Tag Archives: conscious

Tribute To Miss Versy

Three weeks ago, on October 14, Jo Anne Petersen AKA Miss Contro’Versy, a Capetonian-bred emcee with an international acclaim passed away at the age of 34. She had suffered a two-year long battle with cancer. While the name may not be immediately recognisable by many of the younger generation, she was a figure who was embedded deep in the core of the Kaapse hip hop movement. In her short career she was a renowned mc/poet, journalist, events co-ordinator, radio show host and TV presenter. In 2010, after being diagnosed with cancer the previous year, she returned home from New York and became the force behind an all-female group, SiStar Cypher, whose purpose was the empowerment of women through hip hop.

DJ Real Rozanno, a long-time friend and collaborator will tell you how Versy submerged herself passionately into the culture from the word go. According to him, one of the lessons which can be learned by her legacy is the sheer resolution with which she strived to reach her goals, emphatically shunning the 9-5 grind eventuality of “growing up” to remain a major player in the hip hop culture, whether it paid or not.

In ’97 Versy was writing for underground publication, Mob Shop Magazine, a hip hop rag put together by heads with illustrations done by local graffiti artists like Falko and Gogga. Later, in 2005, she became a contributor to one of Africa’s largest online hip hop magazines, Africasgateway.com. She would also move on to becoming a TV presenter on MK for a show called Hip Hop and then Woelag, showcasing hip hop culture and souped up rides which took her to see the famous West Coast Customs.

Like many local pioneers, such as Isaac Mutant and Rozanno, Versy’s introduction to the hip hop scene began at a young age at the legendary club, The Base. Later she became inspired by the 90s conscious party raps with a feminist inclination, (think Queen Latifa and Left Eye), which would shape her career. “She did party lyrics, she did it consciously, she did it with passion and energy, you walked away you were entertained, you were uplifted by it and you had a gedagte, you know, somehow you were opened up to something else,” explains Natasha Tafari, a member of SiStar Cypher.

As an MC she got on the map in countries such as America, the UK and Germany. Around 2006/7 she relocated to New York where she immersed herself into the scene performing shows at venues such as the Karma Lounge in Brooklyn, still repping her Kaapse roots by spitting rhymes in English and Afrikaaps. Notably, she was the first Mzansi-raised performer to appear on the venerable Lyricist Lounge stage. In this time she made close ties with Chip Fu of Fu Schnickens and John Robinson (Li’l Sci from Scienz of Life), who produced tracks for her as well.

Versy also brought her skills back home to create platforms for other up and coming artists. Drawing from her experiences abroad, she played an essential role in orchestrating stage productions such as Under the Poet Tree in 2004 and Hip Hop Connected which ran annually for a few years from 2005.

Versy’s passion and dedication to hip hop is undoubtedly evident in the final track she recorded called “Miracles”. 5% Nation consciousness-touting rapper, Wise Intelligent from the old school New Jersey outfit, Poor Righteous Teachers, originally wrote the song as a tribute to Versy and sent it to her asking if she would feature on it. At this point her health had deteriorated to the point of being bed-ridden. She accepted. A mic stand was placed next to her bed and what we are blessed with is a song of positivity with the same intensity as always.

“She’s left legacies behind and she’s only 34. That’s what makes superstars… the inspiration that she leaves behind. There’s dry eyes, because people are in a mode. We wanna do something,” attests Natasha Tafari. After the funeral, on October 22, a celebration of Miss Contro’Versy’s life was held at the Platinum Lounge in Shortmarket Street, formerly The Base. The place where Jo Anne Petersen would forge her own identity as the electric-blue rocking afro-chic Contro’Versy. Rest in peace.

Link: http://www.mahala.co.za/culture/tribute-to-miss-versy/

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Mr Devious Tribute

This is a tribute I wrote to slain rapper and social activist, Mario Van Rooy AKA Mr Devious…

You don’t have to be into hip hop to know that great rappers die young. You know the old Biggie and Tupac tropes. Rapper has larger-than-life charisma and unquestionable skills. Rapper gets killed tragically at the hands of violent attacker(s). Rapper’s body of work and legacy lives on decades after their accomplished albeit short life.

Today we pay tribute to slain hip hop activist, Mario van Rooy aka Mr Devious, who would have turned 34 last Friday. A conscious emcee from Beacon Valley, Mitchell’s Plain. I’m wary of using the label “conscious”. Nowadays “conscious” rap is that ubiquitous banner many emcees try stand under. Give a rapper some Swazi section and an Eckhart Tolle or David Icke book and soon they’ll be spouting some hyper-paranoid esoteric kak in the name of elevated consciousness. These cats want to school you on transcending to unknown realms and shape-shifting politicians who possess reptilian tails – if only you would open your minds, man. Problem is these abstractions can only be made in fantasies or at the end of a very long blunt.

Devious’ sphere, however, was not supernatural hocus-pocus, but the very tangible issues that people in his community, and the Cape Flats at large, face on a daily basis. Through being actively involved in his craft he, in his own words: “started getting aware and passionately angered by the system”. A political and economic framework designed to keep the poor and uneducated fucked on drugs and alcohol and confined to segregated ghettos.

The documentary entitled Mr Devious: My life is one of my most prized Mzansi rap keepsakes. This posthumously released DVD tells the story of the ghetto spokesman and icon comprehensively.

To dodge explaining something my middle-class white ass knows very little about, let me just say that it’s not hard to understand that growing up in one of the Cape Flats’ roughest hoods places you in a difficult predicament. You’re pretty much fucked from the get go, easily sucked into the quagmire of gangsterism and drugs which lie just beyond your front gate. Where for many, the only legit choice is to become a factory worker and the only default – join the gang.

Determined to find a way out through hip hop, Devious took on all the forces pitted against him armed with his unforgettable high-pitched voice and razor-sharp mind for constructing meticulous, high-energy rhymes. His venomous bars, or “insidious” as he liked to call them, were born out of sheer anger and frustration, of which he had no shortage. Unlike most underground rappers who instinctively hate and shoot bile all over the industry before ever recording a track, Mr Devious had had his taste. In ‘98 he signed to Ghetto Ruff, leaving his family for six months to record an album in Jozi. In the doccie his wife, Natalie Van Rooy, explains how he returned physically and mentally fucked, sunk into despair as he found out the album’s distribution would be canned.

Feeling dejected by the failed deal and pressure from the news that his wife was soon to bear them a child, the 25 year-old plunged into lower depths of despondency. He would soon be running with his old clique, carrying guns and swallowed up by the evils of street life.

It was at this stage that filmmaker, John Fredericks, came across Devious which would mark a big change for them both. Inspired by the young man’s brazen voice and influence he had on people, Fredericks invited Devious to record for the soundtrack to gangsterism films Shooting Bokkie and Tomorrow’s Heroes. This got him back into the recording booth with his crew, Untouchable Fellows, as well as working with the likes of Godessa and African Dope.

With a rejuvenated supply of energy and direction Devious got a job at CRED (Creative Education for Youth at Risk) and put his gift to good use teaching convicts and awaiting-trial prisoners at Pollsmoor prison and doing youth guidance counselling in Heideveld.

In January 2004, Devious’ life came to an end at the age of 27 with a knife to the neck when he tried to rescue his father from stick-up kids on the corner of the street where he lived. He dedicated his life to being a role model, mentoring youth who faced the same obstacles he had overcome with persistence and determination. The documentary also covers his family life; from being a husband and father of three (two girls and a boy he hadn’t had the chance to meet), to inspiring his younger sister, also a musician, Blaq Pearl.

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