Samthing Soweto's progress towards stardom has been calm and calculated. He started his career with The Soil, moving on to disrupt the live band scene with his solo ventures alongside his work with the now-defunct trio, The Fridge. He now enters his third phase as a pop icon, creating music with a deep, almost visceral understanding of what people want to hear. The resulting album Isphithiphithi is a masterclass in form and finesse from beginning to end.
"[The Pre-Add went] number 1 on Apple Music. That was a record for a local artist. I didn't think there was another record to be broken", he says. Samthing talked us through the eleven-track release.
"Sebenzela Nina” "I think it's a worker's anthem. People wake up in the morning every day, whether they like it or not, to take public transport, to go and work the hard jobs, and come back home. Definitely the one to start the album. It describes why people do what they do when they work for their families, and why I do what I do when I work for my audience."
"Azishe" "It's a song about a lot of things, and I would appreciate it if the audience told me what they think the song is about. I name-drop a few things. It's a controversial set of topics, merged into one. I just want the people to decipher it for themselves."
"Omama Bomthandazo" "Most of us have mothers that really love us, and have provided for us [when] our fathers were absent. It's a tribute to all those mothers, people who are constantly on our side, working with us as their kids."
"Nodoli" "It's a song about my daughter, to my daughter. I'm telling her what I was going through when she was born. She likes the more popular songs. Anything [of mine] that plays on TV or radio, she'll get into."
"Uvalo" "Fear, or nervousness. It's a love song about when this girl shows up, and you start shaking in your boots."
"Thanda Wena" "This one features Shasha, who is signed to [DJ Maphorisa’s imprint] Blaqboy Music, and originates from Zimbabwe. It was originally Kabza De Small's song. He worked on it, got finished, and decided to give it to me. What's funny is that Mlindo the Vocalist has the same song on his album. So I'm gonna call it "Thanda Wena" (pt. 2)."
"Umuhle Uyasabeka" "Means you are beautiful, you are scary. My partner told me a story once. She's like, I'm in a taxi. I get off in Soweto, visiting my aunt. As I'm walking towards her place, I meet this guy in the street. He’s like "yo baby, umuhle, engathi uyiVampire". That actually hit me. I understood what he meant. It's like you look like someone from Twilight, the movie. It's like you so beautiful, it's scary. I know people like that, where you look at them and like, when they show up, you don't even wanna talk to them. That's where that whole concept comes from."
"Uthando Lwempintshi Yakho" "It's a song about infidelity. I'll just leave it there."
"Ispithiphithi" "It's an ode to old-school wedding songs. It's a song about love. It sounds very much like Brenda Fassie's songs. Because I'm doing pop, you can't miss her. You can't ignore her. She's South African pop royalty."
"Happy Birthday" "I always wanted to make a Happy Birthday song. I think it'll stand amongst other happy birthday songs, give ‘em some competition."
"Lotto" "Apart from Maphorisa and Kabza, Mlindo's the biggest artist that I have on the album. He was the only one available to actually feature, everyone else was hectically busy. I would have loved to have all the main acts, bo-Cassper, bo-Kwesta, all those characters. They're working on their own stuff; it's hard to get them into any type of commitment. Mlindo's the only who came through and showed love. I'll forever be grateful for that, he didn't have to. He's a young man, has the world eating off of the palm of his hand. He's also the catalyst that showed me that Maphorisa's a dope person to work with. It was a DJ Tira song. I recorded it at his studio."
"AmaDM" "It's a song about sliding into someone's DMs. I find that thing fascinating. It's only recently that I got really interested in that stuff. I was like yo, we all kinda partake in this thing, and we talk about it all the time. But there's never a song about it. So I just wrote a song. In the song I'm like, I've no time. If I did, I could talk to you outside of the DMs and try to cultivate some type of rapport with you. But you know what, I don't have the time, so I'll slide in the DMs, give you my numbers. Call me."
"Akulaleki" "It features Shasha. Like many other songs, I wrote it, finished it, and didn't think much of it. DJ Maphorisa took the song out to Durban July, played it out there, and he was like it's a good song. [The Amapiano deejay] Stokie from Soweto heard it, and told Maphorisa that it's the one. He broke it in Soweto, played it on all his sets. Maphorisa leaked the song two weeks before it came out, just to test. Crowds went crazy. Twitter and Instagram went nuts. We dropped it on Apple Music, and it was number 1. It's a love song that connects love and partying, and this country loves that."