The Karolinska Institute in Sweden has recently published a study that indicates musical talent may have a lot to do with genetics. Researchers compared pairs of identical twins, and found that no matter how much one twin had practiced up until that point in their life, the other twin, who had practiced much less, would still have an equal level of musical talent. ByLwansta, on the other hand, did not inherit music genetically; he has had to work at it. The Kokstad-born MC, who is the younger brother of singer/songwriter Kimosabe, has been writing rhymes since he was a kid. “My brother had a little studio and a lot of young artists would come through and have sessions and I would just be in the corner listening and writing to their songs. Eventually I got the courage and asked my bother to write a song for me and my brother said no. So I just had to start writing for myself.”
ByLwansta’s efforts last year culminated in the release of the well-received EP titled You’re Absolutely Right. The narrative project is based on the struggle and thoughts of an artist on the cusp of stardom. ByLwansta illuminates the struggles of the come-up in this cinematic offering. He does not glorify it’s difficulties but instead pulls it into focus for the listener. “I am not unsigned,” says ByLwansta, “I am an independent artist and people need to understand that and what comes with it. The project was in the works for around six months and I was planning it. Mostly I wanted it to be clear and articulate where I am as an artist but also just where I am emotionally as a human being.”.
ByLwansta explained that You’re Absolutely Right also comes from being an artist working in the often contradictory world of Durban hip hop. In the city the scene is segregated. Street cats still battle at the bus terminals and host packed shows in the townships, whilst exclusive MCs perform at venues and night markets in the city. There is no in between. “When I came to Durban I was very much aware of the Durban hip-hop scene. But I knew I did not want to expose myself to it immediately because some people might be territorial,” he says. “I feel like in the Durban hip hop scene, there are a lot of egos that always seem to clash. It’s cool when it’s just music but sometimes it’s just weird.”.
It could be argued that ByLwansta is guilty of over-rapping in certain tracks. However, these rough edges are smoothed over by his cadence. As he would tell you, it’s all about learning. In a world where hip-hop is being built entirely on flows, ByLwansta’s diction is a breath of fresh air. Surprising us with rhymes in unexpected places, his treatment of lyrics is what sets him apart from his peers. “My music is emo and it makes the writing process really different, it’s not like I can sit and channel an emotion. I’d love to make happy songs but for me music is not the first thing I wanna do when I’m happy,” he says.
You’re Absolutely Right occupies two worlds. Lyrically it is clearly the product of an MC who is part of a generation that grew up on the internet, but sonically it is not disconnected from late ’90s boom bap and early 2000s emo rap.
ByLwansta is decisively hip-hop in that he embraces the DIY aesthetics of the genre’s roots. He designs his own artwork, directs his videos and is involved in every step of his music-making process including how the work rolls out. This is partly out of necessity because as an independent artist he doesn’t have many options. It’s also because he is a perfectionist trying to articulate his vision on his own terms. “I like to do a lot of things myself,” he says. “It’s not a case of me having pride and wanting to do it all but it’s more like, nobody can do my vision the way I want it to be done. So let me just do it cause I also want to avoid working on other people’s time