July 15, 2011

At this moment, Douglas Martin is reenacting the song “Homecoming.”

After the wild artistic success of Shabazz Palaces’ Black Up— not to mention the signing of Shabazz friends and collaborators,
Seattle space-rap / R&B duo THEESatisfaction– it’s hard to turn a skeptical eye at the idea of Sub Pop being a burgeoning destination for some of the world’s most forward-thinking rap acts. Enter Spoek Mathambo, a 25-year-old South African who’s recorded songs called “Gunboat” and one that translates to “Bring me my machine gun.” He’s an artist who can place an impassioned cover of Joy Division’s “She’s Lost Control” right next to art-damaged glitch-hop, an artist who
effortlessly blends a sense of dubstep wobble even Sach O could appreciate with traditional African percussion. Somewhere, Beachwood Sparks are scratching their heads in astonishment.

“Put Some Red on It,” Mathambo’s first offering for the label, is an insanely percussive blast of deep-thinking material, bouncy 808s thumping underneath shakers and castanets and a dying toy battery synths, co-produced by Copenhagen’s own CHLLNGR. Through the thick gauze of his accent, he spits measured verses laced with loaded imagery of bloody and vomit-stained lips and gun powder. More than half a decade ago, Kanye West wrote a famously conflicted verse about the importance of flossing in the black community with the same diamonds that are being pried out of bleeding, shaky African hands, expressing his concern as a rich black man only partially cognizant of the real cost of the diamond trade.

Here, you get the feeling that Mathambo is reporting from the front-lines, even in spite of being in the richest country in Africa, a vague tinge of anger in his voice as he surveys what’s happening on his continent and a flicker of sadness as he raps of a girl’s legs being blown apart. The dichotomy between the bleak lyrics and dancefloor-ready beats of “Put Some Red on It” is
chilling, the audio equivalent of starving, despondent, rebel soldiers doing the “Single Ladies” dance.

Download:
MP3: Spoek Mathambo-”Mshini Wam”