Photograph by Kgomotso Neto Tleane

Stiff Pap at the forefront of Future Kwaito

Since dropping their debut EP ‘Based on A Qho Story’, Stiff Pap have consistently been thinking of different ways to push their sound and live performances, competing with previous versions of themselves. Their agility and future-oriented vision has seen their fan base growing exponentially, revealing how they are plugged into the direction fans want SA music to move.

Being at the forefront of a new genre, Future Kwaito, Stiff Pap appreciate and embrace its current amorphous nature. This open-ended framing of the genre restricts sonic inhibitions, meaning that global sounds and styles can be combined freely. This demonstrates their understanding of the global music context, with a grounding in South African associations of rhythm and lyrical storytelling. In this way their offering is something familiar yet different.

“I feel like we’ve gone beyond what people would traditionally understand not just as Kwaito, but even Future Kwaito…We took the sound in a different direction, it’s more industrial and dark,” one half of Stiif Pap, Jakinda explains.

With their sonic roots in Kwaito, they manage to seamlessly combine this with hip hop and electronic sounds. “We [are] trying to take something which is abstract and European and make it ours. We call it Kwaito instead of hip hop because Kwaito is basically the Southern African version of hip hop. It is a perfect description of what we [are] doing right now, but we don’t want to be boxed [in],” Ayema explains.

Stiff Pap look to past and present musical history to reinvent the familiar. Their injection into the industry opens up a new avenue of progress for hip hop and Kwaito. “Changing the scene and breaking boundaries is really important to us, we see ourselves as a beacon of hope for all the kids who want to do alternative music.”

Drawing on the varied sounds of Kanye West, Christian Tiger School, Schoolboy Q, Vince Staples, Teargas and the gqom wave, collectively they continuously attempt to disrupt the musical status quo. “Production-wise, I listen to more electronica than hip hop. I don’t actually know how to make hip hop beats, but in a way we are hip hop artists. So I think we’re showing people that hip hop is a much broader genre than they thought, especially when it comes to South African hip hop,” Jakinda explains, “We’re showing that you don’t have to rap in English to be international. You don’t have to sound American.”

Style and image play a role in how this is translated for audiences. “A lot of people really like us because they feel like we represent them. We’re young black kids doing left field electronic music. We basically represent the black kids that are weird and different and trying to find themselves.”

As a duo Stiff Pap represent how disruption can arrive through simplicity.

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