Well, this is just a two-song EP with some remixes so it’s going to be a quickie.
Spoek Mathambo is the newest singing to SubPop and there is a lot going on here. Spoek is a South African rapper with multiple styles, sing-songy, backpacker, dub, dense, sparse—his flow is distinct or all over the place, depending on your point of view. The lyrics are super smart and interesting and for a new artist, Spoek is really promising. Not to mention, he is also an artist and illustrator—a creative jack of all trades.
There is something decidedly un-American about the two original tracks here. Not un-American, like “I hate America,” but more hip hop with a world view. I find Spoek’s music interesting because traditionally, great hip hop has been so quintessentially American, specifically, African American. However, Spoke sounds more influenced by British and the Caribbean with some of the instruments he records (or samples) are straight from the juju (early rock ‘n’ roll mixed w South African traditional music) tradition—while other sound more influenced by Britain’s Roots Manuva and Y2K Grime star, Dizzee Rascal. Danish producer CHLLNGR, and incredible-at-everything-and-dude-that’s-everywhere, Zach Hill create an eclectic and interesting pastiche production to match Mathambo’s bleak, dystopian world view.
Put Some Red On It is a traditional Maxi-single, like those old New Order 12” from the 80s, with two songs and three remixes, and the remixes are where it gets really interesting. Mathambo enlists highly touted nu-hip hop and dub remixers Machinedrum, former Digable Planets, Shabazz Palaces and Telepathe and these mixes take these cuts on a journey to the dance floor. There are certainly elements of the played-out dubstep trend going on here but to call these beats dubstep would be lazy. There are most various dance styles (such as bass, techno, grime and trip sneeze) going on here and this is no accident as Spoek is a hip hop journalist/educator and somewhat of an expert in hip hop of the world—regularly throwing parties in his native South Africa featuring various electronic and hip hop artists playing together. This marriage readily shows in the Shabazz Palaces remix of Put Some Red On It” —a herky jerky, sparse upending to Spoek’s male/female duet tale of death and blood diamonds. Super unexpected and super cool.
Spoek Mathambo is both of the time and ahead of his time—adding new elements to what’s happening now to make a record that gives the listener what they want, but also lead them to some place new. Not bad for a new artist.
Review by Stephe Sykes