Over the last few years, ByLwansta has steadily been building his name as one of South Africa’s most relatable rappers. His come-up has been one built on consistency, growth, and respecting the audience, whilst flexing his creative dexterity. And while he’s not at the top of the mountain yet, he’s well on his way – carving his own path whilst doing so.
After the ‘NORMVL’ mixtape, and ‘Your Absolutely Right’ EP, which were on par with many albums, ByLwansta has finally decided to drop his debut album through a series of EPs. ‘SPIJØNGET: Chapter One’ is the first part of the album and it’s essentially a cute little love letter to his girlfriend, with an ode to insomnia thrown into the mix. ByLwansta’s approach is pretty far from the “money, bitches, weed” style of hip-hop. Instead, he’s writing heartfelt songs about how his girl makes his dick stand (no, seriously) and playfully oozes charm whilst getting “Let’s just stay naked and not get dressed,” stuck in your head for days. He’s got a knack for making things sound conversational and true to life. There’s a sincerity to this ‘Chapter One’ that’s simply unrivalled by most rap releases.
ByLwansta’s biggest assets are his vulnerability and relatability, which are intrinsically linked. It’s his willingness to be cute as fuck in certain songs, and neurotic as fuck in others, that makes his work relatably human. And while there’s a heavy jazz influence in the EP, it stays down to earth and doesn’t veer into the realm of pretentiousness that can occasionally come from hip-hop and jazz merging. It’s easily accessible to a wide range of music lovers yet there are layers of complexity to delve into for those looking for it.
I had the pleasure of watching ByLwansta at the launch at The Chairman, Durban’s most upmarket jazz venue, with his band NORMVLLY Busy, and I saw an act that could very well take over the country. From the diehard ByLwansta fans rapping every word to the wealthy folks who were just looking for a different night out, everyone got caught up in the musicality and emotion on display. ByLwansta charmed everyone into smiling faces and swaying hips off the bat and NORMVLLY Busy dropped jaws with their prowess throughout the show. I was reminded of Tumi and the Volume and how their gigs often went down in much the same way. ByLwansta and NORMVLLY Busy are doing their own thing though, and because of that, they have the potential to maybe one day surpass those who have come before them. They’re already a quality live act who are still in the infancy of their musical careers, so I’m giddy to watch how they continue to grow.
Now we just have to wait to hear what’s in store on SPIJØNGET: Chapter Two.
Listen to Chapter One here.