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There’s no substitute for live music, says 'OG of hip-hop' Stogie T

The gifted, socially conscious lyricist has a distinctive style that's won him fans from Johannesburg to Paris

21 November 2021 - 00:00
Tumi Molekwane now performs under the name Stogie T.
Tumi Molekwane now performs under the name Stogie T.
Image: Supplied

Tumi Molekwane is one of the relatively young South African hip-hop world’s certified “OGs”. In the early 2000s as frontman for Tumi and the Volume, Molekwane established himself as a gifted, socially conscious lyricist whose distinctive style won him fans from Joburg to Paris and saw him perform with a host of internationally renowned artists.

Since 2016 Molekwane has performed under the moniker Stogie T, a cigar-smoking regular in local clubs and on international stages. Now, as he decides what’s next for Stogie T and his future in hip-hop, he'll perform at this year’s Bassline I am Here concert in Joburg on a bill that includes Zambian born hip-hop sensation Sampa the Great, South African pioneer Thandiswa Mazwai and others. The concert is a live music showcase that it’s hoped will see the return of audiences and performers to a semblance of the interaction between artists and fans that existed before the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I’ve had a privileged experience through lockdown,” says Molekwane. “I created Freestyle Friday on social media where I was rapping and doing verses. I invited a bunch of people I'd met all over the world to come drop bars. It kept me busy and I didn't feel that I stopped communicating with an audience. It stopped me dwelling on lockdown, Covid, the fear. It wasn’t live music — that experience is still unique and special,” he says.

For I am Here, Stogie T will appear with an all-star jazz band that includes new jazz luminaries Shane Cooper and Bokani Dyer. Molekwane says this decision is partly the result of a situation in which his Stogie T persona has, over the last five years, been performing predominantly in “club gig. Those aren't gigs — you perform three songs and people are there to blow their budget and look at girls? That’s not a gig, that’s a racket.”

He says there’s no substitute for live band music. “I fell in love with it, it’s never left. I watched Bokani Dyer and Shane Cooper and I was like, 'Oh. Oh. They’re here!' I realised there are guys now who grew up playing jazz but also grew up with hip-hop as a staple. It’s part of their musical diet. These guys are super trained and technically innovative in what they do but you can see that there’s no stigma around hip-hop or urban music. That was exciting for me.”

Molekwane considers himself the opening act to Thandiswa and Sampa. “I love Mazwai, she’s a kindred spirit and her live show is dope.

"Sampa I relate to as a displaced human being and a new African. I think she’s a dope rapper. The lineup should offer an interesting course for the evening.”

WATCH | The official music video for 'DUNNO' by Stogie T feat. Nasty C.

While he’s looking forward to performing with a live band again, Molekwane thinks that artists have missed performing more than audiences have missed hearing artists.

As for what’s next for the OG of local hip-hop, he’s aware that “in hip-hop at some point when you reach a certain age, you have to transition because it’s considered a young man’s sport or whatever. I was already thinking about hanging it up and Covid just made it more urgent. There are some boxes I haven’t checked. I don’t want to be sitting on my porch when I’m 60 thinking, 'Damn. I wonder if I coulda?'”

• The 'Bassline I am Here' concert takes place at Constitution Hill in Johannesburg on November 27. Tickets are available from howler.co.za