Johannesburg - Local music is undergoing some major changes thanks to the fearless creativity of artists such as Moonchild, Fela Gucci and now Mx Blouse. While local audiences haven’t quite caught up with the individuality and wild creativity of these artists, their unique and edgy styles are receiving a warm welcome in countries abroad.
The gender-nonconforming rapper (Mx Blouse goes by the their/them pronoun), who most would recognise as well-known fashion blogger Sandiso Ngubane, tells #Trending via email that since moving from the boom-bap sound, they now consider themselves more of an experimental artist rather than a hip-hop artist, even though they still rap.
“Having dropped something that was so boom-bap heavy I was very keen to look at how to incorporate inspiration from the diverse genres that I listen to,” they say about their debut EP Believe the Bloom.
“While I love 90s/early 2000s rap music, I don’t really listen to much hip-hop these days. I listen to a lot of experimental stuff – dance music, electronic music – and it feels much more authentic for me to incorporate all of that into my sound.”
As an artist making music with sound influences from genres such as electronic, R&B, hip-hop, kwaito and House, 30-year-old Mx Blouse, says they don’t make music with audience reception in mind. One year after releasing the rap-heavy Believe the Bloom, Mx Blouse, who was born in Melmoth in northern KwaZulu-Natal and grew up in Richards Bay and the east of Johannesburg, is releasing music with intentional messaging tabled in a sonic direction with vernacular raps, and a kwaito- and gqom-infused sound.
“I only think about what I am comfortable and confident about putting out there. My producers are very much involved and I like giving whoever I work with the space to also not compromise what they are about. So, it’s more of a give-and-take rather than one person dictating to the other what must happen.”
About their latest track, which has received positive attention from everyone you would want to critique your music, Mx says: “Is’phukphuku was actually quite a spontaneous track. I was in Cape Town and went into studio with Thor Rixon, Jakinda and Albany Lore. We literally sat there for a minute and thought, ‘Okay, where to start?’ Thor then dropped some beats, to which Jakinda added more layers, and as they were doing that I was getting into the beat and jotting stuff down. The beat just sounded so festive to me that I wanted to write about partying, but I’m so inclined to think about social issues that I ended up with lyrics about how toxic public spaces can be for womxn and queer people. I guess because I get to witness this all the time in my own life, and experience it myself.
“Albany Lore came in with the saxophone, and we all kind of pitched in as far as where the track should go, until we were satisfied that we had something that works. This all happened within a period of three to four hours, maybe less.”
Is’phukphuku, which means idiot in Zulu, is thought-provoking and puts everyone in check, from our president to former president and calling out blesser culture. The track reflects on free expression and the hope of safe spaces in society.
In the accompanying music video, directed and edited by Jarred Figgins, they and their stylist, Peter Georgiades, have a fashion extravaganza expressing themselves through and beyond the visual and musical expectations of gender and sound.
Mx Blouse says that what they find most disempowering is the lack of community in creative industries. “I wish there was more openness about sharing information, skills, and a general desire to innovate and get better, together, because if we elevate the standard, we all, including consumers of our craft, stand to benefit if there is growth.”
They add: “Everyone looks at the next person as competition rather than inspiration or positive reinforcement. I always say it doesn’t matter if every single person in the world is an artist – there will always be a market for it. But I guess that’s how it works when resources are scarce and everyone wants to do the same thing; people are always on edge and they feel very easily threatened.”
Blouse recently announced that they’ll be playing the massive OppiKoppi festival next month and, as for what’s coming up: “Next up are a few collaborations I’m excited about. I’ve got a kwaito single I’m dropping maybe in the next two months, and something with Thor Rixon for his upcoming album. It’s a dance track so I’m very excited to be a part of that. There’s also something I’m working on with my other producer, Parabyl, for his group, Three Witches. And there have been some established artists reaching out to me. I obviously can’t say anything about that but it definitely feels great to have people whose work I love signalling that they are paying attention and loving what I’m doing.”