Lady Zamar on Friday burrowed a triumphant return to the charts with the premiere of her second solo studio album, Monarch. It’s an album which devoted fans have been waiting for since she made the announcement earlier this month.
Co-written by Moonchild Sanelly, Msaki and DJ Choice, the 20 track project is a confident and vulnerable display of the singer’s rare ability to summon her own wave and ride it.
Parts of the album are a constellation of fantasies that luxuriate vibey dance instrumentals – creating perfect feel good summer jams. We’ve come to love the sun-drenched vocals she lays down on such lush melodies, it’s the ingredient that makes her such a delight to so many. Melody has been her thing since, well, Mamelodi.
We know by now that Lady Zamar is a story teller with an impressive gift of giving melodic and poetic justice to her world. It’s a world of joy, disappointment, triumph, love, pain and the many layers of life.
Monarch embraces all these layers and fashions them into a catalogue of sublime songs.
“I write all these stories of love coz of the love I’ve had, love I have and love I one day want to have..”, she tweeted, confirming the central role played by her own experiences in the creation of the album.
Other parts, however, reveal anew the elastic layers of her artistry. Many words are billowing with complexities of love, and the blues that attend to romantic relationships. Our Process and More and More made me teary throughout the weekend and I’m no softie.
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The 20 track project comes hot on the heels of her first SAMA win for Collide, easily one of the biggest street anthems from 2018.
The single came from an even more successful debut, King Zamar, which spawned a slew of chart topping bops and single handedly catapulted her career to first league.
The meteoric success of her critically lauded King Zamar really does place a level of expectation on Monarch. And, as artists with killer debuts would attest, the fear of a sophomore slump is very real.
Though, Lady Zamar’s second album is more than just an attempt to sustain the standard she set for herself and the local soundscape. It’s a cohesive project of 20 songs delivered with undeniably brilliant writing, a whole lot of emotion and overall dope ass quality.
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The album kicks off with This Is Love, the first single. In some ways the song, already a commercial success, sets the tone for the record. Like a few songs here, it has all the elements of a feel good hit.
Except – and this is consistently true for many big moments throughout the album – there’s a constant element of sadness that creates an interesting contrast between some of the dance bops and the words she laces over them.
“I think he’s taking me for granted, because I decided to be kind” is the first line in the entire album, creating the space for other even more poignant lyrics down the line. She’s crying out a lover whose affections are elusive. We later learn that the said lover is not the main. “Oh, he saying he loves me. Saying now I should leave my man.”
A love steeped in betrayal and lies continues on ICU, the 12th track. The sirens in the beginning, which stop after creating a dramatic atmosphere, establish a mood of urgency. “Baby I see you, and all the things you do. Broken, dying and I’m lying in the emergency room”, she signs over one of the album’s grooviest beats.
“Don’t deny my love, I know I need it, hold me near. It’s a crisis that we feel but we are torn apart”, she trills on Destiny, one of the album’s most beautiful highlights. Fans have been looking forward to having the studio version of the song since hearing its unreleased acoustic debut during her Feel Good Live Sessions performance in 2017.
Though furnished with the haunting words and emotional vocals, lovers of dance and House music will revel in the stylings of this track, with all the machinations of a dance floor filler. “Cupid, you are playing games with my heart”, she laments ever so soulfully on Sharp Shooter.
What really sets Lady Zamar apart, when you think about it, is that she plays by her own rules. King Zamar came out with a whole catalogue of new music from an artist we were just getting to know, thereby resisting the new singles until further notice policy that defines most new entrants these days.
ALBUM REVIEW: SHANE EAGLE – NEVER GROW UP
We’d loved her on those collaborations with Junior Taurus and Prince Kaybee, but she opted to have us fall in love with her through album.
Monarch features a catalogue of 20 new songs, again a departure from the 7-13 outspoken rule that now informs the length of most new releases. She knows we will stream her whole album, so she went ahead and let us have it all.
Monarch is damn near perfect.
Shane Eagle – Never Grow Up Album Review
Shane Eagle returns with a powerful EP – Never Grow Up
Shane Eagle liberated a new body of work to succeed 2017’s critically acclaimed Yellow.
Almost two years since the lyricist dropped his last body of work, and since concluded a successful national tour named after his favourite luminous hue, we finally have Never Grow Up. The 7-track project finds Eagle yet again stretching the limits of his own creative freedom – shunning the commercial seductions of trap bops to deliver yet another impressive offering.
His dissent from the establishment continues.
Like before, he’s not afraid to depart from the mould to carve his own nook on this record, a fact which informs his decision to remain independent. Unlike ever before, however, he invites his audience to explore different layers not only to his metamorphic artistry, but also the personal truth that he delivers with much poetic justice.
It’s a truth distilling his childhood as a biracial kid by parents whose roots span continents. Ronnie Hughes is a beautiful and sombre tale detailing the meanings Shane made of these worlds.
These dynamics would later enrich the lyricist’s repertoire of understanding; he touches on the experience of love that is bigger than the ‘regular story of how Europeans try to feast on Africa’s glory’, and expands the narrative to introduce personal acts of pure love that many of us never think about in this context.
Ronnie Hughes is the fourth track on the album, but easily amongst the best. Sonically, it’s a smooth continuation of the classical ecosystem that weaves the lush and classic flows that Eagle so triumphantly delivered on Yellow. Consistent with the album’s overall sound, the song layers organic, raw and classic tones to create a lo-fi Hip Hop atmosphere. The classic horn adds a touch of nostalgia that elevates Shane’s recollections, putting them in one hell of a vibey capsule.
It will take his audience less than 20 minutes to consume Never Grow Up. The EP is a piece of work in which Shane Eagle clearly intends to reconcile the chasm between the artist who blew up to add a veritable mark on the South African soundscape in the last few years, and the 22-year-old Shane Patrick Hughes.
Yellow‘s sibling arrives just weeks after Shane’s Yellow Tour ended with an impressive line-up of supporting acts that included contemporaries Nasty C and Shekhinah. The tour itself testified further to Shane’s disruptive game plan. He’d managed to have his debut album reach gold with minimal hype and almost no gimmicks, after all.
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Where the rapper has been successful in creating dialogues and piquing interest has lain solely in the creative expression of his art; which started with a carefully curated visual social media build-up to the release of Yellow. The gap between Yellow and Never Grow Up saw the arrival of a couple of singles – one which included a very random diss to AKA – and that much talked about galactic visual for YellowVerse.
And while Shane has managed to sustain much of his privacy and the mystery that goes along with it, despite the success of Yellow, this offers his fans access. It’s telling then that he’s used his childhood photographs as visual tools to express this full circle. Homework As$ignment is a textual play that is complemented by the childlike typeface that is part of the album’s artwork.
Ap3x is the album’s promotional single, and it came out just before the album. It’s packed with attitude; Shane is keeping an eye on rappers who are now trying to borrow heavily from his style. It’s the quintessential Hip Hop lexicon strewn over boastful shots of self-aggrandizement that appear in every’ rappers album. It’s part of the culture. The song snaps, no doubt about more.
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Far more interesting, as always, is when Eagle indulges his most musical instincts and delves – both sonically and lyrically – into his elastic ether of abstract thoughts.
Fans will delight on Chocolake Milk:
“I can’t belong I’m growing up this fast, gettin’ rich this quick”.
I’ve discovered there’s nothing quite like driving down Oak Avenue listening to Shane Eagle tackling metaphysical questions, like a metaphysical poet, of the spiritual nature of heaven – the place, the concept, the reality.
His interest in heaven appears severally across the album.
Ride Dolo: What You Wanna Be is that girl on this album.
Shane Eagle ate the hell out of this song. The flow, the tempo, the bars, the 808s… The hook is hella catchy. The whole song has a luxurious vibe with a hushing effect. Listening to this one felt like those moments when you are in a clothing store and that one outfit that exceeds your budget until you buy it over all the other items you could have had.
Anatii’s Iyeza Is His Best Work Yet – Album Review
Anatii’s Iyeza is a cohesive, fervent and spiritual journey. He’s found his sound, his faith and, the calling he must heed.
Rarely have we seen an artist whose creative legitimacy has remained as uncontested as Anatii’s. On the contrary, “I feel like he’s going to buy weed at KFC”, is one of the most popular comments on his Youtube account, a reference to him ‘making the pots happen.’
In South Africa’s increasingly cynical – and ever critically discerning – soundscape, the market sometimes goes harder on rappers than they do on politics. Your faves get blasted every other day and you know that.
Yet, apart from the fact that his personal life remains as withheld from the public as much as he shuns the splashy displays that have become hinged to album promotional build ups, its the sheer production virtuosity, talent and compelling storytelling that set him apart.
Perhaps, the 25-year-old rapper feels no pressure.
And why should he? Halfway through his twenties, his catalogue boasts a slew of timeless classics that have shaped the business as much as they disrupted the convention. Things were never quite the same after The Saga, were they? In all honesty, that verse might have introduced Balmain to the better part of our youth. And it’s also here that ‘sexy chubby n****’ became some cool lexicon.
Back to Iyeza. A few songs allude to spiritual callings to which he must heed. That might or might have not influenced a controversial radio presenter to attempt ‘outing’ him as one who has answered a sangoma calling.
Thriving at the periphery of the formulaic tried-and-true, Anatii’s distinct sound and beautiful Xhosa heritage and a strong anchor in contemporary sound continues being a definitive factor in his fascinating journey on his latest album, Iyeza.
Fascinating is the word because, on this album, he departs from playing to mainstream seductions and enters a spiritual realm of unbridled authenticity.
We know that he’s entered a whole new dimension in his career because on this album, he turns to isiXhosa to articulate his most complex, emotional and personal ideas. That’s as true as it is for his song titles – which are mostly in his native language – as much as it is for his beautifully African album artwork and album title. Iyeza means (traditional) medicine.
In many ways, Iyeza is the more refined masterpiece that his previous collaborative project with AKA – Be Careful What You Wish For – aimed to be.
It’s the successor that better showcases Anatii’s multilayered technique, spiritual faith and character. Mind you, that’s not even paying dust to BCWYF, which was a decent contribution to Hip Hop.
This 10 track project finds Anatii straddling the gaps between Trap and traditional African sonic flavours. He’s truly found himself here – bringing nostalgic elements that distil the often understated South African musical footprint to trap 808s in ways that no one else has tackled out here.
There are some subtle electronic synths that enhance African inspired electric guitars and organic traditional sounds on Wena, the album’s opening track. A perfect opener, the song sets the mood and vibe that will become the cohesive thread weaving this album together into an embrace of an authentic African expression of self. The song has the spirit of Jabu Khanyile, Joe Nina, Tshepo Tshole and Caiphus Semenya all over it, without having anything to do with these icons.
One of the album’s best tracks, Ngozi (Danger) follows next. It’s one of the songs in which he makes mention of his ancestors in a spiritual sense, a divine being who is active in his life. Perhaps as a reference to the pressures of heeding a calling, the song explores the conflict between running away, like a fugitive, from what he’s been called to do, or from danger, and the simpler comfort zones. It’s a space that most of us will have to navigate at one point or another.
The end of this song has a beautiful transition into something abstract, spiritual and ethereal. Anatii could be flirting with ululating, or just diving in and out of his African heritage, which contains in it the rich texture of melodic musicality.
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The narrative of risk and foreboding fear of lurking danger continues onto Hlatini, another solid bop on the album. At this point, the album has completely matured in its assumption of a specific identity. The chord progressions and vocals styles are now fully anchored in Africa’s infinite musical universe. Something about the chorus and hook could remind an old soul of the Soul Brothers.
Ndaweni sustains the momentum. With high pitch and spirited vocals which he lays over a song that could have easily charted alongside Mandoza, Trompies and Abashante back in the 90s, Anatii continues making a firm statement about his musical DNA. He’s not here to churn out pointless number ones and produce random beats to make a quick buck. He’s here to shift the landscape. And he cares about a whole lot of things, one of them being the sheer feeling of his productions.
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Ntloni is one of the album’s more commercially palatable bangers. It has all the elements of a bop you’d jam to at Taboo, at Pop Bottles, at the Sands. It has a beautiful summer hit finish to it, which Anatii has already proven to have no problem whipping out.
Vuka is possibly the album’s most beautiful love song. It’s a sing-along, smooth and lush African summer jam. The chorus and hook instantly demand to be kept on a loop. The organic instrumentation allows the hearty harmonies to shine, giving the song a verdant laid-back vibe.
Mobi Dixon’s 10 Steps Forward Album Has Arrived – Album Review
Mobi Dixon’s freshest offering is rich with potential to achieve both purposes of filling dancefloors this coming summer, and living beyond the constraint of seasons with instant timeless classics
Mobi Dixon has seldom misfired when it comes to putting out a solid product, a fact which rings true to South African House music.
If you’ve tapped into this sound and the niche subculture, you’ll know that its considered “expensive music” by avid followers, who are constantly on the hunt for the freshest supreme but delightful productions.
And since South Africa is known to be the world’s capital of House Music, the DJs normally take years to put out new work, which must leave a lasting impression.
The House music Dj and producer returns with a 10 track project which sees him enlisting sultry vocals from a select list of SA’s finest; including Shekhinah, Donald, Samthing Soweto, the inimitable Nokwazi and amongst others JSomething). The album also showcases Mobi Dixon’s apparent high roller status, as he has been able to get quite the line up of the hottest acts in the country, such as DJ Tira, Dladla Mshunqisi and Tamara Dey.
Strategically, the best thing any artist can do is position some of the strongest works at the beginning of the album. It sets the mood and tone, which in turn influences how the listener potentially perceives the rest of the project.
Though for me, this is also a trap. It took me a while to move past the album’s title track. Shekhinah’s soulful vocals anchor Mobi Dixon’s green and mint productions in the most magical way. Admittedly, I’ve enjoyed both Mobi Dixon and Shekhinah’s works through years, and this timely collaboration struck such a cord that I had to take it to the treadmill!
“Every lesson I learned, braced me for the worst”, sings Shekhinah ss beautifully as only she can. This track establishes this album as a bevy of richly vocalised house classics that will both animate partying sessions in the looming festive and sustain relevance that will live beyond seasons, as we’ve come to see House music do over the decades. When it comes to house music, the trick to longevity lies in songs that have more than nine lives.
Please You with J’Something comes in next, and immediately upticks the level of soul this record brings. It’s a pleasure listening to good ol’ authentic South African music, especially when the richness of the work is not open to debate. J’Something’s vocal harmonies are as blissful as ever here, and they allow you to bask in the supremacy of the marriage between the Dj and the soulful vocals on this track.
Samthing Soweto’s unmatched vocal acrobatics kick in on Abantu, the next bop in what is undoubtedly a timely session for this summer. “Abantu bajaiva nabantu ababathandayo”, he sings beautifully through electric synths and Dixon’s trademark organic sounds.
Nokwazi is one of the country’s most formidable vocalist, who honed her skills doing back up vocals for some of the biggest names in the South African music industry’s biggest names. She decided to move to spotlight recently; and embracing House music, she finds herself laying down her uniquely African sounding vocals on this jam. It’s yet another dancefloor filler.
Maybe Impilo will be the album’s biggest hit on the charts; it has all the right elements. There’s Dladla Mshunqisi – the hottest voice in the Durban music scene right now, as well as details of the popular Pretoria broken-beat sound. It could also be Visa, featuring heavyweights Kwesta, DJ Tira and Nichume. It could also be both!
There’s no doubt that Mobi Dixon’s mission is to distrupt and dominate. You’ve got look out for this album!
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