“My music is death music. My beats have this dark, heavy atmosphere, but I don’t think that darkness is a negative thing”.
Sipping a juice on a sunny Friday afternoon, rapper and beatmaker Lanii Clouds is explaining the philosophy behind his prolific body of work. Since 2013, the Johannesburg based artist has been releasing a string of singles, mixtapes and videos in a style he calls ‘Experimental High Trans’. It’s best captured on his song Underwater Lord, where he growls cryptic lyrics about pyramids over a dank beat that sounds like it was recorded down an abandoned mineshaft. The hazy atmosphere is reminiscent of ASAP Rocky and Travis Scott, but with a grit perfectly contoured to the streets of Gauteng.
Lanii has been releasing since 2013, when he became frustrated with the musical limitations of the Braamfontein battle rap scene he was an active participant in. A fan of artists like Radiohead (“I want to collaborate with Thom Yorke so badly”), he was looking for beats that were more personal and expressive, and found that making them himself on Fruity Loops was an elegant solution. “I make music for myself, so that I can have fun. I’m a fan of my own music”.
Ironically as the son of a pastor, his music is saturated with occult imagery, creating a mysterious atmosphere where “people don’t know where it’s coming from”. But Lanii is not trying to construct an elusive public image and is eager to get his face out there. To that end, many of his song are accompanied by rugged but appealing music videos which he and friends shoot DIY style around the city. When I met with him, he was on the way to make I See It, a nocturnal trawl through a Friday night. Such an immediate approach is key for his work, and he even goes so far as to do his own cover art. “I do recording, mastering, everything myself. I can drop when I want to drop”. This raw aesthetic is making him an intriguing new voice in SA music, with a dark sound fit for confusing times.