'Iyeza' changed my life, but the album won't get much attention, says Anatii
Hip-hop artist Anatii stepped out of his comfort zone to lay bare tough social issues faced by SA's modern youth in his music on his album 'Iyeza'
A water feature greets you as you enter music producer, songwriter and hip-hop artist Anatii's open-plan Sandton home. He invites us to sit beside the pool for our interview.
Anatii, born Anathi Bhongo Mnyango in the Eastern Cape town of Bhisho, says he loves nature and the simplicity of open spaces, and this connection he feels with nature is present in his latest album, Iyeza. The album, he says, reveals how growing up in "free generation" SA led to his becoming a spiritual being.
It's a departure from his previous releases - 2012's debut single Thunder Thighs, the 2016 solo album Artifact and his 2017 collaborative album with AKA, Be Careful What You Wish For - both in sound and lyrical content.
"Iyeza changed my life and the energy when I made the album was organic," he says. "I know no-one will pay attention to it now because it's not mainstream hip-hop but when music hits your soul, you feel it."
He is aware of his role as a role model for some young South Africans and says that Iyeza is "centred around the youth". Anatii says although young South Africans may be sociopolitically "conscious", they still need "that place where they can get light".
WATCH | The music video for Anatii's track 'Ntloni' from his album 'Iyeza'.
Because his father (who died in 2008) was a radio presenter, Anatii and his three siblings grew up immersed in music. It makes sense then that at only 26 years old he has already had an impressive and diverse career. When he was 15, he worked with Grammy Award-winning composer Lebo M on four songs and co-produced one of the tracks used for the 2009 Fifa Confederations Cup opening ceremony.
Not long after that he produced his first song, for rapper L-Tido, titled When It Rains.
On his right arm a tattoo reads "Time Heals Everything". With elections coming, Anatii believes the youth are not going to be healed by institutions, media, politics, religion or social media. "My purpose is bigger than music. I just use music as a tool to have a voice and use the platform I have.
"A lot of people are brainwashed. You're taught what you should be like and what you should eat; that makes you afraid to step out of your comfort zone."
A lot of people are brainwashed. You're taught what you should be like and what you should eat; that makes you afraid to step out of your comfort zoneAnatii
The 10-track Iyeza explores Anatii's relationship with his ancestors, manhood and masculinity and social issues. One of its songs, Ntloni, is about how a girl moves to Joburg from the village only to find herself caught in the fast life of drugs, drinking and men because of her new friends.
"I feel like the youth is ready for this kind of music. This generation is eager to do things differently and we need to direct our energies to places and spaces they need to be," he says.
The album is mostly in his mother tongue, Xhosa. "This album has the easiest songs I've ever worked on, simply because I used my language. When we make music in English it takes forever because we also have to look at grammar and it's not natural," he says. "I grow and learn every day, and to produce something as pure and raw as Iyeza has been beautiful."
Making the album was therapeutic for him. The spiritual journey he has been on for seven years culminated in Iyeza. "I've started devoting my energy to my purpose. I realise my purpose is bigger than music. It's about helping and giving back to the people who buy our music, buy tickets to see us perform and all we do is make money and move on to the next one."
He is self-aware and careful of the words he uses in his music. "Though there's a lot of cursing in hip hop, I remind myself that I make music about change, transformation and evolution," he says. "When you find who you are you realise it's not about materialistic things because we're all going to die and going to the same place."