uShukela eTiyeni

uShukela eTiyeni

“I’m just trying to grow with my audience,” rapper and gqom master Okmalumkoolkat tells Apple Music. “I can’t get stuck doing one thing. But it’s also a bit confusing to cater to my audience because, on one hand, I have people who are in their late forties who listen to my stuff, but I also have teens and 20-year-olds bumping my music. That’s also where my stage name comes from. I’m always in the middle of two generations—like a cool uncle.” uShukela eTiyeni, the artist’s second studio album and sixth overall solo offering, features his characteristic mix of divergent sounds. From kwaito, gqom and trap to chillwave and amapiano, Okmalumkoolkat’s latest offering came to life with the help of collaborators such as DJ Tira, Zoocci Coke Dope, Junior Taurus and the late Killer Kau. Its 18 tracks feature rapturous highs over thumping 808s and dark, menacing lows over the broken beat and synth melodies of gqom. Okmalumkoolkat’s flow, confident and crystalline, is the connective tissue that holds together the album’s varied list of diametrically opposed sounds. Here, the artist born Smiso Zwane explains the album’s motivations and how he put it together, track by track. “Siyayintshontsha (iAttention)” (feat. Nirvana Nokwe) “This song came about after I read an article about how attention is the new currency. Companies are spending money to draw your attention to advertising and keep you on their apps and websites for as long as possible. It’s almost like they’re stealing your attention. So, I thought, ‘Yeah, this is how we’re going to start the album. We’re going to do that.’ Enjoy ‘Siyayintshontsha’ because, over the next hour, we’re going to steal your attention.” “Came With the Sjambok” “I’d never really given people insight into my life as a father. ‘Came With the Sjambok’ is a window into my life as a father: how it’s just me hanging out with my kids, playing with them, helping with homework and then putting them to bed before heading out to perform.” “Spova the Genge Superior” “I’d compare ‘Spova the Genge Superior’ to [South African rapper] Emtee’s ‘Manando’. You know how, on that joint, he’s talking about an OG who put him on? That’s the same thing here. I’m paying homage to the OGs who put me on while I was growing up in Umlazi. These are the people who inspired my fashion choices—who’d tell me to always tailor my pants after I buy them. Even if you listen to the song, you can hear that, musically, it’s a different vibe from everything else on the album. It’s a song I hold very close to my heart.” “The Mpahlas” (feat. Crush, Windows 2000 & 45 Degreez) [Remix] “The original version of this song was on Bhlomington EP, which was released in 2020. But I felt like we hadn’t pushed the song or the EP enough, so I added verses from Crush, Windows 2000 and 45 Degreez. But I also felt it was important to feature them because they came up with that slang. A lot of the slang being used over the past four or five years has been their contribution, so it was important to add them to the song.” “Umhlanga Rocks” “‘Umhlanga Rocks’ is another introspective song. It’s a shout-out to KZN. I’m basically saying, ‘Before you go to study in Asia, come check out Umhlanga Rocks.’ The city has a lot to offer.” “Weh! Rhe!” “I wrote ‘Weh! Rhe!’ sometime in 2021. That’s one of the songs I consider a time capsule. It’s one of the songs people will listen to four or five years from now and think about how 2021 was Armageddon. The beat is quite simple, but that’s by design. Sometimes I deliberately choose not to be super futuristic. Sometimes I’ll go for a simple trap beat so that I can get the message across.” “iYona” (feat. DJ Tira & sanie boi) “So, there’s a huge TKZee influence on this. But funny enough, M’DU was also an influence of mine and the two had beef. I feature sanie boi on the song, who’s one of my oldest friends. We’d walked in on Prince Bulo making the beat and had an impromptu recording session at Afrotainment Studios. It came about organically.” “iStandard” (feat. Teedow Bangs) “This is another one with a heavy kwaito influence. I worked with Junior Taurus on the song. I’m trying to sound like one of my icons [Mdu Masilela] on there. Even though I don’t necessarily have the same bass as Mdu, and the song is amapiano, I still wanted to use the song to pay homage.” “Weekend Egangile” “Cid Rim is an Austrian producer. I worked with him on this song and had collaborated with him on my Holy Oxygen EP. He’s a well-celebrated producer in Austria—the kind you’d see on billboards. So, we worked together on ‘Weekend Egangile’. It’s not necessarily gqom; it’s a song with an alternative electronic feel to it.” “Weekend Egangile” (Remix) “Most people don’t know this, but gqom has different subgenres. Griffit Vigo has this dark spin to his gqom, so I wanted to showcase that on the album. A lot of people used to say gqom sounds the same, so I wanted to use this song to dispel that myth.” “New South Africa Entsha” (feat. BEAST, Killer Kau & Thelawayeka) “So, a lot of this stuff has been ready for a long time. At the beginning of ‘New South Africa Entsha’, after Killer Kau’s verse, I shout, ‘Gqom wave 2019,’ because the song was recorded in 2019. Killer Kau was alive then. All these songs are like a time capsule of what was going on in South Africa, musically, at that time.” “Ngamadolo” (feat. Thelawayeka & Sego the Great) “When people ask why I make gqom, I always say it’s because it’s the one sound that’s truly from my city. The song is also called ‘Thukzin’s Theme’ because it’s a homage to [South African producer] Thukzin. I’m not sure he’d even like the beat because we made it such a long time ago. Thukzin is making amapiano right now. So, it's going to be so weird dropping that track because he’s not even there anymore.” “Lokshin Gqom Wave” “I don’t want to overhype the song, but my verse on ‘Lokshin Gqom Wave’ is crazy. It’s a hard verse. I performed it in Cape Town, and everyone went wild over that song. It’s one of the singles I dropped before releasing the album, and it’s already been well-received.” “Uthando to the T” (feat. Debra. Nist) “‘Uthando to the T’ has a psychedelic-R&B vibe to it. I wanted to make another love song after the success of ‘Amalobola’ on my previous album, Mlazi Milano. Lunatik Beatz produced ‘Amalobola’, so I roped him in for this as well. People might find it weird that I’m rapping on a trap beat, but I just wanted to make sure I could deliver the song’s message as simply as possible.” “Vele Kunjalo” (feat. Crush) “I didn’t make any beats on the album this time around. This was produced by Siphiwe Tshabalala, who is the drummer for the jazz band The Brother Moves On. I gave him my Octapad [digital drum machine] a while back and he started making some beats with that. He’s from a jazz background, but it was good to get some beats from him.” “Cava the Action” (feat. Debra Nist) “‘Cava the Action’ is a retrospective track. I talk about my upbringing, how I grew up Umlazi and being in high school. It’s a very internal, emotional retrospective song.” “Izandla” “‘Mzukulu’ and ‘Izandla’ were produced by the same guy [Marno Kaan]. I was getting into an elevator at the apartment complex I lived in at the time, and my homie asked if he could send me some beats to rap over. One of those beats eventually became ‘Izandla’.” “Mzukulu” (feat. Nirvana Nokwe) ‘Mzukulu’ is Zulu for ‘grandchild’. I placed this song at the end because it’s like a message in a bottle for future generations. We’re talking to abazukulu who’ll inherit the music we’re making.”

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