The frustrations and brutalities of urban life have often lead artists and musicians to depict cities as Hell. For Percy Shelly, smoky London was the abyss while a century later Bertolt Brecht saw it in sunny Los Angeles. More recently, Hell has been central to Hip Hop. In the 90’s Mobb Deep unleashed Hell on Earth while Tricky offered it around the corner. In 2014 Vince Staples confidently predicted ‘I’m probably fitting to go to hell anyway’. And now Cape Town based producer Big Hate is taking us on a Permanent Vacation in Hell.
This ambitious mixtape is structured like a concept album based around a cynical trip through CPT, a city of ‘broken dreams and summer nightmares’. Its intention from the cover art onwards is to mock pretension and excess. It starts with a fake news announcement at the airport welcoming the listener to a bullshit trip through a ‘raggedy ass motherfucker’ of a city. As the ambient track swells, a vocal sample from Abel Ferreira’s crime epic King of New York is introduced. The lines of dialogue between Lauren Fishburne and Christopher Walken reappear as a distorted leitmotif throughout the project-:
Jump: Yo, congratulations, Frank. Congratulations, man. Them Columbian motherfuckers, they took permanent vacation in hell, if you know what I mean.
Frank White: Well, I must’ve been away too long because my feelings are dead. I feel no remorse.
The mixtape combines hyper-specific local references (City Bowl Sis Khetiwe, 1820 Settlers Bandwagon ) with music that draws inspiration from hip hop, kwaito and 90’s RnB. Smoky samples from Old Dirty Bastard and Ginuwine float through the murk. The satirical aspects of the work come through clearly on tracks like the acidly titled Trust Fund Yacht House Boyz. But at other points, it seems like Big Hate is really just revelling in being offensive for its own sake. The final track is an outrageous ‘tribute’ to musician Taliep Petersen, whose own wife plotted to have him murdered. On one level, I enjoyed the complete absurdity of this mocking song, but on the other it seems in terrible taste. Nevertheless, despite a certain puerility in lyrics, the EP is an enjoyably atmospheric trip through Hell.