We’re back with another round of our year-end music review series. 2021 was a breathless year that left very little time for stillness as tragedies, events and our lives kept chugging along within the pandemic. The music industry was no different as it unleashed massive volumes of music that were impossible to keep up with. Amapiano alone felt like its music was on an unending conveyor belt as more alternative genres continued to pick up steam. The result of which is the most sonically diverse year of local music that I’ve experienced in my adult life. Next Gen Greats’ Songs of 2021 is here to document some of the highlights that left an indelible mark, on us particularly, in another 3-part series. You can read part 1 here.
Disclaimers: 1) For the purposes of this article we’ve kept the choices to one selection per artist in a leading role with the exception of work that’s credited in a group or collaborative body of work. We stress that these are personal favorites and not necessarily what we think are the most representative songs of the year. If an artist dropped both solo work and group/collaborative work in the same time span, we’ve counted each effort as separate, ie this consideration would apply to acts like The Scorpion Kings or Adrienne Foo & Phiwo who dropped a collaborative tape etc… 2) Only works that were released between December 1 2020 – November 30th 2021 were considered; any December 2021 releases will fall part of 2022’s list.
Group 2 [Listed alphabetically, not in ranking]
Basquiat Dreams – Steveisfrench featuring ZRi [produced by Steveisfrench]
This has to be one of the most entertaining pieces of alternative R&B I’ve heard this year. In part 1, I had introduced Zri’s humorous cheek and how it plays into his music and thus far my favourite display of this is found on his collaboration with producer Steveisfrench. Basquiat Dreams is built upon a pitched down sample of Billy Jones and The Stars’ version of Love Is Gonna Rain on You. This soulful hit from the late 60’s finds a jilted Jones wallowing in heartache; wishing a similar karma to reach the girl that’s caused his pain. Basquiat Dreams is a contemporary adaptation of Gonna Rain that replaces the suave Motown-era respectability with a juvenile and colorful spite; the first words we here from ZRi are, “B*tch I’m lit, I don’t need love I’m legit!”. Zri is at a breaking point as he vents about the neglect and non-reciprocation he’s received. Basquiat Dreams finds him admiring this girl’s beauty but being sick of her actions. Its approach to the subject feels very reminiscent of classic soul diss tracks like Outkast’s Roses and Cee-Lo’s F*ck You; but with disdain from an actual juvenile. Zri’s exasperation backdropped by Gonna Rain makes for entertaining heartache; it also continues to show the promise this teenage crooner has as a musical storyteller.
Read more Zri related content here.
belladonna – lordkez featuring Shekhinah [produced by YZDSL & wlvms]
lordkez has had a solid year of displaying her artistic versatility across the multiple bodies of work she’s released. Her latest EP, midsummer, was a refreshing mix of crossover jazz, neo soul and contemporary R&B and our pick is one of its boldest proclamations. Backed by a sultry after-hours R&B production, belladonna is a song that exudes feminine nonchalance in an inspired collaboration with Shekhinah. The song finds lordkez and Shekhinah flaunting their autonomy to potential suitors as they carry the song with a dangerous allure. belladonna invokes imagery of feminine danger throughout the song from jezebels to actual belladonna, which is apt as the title both describes beautiful women and a poisonous plant that humans have drank from within history. The ladies have fun diving into the concept as they portray elusiveness both in their words and vocals. Shekhinah is a queen in the art of cutting nonchalance and lordkez proves she’s just as adept as they provide captivating performances. belladonna is uber-cool. It’s a club-accessible production that exudes sex appeal and bold confidence. A strong collaboration from compelling artists who refuse to be restrained.
Read more Shekhinah related content here.
Dark Matter – Sipho The Gift featuring Maglera Doe Boy [produced by oshoku]
Our next pick is another inspired collaboration that takes us into hip-hop’s alternative space. Sipho The Gift and Maglera Doe Boy were some of the strongest voices to release hip-hop music in 2021. Both artists released stellar projects that strayed from contemporary hip-hop conventions whilst asserting both as pointed storytellers. So when the two came together on Sipho The Gift’s Dark Matter, I was expecting an event; and that’s exactly what they delivered. Backed by a menacingly spectral trap production and no chorus, Sipho The Gift and Maglera Doe Boy are given an extended canvas with which to wax lyrical and both of them flourish. Dark Matter finds both artists exploring social issues, many of which relate to a black consciousness with inventive braggaddoccio. Maglera sets the stage with a verse that zones in on his hood experience; from how he navigates it and his hood’s ecosystem to the many things people use as a form of escape within it. The young porpoise is poetic in his lyricism and captivating in delivery as he passes the baton to Sipho The Gift. Sipho The Gift switches gear as his verse explores his mission with rapping and what he aims to get from it. His verse takes a more aspirational tone as he also details some of his business goals with boisterous delivery, citing multiple Steve Biko texts within the song. Dark Matter‘s production feels climactic and both Sipho and Maglera’s rise to meet it with personality. Dark Matter is boisterous, meditative rap from two of the more singular rappers currently out rising.
Listen to Sipho The Gift’s All That Yazz Interview here.
Drew BuryMore – VenusRaps [produced by Takalani Thabo Singo]
VenusRaps had one of the stronger debuts from hip-hop’s underground with Heir. The record positions VenusRaps as a hard-bars storyteller emcee; heavily invoking New York’s vintage era of hip-hop. Whilst there are more emotionally comprehensive tracks worth highlighting, my pick is her delicious display of braggadoccio: Drew BuryMore. Backed by a menacing production, the song finds VenusRaps ready to dish out a healthy of dose of disrespect and she does so with flair. Simply put, Drew BuryMore is a call-out that finds the rapper ready to bury more of her opponents like she’s Drew [Barrymore]. The song is brimming with attitude and VenusRaps revels in it, from her boisterous take-downs and inventive wordplay to grand self-affirmations. Drew BuryMore is just a lot of fun, with the ODB-interpolating chorus being a highlight. VenusRaps really just came to flex and I’m here for the show.
DONKEY KONG INFINITE – Maglera Doe Boy [produced by Brian O’Haze]
Maglera Doe Boy has had an amazing 2021. The rapper proved himself to be one of the most singular voices out with the release of his conceptual memoir 2Player [The Digital Score]; whilst his sterling list of scene-stealing features certified just how malleable his unique sauce is in capturing the canvases he’s been given. 2Player [The Digital Score] is richly immersive from its vocal production and approach to storytelling to its sinister trap productions. Within it is one of my favourite hype tracks of the year, DONKEY KONG INFINITE. The song is anchored by a Maglera refrain where he joyously exclaims that he “woke up feeling so amazing!” The refrain runs within the chorus and verses as Maglera explores this giddiness that’s stemming from a growing success, and how this feeling sustains itself in spite of some of his more weightier challenges. The song’s hook is a litany of affirmations about being limitless that’s sung by a chorus of rugged voices that is hype-inducing. DONKEY KONG INFINITE is a mood-lifting jolt of energy that allows the rapper’s more whimsical energy to flourish, and it’s infectious. Maglera stands as one of the most compelling rappers rising. With the kind of year he’s had, it’s quite easy to see why the artist affirms that he’s limitless, the proof is really in the pudding.
Fun Fact: Maglera Doe Boy has the most appearances of any rapper on the 2021 list. He is also tied with 2 other acts for having the most overall artists entries on this year’s list with 3 appearances.
Read more Maglera Doe Boy related content here.
Goodhope Joanna – YoungstaCPT & Shaney Jay featuring QueenpinCPT [produced by Shaney Jay]
Our current streak of exploring South African hip-hop continues with a cut from Cape Town’s finest, YoungstaCPT. Our next pick is a piece of fun hip-hop storytelling that comes from Dreams Don’t Play Bills, his collaboration tape with Shaney Jay; Goodhope Joanna. Backed by a swinging trap production, Goodhope Joanna finds YoungstaCPT having caught feelings for a stripper as he pleads with her for more intimate release. QueenpinCPT’s verse finds her playfully replying as the stripper Youngsta’s dying over. The concept is simple and really lives on the charisma of its storytelling and both performers really have fun with their first-person accounts of the their interaction. Goodhope Joanna is loose, humorous and packed with personality. The artists don’t take themselves too seriously in their role-portrayals and it really elevates the energy of the song; also any song that’s able to interpolate Eddy Grant and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’s theme song as seamlessly as YoungstaCPT does on Goodhope would be an instant fave honestly.
Read more YoungstaCPT related content here.
Head Over Heels – Kudz featuring Una Rams, Tom Saison & TRON PYRE [produced by Kudzayi Daniel Mhlanga, Fundile Dlamini, Jason Mshaba and Takakunda Mukundu]
R&B has steadily carved its way back into our mainstream as its momentum seems to keep growing year-on-year. With the genre’s growing resurgence, I’ve been quietly wishing that vocal supergroups could also make a return at some point. My next pick shows glimpses of that greatness as Kudz rallies some of our premiere R&B crooners for a romantic posse cut. The R&B producer hits a trifecta with a combination of Una Rams, Tom Saison & TRON PYRE; artists who all individually appear on this list. The result is so potent that it harkens back to R&B’s glory days with vocal groups. The concept of the song is simple; these men are head over heels in love with their partners and are indulging us in their infatuation. Head Over Heels feels like it was purposefully designed for proposals, weddings and to be slow danced and is ruthless in achieving its mission. One by one, each of them pour of their hearts out with starry-eyed verses that range from earnest to cheesy before launching into the sway-inducing sing-along chorus. The production is soothing and centered around shimmering synths, a smooth bass and propulsive drums. Rams, Saison and PYRE are artful in their vocal performances, each raising the stakes as the song deepens. Rams sets the tone perfectly, Saison’s brings that late 90’s yearn backed by lush background’s whilst Tron Pyre’s adlibs are as indulgent as the best of them. If you’re looking for a throwback slow jam to simmer and sway to, Head Over Heels might just keep you right here, reeling with infatuation.
Hustlers Prayer – 25K featuring A-Reece [produced by Zoocci Coke Dope]
Our next picks finds us returning to hip-hop with one of its biggest collaborations of 2021; Hustlers Prayer. 25K’s chart-topping Pheli Makhaveli was one of the defining moments for South African hip-hop in 2021. One of its crown jewels is Hustlers Prayer; a collaboration that finds two of Pitori’s most beloved rappers bringing their best in this sentimental record. Hustlers Prayer is a gangsta-rap anthem that circles around how death, friendship and their hustle are so intertwined that 25K and A-Reece are ready to make the ultimate sacrifice for their crew if need be and Zoocci Coke Dope deals out a soulfully melancholic trap production for these rappers to explore the concepts. The song sets the stage with its chorus, 25K’s jagged reassurance of his willing sacrifice, before 25K launches into a verse that introduces us to his world of trapping as he extends his love letter to the lifestyle. A-Reece switches gears with a verse that relays the experience of losing his father within the pandemic and it’s honestly one of my favourite verses of the year. He paints a vivid picture and is vulnerably candid in the process. Sentimental, mournful and steely, Hustler’s Prayer really does feel like a song that meets the moment we’re in; and it’s a solid showcase of two of our most prominent rappers right now.
I’m Real – Mas Musiq featuring Nia Pearl & Soa Mattrix [produced by Mas Musiq, Soa Matrix & DJ Maphorisa]
Our next pick is found deep within one of the most enjoyable Amapiano projects of the year, Mas Musiq’s Auti ‘eSharp. Found deep within Auti ‘eSharp is this ode to self-acceptance in Mas Musiq and Nia Pearl’s second collaboration. I’m Real finds a grateful Nia Pearl appreciating the space that she’s in whilst affirming her want to not change because she’s real. Mas Musiq, DJ Maphorisa and Soa Mattrix really provide a soulfully groovy bed for Nia Pearl to play on which coupled with Nia Pearl’s vocal performance is a really freeing experience. I’m Real is just a really good dance song on an album that’s full of them.
If I Die Today – Mashbeatz & Thato Saul [produced by Mashbeatz]
Few sub-genres capture death ideation as captivatingly and consistently as gangsta rap, our next pick is a solid addition to that canon. Thato Saul and Mashbeatz’ If You Know You Know was one of my prime cultural hip-hop moments of 2021 and it saw one of the most prominent producers collaborate with one of its finest rising storytellers. If You Know You Know finds Thato Saul exploring his growing legacy as his stock continues to rise with If I Die Today and our selection is one of his mellower explorations from the project; If I Die Today. If I Die Today finds Mashbeatz providing a soulfully pensive trap production for Thato Saul to weigh on his current lifestyle, potential death and imagining the possible outcomes from it. The song is a healthy mix of braggadocio and reflection. Saul proclaims “It’d be a G holiday if I die today…” as he explores the vastness of his funeral and its cultural impact whilst questioning if it would all be worth it should the moment come now. Death is an ever-present constant within Thato Saul’s lifestyle and feels all the more pervasive within the times we’re living. If I Die Today provides a steely companion with which to explore this ideation through the lens of one of our most vivid storytellers. If You Know You Know was an inspired collaboration between a honed wordsmith and a sonic maverick; and Die is one of the offerings that endures the most with me.
Indifferent – Mo$hpit Cindy [produced by AmoBeatz, Jordan Klem & THEBLVCKGUY]
“Love is kinda hard when he’s just seeing where this goes…” Mo$hpit Cindy is frustrated with our dating culture and explores a lot of those frustrations within her project: 21st Century Luv. My favourite exploration of this topic can be found in the trap banger; Indifferent. Indifferent finds her dissecting different dating archetypes and she attacks each of them with a resigned cynicism. The first verse focuses on men’s toxic antics with the second verse pulling that smoke towards women. The final verse zones in on herself and the experiences that have made her indifferent to dating in general. Indifferent is an anthem for those that have grown weary on hook-up culture and the impersonal nature of its game. Mo$hpit Cindy’s writing is pointed, poignant and extremely relatable and her flows are engagingly catchy. I remember laughing the first time I heard the song and was singing-along to the chorus before it had it reached its end. Indifferent is a good song from an engaging performer; it’s a listening experience that endures with each play.
Izolo – DJ Maphorisa & Tyler ICU featuring Madumane, Mpura, Daliwonga & Visca [produced by DJ Maphorisa, Tyler ICU & Visca]
Izolo was one of the coolest club bangers to come out of 2021. DJ Maphorisa, Tyler ICU & Visca produced a song that makes you feel like a boss. It sounds like excess and memorable bad decisions. It’s the type of song you make grand entrances with and its the type of mood-boosting sonics that feels fitted for movie soundtracks; like the upcoming Black Panther sequel, I’m just saying. The song’s concept finds Daliwonga, Mpura and Madumane recounting the events of their partying last night, and barring Madumane it’s all bad decisions. Daliwonga leads the track in as he recalls withdrawing large amounts of money for a night out with his boys. Things spiral from there as he wakes up still drunk, begging his girlfriend for forgiveness with only pockets of his memory in-tact. Daliwonga really sets the stage with a captivating vocal performance that you can tell he had fun with. Madumane’s verse ramps up the braggadoccio as he paints a picture of the international lifestyle he’s living in, whilst Mpura recalls almost getting a girl pregnant as he too begs for forgiveness. Izolo is a relentless party jam that finds all of its players firing on all cylinders. It’s escapism that feels like more and I can’t help but indulge in the excess the song provides.
Leave This World – Maarly featuring Ammo Moses [produced by Kay Esco]
Our next pick throws us back into the world of R&B with a tale of doomed romance. As far as I can tell, Leave This World is the debut song of contemporary R&B artist, Maarly; and also serves as the lead single for her concept EP; Oblivion. The song is a fictional tale that finds Maarly on her death-bed telling an onlooker to relay the news of her death to her lover, played by Ammo Moses. Backed by a soulfully dark production, Leave This World finds Maarly sending a reassuring message to her lover that her soul will still be with him after getting into a fatal car accident. Ammo Moses receives this message after her passing and contemplates his own death so that he can be with her again. The stakes are life and death in the Romeo-and-Juliet type romance. Maarly and Ammo Moses really take great pleasure in chewing up the scenery with their restrained performances dripping of yearn. The acoustic production shines as it emboldens the intimacy of their emotions as opposed to the drama of the action that surrounds them. Leave This World is an addictive slice of R&B delivered sensually by two evocative storytellers. It’s a dreamy indulgence that whisks you into its romance, no matter how doomed its premise is.
Read more Ammo Moses related content here.
Memories of Ru – Saul Madiope [composed by Lifa Mavuso, Mercedes Boshego & Saul Madiope]
Part 1’s selections found us dipping into vocal-less music for the first time with a classical symphony and Part 2 continues our journey into more instrumental-based music with the jazz symphony that is Memories of Ru. Found mid-way through Saul Madiope’s soulful afro-fusion jazz record, Motherland Jazz, is this tribute to the musician’s father. Memories of Ru feels like an act of tension that doesn’t want to rest. The anxious keys, sparse drums and background strings immediately introduce a nervous energy that turns more pensive as the lead piano takes its first solo. The song maintains a progressive energy as it continues to add new instruments and emotional colours; from the bowls that feel like a stressful headache that comes with that High C note ringing in your ear, to guitars that add their own melancholy. Memories of Ru is pain in motion. It’s not the loud grief that causes your world to stop more than it is the pain you have to carry when your world still has to continue because those deadlines are still due. It’s a beautiful composition, a fitting tribute and the centerpiece of his chart-topping project. Memories of Ru is a safe home to your melancholy and a fitting showcase of what makes this young jazz musician so captivating; his music is packed with so much heart.
Listen to Saul Madiope’s All That Yazz Interview here.
Moonlight – Sishii [produced by RJ Benjamin]
Switching gears, our next pick is a post-disco romance from one of South Ah’s young throwback crooners; Sishii. The popular Gomora actor has built up a more brooding persona within his catalogue, so it was a refreshing change of pace to hear him throw caution to the wind with Moonlight. Conceptually, Moonlight finds Sishii smitten as he asks a girl he’s just seen to dance. It’s really a simple premise that allows Sishii’s personality and storytelling to flourish. RJ Benjamin provides a delectable arrangement that takes us back to the post-disco era from the finger snapping and giddy guitar playing to those shimmering synth flourishes that float on top of the groovy bass and keys. The production is sumptuous and Sishii really allows himself to be silly with it and in that, lies the magic of the song; from the cheesy one-liners to his adlibs you can feel the fun he had with it. Moonlight is hip-swaying A-Grade cheese, a feel-good pop song with a timeless appeal.
More – Nu Edison [produced by Tsukudu]
Nu Edison is quietly becoming one of my favourite hip-hop artists. He inhabits a space that feels more bohemian and insular when compared to the grandeur and brashness of a lot of his counterparts. His sophomore effort, Shine, really saw him progress further into his artistry and in that, provided me with one of my anthems of 2021, More. More is a song about self-cav. The type where you can feel your self-confidence growing and where you’re becoming bolder in flexing your capabilities. It focuses on that moment. Backed by an intoxicatingly sensual trap beat Nu Edison declares “This is more like it now, this is more like me now” as he compares this feeling to Thor wielding lightning. More feels like stepping into a more secure chapter of your life and feeling good about it; and man does the song feel good. Its been one of the songs I’ve meditated with the most within the second half of the 2021. It really feels like the actualization point for Nu Edison and his brand of hip-hop.
More Summer – Mars Baby [produced by Mars Baby]
Mars Baby really ranks amongst my favorite discoveries of 2021 and seeing him perform live was one of my highlights of 2021. The singer-songwriter released a stellar concept EP with the sullying Salem. Our pick is the project’s starry-eyed opener; a dreamy slice of alt-pop called More Summer. More Summer finds an infatuated Mars Baby relaying his feelings and describing his desires for their relationship in a conversational manner. Initially backed by an acoustic guitar, Mars Baby’s disarming tenor is really sweeping as he makes himself vulnerable, asking his partner to mould him. The beat drop darkens the atmosphere whilst Mars’ guitar picking maintains the songs mesmerizing quality. The second verse finds Mars sounding more intoxicated as his lyrics turn more ominous; foreshadowing the darker elements to come. On its own, More Summer is a fleeting love song that does feel like summer however it turns more chaotic within the full context of Salem. It’s considered writing from an artist who with ambitious scope. It’s so sweet with a bit of Sulphur.
Listen to Mars Baby’s All That Yazz Feature here.
No Mistakes – Phiwo [produced by DoouShii]
Our next pick is one of my favourite declarations of love to come out of 2021. Found as the closing number of her debut Solo EP, Letters, No Mistakes reads like a love letter penned to her romantic partner and that’s all it is. One extended verse followed by the chorus, a bridged instrumental and the chorus again; the song lives and dies on the earnestness of that letter. Backed by a spacey and sensual neo-soul production, Phiwo declares her appreciation for the love she’s experiencing and how she looks forward to building a life with her partner. She’s all in with is, and with its first-person perspective, it’s really solid tribute material. Phiwo has experimented with a lot of textures in her debut year and this one fits her like a glove. DoouShii’s production really builds itself to warm highs that make you feel all gooey, especially with the string refrain that creeps in the background when the verse starts; gradually gaining prominence within the song until it gets its full moment within the bridge. The song is just satisfying to listen to and offers a glimpse into where her sound might go and really there’s no mistake with No Mistakes.
Peace of Mind – The Big Hash [produced by Elizee]
The Big Hash really knows how to milk victimhood well within his music. A signature element of his catalogue finds him exasperated or spitefully retaliating against a partner he feels slighted by. It’s in all the songs I’ve covered of his thus far from bangers like Circles and Ringtone to his mellower Amnesia; and the trend continues with Peace of Mind. I mean Peace of Mind begins with a lyric that reads: “I’m just so sick and tired of trying, I want you out of my life. I want you out of my mind…” it’s peak venting music. Backed by a signature Elizee rich production, Peace of Mind finds The Big Hash at his wits end as he vents about the devolved relationship. He runs scenarios on what she’d do if he told her how he’s currently feeling whilst exclaiming that he can’t get away from her presence in real life or when he goes online. The Big Hash is trying to reclaim his peace of mind and does so by resigning from the situation. The Big Hash and Elizee are really some of our premiere exports of engaging contemporary R&B-hybrids and Peace of Mind is an added notch on their belts.
Radisson – TRON PYRE [produced by Francis Jay, Sibusiso Mndawe & Feziekk]
Tron Pyre has long-been an avant-garde figure circling around the R&B space. He has built a steady catalogue of genre-fluid songs that consistently buck a lot of conventional and contemporary tropes. 2021 found him playing more with contemporary sonics and our pick is one of his steamiest results: Radisson. Conceptually, Radisson follows Tron Pyre receiving a NSFW picture from a girl that results in him booking a night at the Radisson for them. It’s an after hours affair, and the mood is set as soon you hear the ominous riff placed against Francis Jay’s pitched down vocal runs. The deep bass and guitar licks turns things darker before unleashing the trap drums that provides TRON PYRE with the red-lighted atmosphere to run his seduction. Radisson is a contemporary slice of bedroom R&B from Tron’s come-ons and falsetto backgrounds to the deeply sexual instrumentation it’s backdropped against. Tron Pyre’s catalogue shows that he’s dead-set on being a romantic crooner and Radisson is a fitting addition that adds a more carnal energy to it as his sonic landscape continues to mature.
Share My Love – Benny Afroe & 3Two1 [produced by Mfundo Mbuli & Nhlonipho Lihle Dlamini]
If Spotify tells it, the next song was my most played local song that dropped in 2021. It was the comfort food I over-indulged in and still came back for more. It’s Benny Afroe’s slice of amapiano-inspired afropop; Share My Love. Benny Afroe has been on a roll in releasing sensual mid-tempo rompers that you can groove to and this plea for affection might be his most simmering. Mfundo Mbuli and Nhlonipho Dlamini’s hip-swaying production provides an alluring playground for Benny Afroe & 3Two1 to coo their sweet-nothings over. Share My Love finds Afroe enjoying the time he has with this girl and is pleading for more of her affection. 3Two1 shines in his feature. His tone and flow really float on the track, and his added vocal adlibs and harmonies really amplifies the indulgence of Share My Love‘s bridge and final chorus. Share My Love is a really enjoyable listen and is well-constructed. The production simmers sensually, ebbing and flowing soulfully as it builds towards a satisfying guitar-solo climax. It’s catchy, concise and sounds like more; and even months later I can’t get enough of it.
Talk To Me – Mikhale Jones [produced by Alexis Faku]
Our next pick is another well-constructed pop song that pulls us more into R&B territory; Mikhale Jones’ Talk To Me. Talk To Me is a throwback to the millenium era of bubblegum pop and teen R&B that Christina Aguilera and Destiny’s Child grew their dominance over. Conceptually, the song finds Mikhale Jones stewing from a lack of communication from her partner; begging her partner to communicate with her whilst contemplating leaving the relationship altogether. Alexis Faku provides a progressively tense production that revisits a lot of iconic sounds from that era and places them within a contemporary context; from the recurring harp that invokes The Boy Is Mine to the heartbeat drums contrasted with lite guitar-pickings that littered Darkchild’s productions. Talk To Me is well-canvased pop-R&B fare that yearns for climactic drama and Mikhale Jones has great fun delivering it. Mikhale Jones playfully teases her agility throughout the song before unleashing a melismatic climax that finds her running for her life. It’s welcomed saturation in an era that doesn’t really indulge in vocal climaxes and bridges as much. I may be drowning in nostalgia but when it’s revisited so well, can you really blame me?
Read more Mikhale Jones related content here.
Umqondo – DJ Sabby featuring Pillboyy, Leezy & Da Cool [produced by Makwa]
Our next pick arrived late within the year and stands as one of my favourite hip-hop posse cuts of the year; DJ Sabby’s Umqondo. Umqondo served as the second single off the NextUp, Vol. 1; DJ Sabby’s collaborative project aimed at bringing more attention to underground voices. Umqondo is an ode to resilience and the need to keep going in-spite of the pressures of life. The song is built on a groovy production that feels like home with how soothing it is and Pillboyy anchors it with an earnestly delivered hook that speaks on the relentless nature of the mind when you’re in the hustle. Leezy and Da Cool provide aspirational verses of what they want to achieve set against the realities of their circumstances and the tone carries through in their delivery; even if you don’t understand. Umqondo is a comforting companion to carry with with you during the day and has been on high rotation recently. It’s packed with a lot of heart and filled with a bunch of new discoveries that I look forward to exploring more in the future.
Listen to DJ Sabby’s All That Yazz interview here.
Whipped! No Cream – Ammo Moses [produced by Ammo Moses]
Ammo Moses is an artist that I am impatiently waiting on to release a full body of work, impatiently. This crooner has been involved in two of my favourite R&B duets of recent memory; the aforementioned Leave This World and YoursTruly’s tempestuous Heartbreak. Both songs showed him to not only be a considered storyteller but to have some of the most engaging vocal production of his peers. Things were no different when he released his solo single Whipped! No Cream, he just had a wider canvas with which to flex and boy did he flex! Conceptually, Whipped! No Cream finds Moses scrolling on Instagram at 2 am when he comes across the profile of a girl that he gets taken by. He hits the double tap and she double taps back but he soon realizes that she lives too far for him travel and is thus left whipped… “Whipped no cream. Got no whip, just Instagram…” and his burning desires. This is one of my favourite pieces of vocal storytelling to drop this year! Backed mainly by a very sparse trap beat, and a synth-bass; Ammo Moses goes to town with his vocal performance and production as his vocals take centre stage. Mans goes from a tonal whisper to a fleeting falsetto as he paints the story. He brings a dynamic vocal that not only shows his range but puts his personality on full display and I found it thoroughly entertaining. But the song is just a tease and I honestly need more; so if anyone can persuade Ammo Moses into releasing more I’d be very thankful… because Whipped! No Cream has me musically whipped and I need more.
Read more Ammo Moses related content here.
You Wouldn’t Understand – Marcus Harvey [produced by Fiji Mageba]
Our final pick is a selection from one of the slinkiest crooners we have in South Ah. Marcus Harvey is a premium exporter of South African neo-soul and You Wouldn’t Understand continues to prove that point. Backed by a signature industrialized neo-soul production, You Wouldn’t Understand finds an enamoured Marcus Harvey declaring his feelings as he asks this woman to be his. It’s a straightforward love song that really thrives on the charisma of Marcus Harvey’s smooth talking persona and his ability to romance. You Wouldn’t Understand is the slinky and sensual product of a confident artist who’s found their signature and is really having fun playing within it. It serves as a solid introduction to his sound if you haven’t heard him before and plays like a fan-favourite for those who are already endeared to it. Its impression is indelible from the first play and is just really well delivered neo-soul from one of our best players. When you don’t have the words to fully express your feelings to your crush, this is the song you play to speak for you.
Read more Marcus Harvey related content here.