Durban-bred artist and rapper Xolani Thabani Mchunu, known as Xenlaii released the "Wild Coast" EP on July 16, the 3-track EP bridges the gap between his debut EP, SURF : AM and the soon to be released SURF : PM. Xenlaii's authentic sound is titled “Surf Rap” and is a blend of Soul, Rap, Dance Music, and Kwaito. Featuring its first single and title track Wild Coast, an upbeat summer-vibes-jam Ukuba-Happy ft. SimmySimmyNya and a high-vibration spiritual track High Places, Xenlaii expresses that the EP “is a protest to the loss of the festive season and a cry to be outside again.”
You've created feel-good music during challenging times, how was that process for you? And was it intentional?
This was 100% intentional. These songs were made during the time when South Africa went into LEVEL 4 Lockdown during December of 2020. As a nation that loves engaging in festivities at that time, it was really difficult for us so we made this music as a sort of protest for good vibes and to get through that lockdown.
You call your sound "Surf Rap", please share the story behind how this self-titled genre came to be?
Surf Rap is me surfing through sounds from different genres I love and packaging them into rap music to deliver songs that remind me of the coast.
You express your artistry through various mediums, do your other creative expressions (design, performance art and film) feed off your music or vice versa?
They definitely do. I have many instances where an artwork will inspire a song instead of the traditional way of making the music first then the artwork later. Like in the case of this Wild Coast Pack. I put together an outfit which consisted of my grandmothers fur coat from 1982 and Zulu traditional pants (umbhlaselo) I got from my aunt.. After putting that outfit together along with a cap from my unreleased merch collection, I was like ‘’I have to make music that will reflect how this combo makes me feel’.
Your artistry is inspired by the ocean, not only for its beauty but mainly because your Zulu heritage teaches that one’s ancestors reside in the sea. How does your current body of work reflect this key theme?
The ancestral theme is not that much of a factor on the Wild Coast Pack except for the song High Places where I speak about my mothers spirit constantly looking out for me. The Wild Coast Pack is more like a breather since I am working on my main project titled SURF : PM. I am putting a lot of my soul and heart in that so I can deliver a potent message that is packaged in beautiful music. With the Wild Coast Pack though, my aim was delivering very easily listenable music that makes you feel good without thinking much.
Please share the narrative behind the lyrics of:
High Places is me reflecting on my mothers Spirit looking out for me from a higher place and it taking me to higher places here on earth.
Wild Coast is about the importance of a person's energy over the way they look.
As you debut, "Ukuba-Happy", with all that is happening in South Africa right now, do you feel that music with a positive message is what people need to hear?
I do believe music and art with a positive message is one the tools that will help. I once read that ancient African civilisations would use sounds and frequencies to heal people and that made me realise the power of music. With things being destabilised and all the materials that separate us into different classes under threat, all that’s left is the human being. And that human being is going to need some healing.
Since you've created uplifting music, I have to ask, what is the most uplifting message you'd like to share with people in these uncertain and challenging times, if any?
It’s really tough to say anything about this challenging time without it being lip service because we need practical solutions right now. But I just hope that we stick together as citizens and not allow ourselves to be divided because that will make us weaker and easily deterred. I believe in the human spirit that has continuously gotten human beings out of situations like this time and time again. The only thing that is guaranteed is a future and it is up to us to make sure that we take the steps that will make the future a beautiful one.
Interview: Phendu Kuta