Stogie T on Collective Psychosis and Dreaming His EP “Shallow” into Being - Bubblegum Club

Stogie T on Collective Psychosis and Dreaming His EP “Shallow” into Being

When it comes to the South African hip-hop scene, few names ring out louder than the rapper and poet, Stogie T. Recently, we had the chance to catch up with the man himself, and what followed was a raw, enlightening conversation about his latest EP, the effects of the pandemic, and the complex social conditions in his home country. Stogie T’s music has always been more than just beats and rhymes—it’s a reflection of the times, a critique of society, and a narrative of dreams both realised and deferred.

Stogie T, whose birth name is Tumi Molekane was born in Tanzania in 1981, while his parents were in exile. They moved to South Africa in 1992 where Stogie T eventually rose to fame as the lead vocalist of Tumi and the Volume, which disbanded in 2012. In 2016, he reinvented himself as Stogie T, releasing a self-titled album featuring prominent South African artists. Recently signed to Def Jam Africa, he has collaborated with influential international artists and his lyrics have been analysed at an academic level, for their socio-political commentary. 

During our talk, Stogie T opened up about the themes driving his new material. “For me, I wanted entry and key themes of those pandemic vibes—maybe cynical about elections, maybe even a little bit hopeful,” he said. It’s a juxtaposition many can relate to: the disillusionment with politics paired with a stubborn optimism for change. His focus wasn’t just on the stark realities of life, like the absence of food or basic necessities. “It’s about where our headspace is at,” hinting at a more psychological exploration of the country’s condition.

Stogie T

Stogie T

With production tones that nod to the 80s while staying true to his lyrical style and themes of mental health, land issues, and love, Stogie T’s latest EP, Shallow (2024) features collabs with Saul Williams, Msaki, Bonj, and Apu Sebekedi. “As for the collaborations,” the rapper said, “[…] each brings a unique energy. Shane Cooper, for instance, embodies a jazz vibe, while Apu represents youthful energy, keeping my ear to the streets. Msaki symbolises the idea of a global African, proud yet willing to extend their reach and collaborate internationally.”

When I asked about his long history of addressing political and social issues, Stogie T responded, “Biko’s Ghost with Saul Williams probably represents that continuation but I don’t think I’ve ever stopped […] I really love that Bonj […] makes pop music, and new age pop, like very gritty […] pop music. But here we are doing a cover of another Brenda Fassie […] who made […] what they called bubblegum music at the time […] such a powerful song, unfortunately still relevant today, […] about […] poverty or squalor.”

Despite its cheeky title and playful synths, this EP is actually quite sophisticated and serious. It builds on communal legacies and bravely responds to the madness of now. A phrase that stood out as we spoke about the project was the term “collective psychosis,” which Stogie T unpacked with the ease of someone who’s been thinking deeply about it. “We started as this rainbow nation with a dream we all shared,” he reflected. “But over time, individual ambitions and the realities of what makes a country work started to tear at that collective dream.”

Stogie T

Stogie T

Having recorded Shallow in both Johannesburg and Los Angeles, I asked whether he sees a connection between the legacies of both these cities. He answered, “I’m also a global citizen in the way I see myself. I think the connections you see can be drawn from that perspective. I’ve extensively toured the continent, and my audience is always with me in every line I write. I know they will hear this too, so they are present. I care that if someone in L.A., Ghana, France, or South Africa hears it, there’s something there for them to connect with.” 

I asked about how he sees new developments in SA music like Amapiano and he responded, “When I look at genres like Amapiano, it reminds me of the raw energy of hip-hop, which led to technological advancements in how people consume music. We were early adopters of platforms like SoundCloud, releasing music online. I admire how kids now can create beautiful music with just a computer and speakers. […] The danger lies in a musical form not having a clear representation or identity outside the local scene.”

Stogie T’s ongoing practice is a righteous blend of artistic evolution, collaboration, and an understanding of the industry. But above all, Stogie T is a proper wordsmitha vital voice for the ever-vibrant hip-hop community. Shallow is his new mirror, audaciously held up to South African society but embedded in the global community. Here’s a link to listen to the EP. Stogie T will lead the lineup for this year’s Fête de la Musique Johannesburg festival on June 22nd at Victoria Yards.

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