Great-grandson of Xhosa author W.K. Tamsanqa; Siphosenkosi Nkodlwane also known as LaliBoi Xhosa, draws a great deal of inspiration for his music from the works of his wordsmith great-grandfather who was an ever-present part of his life. From the artistic legacy of his great-grandfather, Laliboi draws inspiration specifically for his love of the Xhosa language and by extension his very rapping expression. “At home, the Xhosa language was instilled so heavily that they did not mind us not knowing how to speak English as long as we knew isiXhosa. That was a major influence in my rap style, it came from home.”
This passion for his mother-tongue is evident on LaliBoi’s debut album, Siyangaphi, presented entirely in isiXhosa. “I can’t rap in English to save my life! I’ve always rapped in Xhosa and township Zulu.” On the album, LaliBoi’s mastery of the language gives it an instrumental quality over Spoek Mathambo’s beats, while still conveying meaningful stories and messages. “There’s a long history that the language holds and we as this generation need to embrace that and tell our stories using the language.” Spoek’s productions; a blend of hip-hop, jazz and traditional South African sounds, perfectly convey the emotions that LaliBoi has been searching for. “I was blown away because it was something [that was] out of the box yet it encapsulates South Africa yesterday, today and tomorrow.”
The songs on the album range from stories that are close to home, such as “Laliboi,” which is a reminder to rural kids to believe in themselves, and that some of South Africa’s greatest leaders were also rural kids once. “Angazi Kanjani”, is a dialog between a father who has spent his pay on alcohol and his crying son, however, it is also a story that paves way to understanding his challenges. To tracks like “Mancane,” which tells the story of a boy from an impoverished home who gets caught stealing and then has to provide an explanation for his actions to the mob that catches him, to tributes to the late Winnie Madikizela-Mandela (“Nomzamo”), which features a sample from Sathima Bea Benjamin’s “Winnie Mandela – Beloved Heroine”. Drawing from the musical archives; “Blues for Bra Kippie,” features a sample from Kippie ‘Morolong’ Moeketsi’s 1975 track “African Day”.
Other themes explored on the album include the struggles of a struggling woman from the Eastern Cape doing whatever it takes to make it in a male-centric and judgemental society in the song “Emonti”. “Somandla” interestingly re-contextualizes a gospel song within a party-song structure. “Undenzantoni,” is a sonic ode to that day 1 girl, where “Deuteronomy 28” sparks questions in relation to black Israelites. “Mayibuye,” and “Siyangaphi” are both constructed around the concept of elders with the former excavating the state of mind of one’s elders and the latter emphasizing the importance of our elders’ stories.
With a fresh, yet nostalgic sound that is very much South African, Laliboi’s Siyangaphi is one of the most entertaining, yet, thought out listens of the year. Hopefully this is just the beginning of the artist’s solo career. One of Laliboi’s hopes for this release is that it helps young people reconnect with who they are. Speaking about the album he said “I want to reach the kids so they know who they are and aren’t afraid to be who they are. Reshape the mind of young South Africans and to not forget to embrace the diversity.”
Give the album a listen here.