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Exclusive Interview With Hymphatic Thabs


13 August 2004 No Comment

“I think that the one big problem with Perfect Times is that it sounds too similar to Error Era, which was a deliberate decision, but soon seemed like a bad decision to mirror my first album. Instead of it being a progressive move I found it a bit regressive. I felt there was something strange about the whole thing like trying to read writing being reflected off a mirror.”

Lazy Sam: Watup, Thabs!

Thabs: Yeah! What’s up?

Lazy Sam: I haven’t seen you around in a while, what you been up to lately in the way of shows and stuff?

Thabs: I haven’t really been all over. I have just been killing a few sets here and there in Jo’burg but this year I was at the Grahamstown Arts Festival and that shit came off. It was a mad different environment to perform in to what I am usually exposed. I met mad nice emcees from different parts of South Africa, Jo’burg, Cape Town, Durban & what surprised me the most, Port Elizabeth.

There was mad dope cats from P.E. (Life Forces) and they came on our sets and ripped shit proper plus we also met the cats who did the Mr Nobody joint and that shit comes the fuck off. I have just mainly kept to myself lately while I try get my life back together. It has been fucked up a bit immediately after the completion of my degree. It has been a very irritating phase finishing studying and not immediately getting a job.

If SA hip-hop paid the bills I wouldn’t need to be looking for a job. So mostly, when I am not wearing the Executive Producer hat (for Robo’s album), I am job hunting in the film industry and occasionally video editing on a freelance tip.

Lazy Sam: I’ve heard a lot of positive words about your latest, Perfect Times, but how’s it doing in the stores?

Thabs: It isn’t in a lot of stores. It is mainly sold in the streets or at the live shows where I may be performing. But generally I think it is moving and getting through to heads. It is, however, available in a few stores but the main outlet is COMPACT DISC WHEREHOUSE in the Zone at Rosebank (JHB). If a person is in Jo’burg and they want a copy they can also try BRING THA NOISE in Campus Square (Auckland Park, JHB). The most common way of getting the CD is just by calling 082 560 5531 and an arrangement can be made to get the CD to who ever wants it, wherever they are.

Lazy Sam: Are you happy with it?

Thabs: I think it was a useful step towards my growth as an emcee.

Lazy Sam: Who did the production on Perfect Times?

Thabs: A guy called Alex Mugeni played an instrumental role in the production of Perfect Times. He, under the name KataQuomB, made the majority of the beats on Perfect Times and mixed almost every track on that album. I also had veterans like Kanife (from River Clay Music) on tracks like Perfect Times, and a dung beetle.

Omen also produced a couple of the tracks on the album: Just Grow A Crop and I was. The album cannot be given one name towards production because it was such a strong gang of heads from all over who contributed their utmost best to make it work.

Lazy Sam: And Error Era?

Thabs: It was pretty much the same. It was produced by many different guys. There were so many cats on Error Era that it could have been seen as a compilation of beats with me rhyming on every track. Kanife and KataQuomb were there but it also had some really good producers like Iko (who produced Spex), Richard III (who produced The High Society), Dj Blaze (who produced MXO) and some live musicians like violinist Kyla Smith (who played with Gito Baloyi, Freshly Ground and Tumi & the Volume) the well renown jazz pianist Africa Mkhize (Gallo).

It was just basically a collaboration between and many other South African artists.

Lazy Sam: How would you say it (Perfect Times) differs from Error Era, both in lyrics and in style?

Thabs: I think that the one big problem with Perfect Times is that it sounds too similar to Error Era, which was a deliberate decision, but soon seemed like a bad decision to mirror my first album. Instead of it being a progressive move I found it a bit regressive. I felt there was something strange about the whole thing like trying to read writing being reflected off a mirror.

Lyrically there are obvious similarities between the two albums, except for the fact that Perfect Times focuses a bit too much on the blunts, which, now that I have thought about it thoroughly, is not quite the point of why we do conscious hip-hop. Being high is not being conscious at all. It is the opposite of being conscious. Taking mind altering substances is not in anyway a “conscious” state of mind.

Being high numbs the brain and it leaves you in an unconscious mind state. If you are intoxicated by mind altering substances it does not follow that you are conscious. But I still enjoy listening to Error Era was a personal album. Because it was my first exposure to the South African market that could both understand and sustain an awkward side towards the development of South African hip hop, it opened many doors for me as an emcee. It put on enough courage to record and put out the Perfect Times project.

Lazy Sam: When did you first start with hip hop and were you into any other elements before emceeing?

Thabs: I was always into performance from primary school days. I was into story telling and exploring new ways of live entertainment. Otherwise I must also confess that from my childhood days I have always been insisting that I will be a musician one day. I would be walking around the house singing church hymns, despite my mother telling me I couldn’t sing to save my life. Her advice, in a way, saved me from singing, but not from emceeing though. I had been trying to rhyme in 1994 but it started getting more serious in 1996 when I was in crew called Garrison.

Lazy Sam: What influenced you in the beginning?

Thabs: I was initially influenced by how weird I thought the world was but recently I have been confronted with the phenomena that I might just be as crazy as the world is so it actually balances out.

Lazy Sam: Have your influences changed since?

Thabs: I think my influences have changed since then

Lazy Sam: Since you came from Lesotho, how did you get to where you are today?

Thabs: My being from Lesotho did not in anyway act as a barrier to where I am at now but it seemed to be more like bridge because it promoted me back to where hip hop is claimed to have originated from: OTAP (Oral Traditional African Poetry, which is similar to lithoko/dithoko; a Lesotho/African Styled oral poetic medium of communication). On a more serious note though, I was in Johannesburg studying when I took serious steps towards developing a life as an emcee.

Lazy Sam: You are with CONCENTRATION CAMP? Right? What compelled you to start TASTE BUDS with Gini Grindith?

Thabs: Well TASTE BUDS goes much further back than CONCENTRATION CAMP. We started TASTE BUDS before CONCENTRATION CAMP was around. I have always been working in association with the cats from CONCENTRATION CAMP because I strongly believe in their cause. I am an underground emcee and therefore I think that the underground movement must continue growing and expanding into a more economically sound career and lifestyle for other dope underground emcees.

That is the one reason I have stuck with CONCENTRATION CAMP, because this is what they also believe in.

Lazy Sam: What have TASTE BUDS and CONCENTRATION CAMP achieved?

Thabs: CONCENTRATION CAMP has put out two extremely hardcore albums on the commercial market like Pavement Specials and Ground Works, and both albums seemed to do well in underground South African hip hop circles. I still think, however, that there is still a lot of room for improvement in terms of how CONCENTRATION CAMP is running day-to-day administrative activities.

TASTE BUDS has put out both my albums, we have just finished recording Robo’s solo project: Robo-The Technician. TASTE BUDS has also nearly reached the end of Gini Grindith’s album: The Darker Side of Reason, which is sounding mad sick, I must add. We are also working with two different crews: Abnormal Detail (hip-hop theatre with Gini Grindith and Dj Raiko) and Daily News (live hip-hop/jazz band with Robo).

Lazy Sam: What are your aspirations for TASTE BUDS?

Thabs: I hope TASTE BUDS continues contributing as much as it can towards the development hip-hop in this continent. The main idea is to keep it fresh and growing.

Lazy Sam: What’s your take on South African hip hop in its entity?

Thabs: I think SA hip-hop is growing at a very fast pace and in a few years people will be able to raise families from hip-hop. I think in SA there are some of the worlds best emcees and if cats aren’t sleeping we actually can take hip-hop to another level.

Lazy Sam: Do you stick to this whole underground vs. mainstream thing or are you down with unity?

Thabs: I am very down with unity but it does not mean that I want everybody to unite with everybody else. What the fuck would be the point of that? I want all wack emcees to continually get burned by dope cats until they either improve or quit.

But in terms of the whole underground vs. mainstream thing, I don’t think being commercially successful makes you wack. Nor does it mean that if you are forced into the underground because no-one wants to put your shit out there and when you do eventually put your own shit out no-one supports you because it is misery to listen to your shit then you are phat just because you are underground.

The reality is that most “underground” hip-hop is wack and that most commercial hip-hop is also wack. That is what makes the specific underground stuff that is good unique and special and the same applies to dope emcees that have seen commercial success.

Lazy Sam: And what do you think about Lesotho acts such as El Kai and Frozen Slosh?

Thabs: What? I am mad about those kids. Those kids are mad nice. I think those kids can burn a lot cats in SA. Them kids are very young, they only started rhyming a few years ago, but they must be learning really fast because they shit they are spitting is on point. In a few years cats will be on par with everyone else.

Lazy Sam: You know, there’s a lot of cats writing raps in their indigenous lingos. What’s your word on that whole thing?

Thabs: I wish I could rhyme in my home language. I give props to cats who are able to pull it off. It does not mean that if you rhyme in your own mother tongue or some African language that you are automatically nice. In fact most people that do sound really terrible.

Cats seem think that they can hide behind language if they don’t have skill but that’s bullshit. If a cat is wack he is wack, regardless what language he is rhyming in. It is problematic that hip-hop in Africa is mostly done in a European languages and that does further crush our culture and doesn’t create space for our own cultures to grow and develop. So as much as I promote SA hip-hop in any languages, I do think that language can buy anybody a licence to being unoriginal, plastic, cliché, monotonous, repetitive, irritating, pretentious, boring, deceitful, stupid, xenophobic, racist and basically crap.

I do realise that SA is a new growing nation and a uniquely SA experience can make an audience feel unified as a nation but I just hate bad music.

Lazy Sam: I’m feelin your hat, but rumour has it that you’re hiding a demon in there!?

Thabs: Hiding? Well maybe, I’m quite sure though. But Demon? Motherfuckers must be taking cocaine or some shit. Look. The reality is that I have dreadlocks and when I was still heavily buried under the whole rastafari movement, it was considered flashing to be showing off your dreadlocks. As a result I found myself so accustomed to wearing something over my head that whenever I don’t have jack I feel naked. It’s an inexplicable habit that I have not been able to let go of yet.

Lazy Sam: What other music besides hip hop are you feelin?

Thabs: Jazz, Reggae, and Classic. I hate pop music, I find it irritating.

Lazy Sam: The tightest emcees in SA?

Thabs: Shaheen (ex-POC member), Gini Grindith, Isaac Chokwe, Fungus, & Tumi.

Lazy Sam: And the illest producer?

Thabs: Besides the producers on my albums, Kaptin, Prowler, Iko, & Hamma.

Lazy Sam: What’s your philosophy on life?

Thabs: You only have one life to live, live it to fullest, every moment counts.

Lazy Sam: Say your just about to be executed publicly, but the executioner allows you to do one more thing before you die. What do you do?

Thabs: Drop a verse, if I can’t rob a bank and redistribute all the money to poor.

Lazy Sam: A word to your critics:

Thabs: Tell me my mistakes, I will try and improve them. Make a mistake about where I am coming, from I will try correct you. Dislike my style I dislike you too. Talk shit about me or any of my crew, HIDE.

Lazy Sam: The members of AfricasGateway.com salute you! One.

Thabs: Thanks for the interview. One.

Interview by Lazy Sam

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