South Africa has long forged its place in the global music industry with the development of new eclectic sounds that were unfamiliar and authentically speak of the people and the times. Music is used as a weapon of mobilization, a vehicle of celebration and a symbol of character. We spoke to eclectic duo, Stiff Pap, (consisting of producer Jakinda and rapper Ayema Problem) about their futuristic music, the South African Hip Hop scene and more.
Stiff Pap is quiet an interesting choice of name, kindly elaborate on its materialization and what it symbolically represents to you as individuals as well as a duo.
We came up with the name "Stiff Pap" after a process of thinking of various different names for ourselves. Our only criteria was that it had to be authentically South Africa and that's what led to the name.
You are artists in your own respective rights, each focused on a different genre, when and how did you meet? Why did you see it necessary to form Stiff Pap and not just collaborate on a few projects?
We met in 2016 while staying at the same res at UCT.
Jakinda: Ayema came across my music on SoundCloud randomly and liked one of the beats I had uploaded. He recognized my face in the display photo and realized that we actually lived in the same building. After that he approached me at dinner time in the dining hall to ask for that beat. At first I was reluctant to give him the beat because I couldn't imagine anyone rapping over that beat. It was way too weird and fast at the time, but Ayema knew exactly what he wanted to do. Eventually he convinced me by rapping the song to me and it was so good, that it just made sense for us to keep making music together. That song ended up being Dlala, our biggest song.
Your music is experimental and you form a constituency of the talent spearheading a fresh sound, take us through the innovation process of your beats and rhymes.
We both listen to a lot of alternative music on SoundCloud and that has had a big influence on us. Ayema, being from Durban, was exposed to Gqom and Okmalumkoolkat much earlier than me. We both listened to a lot of hip hop and local dance music too. Our favourite artists blur the lines between different genres to create their sound and that's what inspired us to create our own sound too.
We live in the connected age where a lot of information now accessible via the internet. Red Bull Studio’s discovered you online. Accessibility doesn’t always convert to a stream of income. Did you publish your music with the intention of getting ‘discovered’? Why online and not through traditional methods?
We actually approached Red Bull, because we wanted to record an EP. So I guess we had the intention of being discovered, at that point. I don't think we took ourselves that seriously before we made "Dlala" though. Releasing music online is cool because it's accessible globally and all our music has been available for free. Not everyone has access to the internet though, especially in South Africa, so we are thinking of ways to make our music more accessible. Right now we're taking things one step at a time and working with the resources that are available to us.
You recently released an EP titled: Based on a Qho story. What is the chronicle of the title?
The EP is meant to put you in a zone where you're experiencing the highs and lows of youth and nightlife. "Qho" is ecstasy, a drug closely associated with the Gqom scene. Gqom is obviously a very fast and energetic genre, so it relates to that experience.
What ideas and narratives are explored through your music?
The first EP was mostly about nightlife/partying but we do cover serious topics too. Sometimes people just dance and they don't really listen, but "Live From Eloxion" is quite profound. We grew up seeing Mandela like he's a god, but now our generation doesn't really like him that much to be honest and that's what the song touches on. Our new music touches on a lot more personal stuff, even through the production.
The music scene in Cape Town is very westernized and Eurocentric, Your sound is an amalgamation of indigenous Mzansi sounds; Gqom and Kwaito as well as a cocktail of Hip Hop with an Electro twist; how has the local scene (audience and artists) received you?
Sometimes we think we're well received here, but Cape Town doesn't really have a scene. There are some hip hop artists doing some really great things, but there isn't really a structure for those artists to be able to flourish in Cape Town. Very few venues book local hip hop artists and they also don't like to pay people what they deserve. So it's very difficult being an artist here. Audiences always react well when we're performing but that doesn't do much if there aren't many places to even perform.
Do you feel the local music industry is authentically growing and claiming its place in the global music scene? How and Why?
That's tough to determine actually. On the one hand, the scene is definitely growing and becoming more lucrative for those involved, but on the other hand a lot of the artists sound American. So is it authentic SA Hip Hop? We don't think the rest of the world would be interested in most of our hip hop artists, simply because they sound like other artists in America. If they want a Travis Scott type or a Drake type, they're just gonna book Travis Scott or Drake. I think artists need to push a little further so that we can make SA hip hop unique. Shout out to the artists that are pushing their own sound.
What do you hope to achieve through your music?
We hope to change the sound of South African hip hop and inspire a new generation of artists. We'd love to take our sound around the world and show what we have to offer to the global music industry.
Any exciting projects we should keep an eye and ear out for?
We're working on a new project which we'll probably release at some point next year. We also have a music video we're working on at the moment.
Photography: Sarah Hugo-Hamman
Interview: Sinalo Mkaza