The reinvention of Tumi Molekane
Tumi Molekane (photo credit : Instagram)
Johannesburg - He lights up his stogy and I a ciggie while he orders some grub. “Russian with chips?” he responds to the waiter’s suggestion. “Since when dawg?” he adds jokingly right before ordering a light beef shawarma. You see, Stogie T (Tumi Molekane) is here for the luxury.
We begin chatting and I ask which artists he’s feeling right now, he tells me: “Kid Tini, Nasty C, Youngsta CPT, I like Emtee a lot. I like A-Reece. I still fuck with AKA or like a Reason.” His inspirations from across the realm of hip-hop seem to be quite extensive. We touched on everyone between Lupe Fiasco, who he says he is still messing with, right through to 2 Chainz. “Yo, how much time you got?” he quips.
About his inspirations he says: “For me it was about the artists who made me feel like I could do it too. Not because it looked easy, they just made it feel necessary. Tupac was one, I just wanted to know how to do this, how to say things like this. Nas after that, made me feel like ... ” he takes a long pause, as one should when talking about arguably the greatest MC of all time, “he made me feel like this is going to take some work.”
“From people like Jay-Z, you learn a certain code. Mobb Deep, RIP Prodigy, a certain code, a certain thing, a G-code or ‘ni**anometery,’ as they say. But these guys taught you how to talk to girls and stuff, not all of it’s positive, but living with no pops the culture kinda became that for me. I was raised by moms.”
New wave, new direction
“I wanted to explore some other music that I haven’t done. I felt like I hadn’t participated in the game in a way that was really befitting of my talent. I felt like my talent deserved a bit more. The difference really is that I grew up bro. Things I used to talk about were me looking at the world as what it could be, dreaming, ideologically pure and young. Now I’m more pragmatic, more cynical. The veneer has kinda worn off. I want to reflect the world for what it is.
“This is something different, it isn’t Tumi. Because of the legacy I had built I felt I couldn’t talk about some of the other things I like. Cigar smoke, upper echelons.”
I ask him what he was going through when making some of the tapes in his catalogue. He then asks me where I think the starting point was, for me. I say the Live at Bassline tape. “The first thing I ever recorded was a mixtape with Databass,” a producer who Stogie referred to as a non-head. “He made it so that everything I said he had to understand.
“The next tape was with an Australian artist, the tape was called Tower of Tumi and that’s where I met The Volume. I used to go out to Bassline, got invited to do some poetry and that’s where we linked. At first we were just replaying the stuff I had recorded. Think of songs like People of the Light.
“The Live at Bassline was obviously us doing things live. It was an important tape; it was really a snapshot of the era, around the time Skwatta Kamp blew up. After that it took another five years to release another tape as we were touring. We went all over the world. The Volume cats are doing different things now and we still good. It’s not one of those, ‘Where my money ni**a?’ We loved chilling but not playing music together anymore.”
The next pivotal tape we talk about is Music from My Good Eye (2007). “It was the first solo thing I did, still with the band, and that took us deeper into the European market. I did some extensive things with my DJ Papercut. I think this was when I was able to jump out of the band and just show the people who I am on my own.
“I didn’t really want to talk about myself much, rather the stories of others, whole worlds in different individuals, we’re all worlds. So I tried to take snapshots of that on Whole Worlds .”
He admits to playing the game a bit. “I had Brickz on a track, an OG of mine ... he don’t mess with that track at all.”
His latest album, Stogie T, is the one he’s most proud of and one that has surprised his audiences and himself. “I did the work, I immersed myself in the project and the process of reinvention.”
It’s probably his most accessible and proof that this new and cynical Tumi is here to do some major things. Stogie T performs at the Lyric Theatre on July 29 with his friends; Samthing Soweto, Yanga, Emtee and Pebbles