OPINION | Do our artists have the balls to do a Childish Gambino in Mzansi?

11 May 2018 - 08:48 By kyle zeeman
Is Kwesta's 'Spirit' music video the closest thing we've had to a 'This is America' moment?
Is Kwesta's 'Spirit' music video the closest thing we've had to a 'This is America' moment?
Image: Vis Kwesta's Vevo

The world is going bonkers over Childish Gambino's This Is America music video - and they should be -  but how long will Mzansi wait until we have a video that hits the core of our society in the same way?

Mama, send us a sign.

Sure it was great to see Donald Glover (Childish Gambino's real name) break down in a young gwara gwara, but we can't sit on the sidelines watching American artists rip off the scabs of their own society and show what is not healing, while our own artists continue to talk h*es, Bentleys and getting turnt.

Don't get me wrong, there have always been "woke" musos like Phila Madlingozi, OBie Mavuso and Mo'Molemi, but there is a real need for the mainstream artists to speak out on more social issues through their music and videos.

Love him or hate him, Kanye West dropped a golden line during his recent single 'Ye vs The People, when he responded to the backlash over his political views.

Is it better if I rap about crack? Huh? 'Cause it's cultural?/ Or how about I'mma shoot you, or f*ck your bitch?/Or how about all this Gucci, 'cause I'm f*ckin' rich?

He may be on to something. The jar of "stunting on n*ggers" has just officially reached its expiry date, and as the need for people to speak up gets more pressing, so is the need for cultural icons like musicians to help lead the discourse. 

One of the artists who has tried to do that is Cassper Nyovest. His Fees Must Fall and June 16 themed music video for War Ready was a masterpiece for the culture.

The video for his latest single, Ksazobalit, also entered the debate on politics, this time over land reforms, with Cassper shown owning a farm and "getting the land back".' 

The video isn't deep, but if you scratch you can see the subtle messages about land ownership, struggles for equality and perceptions of wealth.

It has certainly got the country talking but, like War Ready, it is best appreciated with the sound off where the lyrics and beat don't distract. You see, as much as the videos are thought provocative, the lyrics don't match .

What we need is more immersive experiences like that given by Childish Gambino this past week, where the harsh realities spoken about in the lyrics are amplified by striking visuals

One of the first local guys to congratulate and stan over Cassper's latest music video was Kwesta, whose Spirit music video has probably come closest to reaching the perfect mix of lyric and video.

Not only do the lyrics contain commentary on life on the fringes of society, but it has a music video which expands on it with dozens of unique cultural references.

No wonder it is on 2.5 million views so far this year.

Shane Eagles and Freshlyground are just two other artists who have tried to comment on social issues in their latest singles. Shane Eagle shines the spotlight on everyday life in informal settlements in JULIA, while Freshlyground's Banana Republic laments the poisons of society.

But our next best hope to address the system could actually be rapper Reason.

He's dropped an absolute gem of a track in Azania, speaking about the hardships of society and inequality. In a recent interview he called it his "finest hour", but if he can complement the raw emotion of the song with a message to the system in his video, he may create the This Is America moment of South Africa.

We are living in an age where ideas can be openly challenged and the president can tell someone to "shut up" in Parliament, so why can't more of our artists pick up the baton and challenge the problems of our society in both music and videos?

Perhaps political connections have blunted the knife for some musicians, or maybe making more disposable music is more profitable?

But music is a time capsule for the ages to get a glimpse of how we lived, and our artists owe it to future generations to show them how we spoke out