Category Archives: Reviews

Forward The Sword

Garlic Brown

Garlic Brown has been blessing the Cape Town hip hop scene with lyrical sorcery and spellbinding stage performances as far back as the early 2000s. Known to older heads as Judah of the seminal group Brasse Vannie Kaap and to the younger generation as the spirit-possessed frontman of League of Shadows who had that batshit crazy (in a good way) verse on ‘Wie Maakie Jol Vol’ off Die Antwoord’s debut album $O$, he’s been setting standards and controlling the gates of Mzansi’s subterranean rap movement for close on two decades.

A self-proclaimed ‘emcee’s emcee’, he says he works at perfecting his various rhyme styles by writing at least one verse every day and has sayings like ‘A cipher a day keeps the wackness away’. That’s why it’s very uncharacteristic of the brother to have been so quiet on the scene of late.

Garlic Brown Cover

He’s just re-emerged from the shadows with a comeback solo EP. But why has it taken so long?

The EP, entitled Forward The Sword, is based on an important book to Rastafarians that lays out the principals of the faith and is billed as a “return to his roots”. I remember bumping into Garlic close on two years ago after he had just shaved off his thick locks and was sporting a bald head. He told me he shaved it all off because he was catching a lot of flak at the time and losing the locks meant that he could practice his lifestyle with less confrontation. Maybe the mystical bredren needed time to reconnect with his spiritual side and this offering could mean he is representing Rastafari with even stronger resolve.

Perhaps Garlic decided to take some time out because he was feeling disillusioned with the scene. In his Bush Radio interview in the run-up to the EP launch he even talks about hip hop with the same feeling as the disenfranchised people of his community speak about their country, “At the moment, you know you have the outcasts in the culture of hip hop? So I am the outcast of the outcasts. We are the ones that the people have forgotten and InI is just here to remind the people basically,” he said.

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hM9gvVnc90U‎

Forward The Sword was put out by Khoi-soul, an independent imprint from Cape Town and is said to be the result of material recorded and collected over the course of close to a year. It’s the most polished product from Garlic yet. The last CD I got that Garlic featured on was an L.O.S mixtape which was a normal blank CD with writing in permanent marker so it’s cool to see that he now has a management team backing him, getting him radio interviews and creating an aesthetic appeal with rad artwork and photography.

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The EP launch went down at Ragazzi Live Bar last Friday. I arrived just before Garlic’s set and about mid-way through Ruthy Pearl’s DJ set. There was a nice size crowd filling out the dancefloor and people perched in the upstairs section to get a good view of the live performance that was about to go down. Ruthy played a dope blend of music from Mos Def kinda conscious vibes and rap for the “deep thinkers” with the off-kilter beats, a medley of local cats like Garlic himself, Hemelbesem and Cream. Then she played some old school R’nB vibes like Janet Jackson and Tony Toni Tone. The selection got my blazed mind pondering. Why is Cape Town so fixated on 90s music? Pretty much every hip hop party’s concept is hinged on Golden Era throwbacks or rap that was put out at least ten years ago. Either way I was still stoked to hear the kind of music I play in my lounge on a regular basis in a club environment.

As the set wound down Garlic’s backing band started readying themselves and a dude from Khoi-soul began hyping up the crowd. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen Garlic and as he stepped up I see that he has grown dreads again and has them wrapped up in a turban, Bobo Shanti style. He’s got no fronts in, rocking a ‘passion gap’ with pride. He’s full of praises to H.I.M Haile I Selassie I, Jah Rastafari and positive greetings to all-especially the woman dem.
He kicks off the set supported by his band for the first two tracks and it comes off proper. This is where you learn exactly what mic skillz are all about. He comes through crystal clear like they were playing a pre-recorded version of his lyrics. His flows seem way more influenced by dancehall and it feels like I could quite easily be at a Sizzla concert. Ragazzi is also a really good venue for a rap show because you feel right up close to the stage whether you’re on the dancefloor or watching from upstairs.

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The band steps off, leaving Garlic to his own devices. He immediately transforms from solemn Rasta to a man deranged. For his next few tracks his alter egos Knoffel Bruin, Abadon Horseman and Vulgar Tongue will make appearances at random like a schizo. He goes in with a range of styles from ghetto tales in Afrikaans (“in die Kaapse Vlaktes waar elke dag is ‘n begrafnis) to his super-scientifical-mythical styles where it’s not unlikely to hear him rap about battling wicked Babylonian foes while flying on pterodactyls in an imaginary future apocalyptic world.

The set was a delight and Garlic was generous enough to drop some extra verses after the crowd called for one more song. Afterwards he stepped through the crowd getting daps looking genuinely thankful for the support. Dubstep started playing which I took as a cue that it was time to go home. The only bummer was that there were no copies of the EP at the launch to take home due to printing issues which sucked because fans and converts would have copped it on the strength of the performance alone.

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Published on Mahala here.

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Review: Lil Wayne Concert

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Lil Weezy Comes To Bellville

Telling my friends that I was covering the Lil Wayne concert was a touchy subject. “Fuck that. I wouldn’t even go if I got a free ticket. Any rapper with Lil or Young in their name is wack,” one of them told me. That’s a shame, because tonight’s opening act is Youngsta, a local mc from Wynberg who won an online voting contest to open up for Weezy. At 19 years-old, Youngsta boasts a 23 mixtape repertoire, has released a full-length album and rocked big boy stage shows all over Cape Town. He may catch flak for a put on American-tinged accent, but I think his determination and level-headed self-confidence, easily misconstrued as rapper egotism, places him deservedly up on that stage and he earned my vote.

I’m not really a fan of Lil Wayne, but before being quarantined to the hater section of this polarised real vs fake, east vs west, commercial vs underground subculture, I’d say it’s just not for me. From the little I have heard, his rhymes are punchline-driven PG 13 pop-gangsta-rap, but you’ve got to pay respect for the way his catchy lyrics have popularised puns with which he ends every second line. The purists will tell you that he’s not “conscious” enough and how he mercilessly flaunts his wealth, misogyny and senseless violence, which is true, but since I don’t take hip hop as seriously these days I’m actually kinda looking forward to a little rap ‘ignance’.

We arrive at the Bellville Velodrome to a swarm of people mainly in their young teens to early twenties. This is where you begin to understand the purists’ plight. The kids are a mirror-image of the rapper’s consumer-driven rhymes. This must be Lil Wayne’s “Young Money Militia”. Everywhere you look is a cap, t-shirt and sweatshirt boldly emblazoned with the letters YMCMB, which stands for the grossly redundant string of words that is Lil Wayne’s record label, Young Money Cash Money Billionaires. Since tickets cost up to R 750 a pop I’m thinking Pocket Money best befits these young’uns. The high-end sneakers are squeaky clean. A popular garment worn by the girls to cover their nether regions are hoochie-style cut-off jeans that allow for just a little butt cheek to peek out the back. You can see the self-conscious ones trying to pull them up a little, realising it was a big mistake. We hang around the entrance till the floodgates open up and a rabble of stampeding teens whoop and cheer their way into the stadium.

It’s about an hour later that Youngsta steps out on stage. The crowd is filtering in steadily. Golden circle is half full and there’s a large grouping of people on the other side of the fence in general standing. This must be the largest audience Youngsta has ever faced, but he pulls it off seemingly without nerves. His rhymes are intelligible and engaging with throwback choruses to boot that incorporate even those who clearly haven’t heard him before and he freestyles about the YMCMB clothing people in front of the stage are wearing. One of the notable attributes of a Youngsta set is his choice to rock over a variety of beats that appeal to multiple audiences. Tonight’s pick is nu-skool, mostly commercial, and the odd 90s boom bap flavour that sits well with the audience.

There’s an overwhelming clamminess in the air, so after the set I decide to spend the next hour strolling outside for fresh air and getting toe-up while taking advantage of the free refreshments in the media room. Another hour goes by and I’m getting anxious, like if I don’t get back down immediately I’m going to miss something big. You can tell the crowd feels the same; even though the stadium is lit up bright and there’s only a Drake CD being pumped through the sound system, their eyes stay transfixed on the stage like Lil Wayne might pop up any second. I join the melée and do the same.

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The lights are dimmed and the place resonates with thunderous bass. High pitched screams added to the mix make for ear-splitting decibel levels. Weezy has arrived with skateboard in hand. He starts rapping straight off the bat and gives us some high-energy showmanship, bouncing along to either ends of the stage. The feeling is infectious and the crowd is losing their shit well into the greetings after the song. Then he breaks off into “A Milli” and although his nasal tone struggles to break through the booming bass I’m more impressed that he is backed up by a 4-piece band and maintains the buckwild intensity of a bona fide rock star. Later on, during “Drop the World” he even grabs a guitar and strums along, albeit like an awkward kid playing Guitar Hero. One thing about Weezy is that he has hits for days. He churns them out one after the other. And almost everyone in that sold-out show could recite them word for word. To them he’s the greatest rapper in the world, but they can be forgiven because they have never heard the likes of Sean Price or Elzhi.

The great moment of rap ‘ignance’ arrives after the heart-rending “How to love”, a song about a girl-turned-stripper after being hardened by the ugly ways of the world. Weezy feigns holding back tears and gives us a shpiel about how the song gets him teary-eyed because he has a 13 year-old daughter. Then he fucks it all up by dedicating the next song to all the ladies who are each “the single most important thing in the world”. It’s” Every Girl” which has him air-humping and singing the mantra “I wish I could fuck every girl in the world, I wish I could fuck every girl in the world, I wish I could fuck every girl in the world.” That classic moment will remain in my memory for a very long time.

But Lil Wayne’s engaging stage presence and eccentric personality are enough to disarm even the staunchest hater and I enjoyed the entire hour and a half set. The crowd have their hands in the air up until the end of the encore as I edge toward the periphery and get ready to jog back to the car before they all pour out.

Link: http://www.mahala.co.za/music/lil-weezy-comes-to-bellville/

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Event Reviews for Mahala

Hipster Hop

I buy a beer, secure a table in the corner and do what I’m paid to – social observation. The lone dancer keeps me entertained. He’s kitted out in a Nu Era baseball cap, three-quarter denim shorts, Chuck Taylors folded over at the top, but you can’t see his legs because he’s wearing what appear to be woollen black man-stockings. Hipster hop!

Full Story: http://www.mahala.co.za/culture/hipster-hop/

New Era Introducing (Exhibition)

Out of all the participants from 8 countries, Mzansi had 11 representatives who all got a chance to blend their local flavour on the caps and given a chance to get some international exposure. Mandulo Myaka echoed my sentiments with the creation of “European and Western influence in terms of fashion and entertainment” with his creation of the “shoecap” which blended sneakers and cap into one with laces and all. Others repped Mzansi’s local heritage by incorporating traditional beadworks and fashioning caps into tribal huts.

Full Story: http://www.mahala.co.za/art/caps-as-culture/

New Yor Rapper, Ras Kass Live

On the mic Ras Kass is nothing to mess with. His words strike like a pummeling of heavy black fists. Steady right hooks thrown at Republicans and Neo-Colonialist America, uppercuts to the music industry and sucker punches like the Mel Gibson diss track after his racist tirade was exposed, are what he’s known for.

Full Story: http://www.mahala.co.za/culture/rap-pugilist/

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