Afrikaans hip-hop is still a relatively recent phenomenon. Pioneers Brasse Vannie Kaap (BVK) only released their first album in 1997 after breaking away from the grandmasters of SA hip-hop, Prophets of Da City. So when I heard about a new Afrikaans hip-hop outfit called Kallitz (pronounced "coloureds"), I was immediately excited.
I've always believed that Afrikaans lends itself well to hip-hop - the sing-song rhythms, the mixture of harsh and soft sounds and the expressive thrust of the language all make for great sounding rap - something BVK have proved on all three of their albums.
And Kallitz do often sound great. Their better tracks grind and bounce along with plenty of energy and verve and the control and the delivery of their rap is frequently good, if a little over zealous. But when you start listening to the lyrics, you can't help but recoil in horror.
Celebrating anti-social behaviour has always been a cornerstone of "Gangsta" rap. Growing up in poor, gang-ridden neighbourhoods like Compton in South Central Los Angeles, crews like N.W.A and Body Count emerged onto the world music stage, spitting the rage they felt for the society that had so long ignored and abused them.
It's this same brand of rage that Kallitz are intent on expressing, and the results are disturbing. Their songs frequently celebrate rape, murder, drunkenness and general abuse of women. Sentiments that seem like cartoonish bravado in American gangsta tracks are suddenly uncomfortably close to home when these guys express them. I searched in vain for irony in the lyrics, hoping they didn't really mean what they were singing.
Perhaps we are getting a taste of the very real terror that Gangsta crews inflict on their neighbourhoods in far away LA. Perhaps Kallitz are just calling us on our own hypocrisy. We wax lyrical about Snoop Dogg and Dre, as long as there is an ocean between us and them. Yet somehow I think not. From their lyrics, to their stage names, down to the delivery of their rap, Kallitz are 100% sincere. And that is the saddest thing.
Kallitz are, in essence, celebrating the worst Cape Flats' stereotypes. Worse they are pronouncing, implicitly, that their own brand of "coloured" is the only one. From the raw energy of "Kallitz is..." to the playful bounce of "Oppie Yaat", almost all their tracks reinforce the message: "We are the real coloureds - the other are just sturvie kinnes (posers)".
In the supposedly fun "Sturvie Kinnes" are the following lyrics: "sy sal a taai klap kry, vroumens of te not" and "en een dag raak jy sommer net rof, ruk die mes, soek die bof, en vergeet vannie hof". Or in "Rop Jou" where they exhort poor people to: "stuig na die die straat, waar die mense will jaag, gebryk julle hande...en vat teurg wat aan julle behoort in die nuwe, democratise Suid Afrika". In "Oppie Yaat" they say "want vandag het sy 'n alkholis, met 'n kus, sonder lus gaan sy huis toe kruip en sommer in jou broek en pis van die lekkigheid."
The one track that shows any social conscience whatsoever is "Situasies" which laments the plight of their communities. Yet even just descends into anger without offering any solutions.
Despite the horrific messages they broadcast, their music has definite promise. Their well-written rhymes betray intelligence and a keen sense of humour. Their backing tracks often have the menace and visceral energy of pukka Gangsta tunes - however unpolished they are.
If "Kallitz" can get over their adolescent rage and start rapping about something positive, instead of apeing their Compton predecessors, they might just have a future.- Alistair Fairweather
WHAT OTHER CRITICS SAID:
The album convinces not only with the tightest beats by producer Dokter, but especially by its depth. Kallitz actually have something to say, and they do so without preaching, and in a way everybody can understand. This might explain the album's wide appeal, crossing over to the 'white' and 'black' South African markets.- ANONYMOUS review on One World
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