One of the most visually opulent artists working today, Umlilo has been winning ears and hearts with their bold fusion of kwaito, rap and bubblegum pop. Since their debut EP in 2013, Umlilo’s project has been exploring the tragedies and triumphs of life in a world of repressive gender politics. Their artistic comrades in the struggle is the Johannesburg electro-rap Stash Crew. Frustrated by the erasure of LGBTQ identity in mainstream culture, they combined their talents in 2016 with the “Queer Galactic Alliance” world tour, thrilling audiences with raucous live shows in Brazil and Germany. Their aim was to attack the Death Star of toxic conservatism, promoting “glitter anarchy” on the streets.
The performance collaboration has extended into the new DL Boi a song and video featuring Umlilo and Stash Crew rapper Whyt Lyon. The music video is an extravaganza of fashion and movement. Filmed in Melville’s Glory nightclub, it intercuts grainy, VHS-style scenes of nightlife with crystal clear choreography, conceptualised to show off “Joburg’s fiercest queer talent”. Directed by Jono Kay, its choreography scenes focus on internationally renowned performers Henk Opperman and Lllewellyn Lulubelle Mnguni. The intensive costuming was provided by designer Caroline Olavarrieta, with makeup by Orli Meiri and Dylosaurus Rex creating a world of glamorous retrofuturism.
The lushness of the images complements the driving simplicity of the song itself. DL Boi is a massive-sounding pop song, with a relentless beat throbbing like strobe lights under a chorus hook of “If you want me let you know”. It sounds instantly classic, like hearing a forgotten house anthem from the early ’90s. The song’s title references a ‘down low brother’, a closeted gay man trying to secretly hook up with gay men. In the hands of Umlilo and Whyt Lyon, this scenario becomes a tale of brash self-assertion, delivered with utterly compelling visual and musical flair.