A crystal-clear sound for a live performance is as critical as the chemistry on a first date. Had the sound at the Levels Brand Weekend been a beautiful Zulu maiden I had spent a great evening with on a first date, I would have just sent her a “Please call hd gr8 tym lst nyt” with hope of never hearing or seeing her ever again.
The Levels Brand Weekend, which started last year with only two brands showcasing their merchandise, has grown to be an extravaganza of retail, fashion events and workshops with influential brands and designers. Some of the brands that were part of the event this past weekend were Boaston Society, Puma, 2Bop, Butan, Galxboy, Fixin Diaries, Happy Socks, Starter and Flexfit. Boaston Society, which is a concept store that sells street brands brought out the who’s who of Cape Town hip hop in support of up-and-coming California rapper Casey Veggies who was headlining the event.
In a conversation I had with Cape Town pop group Beatenberg at the Cape Town World Music Festival earlier this year, I asked them which city they enjoyed performing in most between Johannesburg and Cape Town, they replied in unison that they preferred the former. “People in Cape Town are all like hipsters. They’re talking while you are playing, they’re not there for it,” explain member Robin Brink. That was unfortunately the case during a performance by emcees Fonzo and TMO at the Levels Brand Weekend show. The performance was not affected by the crowd not paying them much attention as the two did what they were meant to do without showing signs of being fazed.
I had last seen Guguletu duo Ill Skillz perform live in 2010 and had been impressed by their mesmerising stage presence. Performing material from their sophomore album Notes From The Native Yards, they kicked off their energetic set with “To The Beat Y’all” – the first single off the album. One half of 5th Floor – a well-respected duo in The Mother City hip hop scene – Camo, played hype man as Jimmy Flexx and Uno July exchanged flows and verses with an intensity of a rocket launching out of space. In general, Ill Skillz is a marvel to watch because of the vigor and passion they display on stage. They rounded off their very short set with arguably one of the best songs in SA hip hop at the moment, ”Hip Hop Jones”. The crowd went totally berzerk while rapping along to the banger.
Youngsta has had a lot of buzz in the Cape Town hip hop scene. He kicked his set off with “Stiek Uit” – a DJ Switch track that he’s featured on alongside Ill Skillz. The heavy bassline renders the track what cool kids would proclaim a proper “turn up” song. Spitting such venom as “I am on the iPhone 10 but you are still not wys”, he had the crowd going buck. He drifted over the thumping beat as he performed “U.N.E.W (U Not Even Wys)” – a song on which he features fellow Y?Gen crewmates Copa and E-Jay and a rip of Rocko’s “U.O.E.N.O”. A brief sound glitch saw him kick a freestyle about fruit and vegetables. Although silly, it was relevant I suppose as the night was about Casey Veggies and Peas and Carrots International. Youngsta’s energy on stage made for a fairly compelling set. At some point during his set, he saluted Cape Town emcee Bonzaya who recently passed on.
After Youngsta, PH Fat – a Cape Town electronic rap group had electronic music lovers jamming along to their energetic set. Their latest hit “Lights Out” had the crowd jamming along.
The headline act of the night Casey Veggies was next on stage wearing a Moroka Swallows jersey. Veggies gave a shout to Boaston Society for bringing him to Cape Town. He pointed out that he could not believe people had come out in moderate numbers to see him and he was happy that people know his music here. He had the crowd rapping along. During his performance, the venue had more bodies than it did during the rest of the acts’ performances. He ended his set off with a track titled “3am in Cape Town” and urged the crowd to turn up with him. And they did. Next on stage was controversial Afrikaans rhyme-slaying chat-topper Jack Parow who had the few people that were still in the venue after Casey’s set jumping around and yelling back at him.
Stand out performances of the night for me were by Ill Skillz, Youngsta, PH Fat and Jack Parow. A fairly cool show overall, although the sets felt rushed and too short for me to thoroughly enjoy the music.
Images by: Onele Liwani
Follow me on Twitter: @The_illageidiot
and Onele Liwani: @Onele_L