Influence matters, not so much the marketing strategy, more the effect the art we like has on the art we make. It’s pretty cool to be living in a time period where crop after crop of South African musicians are drawing inspiration from those who came before them, continually reinventing the sound of the time, and pushing new waves forward. Sure, some sketchy cats are using sample packs to dominate the radio, and we have more than a few versions of our own Drake, but afro-centric and afro-futuristic sounds have made their way from bedrooms, back-rooms, garages and studios to clubs, pubs, shebeens, festivals, and radio stations around the world. Not only are young South African musicians inspired by Kanye, they draw influence from Spoek Mathambo, Boyz N Bucks or Petite Noir too. With solid foundations being laid by the forerunners, and ease of access to information about making and releasing music, the stage is set for a new wave inspired by the current guard.
Stiff Pap plan on being a big part of that new wave. They call themselves a “future electronic kwaito” duo, which, if you’ve heard them, sounds about right. “I was raised around a lot of Zakwe, Abdus and the Durban kasi rap scene.” AyemaProbllem, the rapper of the duo, tells me about his influences, also mentioning the likes of Kanye West, Schoolboy Q, Okmalumkoolkat and TKZee. On the production side of things, Jakinda takes a huge influence from Christian Tiger School, LV, Dj Lag, Rudeboyz and Kanye West (specifically Yeezus). Together, they sound like a 2017 version of Dirty Paraffin washed with gqom.
Jakinda, who has also been making waves as a producer on his ace, with both of his solo EP releases, Afrika 3000 and I Can’t Sleep, getting love from the critics, explains about how the duo got together, “We met last year in the dining hall at the UCT residence we were both staying at. Ayema had heard a beat of mine on Soundcloud and recognised my face on the profile, so he approached me in the dining hall and asked if he could rap on it. That beat eventually became the first Stiff Pap song, Dlala. Once we made Dlala we knew that we had great potential as a duo and we became Stiff Pap.” From there, the 2 started working on their debut EP, Based on a Qho Story. “We started working on the project back around August 2016. Each time I made a really interesting beat that I thought would go on my own solo EP, I played it for Ayema and we ended up using the beats for Stiff Pap. I think that was a good decision, because each of those beats were always missing something or they were just too weird alone, but with Ayema’s raps, everything came together.”
I notice they’re wearing Sol-Sol in their press shots so I ask if repping local brands is intentional. “We feel like our sound represents South Africa,” explains Jakinda “so we wanted a local brand that matches our style and their clothing is amazing. We also wore Two Bop shirts and Converse shoes. To us that was the prefect combination, with some help from our friend Dada Khanyisa who styled the shoot.” Style and image are important to Stiff Pap. “It’s so important!” exclaims Jakinda, “We both care a lot about the way we look and dress, it’s an important part of who we are as Stiff Pap, there’s an aesthetic which we are trying to express through our art.” Ayema followed up with “The best quote I’ve ever heard has to be “You have to dress good, in order to feel good, in order to do good.” It’s so important for us, as upcoming artists, to have our own look. So this is probably the most important thing for us outside of the music.”
When it comes to the music though, Stiff Pap, want “to give people an outer body experience, make them feel a rush of ecstasy.” According to Ayema. “At the same time, we wanted to raise the SA Hip Hop scene, try to push more of an authentic sound.” Stiff Pap are confident that that’s exactly what they’ll do, so much so that when asked what they want people to take away from Based on a Qho Story, Jakinda, all cool and calm, replies with “This is what South African Hip Hop will sound like in the next 5 years.”
Give it a listen below and see if you agree.