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Shugasmakx - Numba 1

2009-08-18 08:31
Numba 1
Numba 1 is Shugasmakx’s one-man debut and it follows on the heels of solos by other Skwattas such as Slikour, Nemza, and Bozza, and according to Smakx, it’s set apart from what you’d expect from a Skwatta Kamp album, the main thread of thought being:

“Finally, I got to do something from start to finish, my way.”

So, then, what’s to it?

The first thing you hear on Numba 1 is a metallic clatter cutting through what sounds like a Jay-Z voice sample – (“number one”) – and for a second you’re right in the middle of Jay and Pharrel’s “Blue Magic”-New York – then the bass gains momentum, the drums roll in, and the beat starts pounding back with that unmistakeable Jozi griminess. And there’s no time wasted: Shugasmakx clambers on top of the beat sounding straight outta “Rau-Rau”: merciless, vicious, and hurling out some of the rawest punchlines to come out of the Skwatta camp since 2002’s Khut ‘N Joyn. The next track, “Net Kanjalo”, hits just as hard with Smakx sparring over a head-banging beat stretched taut with winding, club-ready synths.

Then things slow down a bit and Professor enters into the mix, collaborating in “Khet’ Omthandayo”, a light-hearted club-ballad about Jozi nightlife antics. This is followed by an interesting collabo with kwaito artist, Brickz. In “Imiebenzi Yakho” the two set it off, bridging the gap between the (once beefing) genres, and complimenting each other’s styles effortlessly in a catchy ode to love hitting the proverbial rocks.

The rest of the album is a medley of tones and styles, ambling between hard-hitting crew joints, smoove urban ballads, Motswako-club-bangers, tear-jerkers, house, and even a catchy weirdo that has rapper HHP dancing around a Daft Punk sample.

Generally, with an album like this you wouldn’t expect much in the way of lyricism – after all, Skwatta gets a lot of flack for “selling out” – you’d give it one thumb for sounding pleasant enough and then throw up another for holding its own on the dance-floor. Yes, Shugasmakx hails from the crew that once gained mass popularity with the unabashedly kiddie-bopping “”Clap Song” – but, still, this isn’t one of those albums. There’s lyricism here, and more than that, there’s a diversity that shows an understanding and appreciation of how popular music sounds.

Numba 1 isn’t necessarily going to win over the seasoned hip hop head, but it’s likely to have them looking up now and again – perhaps even rewinding a line or two. As for chart-alert revellers looking for something to jam to, there’s more than enough here to keep you nodding for a while.
Lebogang “Shugasmakx” Mothibe was an early starter. From his first television appearance at age nine, the Soweto-born rapper went on to have a drama stint in The National School of Arts, before meeting up with band-mate Slikour and laying down the foundation to what would later become Skwatta Kamp – one of Mzantsi’s most iconic hip hop crews.

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