African music has come out on top in 2019. Afrobeats has become one of the defining genres of the year, with Burna Boys “African Giant” leaping up charts across the globe. The AfroNation festival, held in Lisbon this year, achieved what other fraud-ridden, Netflix-documented destination festivals couldn’t. Beyoncé’s seminal ‘Homecoming’ performance paid homage to the legendary Fela Kuti and she followed with a full-length Afrobeats album for the Lion King. Gqom has taken over South African dancefloors and is conquering soundsystems from Brooklyn to Berlin. With their new track “CPT”: Aeli, KA$HCPT and TheBaker attempt to surf this same wave of Afro-popularity.
“CPT” is a synth-heavy song that brings together artists from North and South Africa over its beat. With heavy and distorted base, the track hits a note that’s somewhere between pop and trap. The song is the child of Dubai-based, Tunisian producer Aeli. Aeli is possibly the most established of the trio, having shared the stage with the likes of Joey Badass, Earl Sweatshirt and Joe Kay from Soulection. Aeli’s previous projects, ‘Palimpsest’ and ‘Late Future Calls Remixed’ saw him unite with artists from the UAE, the US and France. For this track, Aeli united with Cape Town based artists KA$HCPT and TheBaker to “showcase the talent that Africa has to offer”. Both KA$H and TheBaker are upcoming musicians in the scene, with TheBaker focused on production and KA$H focused on rapping. The two have worked together previously, with TheBaker “developing” KA$H alongside other artists. With “CPT”, these local artists are able to branch out and make connections across the continent. “CPT” might very well be the first of its kind: a rap song connecting Dubai, Tunisia and South Africa. The soaring, 3-minute-long ode to Cape Town see’s KA$HCPT waxing lyrics about his love for the city and “those putting in the work” to make it proud over the soaring Aeli/Baker-produced beat.
As a musical project, “CPT” is spacey. It’s mission to become a ‘Cape Town’ anthem is interesting, as its mechanisms place it closer to America than anywhere else on the map of South Africa. As hip hop and its variations hold its place as the most popular genre worldwide, this song illuminates itself as a radio-friendly, globalized iteration of the art form. Lyrically, KA$HCPT plays into several American-rap style tropes. His accent sounds more American than Capetonian, which is a popular trend across SA rap. He makes a point of drawing links between the Mother City and California, rapping “Cape Town, south side, stay down, everyday”. The lyrical content as well, is less focused on a thorough depiction of lived experience in the city than it is on glossily ‘rapping the set’.
On the production front, Aeli and TheBaker come up with a sound that references the slick production style of a group like Rae Sremmurd more heavily than they do any local sounds like house, gqom or amapiano or even trance. Throughout the song, one can hear a distinct, tenor-bass chanting. This is a manipulated sample of traditional Zulu chanting. Aeli, in his music, is fond of blending samples of traditional music as a way to pay tribute to history and culture. The use of this particular sample feels strange, as Zulu is not the dominant language of Cape Town, nor are his collaborators on this track of Zulu origin.
If anything, “CPT” captures a particular Cape Town ethos. Known to the greater world for its cosmopolitanism and Instagram-ready natural beauty, the song’s well-architected and sleek production captures the vibe of a long drive through the city or a night partying on Long Street. Aeli and TheBaker’s production skills are put to good use. KA$HCPTs wordplay is fun to listen to, easy to catch on and his talent is promising. The cross-national trio’s blending of American musical standards and popular (though perhaps misplaced) African influences are a microcosm of where popular music is headed in our fast globalizing world.