets the tone as it reads: “It’s funny how this goes, happily ever after didn’t seem so long ago but now we’re here… What made heartbreak this easy?”. Backed only by his piano and backing vocals Damane then launches into a heartwrenching plea to his partner, begging them not to go and the litany of things he’s willing to do and endure for them to stay. The lyrics are of someone at a breaking point and Damane’s vocal soars in painting that picture. His opening verse finds him relatively restrained as he comes off frank and slightly exposed, but with each new section his facade unravels as his lyrics and imagination turn more toxic, messy and pained in his plea to keep them together. He masterfully uses his falsetto/head voice to convey his character cracks and by the time the last refrain hits his vocal really wallows in all it’s heartbreak and yearn. Don’t Go is Damane’s take on the classic piano ballad, and in it shows his capacity for being a really compelling balladeer.

Ben Rasco

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Basic Info: Our final artist is the Tembisa-born, Johannesburg based musician, Ben Rasco. This 26-year old is both a vocalist and a music producer who boasts one of the most sonically adventurous outputs I’ve come across in my journey with these articles. His music really takes influence and experiments with musical textures from so many corners of the globe, from island riddims to hip-hop and from baroque pop to house. Thus far he has released a trilogy body of work; Girls, Girls II and the double-disced Girls 3.

Recommendation: Fallen. The words that most come to mind when I listen to his music is indulgence. It’s an indulgent experience listening to it and you can feel Rasco indulging in the production; building its scale and its space. A lot of his music legitimately feels like it was made to be best enjoyed in the throws of a festival. His experimental and exploratory approach has varying degrees of success in its output but as it’s progressed, has produced some truly amazing gems and Fallen is one of those gems. As a song, Fallen reads like an existential trip in which Rasco encounters a fallen angel and tries to make sense of the world they’ve found themselves in. The production is apocalyptic in scope and in feel, it’s got an orchestral quality that would fit big band and/or baroque pop and the lyrical content to match. Rasco builds the drama to mythical heights with questions of monarchs, angels and burning forests whilst providing sonic references of creatures that sound like dinosaurs and dragons. Devoid of a hook, Rasco’s vocal reads like a sung soliloquy which ranges from bated and questioning to menacing and pained and it’s both majestic and adventurous. Fallen is a sonically theatrical experience that showcases Rasco’s sonic ambitions both as a producer and as a vocalist; it is epic and dire and primed for soundtracks and scores. Ben Rasco is a threatening force whose adventurous spirit is bound to pay in dividends as his stock rises; backed with a stacked catalogue and growing versatility it will be intriguing to see what facet of his, causes his breakthrough.

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