Hip hop have always thrived on Cape Town’s Cape Flats; that vast expanse of coloured and African working class (and dotted with occasional middle class) neighborhoods on the periphery of the city’s mostly white and wealthy center.
Rap pioneers Prophets of da City (the subject of the new documentary by Dylan Valley and Sean Drummond), Black Noise (reinterpreting Afrika Bambataa back in Africa), and Brasse vannie Kaap (probably the closest thing to hip hop rockers; their song ‘Cape Flats’ a romp with reggae rockers Nine the best example) are all products of the Flats’ townships.
The success and visibility of these bands — in the days before Youtube, MySpace, MP3s, streaming and the partial democratization of technology — was tied down by legal apartheid or the uncertainty of immediate post-1994 music industry and dependent on television, radio spins, fanatical local followings (I saw Brasse in civic centers and school halls all over Cape Town), mainstream breakthroughts (playing at overwhelmingly white venues or festivals was the key to mainstream media pick-up) or international recognition (mainly in Europe). They often got plenty of attention (and got paid), but often struggled to be artists in their own right.
Artists like the late Devious present a transitional case: Attuned to the new technology (but with limited access), he faced up to a skeptical record company environment (kwaito’s bling guaranteed huge returns), but he was murdered before he could really take advantage of new opportunities.
The new artists and bands — as varied as Jitsvinger, Ben Sharpa, Konfab and Kallitz — may want all of that, but could care less. They can make music, despite and at the expense of record labels, commercial (and what’s left of community radio) or mainstream acceptance. For one, technology has changed. They’re all over Youtube, MySpace, Mp3, flickr.com — and some put all their music online for downloading, while others sell online to fans from Reukjavik to Brooklyn.
The most exciting exponent is Terror MC, set to emerge as the representative of the genre’s hard-core. Rapping over dancehall beats, full of braggadacio, and doing so in his mother tongue Afrikaans, this 21 year old MC from Kuilsriver, to the northwest of Cape Town, seems to have the farthest reach and a grasp of the technology and access to Cape Town’s mainstream and underground artistic set.
The best example is his track ‘Liberate Yourself’ produced by DPlanet and released on DPlanet’s Planetary Assault compilation). The video above is edited/produced/mashed-up by visual artist Mustafa Maluka (originally from Cape Town’s Bishop Lavis township, but now based in Berlin).
Terror is someone who has gone through a lot for someone just aged 21. When I first met him, he was living in a shack with his mother and her boyfriend on the sandy dunes of Kuilsrivier. He was robbed of two years of his life after being sent from jail to reform school, back to jail and eventually escaped from a reform school. The charge: he beat up his mom’s boyfriend who had been abusing her. The case was eventually dropped after he spent 2 years in the system. None of his family members were willing to pay the low bail that was set each time he appeared in court.
‘He is currently finishing high school by attending night school classes. He uses money generated from the sales of his music to survive.
His independently released solo album will be released mid December 2007.
Keep checking his MySpace page for further details.