March 24, 2011

I see this video as the ghosts of Hype Williams and Busta Rhymes transplanted to Soweto. Spoek Mathambo rhyming over sheet metal dubstep, bass and drums that glow and burn like lit coal. The official narrative claims that this is “the story of a heartbroken widow performing pagan ceremonies to bring her dead husbands back to life…if only for a night. Her lovers are maggot ridden corpses, struggling through the dark passages of purgatory.” If I had a rand for every time I heard that excuse.

Reared in Johannesberg’s most infamous township, Mathambo’s stage name translates to, “the skeleton.” He’s political enough to name his band, album, and lead single “Mshini Wam” ( “Bring me my machine gun”), a play on a Zulu war song. South Africa’s turbulent history and political clashes permeate his slang, a strange brew of Zulu, Sothu, Xhosa and English. How to classify the unclassifiable. I hear dubstep, South African Kwaito house, hip-hop (Mathambo namechecks CloudDead and Anti-Pop), Joy Division covers, and traditional South African melodies you usually only hear on compilations of the esoteric. Spoek creates spectacle of the best kind, flashy but considered. He’s aware of the need to rise above the din, but very much a product of it.

More videos below the jump.

MP3: Spoek Mathambo-“War on Words”

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