Johannesburg - Musical creatives have long added their numbers to SoundCloud, with some using the platform to experiment with sounds and blur the lines between genres – or completely reimagining what our favourite genres should be.
The platform gives musicians and podcasters the opportunity to produce their craft at minimal cost, and is also largely free for listeners.
And with at least 76 million users, it’s definitely a good place to get your stuff heard. From haunting R&B to jazz and trap, here are the fresh, genre-bending and unique local artists you need to get turned on to.
Cape Town-based producer Jakinda doesn’t really care how you categorise his music. “Some people call it ‘future kwaito’, others call it ‘electronic music’ and some say it’s ‘future gqom’. I don’t mind what it’s called, just as long as they’re listening,” he smiles. Best known as one half of future gqom trap duo Stiff Pap, Jakinda’s music features an equal blend of gqom, industrial music and kwaito. His remix of Babes Wodumo’s song, Wololo, features racing drum work, heavy bass and a looping grunt taken from Mampintsha’s verse. It’s what I imagine gqom will sound like in 2080.
Fresh from a breakout year that saw him perform at the annual Afropunk music festival, he will be heading to Berlin in a few months for this year’s Red Bull Music Academy. I asked him a few questions about his work.
What inspires your music?
When I was growing up it was initially just Kanye West. His music led me to start producing and deejaying. Now I’d say it’s Christian Tiger School, Death Grips – an experimental hip-hop band – and a lot of gqom, like DJ Lag and a whole bunch of cats from Durban.
It’s weird that you haven’t mentioned any kwaito. Your music sounds like a futuristic spin on the genre.
Yeah, I mean I obviously listened to a lot of kwaito growing up so maybe the influence is subliminal. That’s why I find it strange when people say I make kwaito [laughs]. I have no idea how to make kwaito.
It’s weird that you say that. Jiva Pantsula, from Stiff Pap’s Based on a Qho Story, is straight up kwaito, though.
Yeah, but I sampled Christian Tiger School [an alternative electronic duo] for that song. You see what I mean? I obviously listened to a lot of kwaito growing up – Zola, TKZee, Big Nuz and the like – so maybe the influence is subliminal, just always at the back of my mind, without my even noticing it.
Who’s the one person you’d love to work with the most?
Mampintsha from Big Nuz.
I didn’t expect that answer at all.
Exactly, but that’s just me dreaming really big. It would be dope to have him because the stuff I make isn’t at all what he’d normally jump on. I’ve got the perfect beat for him and it’s not gqom, not in the traditional sense anyway.
SoundCloud handle: @Jakindx
Listen to: Dlala and Wololo (remix)
Earlier this year, Cape Town-based rapper Nyota Parker was mentioned by international arts magazine i-D as one of the key players in her city’s hip-hop scene, and it’s easy to see why.
In 2017, the 17-year-old rapper dropped two projects: her debut EP, Age of Enlightenment, and its follow up, called Purification Project. Both feature her trademark socially conscious lyrics and trazz production (a blend of jazzy rhythms and trap).
Imagine the sickest soul sample over bass heavy trap drums and a machine gun flow and you’re close to getting an idea of what Nyota Parker’s sound is all about.
Your music is a mix of jazz, rap and boom bap – a sound you call trazz. How d’you come to make the music you do?
It was a way of marrying the types of music I listen to. On the one hand, I listen to a lot of trap, but I also like underground rap and mellow music by dudes like Tom Misch. I couldn’t separate my love for the different genres, so I found a way to make it all work together.
If you had to pick one of your songs to introduce someone to your work, which would it be?
Can I pick two [laughs]? The first would be a song called Free Us from my debut EP. That’s a straight up trap joint, but it speaks a lot to what I believe. I’m non-conformist and the song’s about how institutions like the media and the school system can erase your individuality.
The second song would be Welcome 2 My Mind off Purification Project, only because that’s most representative of the type of music I make. There’s a bit of singing, rapping and some soul and trap.
You identify as non-conformist and non-binary. Why’s it so important for you to tackle gender norms in your music and personal politics?
I’m just pushing back at how society thinks about women, especially those who make music. I constantly get told that I “make really dope music for a girl” and that’s just so whack. Music has no gender – you’re either dope or you’re not.
So, when I say I’m non-binary, it’s speaking to those times when I’m called a “female emcee”. I don’t want to be boxed in like that – I just want to be judged by the music I make.
SoundCloud handle: @NyotaOfficially
Listen to: I’m Over It and What You On About
In 2017, Pretoria-based muso ThandoNje released two projects: Trust Nje and New Age Soul. Both show off her brand of trap soul R&B – R&B that blends trap and soul music. She’s also built a steady online profile with her covers of songs such as Lil Wayne’s Lollipop and AKA’s All Eyes on Me. Since she first started making music in 2015, she’s racked up over 40 000 plays of her tracks on SoundCloud. And this year she shared the stage with Sho Madjozi at the Absolut One Source Live event.
You have a dope selection of covers, such as Lollipop and Kontrol, for example. How do you reimagine and cover the songs you do? And in the case of All Eyes on Me, turning it into a piano-driven ballad was genius. How did that cover come about?
I always try to reimagine what an artist’s song would be like if it were mine and then I just inject some soul into it. I make covers of artists I like or songs that have great lyrical content, but just weren’t portrayed well, in my opinion. It also helps to improve my songwriting skills, so it’s definitely something I’ll still be doing ten years from now. I genuinely just enjoy showing love to other artists’ songs.
You primarily release your music through SoundCloud. How’s the reception to your music been so far and why use that platform?
Where else can you upload unlimited music and link up with other artists from across the world? It’s a no-brainer. SoundCloud has definitely been the greatest platform for me. I’ve received over 40 000 streams [plays of uploaded songs] on that platform alone and I’ve met artists from different countries just based on the music, which is great for me. Look at Chance The Rapper and his success. Some of the best artists started on SoundCloud.
SoundCloud handle: @ThandoNje
Listen to: Missed Calls and Kontrol (cover)
Everything about Johannesburg-based producer Buli is low key, from his quiet demeanour to his lo-fi productions with their whispering melodies and understated drum work. With influences ranging from international beatsmiths Flying Lotus and Nosaj Thing to local electronic producers Micr.Pluto and Watermark High, his sound is best described as Braamfontein on a rainy day.
You’ve been making music since you were 13 years old – what initially spurred you on to become a producer?
My brother’s friend played us a beat he made on FL Studio [Fruity Loops] and that was amazing to me. I was blown away that he was able to take the sounds and ideas in his head and turn them into something tangible. I’d like to think that’s what I’ve been doing ever since.
Who are some of your influences? And why do you make your particular brand of minimal, ambient music?
My most immediate influences are Flying Lotus, Tycho, Nosaj Thing, Lapalux and Shlohmo [all popular artists on SoundCloud]. Everyone in the local beat scene inspire me, too. Visual art also inspires me a lot. One of my favourite animes, Samurai Champloo, inspired a song of mine called Sunflowers. I watched a few episodes and tried to come up with the soundtrack and Sunflowers was the result.
And Foggy Days? What inspired that?
It’s the same as Sunflowers. Sometimes when I make music I have scenes in my head. I try and make something that will compliment the visuals in my mind, and that’s how Foggy Days came about. I just sat in front of my laptop and messed around until I made something that would match the picture I had in my head of a foggy afternoon.
Name three of the last joints you heard on SoundCloud.
Toonorth’s Overcast, A Calf Born In Winter by Khruangbin and Move by Kaelin Ellis.
SoundCloud handle: @BuliFromSpace
Listen to: Trip to Venus and Sunflowers
“I won’t lie, I’m not too sure what to call my music. I’ve always been quite honest about that,” says Naye Ayla. With a sound that blends neo-soul, bass and trap, it’s not hard to see why she struggles to place her own music. It has all the themes of R&B – heartbreak, self-love and self-care – with a backdrop of haunting reverbs and distorted vocals that give it a menacing tone, making heartbreak with none of R&B’s imagined redemptive properties.
Let’s talk about your latest EP, Exi(s)t. It showcases your brand of dark R&B quite well. What inspired it?
The title of the EP is a play on the words ‘exit’ and ‘exist’. The “s” is in parentheses and the entire EP is about being held back and being sunk by the very things that also give you life, like friendships, relationships, jobs and that type of stuff.
Not That Desperate, for example, is about how we sometimes use the people closest to us as adornments and decorations. We treat them as abstractions and not as real people. That’s me saying “I’m not that desperate for affection”.
Juice, on the other hand, is about celebrating relationships and how they can be a crutch when we’re feeling really down and out. They can help you “exist” when everything around you is telling you to “exit”.
On Forgetful, from your first EP, you say: “I could say your company saved me, but I’d be lying.” That’s such an arresting line.
That’s actually one of the first songs I ever released. I was talking about myself in that song. At the time, I felt like I was drowning and looking for someone to pull me out of the rut.
That’s what that line is about, sometimes we put our faith too heavily in other people and that’s always a remedy for disaster.
If you could choose one song to introduce a total stranger to your music, which would it be?
It would be Kicks out, Night’s out from Exi(s)t. It represents my sound best and speaks to what I’m trying to do with my music. I just want people to be a bit kinder to themselves and fall in love with themselves. It’s me saying I just want to take my kicks out and go explore the night.
SoundCloud handle: @Naye-neh
Listen to: Forgetful and Not That Desperate