A Part Hate: A Gangster Called Big Times – Dookoom (Independent)

2014-10-12 06:00

Apartheid wasn’t just a brutal, oppressive, racist system; it was a living, breathing nightmare.

And Cape Town hip-hop crew Dookoom’s new EP, A Gangster Called Big Times, is the legacy of that nightmare writ large, sculpted out of menacing beats, aggressive synths and lyrics dripping with hatred, resentment and self-loathing.

It’s as if it has been born into this world to burst smug bubbles of privilege and to rubbish self-serving claims that “it’s time to just get over it”.

It speaks to a very specific lived reality of millions of South Africans in the Cape Flats, ravaged by the social ills of gangs, drugs and racism; and economic ills like poverty and inequality.

Opening with a banging beat from producer Human Waste and industrial-strength synths, the lead single Larney Jou P**s, doesn’t hold back for a second.

Frontman Isaac Mutant appropriates the children’s church song Father Abraham, flipping its lyrics to talk about the relationship between farm owners and farm workers and the state of land redistribution in South Africa.

“Farmer Abrahams has many farms / Many farms has farmer Abrahams / I work one of them / And so do you / So let’s go burn them down”.

It’s a smart lyrical ploy that’s bound to cause an outcry among the land-owning class of South Africa.

Never mind the “studio”, Mutant is touching them on their farm and their church, all within five lines.

Mutant clearly understands the potential of his lyrics to cause offence: he addresses it in the song when he spits: “By the way who the f**k is you to call my frustrated ass a racist”.

Electric sees Mutant turning his laser-focused truth- telling on himself:

“I’m septic / I’m an addict / I’m pathetic / I deny and accept it / I’m death wish / I get sick / my sexy is angry/ It’s electric”, spits Mutant on the chorus as menacing synths wail in the background.

On I Want You, Mutant delivers a personal-political narrative that addresses lust, gangsterism and the legacies of apartheid.

He can clearly be heard repeatedly singing the lines “shoot the boer” and “shoot the white people” which is sure to raise the ire of many.

The lyrics appear to be addressing the simmering anger within certain segments of South African society regarding the failures of democracy to deliver a better life for all South Africans.

But it’s the chorus of I Want You that best symbolises Mutant’s lyrical approach across the EP, “I was born in a dark space / Blood maze / Apart from rage / I’m the face of a part hate”.

His smart word play soundtracked by fuzzy distorted synths, smash-and-grab beats and haunting backing vocals from Eve Rakow, is the clearest statement of intent on the EP.

A Gangster Called Big Times is sure to cause controversy and offend many, but it is a necessary and timely salvo in the ongoing debate of where our democracy is headed, 20 years in.

Well that, and South African hip-hop hasn’t sounded this vital and engaged in, like, forever.

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