The best South African albums, EPs, mixtapes and singles of 2015 so far

Live Staff

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Yes, we are approximately half-way through 2015. The year sure did fly by, but not without a great soundtrack. From Tumi’s Return of the King to Christian Tiger School’s Chrome Tapes, Simphiwe Dana’s “Killjoy” to Donald and Bucie’s “Let it Burn”, FonZo’s The Pocket Change to Card on Spokes’s Sunwalker, it’s been a great year […]

BestAlbumsJune2015

Yes, we are approximately half-way through 2015. The year sure did fly by, but not without a great soundtrack. From Tumi’s Return of the King to Christian Tiger School’s Chrome Tapes, Simphiwe Dana’s “Killjoy” to Donald and Bucie’s “Let it Burn”, FonZo’s The Pocket Change to Card on Spokes’s Sunwalker, it’s been a great year for South African music already. The Cape Town Live SA team brings you, in no particular order, the albums, singles, EPs and mixtapes they feel are the best releases to come out of South Africa in the first half of 2015 and and they tell you why they think they are great.

 

Albums

Tumi
Tumi’s Return of the King is arguably the best release of 2015 so far. (Image by Thabiso Molatlhwa)

Tumi – Return of The King

Almost every rapper has once told us they are the best, the greatest blah blah blah. At times we believe it, at times we don’t. Tumi gives us 12 reasons to believe him on Return of the King. With lines like “The 2013 Illmatic/The 30+ T is spazzin’/I heard’em say ‘he’s a has-been’/The chirpin’ turns quick to tragic/when the turtle out-thinks the rabbit/Prefer to write deep in passion/Fertilise seeds, turn a tide/so you identify a certified classic,” one is tempted to believe him or at least deem his argument plausible. With a streak of unquestionable potency on the mic, an impressive guestlist (Simphiwe Dana, Saul Williams, Kommanda Obbz, Kelly Khumalo, Busiswa and more) you won’t find in any hip hop album and social commentary as the focal point, Return of the King is clearly the best hip hop album to ever come out of South Africa in a while. I feel like I waited for this one my whole life. – Sabelo Mkhabela

Stream Return of the King here.

Riky Rick – Family Values

From being called out as a copycat for his album cover to a head banging album, SAMA nominated rapper, Riky Rick has managed to impress me with his lyrical skills on his debut album, Family Values. My personal favorite jam would have to be the popular “Amantobazane” (remix) which features a plethora of rappers and the hit single “Boss Zonke” which gives you that “get up and dance” feel. With all the bubblegum rap music in the South African scene, his art can be described as versatile. This can be heard from the “Bambelela” song which features Black Motion as well as “Sondela” featuring Zano. I’m still learning to appreciate authentic South African hip hop and not the American version of what hip hop should sound like or be.  – Kgorula Bitterhout

Stream Family Values here.

Christian Tiger School – Chrome Tapes

Chrome Tapes is a huge departure from Christian Tiger School’s solid debut EP The Third Floor. The latter had a notable boom bap influence with sprinkles of electronic jazz. On Chrome Tapes, however, the duo opted for dark, psychedelic production – pads and synths that creep really low yearning for a verse from Tha Hymphatic Thabs! These elements are accompanied by a varying selection of drums ranging from regular boom bap rhythms to waddling patterns making for an intoxicating listen. This album was hard for me to digest at first, because it just wasn’t what I was expecting. But after a few listens, it grew on me. My favourite cuts are “Star Search Phezulu” and “Chorisolo”. – Sabelo Mkhabela

https://soundcloud.com/tommy-boy-1/damnjanuary

Stream Chrome Tapes here.

Moonchild Sanelly – Rabulapha!

Moonchild’s influences attempt to co-exist in her music. The result is a beautiful chaos, an odd combination of genres which strangely sounds great. On her debut album, Rabulapha!, you’ll pick up traces of Busi Mhlongo, Okmalumkoolkat, M.I.A influences and similarities. Her music has elements of bubble gum, pop, kwaito, soul and kwaito. She sings about issues like obesity, love, identity and more,  in accessible Xhosa mixed with English and Zulu. Most of the textured production on the album was handled by BLK JKS drummer Tshepang Ramoba, which explains the chaotic percussion and drumming and colourful synths and pads. – Sabelo Mkhabela 

Stream Rabulapha! here.

EPs and mixtapes

FonZo – The Pocket Change EP

Up-and-coming Cape Town rapper, FonZo’s seven-track EP, The Pocket Change, was another entry in the rapper’s consistency streak. Apart from the warm “The Journey”, the EP offered nothing new from FonZo, and not that it had to. He carried on telling his story with the solid delivery he’s known for over familiar production – 808s, synths and synthesizers. The Pocket Change, just like all of FonZo’s previous releases, is a great listen for hip hop heads who don’t mind turn-up-orientated beats and have an ear attentive enough to catch clever wordplay and honest storytelling. Think along the lines of Drake.

– Sabelo Mkhabela

 

Escapism Refuge – Traps EP

Escapism Refuge is sort of an enigma. He doesn’t have many tracks on his SoundCloud page and has only 138 “likes” on his Facebook page. He regularly plays in Johannesburg (where he’s based) with the likes of Vox Portent and Buli. Traps is a three-track EP and was released about a month ago. I first came across his work over a year ago for his song “The Cure Destroys” which featured on a compilation titled Subterranean Wavelength curated by producer/DJ Micr. Pluto. Even if electronic music isn’t your “thing”, I have faith that Escapism Refuge could make it  your “thing” or at least get you interested. – Jamie Petersen

https://soundcloud.com/escapism-refuge/sets/traps-ep

Card On Spokes – Sunwalker EP

I could probably write a full on essay about why this EP is so brilliant. Card on Spokes is not only an electronic music producer, but also a jazz bassist and composer. Sunwalker brings together all of his titles in five tracks. “Sunwalker”, “Shine Through” and “On the Low” are the more commercial tracks on this EP, and see him collaborate with three of South Africa’s most talented artists. For “On the Low”, he collaborated with Nonku Phiri and Okmalumkoolkat. If you haven’t listened to that track, you have not lived! “Sunwalker” and “Shine Through” feature the vocals of Bonj Mpanza. I could listen to any of these three tracks without the vocals as that’s how I tend to prefer electronic music. If there are vocals, they need to add an X factor. But Card on Spokes has managed to do a pristine job at selecting who he wants for the vocals of each of these three tracks. The two other songs on Sunwalker are “Braamfontein” and “Comet Song”. I feel like he was just showing off by including these two. Sunwalker is a must listen for anyone who wants to explore something new, but not be too radical in their exploration. – Jamie Petersen

 

Uno July – Best Kept Secret EP

Uno July, released his first solo EP after 10 years of rocking with his partner in rhyme Jimmy Flexx as the Cape Town duo, Ill Skillz. Best Kept Secret sees the emcee rhyming about his life, sneakers, the game and more, over beats we wouldn’t normally expect from the Ill Skillz camp who have a life-long relationship with golden era hip hop. Though traces of Ill Skillz sporadically bleed through on the tape, modern hip hop bangers and spacious pad-heavy tracks define the seven-track EP. Uno proved that he can stand on his own and still deliver a project with songs you can fall in love with. – Sabelo Mkhabela

 

Tumi – Made of Taste mixtape

Just before dropping his album, Return of the King unannounced, Tumi collaborated with liquor brand, Singleton to release an “exclusive”  mixtape called Made of Taste. He released one song a day for a particular period. The 10-track mixtape featured a mixture of both old songs (“Candle”, “Steal Still Steel”, “How Do You Feel?”) and unheard ones from the emcee. As we have grown to expect from Tumi, the project contained intense rapping over dense production preparing our ears for Return of the King, which followed less than a month later. Too much food for thought to digest within such a short space of time. – Sabelo Mkhabela

https://soundcloud.com/made-of-taste/sets/tumi-mixtape

 

Singles

 

Nomoozle
Nomoozle makes an appearance on Kid X’s “Se7en” single. (Image by Mpho Lehlongwa)

Donald ft. Bucie “Don’t Let it Burn”

Okay, I think it’s safe to say Donald is the South African prince of love songs. This guy just seems to be made up of all things mushy. In this heart-wrenching song, he teams up with the “Superman” singer and powerhouse in her own right, Bucie. This collaboration makes for a vocally arousing ballad and at some moments, while listening to the song, I felt like they were just showing off. Quite typical of these two, the song has a house element to it which is smart on their part considering the South African musical climate.  – Onele Liwani

 

Kid X  “Se7en” (ft. Moozlie)

Kid X reminds me of one those kids back in high school who only worked well in group assignments. I’m still waiting for this guy to release a dope solo hit but for now his latest collaboration with MTV Base presenter-turned-rapper (this being her debut, I’m still a bit uncertain about calling her a rapper) Nomoozlie is definitely a club banger. The track, which is produced by K.O, and composed by Psyfo, references the well-known salutation made famous by Xhosa news anchor, Noxolo Grootboom, “Molwen’emakhaya nabantu abayobona izinqanda mathe zabo bengahlambanga.”  – Onele Liwani

 

TiMO ODV ft. Sarah Jackson “Save Me”

This song is beautiful. It outlines the narrative of someone who is completely lovestruck, and does not want to be without their lover. It reminds me a lot of UK deep house or garage with its heavy bassline and funky rhythm. It’s an upbeat track but this doesn’t take away from the emotion of it. “Save Me” is Johannesburg-based songwriter, producer and DJ TiMO ODV’s debut on Universal Music. We’re undoubtedly going to be hearing more of TiMO in the near future. – Jamie Petersen

https://soundcloud.com/timoodv/hideawave-lady

 

Shekhinah ft. Kyle Deutsch – ”Back to the Beach”

I’ve probably listened to this song close to 50 times since I first heard it.You might remember the name Shekhinah from Idols. She was a participant in season 8 which took place in 2012. She reached the top 10 before leaving the show. The lyrics tell the story of someone who longs to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life, and return back to the beach. It goes, “Let’s take it back to the beach/when we were young and care-free/when it was just you and me/the city don’t feel good no more…” This song is perfection on every level. Sketchy Bongo’s production sets the scene. Shekhinah’s husky voice and Kyle Deutsch’s contrast beautifully making the song an all round spiritual experience. The only thing I can critique is that the song is way too short. – Jamie Petersen

 

Christian Tiger School –“Hey Arnold, Dad’s Here…”

Christian Tiger School are the duo of the moment making waves locally as much as internationally. “Hey Arnold, Dad’s Here…” is described as experimental hip hop on their SoundCloud page and has a sound similar to their older productions. It was released three months ago and I still listen to it religiously. If you need a pick up, this song is for you. If you have no idea what experimental hip hop sounds like, you need to listen to this, if you’ve never listened to Christian Tiger School before, this is one of the best tracks you can start with. – Jamie Petersen

 

 

Youngsta
Youngsta is still hungry on his “Own 2015” single. (Image by Andiswa Mkosi)

Youngsta – “Own 2015”

Youngsta has to be one of the most underrated artists in South Africa . The Cape Town rapper has struggled to break into the larger South African music industry, which for many seems incomprehensible with the amount of talent and passion he has. “Own 2015” sees the rapper take on a comical and animated role, sporting a high pitched voice where he says he wants to own 2015. The song captures the pride Youngsta has about being Capetonian as well as his desire to reallymake it big. Although it might be delivered in a comical and animated way, I think there are serious issues he is addressing on this song.  – Jamie Petersen

 

Card on Spokes ft. Bonj Mpanza – “Shine Through”

There was so much anticipation surrounding the release of electronic producer Card on Spokes’s five-track EP Sunwalker. This is the first time I had heard of Bonj Mpanza, who does the vocals on “Shine Through”. Her voice is extremely powerful and easily holds its own against the production of Card on Spokes. “Shine Through” is almost anthemic and feeds the soul. – Jamie Petersen

 

Anatii ft. AKA – “The Saga”

I love this song! Let me explain why. Firstly Anatii mentions the University of Johannesburg,  “I took this girl out on a school day, and I drop her ass off at UJ.” As a UJ alumni, it made my heart leap with joy. Other than that line of course, the beat and Anatii and AKA’s flow is cool. Now, I’m not an expert on lyrics, flow and clever wordplay, but to me it sounds alright. This song sounds like it could be a theme song to a night out full of making bad decisions. The sexy chubby n**** did a great job with this one. Asanda Gura

 

Tweezy ft. Reason – “The Realest”

Tumelo Mathebula, commonly known as “Tweezy” has had a really hot streak for the past 12 months. The Soweto-based producer is responsible for three of AKA’s biggest singles (namely “Run Jozi”, “All Eyes on Me” and “Sim Dope”). Here, he continues his signature house/trap hybrid by sampling house trio Kentphonik’s jazzy house classic “Sunday Showers” and reworking it into a bass-heavy club banger with a thumping drumline and stuttering hi-hat patterns. Reason also does his thing here; flexing his lyrical ability while also flossing about his international travels and his bank balance. Dope joint. – Rofhiwa Maneta

https://soundcloud.com/beatsbytweezy/tweezy-presents-the-realest-ft-reason

L-Tido – “Dlala Kayona”

It’s been a recent trend for South African hip hop acts to sample or reference old school kwaito joints in their songs. K.O did it on most of Skhanda Republic, Durban-based rapper Duncan sampled Mdu’s “Tsiki Tsiki” and Dream Team’s “Tsekede” employed a line off TkZee’s “Magesh” for its chorus. L-Tido’s “Dlala Ka Yona” continues this trend, sampling New School’s “Dlala Ka Yona” and reimagining it into a new-age club banger. The chorus is especially dope, and sees Tido inflecting his voice like Young Thug over a minimal, DJ Mustard type beat (courtesy of Tweezy). Check it out! – Rofhiwa Maneta

https://soundcloud.com/slikour/l-tido-dlala-ka-yona-prod-by-tweezy

 

Burni Aman (Godessa) ft. Thais – “Darkness Bright”

Songs about mothers just never get old, every individual has a unique relationship with their mommy. Burni Aman – one third of revered all-girl hip hop trio, Godessa – shares how the woman who gave birth to her is her brightness in the dark. She ropes in Senegalese vocalist Thais who, together with a recurring guitar riff, contribute to the emotional intensity of the song. And with a head-bopping boom bap rhythm, “Darkness Bright” has spent a couple of months on my playlist. – Sabelo Mkhabela

 

Jimmy Nevis – “7764”

Pop is not my thing. But every once in a while, I fall in love with a pop song. Cape Town singer, Jimmy Nevis’s “7764” is one of such songs. Jimmy Nevis made a radio Top 40 anthem about his hood, Athlone. This song sounds like it was taken off Kanye’s 808s & Heartbreak album (which I also happen to like) with its bouncy rhythm that will have you getting down on the dancefloor – or just your room or taxi seat. Jimmy croons about the good and the bad of his neighbourhood, and the video finishes off what he started by showing the Cape Flats for what they are, a residential area with people trying to make a living and having some fun too as opposed to the crime haven the media has portrayed it to be. – Sabelo Mkhabela

 

AKA “Sim Dope”

AKA rides painful brass horns and synths splattered over a heavy bassline all curated by producer, Tweezy on “Sim Dope”. The rapper talks about a guy called Sim Dope he went to high school with (you can see him on the video). Sim Dope prospered in life and is now sort of AKA’s muse. AKA sounds confident as hell and he executed the concept well, making for a solid single, one of the best songs on his album Levels. This, in my opinion, is one of Tweezy’s best beats. – Sabelo Mkhabela

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QcUP-C5xRUk

 

Nonku Phiri  –  “Things we Do on the weekend”

I recently introduced myself to Nonku Phiri’s music and I feel ashamed for only listening to her music now. I will decide on my punishment later. Self-loathing aside, I thought of myself as quite hip when I heard this song just after it came out. Nonku has mentioned that the song is “based on a modern day romance/relationship gone wrong, – it’s basically a narrative of a girl going through the motions of courtship.” If this song’s what relationships sound like when they go wrong, please sign me up for one. Great song, amazing vocals, sick beat. “Things We Do on the Weekend” ticks all the right boxes. – Asanda Gura

https://soundcloud.com/nunulooloo/things-we-do-on-the-weekend

 

Mashayabhuqe ft. Thandiswa Mazwai “Izayoni (Tribute To Makhuzwayo)”

Digital maskandi pioneer Mashayabhuqe KaMamba and vocalist Thandiswa Mazawi’s collaborative “Izayoni (Tribute to Makhuzwayo)” takes you on a spiritual journey and serves as a reminder of where black South Africans come from. With the world evolving, it’s easy to lose sight of self and get trapped in the ideals of the West. This song shows that African culture makes for good creative content. Just like most of Mashayabhuqe’s songs, “Izayoni (Tribute to Makhuzwayo)” is a combination of maskandi and new school commercial music which gives it a unique edge. – Kgorula Bitterhout

https://soundcloud.com/theblackexcellenceshow/mashayabhuqe-kamamba_izayoni-tribute-to-makhuzwayo-album-version-feat-thandiswa-mazwai

 

Davido ft. Uhuru & DJ Bucks “The Sound”

Nigerian superstar Davido teamed up with South African collective, Uhuru for an Afro beats banger about the good life on “The Sound”. Uhuru’s signature sound is all over this song (I can’t help but remember Mafikizolo’s “Khona” – which Uhuru produced – when I listen to this song). The fusion of South African house and Afro beats works well and is a hybrid sound that needs to be explored more. We’ll leave it up to you to debate the appropriation of Arab culture on the video which was shot in Dubai. – Sabelo Mkhabela

 

DJ Cleo ft. iFani and Lection – “Gogo”

DJ Cleo is back and he’s in love with ugogo. I‘m loving this track even though I don’t entirely agree with the lyrics and it’s a mere lift of O.T Geneasis’s “CoCo” hit. It sounds like one of those songs that were done in hurry but, again, anything with the golden boy iFani sounds hasty and catchy. Anyway, we’re happy DJ Cleo is doing music again. Clearly he was not so upbeat to keep the balls out of the goalpost. – Philela Singama

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9-rCqsowJII

Blaklez ft. Reason and PRO – “Freedom or Fame” remix

On the remix to “Freedom or Fame”, Blaklez enters the fold with a remix and calls on the lyrical gods, Reason and PRO. He vividly portrays a picture of how he sees himself in the industry and how the industry portrays him. “I’m never scared, I’m bold(bald), I’m Abashante,” are some of the bullets you can hear coming off his clip. Reason is a rap phenom who took a bit of time to blow commercially hence his verse is more introspective and he gives us his take on what he didn’t expect when becoming famous. PRO sums the track with classic PRO metaphors. – Aphiwe Pasiya

 

Simphiwe Dana – “Killjoy”

On the third single off her 2014 album Firebrand, Simphiwe Dana tells a story many of us who’ve played the love game will relate to. We’ve all had that one person who we thought was the one but ended being a killjoy. Stories of this kind aren’t new and millions of songs have been made about the subject but Miss Dana can sing “De La Rey” in an ANC rally and have comrades’ heart melting. You get the picture. – Sabelo Mkhabela

Stream “Killjoy” here.

Tumi ft. Busiswa – “Visa”

Tumi knows how to make his outlandish collaborations work. Remember “Bambezela” with Brickz and Tracy Lee? He’s at it again with yet another interesting one. He teamed up with house vocalist Busiswa on the second single to his album, Return of the King. The two are role-playing; Tumi is the rapper husband and Busiwa’s the wifey who feels Tumi’s playing games and makes performing an excuse to go out and “package”. Busiswa’s an emcee! Great collaboration. I foresee this one being Tumi’s most successful single to date. – Sabelo Mkhabela

Stream “Visa” here.

DJ Sliqe (ft. Riky Rick, L-Tido, Kwesta, Reason, Flabba, Nadia Nakai) “Do like I do”

At first I thought “Do Like I Do” was Kwesta’s song, as he lyrically owned the original. With an impressive guest-list including Flabba, Reason, Riky Rick, Nadia Nakai and L-Tido, the remix had to be on another level. The song has a good vibe to it and lyrically I think it excels.  Flabba’s verse just did it for me. – Bulumko Gana

Reason ft. Nova & HHP – “Endurance”

Reason took time to look back at his impoverished past on “Endurance”. With a hook from Jabba and a poem from Nova Masango, the single was bound to stand out from his otherwise mediocre album, Audio High Definition. Many will relate to most of the conditions Reason reveals to have lived through prior to making it big in the game. This song may struggle in mainstream radio because of its laid-back nature but we applaud Reason for his bravery and sticking to his guns. – Sabelo Mkhabela

 

Do you agree with our list? Which songs did we leave out? Let us know on Facebook, Twitter or the comments section below.

Twitter: @LiveMagSA