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Music

Bigstar Johnson’s Me & Mines Album Review

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On August 25, 2018
Last modified:August 25, 2018

Summary:

Bigstar Johnson's Me & Mines takes us inside a time capsule distilling the finest of the old while being at the crest of the current wave. In it, he showcases the grandest of his lyrical superiority, poetic skills and vocal capabilities all over smooth and jazzy vibes.

A lot has happened since our exclusive interview with Bigstar Johnson three years ago.

He had just been announced as the winner of the first season of The Hustle, and he couldn’t have been more elated back then. It’s his lyrical virtuosity and effortless agility that earned him the title. He was in the same class with Shane Eagle, who also finished in the Top 5 of that season.

Three years later, Bigstar has released his most impressive body of work.

Me And Mines finds BigStar in his own musical odyssey; one in which he is allowed to explore the depths of his artistic instinct with almost no concern for the most commercial of formulas in today’s trap garnished Top 40. Instead, the lyricist journeys into a smoother, jazzier and more luxurious sound. But while Me and Mines is a beautiful delight away from all of that, nothing about the album suggests its maker is protesting the grain.

Bigstar Johnson Me & Mines album Review

The album debuted atop the iTunes SA Hip Hop album chart, so there’s really no space for hostility.

We plunge into a good time as soon as Understand Part II kicks in. Perfect to set the mood, the joint beams with live instrumentation, rich productions, poetic emphasis in verse flows, and of course Kaylo’s sun-drenched vocals giving the song a lavish boost.

Bigstar himself is a talented vocalist, mind you. Here he showcases that with more confidence; laying down smooth harmonies on the chorus for lush transition in between his beautiful verses.

“All of the time I should spent on my knees…”, he sings, seeking freedom and looking for love, for the melody.

The 12 track record continues on the mission to sooth and free. The album features collaborations with Rouge on Two Cups, Jay Claude on Calling, Kwesta on Sgubu, Zoocci Coke Dope, Apple Flave and The Dreamers on the album’s title track.

What Bigstar has done on this album is to remain authentic to his own sound while being clever about incorporating 90s Rnb and Hip Hop References. Special Assignment breathes a new life to Aaliyah’s Rock The Boat on a groovy beat that is packed with kwaito nostalgia. On Two Cups, he blends his Donnell Jones’s You Know What’s Up with his own vibe.

There’s an effervescent and breezy vibe to Sgubu with Kwesta, one of the album’s strongest offerings. Here he takes on higher pitches to re-enact some TKZee throwback Mambotjie references while focusing on creating a new sound that blends kwaito, Hip Hop and Jazz in perfect harmony.

Me and Mines offers us a refreshing escape into the future, while keeping us grounded in the past. In it, Bigstar Johnson explores the grandest possibilities of his artistic journey. He takes control and sings freely, focusing on raw vocals and showcasing an impressive, soulful range. The collaborations on the album make sense and feel like no-brainers. He raps like a rapper, then like a poet, then like a kwaito artist. Then perhaps, like nothing we’ve heard at all.

The cohesiveness of the album in its overall search for love and soul in the old, the current and the future adds to its storytelling strengths. I for one love that we are back in the 90s, talking about Jam Alley and standing next to braai stands with the grootmans.

Me and Mines is a beautiful time capsule

The Album Tracklist

1 Understand Part II (featuring Kaylo)

2 Special Assignment

3 Two Cups (featuring Rouge)

4 Closer

5 The Garden Interlude

6 Calling (featuring Jay Claude)

7 Time of My Life (Extended Version)

8 Sgubu (featuring Kwesta)

9 Paradise (featuring Zoocci Coke Dope)

10 Sunday Morning (featuring Apple Flave)

11 Righteous

12 Me & Mines (The Dreamers)

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Bigstar Johnson's Me & Mines takes us inside a time capsule distilling the finest of the old while being at the crest of the current wave. In it, he showcases the grandest of his lyrical superiority, poetic skills and vocal capabilities all over smooth and jazzy vibes.

Interviews

INTERVIEW: Wanda Baloyi On Finding Her Voice

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Exclusive Music Interview with South African Jazz singer Wanda Baloyi

Wanda Baloyi’s musical evolution has been a thrill to witness.

Having started out as a member of popular girl group ‘Ghetto Luv’, she quickly transitioned out of the definitive early 2000’s upbeat Kwaito era to a jazzier sound.

The songbird was raised in a musical family, a journey which was heavily influenced by her father Jaco Maria, a Cape Town singer and lead vocalist for 1980’s group Ozila. As such, it was inevitable that Wanda would sooner unleash her creative agility.

On her debut album Voices, Baloyi let go of the fierce hooks that had characterised her initial musical era, and started slowing down the tempo to showcase her beautiful vocals over delightful melodies.

Exclusive Music Interview with South African Jazz singer Wanda Baloyi

And while that was almost two decades ago, the songstress maintains that music must be a platform for authentic storytelling. “Our people want to know about us”, she says. “They want to know what the issues we are dealing with are, our story, our language and our rhythm.”

After taking a breather and retreating from the trappings of popular culture and the zeitgeist, as it where, Wanda makes a triumphant to the spotlight with new music.

This season, which kicks off with ‘Umendo’, finds her content and assured in who she is.

“What’s new about me as an artist, and as a woman, is I’m more content about who and where I am. I’ve accepted things that I cannot change.”

Consistent with her commitment to telling stories that help others relate and find a sense of healing, ‘Umendo’ gives a voice to the blowback African women face when leaving marriages.

“It talks about a failed marriage and the expectations of the wife in the African cultural content, and the shame of having to go back home and face your family, face the community with that title of coming from a failed marriage”, she tells us.

In this interview, Wanda Baloyi reflects on the treasures of experiences that have shaped her new outlook on life, how she has found her voice, as well as how the new music aims to shine a light on parts of ourselves that yearn to be known.

Q: It’s always fascinating finding out about the frenzy that follows the release of new music for an artist…

Because I haven’t been doing it for a while, it feels a little bit new. But for me, it’s obviously just a process that you have to get through. So it’s fun and exciting to get people to know what you’ve been working on and what the project is about.

Q: Obviously it’s a different feeling from the day just before you release new work. What is that like, the emotions before releasing a new song?

It’s mixed emotions. There’s this anxious feeling because you’ve been creating this baby, you’ve been in studio doing whatever you can do to make this baby sound proper, and you are happy with it… you are excited!

But now taking it to the next step and to the audience… it’s like literally stripping yourself naked and expecting people to be like “Woah! Hot body!” (Laughs) So it’s a bit scary and exciting because before you let go, you, yourself are content and happy with it. If it starts with your happiness, the rest is not in your control.

Q: Is that possibly the scariest thing about being an artist?

There are many scary things about being an artist. Being an artist in itself is scary! Being able to release and let go of your projects to the world is scary. Being onstage is scary. Being unproductive and not being relevant in terms of being loyal to your craft, is scary because you feel God has blessed you with this talent, so why aren’t you doing anything with it?

That’s scary on its own. Just the fact that you are haunted by this gift on a daily basis is scary because it also affects your relationships and a whole lot of things. It’s a very selfish talent, by the way. It demands so much of you that whoever is with you is going to have to be with ya’ll.

There also many scary elements of the industry itself, but in that scariness its exciting and fun! There’s no day that you wake up with nothing to do… There’s a bit of both in it, and I think that in life, if you don’t do anything scary, you won’t do anything exciting.

Q: Your latest single Umendo. Tell us about the genesis of the song

First of all, I worked with a really amazing talent. Dr. Sipho Sithole who has worked with amazing artists in South Africa.

That’s on its own was an exciting collaboration.

I had given him the vision of what I wanted to do on the project, and I think because he was long ready to work with me, he was like, ‘I got you!’ From the first day when we recorded the first song, till the last, it was a breeze. It was an amazing experience. It was more fun than it was work.

I wanted the project to have meaning in terms of the messages we are talking about in the songs. I wanted it to have depth in the storytelling.

And not only stories that are personal to myself, but things we go through in society, in the continent, in the world. As a woman, as a black woman and as Africans. I wanted the issues to be topical.

In this case ‘Umendo’ talks about marriage. I’m not married by the way, not yet! (Laughs).

What I love about the topic is it talks about a failed marriage and the expectations of the wife in the African cultural content, and the shame of having to go back home and face your family, face the community with that title of coming from a failed marriage.

It’s about having to take your children back and having to explain. The whole issue of it being difficult for a woman to remove herself from a situation while being judged.

It’s expected for you because ‘Hawu, you are married mos. Stay there! Hold on. Fight for it!’ But there are certain things that take so much from you that you have to free yourself. Already in the country, we are dealing with gender based violence and so many issues, that the stories are not being voiced in song.

This is a song that creates and provokes conversation. It gets people to talk about it. Someone sitting somewhere will be like, ‘yo I’m in this situation and I can get out of it.’

Q: Do you feel that in the South African music industry and the space we take up in the world, that we are telling our authentic stories?

I think we are now. I’m inspired by the new talent. They are very fearless, and decisive about what they want to say in their songs. I can make an example about Samthing Soweto and Sjava. Those artists are talking about real issues.

I think what connects them to people is the audience is that realness. Someone sitting elokshini or wherever would be like ‘uSjava ukhuluma ngami’ (Sjava is talking about me), or is talking about an issue that I can deeply relate to because this is my reality.

So I think we are. We are delving into ourselves. We have revisited our roots and gone back to the source. Our people want to know about us. They want to know what the issues we are dealing with are, our story, our language and our rhythm.

Q: People completely evolve every five years. This being the beginning of a new era for you, what is new about as a person as an artist?

What’s new about me as an artist and as a woman is I’m more content about who and where I am. I’ve accepted things that I cannot change. I’m truer to myself than I was before.

I think maturing, growing and going through experiences, trials and tribulations, puts you in a space where you become a complete package of yourself. These things are not comparable to anyone else. It’s a personal space where you find contentment and fulfilment with yourself.

And I must say, I’ve become a little more spiritual and I think that brings you there. The world can be so hectic. The world can easily lead you astray if you don’t have a sense of focus and coming back to your sanity and alignment. For me it’s prayer, it’s my mom. She is a constant reminder of what I can become. Also, it’s okay for you to express yourself and tell your stories in a manner that is comfortable for you.

Q: What inspires you, ultimately?

Life. I’m inspired by life, I’m inspired by truth and I’m inspired by many things! I love coming back to my experiences, and that’s my truth. I’m inspired by pain because I relate to it, I recognise it, I’m familiar with it. That can be a little bit good, because it forces you to come out of it.

Pain in the same way as depression is a reminder of where you aren’t supposed to be, or what you don’t want. So when you feel that, go in. It’s healing, when you face your pain. I’m also inspired by people in general, by other musicians

Q: You grew up in a musical family. What was that moment for you when you knew music is certainly what you want to do?

Yes, I’m from a musical family. My dad is a musician, he’s an amazing vocalist.  I think growing up in a musical family, I didn’t really know I was going to be a musician. It’s just something that was there. I was surrounded by it. I loved it and there was always some time of excitement.

As I grew older, I started to find my voice and passion and I was like, ‘This space makes me happy.’ But it wasn’t something where I sat down and decided, ‘Oh, I’m going to do this’. It just captured me.

Q: What’s been the most definitive moment in your career so far?

The realisation that I can not live without it. In whatever shape or form.

Discover New Music Music, Exclusive Interviews and Album Reviews on QuenchSA.com!

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10 Best South African Albums and LPs Of 2019

A list of 10 albums that snapped in ways that mattered the most.

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2019 was a great year for the South African music industry. New highs were reached, new plaques were secured, and new genres disrupted the scene. But while many established faves did not release new works, the streets produced enough solid releases to raise the bar.

10. KHULI CHANA – PLANET OF THE HAVE NOTS

Best South African Albums 2019 - Khuli Chana Planet of The Have Nots

The Motswako originator, as he is affectionately known to his fans, is an alluring figure.

Although boasting a dazzling discography, which features a bunch of hits and award winning, critically acclaimed best selling albums, he has remained an elusive frame in the culture.

Perhaps it’s because he shuns the seductions of hype fuelled social media splashes that have become synonymous with the marketing tricks employed by his contemporaries.

Chana, it seems, is fine allowing the music to speak for itself, an allegiance to authenticity that informs his commitment to Motswako, an offshoot of Hip Hop that originates and represents his SeTswana culture.

The Planet of The Haves was released without any theatrics, a strategy that is fitting for the sound.

Containing 13 new songs, including the Ichu promotional single with Cassper Nyovest, the album is a throwback dive with a modern day twist.

Khuli tugs back at the heartstrings of Kwaito, using technical elements that not only gave soundtracks to the summers of the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, but also offered an arsenal of tools for the likes of Jabba and Morafe, who along with Khuli Chana, are noted for popularising Motswako.

Having applied his creative instincts to execute a major collaboration with Absolut, where he had the creative freedom to unleash visual storytelling as an element to his pioneering his art, he has expressed and conducted his business in a way that never steered from his original sound, voice and aesthetic.

The Planet of The Haves lines up back to back delights for the bonafide Khuli Chana fan.

9. MFR SOULS – THE BEGINNING

Best South African Albums 2019 - MFR Souls The Beginning

Hailing from Katlehong in Ekurhuleni, the dynamic duo has paved their way to the top with beautiful house music.

What’s more, many still don’t know that the two are considered as one of the pioneers of the now popular Amapiano house music sub-genre, which they championed and stuck to for almost a decade before everyone picked it up in the last couple of years.

Consisting of Maera and Force Reloaded, MFR Souls have delivered a slew of piano-laden house numbers through the years, focusing on refining their unique touch while also firing up their work on the decks.

They’ve also shunned the spotlight, moving subtly in underground dance music circles and building a steady footprint within township dance culture, where they’ve made a name for themselves.

Though, 2019 marked a full circle.

With the success of Love You Tonight, featuring Sha Sha, DJ Maphorisa and Kabza De Small, they decided to premiere their debut EP, The Beginning.

We first vibed to the nine track record at a private album listening session in Rosebank, Johannesburg, where they treated music industry insiders and peers to a vinyl treatment of their luxurious offering.

The Beginning is easily one of the best dance music albums to emerge from 2019. The beauty in the  material is that MFR Souls have refused to incorporate elements and tricks of the more palatable Amapiano sound, which has emerged with repetitive hooks, chords and explicit lyrics.

Instead they’ve stayed true to their approach in making music, working with skilled vocalists to deliver a solid discography of dance numbers.

8. MUZI – ZENO

Best South African Albums 2019 - Muzi - Zeno

Muzi is an important figure to the South African music industry. He is countercultural, colourful and hella talented.

Through his experiments with a variety of sounds, spanning electro, EDM, Afro-Beats, House, Jazz and God-knows-what, he’s managed to establish a sound that thrives outside the parameters of whatever box containing outdated and limited expressions of blackness.

And in the digital age, where the vast richness and sheer enormity of blackness has never mattered as much, he pitches a tent with a lush vibe built from a bass that keeps on giving.

On Zeno, a 12 track LP that premiered ahead of his headline spot at Black Coffee’s second Music Is King show last year, Muzi gives us electro, electronic maskandi and a litany of sonic influences.

The album is both futuristic and nostalgic, a testament to how creativity can allow us to travel through time.

Samthing Soweto hovers delightful vocals and delivers a smooth Afrosoul feel on Mncane, for example.

But of course, being a Muzi production, the track at once feels distinctly African in a classical sense, while also deploying space age electronic elements to remind us the future is now.

We are going to start seeing more artists and creatives exploring varied expressions in the coming decade. You watch!

7. PRINCE KAYBEE – RE MMINO

Best South African Albums 2019 - Prince Kaybee Re Mmino

We genuinely thought Prince Kaybee had risen to become the biggest artist in South Africa by mid-2019 when we asked him in this exclusive interview whether or he considers himself as the lion of the jungle.

It’s the year he had Fetch Your Life featuring Msaki and Gugulethu featuring Nokwazi blazing through the airwaves while Banomoya with Busiswa, and Club Controller with TNS were barely letting up their chart dominance.

All these hits would be packed on Re Mmino, his third studio album.

The tape proved to be the peak of a journey that began with stints in television presenting before the fire debut of Better Days in 2015. Since then, Prince Kaybee has been dishing back to back anthems in a manner only DJ Cleo had been able to do in the decade prior.

But while Kabelo does believe that he has reached somewhat of a ceiling in appeasing the local market, an epiphany that informed the release of the Crossover EP –  which attempted to begin a chapter that sets the sails towards the rest of the planet – he did not believe himself to the leading artist.

Re Mmino is a delight for house music enthusiasts.

While not his best album critically, the 13 track offering delivered some of the biggest hits of the year, shaking the landscape and keeping the dance floors populated.

6. LADY ZAMAR  MONARCH

Best South African Albums 2019 - Lady Zamar Monarch

In 2019, Lady Zamar followed the massive success of King Zamar with the release of her sophomore studio album (it’s her third when counting the debut collaborative album, Cotton Candy with Junior Taurus).

Monarch contains 20 new songs cohesively creating a world in which the songbird hovers sublime vocals over dance instrumentals.

The album, which had fans complimenting Lady Zamar for her songwriting skills and flair for melody, also came with a studio version of Destiny, the emotional offering she first debuted on JR’s Feel Good Sessions to much applause.

RELATED: THE DECADE’S 18 BEST SOUTH AFRICAN LIVE ACTS!

Yet far from the awe-inspiring acoustic version she performed in the stripped down session, the studio version melts into the album’s dance sonic core.

Co-penned 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.

The SAMA award winning King Zamar debut album has spawned a bevy of megahits, setting the benchmark quite high not only for other female artists in the house music and pop dance scenes, but also herself.

Ducking the daggers of the sophomore slump, Lady Zamar shines even further on Monarch.

Though, fans will continue wondering how many, if any, of the new songs were inspired by the highs and lows of her former relationship with Sjava, which she detailed last year in a string of tweets.

5. AMI FAKU – IMALI

Best South African Albums 2019 - Ami Faku

The best time to strike is when no one is looking. With the release of her album Imali, Ami Faku rose to become one of the best performing South African female artists in 2019.

By the end of the year and decade, the Eastern Cape native became the only newcomer to appear on Spotify’s Top 100 Most Streamed South African Artists, trailing behind established incumbents and digital faves Shekhinah and Lady Zamar.

She also had three songs on Apple Music’s 100 Best Songs of 2019 with Into Ingawe with Sun-EL Musician, Imali ft Blaq Diamond and Ndiyeke with Lemon & Herb.

Imali introduces us to 11 beautiful songs that showcase Ami Faku’s sultry voice and songwriting in her native Xhosa language.

She immerses herself with the rich texture of her culture and gives all a contemporary take on Afro Pop and Afro Soul blends.

4. AMANDA BLACK – POWER

Best South African Albums 2019 - Amanda Black Power

There was a time, after the dust had settled from the success of her debut album Amazulu, when Amanda Black’s future was uncertain.

While fans patiently awaited the follow up to Black’s sterling 2016 debut, the powerhouse singer had secretly retreated to her hometown in Mthatha, Eastern Cape, where she had been contemplating her next move.

This dark chapter in the former Idols SA contestant came after her departure from record label, Ambitiouz Entertainment. “I’ve been in hibernation”, she told ZikhiphaniTV last year. Her departure was marked by legal drama and contractual untangling that threatened to cut short a promising career.

But the 26 year old rose like a phoenix, created her own record label and partnered with Sony Music.

It is here that she record her second album, Power, an empowering manifesto for resilience and the power of the human spirit.

Over 17 tracks, Black sings her heart out on various themes, the most prominent being love and triumph. “I believe I was born for greatness”, she sings on the title track Power. “That I will stand and fight for all my dreams.”

Her dream deferred resumes triumphantly with a project that sustains Black’s place in the South African music industry.

Stripped down and ready to share the pains she endured in her personal life, Power is full of emotion, vulnerability and displays of strength.

3. DJ MAPHORISA & KABZA DE SMALL – THE RETURN OF SCORPION KINGS

If Amapiano reached the crest of its enormous wave in 2019, then Porry and Kabza De Small are the architects who steered the arching curl from the shore.

DJ Maphorisa finally strikes the maestro mantle that has slowly been coming his way since scoring a Billboard #1 through Drake’s 2016 hit One Dance, on which he had production credits.

Kabza De Small, who’s meteoric rise to the mainstream couldn’t be more remarkable, is perhaps the bigger winner.

The rise of amapiano and his popularity were so synchronised that he became Spotify SA’s most streamed South African artist of the year – proving once more that in the world of streaming, the playing field is fair game.

After all in 2019, not even for the most established pop culture incumbents could flash victory cards on a table dominated by amapiano and house music.

After unleashing a slew of hits, a bulk which found them working repeatedly with Samthing Soweto and new sensation Sha Sha, the collaborative duo debuted their first full body of work – The Scorpion Kings.

Where that produced a set of blockbuster hits for the dance floor, the sequel elevates their sound and gives them room to flex their creative prowess.

The Return of Scorpion Kings features 15 songs and a bevy of high powered collaborations, a list including King Tha (a.k.a Thandiswa Mazwai), Mlindo, Busiswa and amongst others Mi Casa. The hit packed project also comes with a posthumous collaboration with South African legend,  Hugh Masekela.

2. SAMTHING SOWETO – ISPHITHIPHITHI

Best South African Albums 2019 - Samthing Soweto Isphithiphithi

2019 was Samthing Soweto’s year, period.

Samthing Soweto had a supreme moment of encounter with destiny. His oeuvre delivered a timeless classic that not only places him ahead of the melee, but has the potential to shift the industry forward with its manifesto for a return to brilliance as a benchmark.

Real name Samkelo Mdolomba, the hitmaker finally liberated his highly anticipated debut studio album, Isphithiphithi.

Already touted as a strong contender for album of the year by satiated fans and critics, the 13-track project marks a full circle for Samthing Soweto, who first flirted with the thrill of commercial success in 2011 as one of the founding members of acapella group – The Soil.

ALBUM REVIEW: SAMTHING SOWETO – ISPHITHIPHITHI

Working with a bevy of the country’s high powered producers, such as Kabza De Small, DJ Maphorisa and Thabo Ngubane, a.k.a Mass, Samthing Soweto has engineered a richly layered masterpiece that launches his solo career from a crest.

The album premiered to much fanfare, having topped the iTunes album chart based on pre-orders alone. The lead single, Akulaleki, one of this summer’s biggest street anthems, was also #1 on iTunes across genres, making Samthing Soweto the first South African artist to achieve this feat.

As a complete project, Isphithiphithi sounds like work that took time to be created. Samthing Soweto’s powerful voice hovers on each song.

Good things do come to those who wait.

Isphithiphithi has spawned a number of chart topping hit singles, and many of them were cancelling each other out as top contenders for song of the year during the festive season of 2019.

Such tracks as Akulaleki, AmaDM and Lotto dominated the airwaves and gave the streets substance to dance to.

This is a richly layered project, each song sufficing to exist beyond the world of the album. Yet as a cohesive set, the album decks out a brilliant offering.

1. SHANE EAGLE – BLACK MOON FLOWER

Best South African Albums 2019 - Shane Eagle Dark Moon Flower

The rapper has delivered his most beautiful work yet, and that’s saying a mouthful, seeing as his two previous works were lauded for their creative swell.

Not only did his debut album Yellow garner Shane Eagle a much deserved SAMA award, it also reached GOLD status in the land.

So did his sophomore project, the critical masterpiece, Never Grow Up. Although an EP, the record found Shane Eagle flexing elastic lyrical abilities, layering beautiful beats with autobiographical recollections of a journey that shapes his being.

He tackled the ways his DNA, which bring Europe and Africa both in his blood and in the studio, configured his reality in ways that open themselves up to exploration.

It’s after the release of this EP that Eagle fully established his own zone within the South African Hip Hop landscape. He tossed aside the initial flirtations with a more commercially viable, wave surfing sound for music more authentically suited to his mind and creative instinct.

On Dark Moon Flower, the rapper refines his soundscape and elevates it to offer his fans a magnum opus that puts a mark on his catalogue as representing some of the finest figures in the new school Hip Hop wave. Like Never Grow Up, the project, which he later cleared up to be a mere EP, also explores many spiritual themes.

Shane Eagle is really fascinated by deeper philosophical truths. He loves meditating on ideas about the genesis of life and the form God takes up, while tackling various social themes and the youth angst troubling this generation.

The EP beautifully produced, delivering a quality worthy of the album artwork being splashed all over Times Square in NYC the way that he did following its release.

The litany of international collaborations here also bare testimony to the fact that Shane Eagle is clearly playing a long game.  As he charges on Evolve, the low-fi vibes meet metallic angst collaborative entry with PatricKxxLee, “I just want to take my time to evolve!”

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5 Ways Burna Boy Can Win South Africa Back

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By now, Burna Boy has succeeded in one distinction not many African artists have mastered – feuding with a country and alienating himself from its people.

Of course, throughout history, many international and local artists have been banned from entering the country for noble political reasons, particularly during Apartheid.

None of them, however, swore to never set foot in South Africa over streamlined fake news.

But when the spate of xenophobic violence plagued the country in September 2019 – a wave of attacks targeting foreign nationals which was rightfully condemned on a wide scale locally and by the global community – Burna Boy’s Twitter outburst triggered an onslaught of resistance to his music, with many calling for his music to be boycotted.

“I have not set foot in SA since 2017”, he tweeted on September 3rd. “And I will NOT EVER go to South Africa again for any reason until the SOUTH AFRICAN government wakes the fuck up and really performs A miracle because I don’t know how they can even possibly fix this.” (sic)

In a series of seething tweets, the Nigerian singer explained that he wouldn’t stand on the sidelines and watch Nigerians being killed in South Africa.

“He won’t be much of an ‘African Giant’ if entire shows keep being cancelled because he refuses to acknowledge and apologise for inflammatory statements seen by multitudes as having contributed negatively to the ideal of uniting Africans.”

He also rightfully drew attention to the fact xenophobic violence had occurred severally since the 2008 attacks that blindsided the country, revealing existing tensions between locals and African migrants.

“But Today After watching the Killing of my people in South Africa the same way we have all watched it happen a few times in the past. FUCK ALL THAT! I personally have had my own xenophobic experiences at the hands of South Africans and because of that…..” (sic)

The rant also came with a war of words between the ‘African Giant’ and South African rapper AKA, with whom his career found prominence when the two collaborated on their smash hit, All Eyes On Me, in 2014.

Burna Boy appeared to threaten AKA with physical violence after the South African rapper’s tweet about Bafana Bafana’s loss to the Super Eagles.

In July this year, South Africa lost to the Nigerian national soccer team, the Super Eagles, in the AFCON quarter finals.

“It’s a hard pillow to swallow man”, AKA tweeted at the time. “We keep losing to Nigeria in every way.”

He continued, “I’m hurt man. This match was bigger than football. The biggest rivalry on the continent. Why do we always have to lose against Naija at EVERYTHING.” (sic)

When the attacks happened, Nigerian artist YCee lambasted the tweets. Burna Boy joined the fray, blowing things even further.

While most incendiary tweets that spark public furore are usually deleted straight after by celebrities, a PR practice which is soon followed by an apology of understanding ‘the pain caused by the words’, or something or another, Burna Boy has refused to apologise.

The subsequent announcement that he would be donating proceeds from the Africans Unite concert, which had been planned as part as a remedial intervention to use music as a unifier, fell flat when the festival was cancelled just days before he was billed to perform alongside Jidenna and Kwesta in Pretoria and Cape Town.

The concert, which organisers explained as an attempt to “rebuild trust and respect amongst African nations by changing the current narrative to that of unity and solidarity”, was pulled when safety concerns entered the discussion.

Angered music fans had been threatening to show up to disrupt the shows. The threats were being brandished at an alarming rate as calls for Burna to apologise persisted.

In a shocking move, Burna returned on Twitter to put matters on ice.

“saying I mislead people? And I made up the Xenophobic attacks and I should apologise. Really? Lol. In 2015 Even I was a victim of the misguided hate so I know. Go and demand apologies from your REAL Enemies. I am not your Enemy. I will not be called a “foreigner” I am AFRICAN” (sic).

Last week, AFROPUNK Joburg announced that Burna Boy would no longer be part of the upcoming festival’s line-up on December 30th and 31st.

“We’re dedicated to working with Burna Boy and his team for his return to South Africa when the climate is right”, the festival said in a press statement received by QuenchSA. “We are deeply committed to providing music lovers and fans a safe space for all to express themselves.”

Burna Boy is yet to acquiesce to the fact that some of his initial and subsequent statements may have been misguided.

During the 2019 wave of xenophobic attacks, no Nigerian national had been killed as suggested in his tweets.

What now? Here are some possible options for the African Giant.

After all, he won’t be much of an ‘African Giant’ if entire shows keep being cancelled because he refuses to acknowledge and apologise for inflammatory statements seen by multitudes as having contributed negatively to the ideal of uniting Africans.

APOLOGISE 

It’s unclear what informs Burna Boy’s reluctance to acknowledge his mistake, apologise and move on. Seems strange that he’d allow for large scale cancellations to happen in quick succession over failure to engage meaningfully in the discussion to heal?

But when one drills down, it may not be entirely absurd while he hasn’t apologised.

Firstly, he would have to come to terms with the fact that he was misled by fake content that was collected and repurposed from atrocities that took place in several parts of the world, over time.

He’s also refused to let his personal experience of xenophobia in South Africa, which he is yet to detail, to be denied. That’s understandable, everyone should be give the opportunity to express their own pain, and tell their side of the story.

Still, that’s what apologies are for. Not only do they help one express their remorse while acknowledging the pain caused by their actions, they also open a platform for dialogues with potentially remedial outcomes.

WRITE AN OPEN LETTER

Let’s move away from Twitter for second.

The apology, the logic, conditions and material that led to his statements could be better discussed in an honest, heartfelt letter to his fans, and to Africans. It’s more personal, feels more in line with his work as a songwriter, and, perhaps most importantly, gives him more space to express himself beyond the character limit on Twitter, where the culture sometimes inspires a weird readiness for drama.

CHAMPION A SOCIAL CAMPAIGN 

A lot of people will see through that, obviously, but its the intention that will count more. I can think of more reasons why using one’s platform to elevate the conversation and move things forward is a better catalyst for change that tossing out obscenities in a middle of a social crisis.

If I were in Burna’s team, I would have tried convincing him to design a campaign targeting various issues, including the dangers of falling victim to fake news.

MAKE A SONG ABOUT ONE LOVE 

An African giant doing a song about love to unite Africans after a wave of xenophobic attacks? I can’t think of a more teachable moment.

Consider Bob Marley lyrics for ‘Africa Unite’

Africa unite

‘Cause we’re moving right out BabylonAnd we’re going to our Father’s land

How good and how pleasant would it be

Before God and man, yeah

To see the unification of all Africans, yeah

 

Now that he is more palatable to the global market, consider lyrics from Major Lazer’s ‘All My Love’
Sometimes I think we’re the brightest stars
And I try to believe we’ll find a way
Will life change when our turn colder?
All your love will make us ache
All your love is worth the chase
All my love, I know they’ll let it find us
All my love’s up on the mountain tops.

All your love will make us ache

TOO SOON TO COLLABORATE WITH AKA?

I know this is pushing it, but history is made by those constantly willing to push the boundaries. I think the feud, from both sides, is a silly distraction to a serious issue. But I also think their unity would do so much for the culture, and for Africa.

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