South African Trap Playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLY09Wu4yS3xvdwPfZFCabZEEh459ezMtQ
Being born and raised in Compton, Ca, known for its high crime rates and violent reputation, I was naturally inclined to create a mixtape in the South African trap genre because it involves lyrics and stories that I can relate to firsthand. The theme of the songs I chose are that they accurately represent the common outcomes of someone who was brought up in the modern day ghetto. Whether it be South Africa, Compton, Ca, or Bronx, New York there are a common theme of topics discussed by trap artists who are brought up in dangerous environments. One of the first recognized South African Trap artist, Sjava, beautifully weighed in on what he believed the purpose and theme of trap music is by proclaiming that “The whole concept is to inspire each other, it’s not just for us, it’s something we started for the community, for the public. All in all, it’s to motivate more than anything. That’s our main focus—get up, go get it.”
When trying to decide on which songs to add to my playlists I listened to as many South African Trap artists as I could a day and consistently found myself relating to Emtee’s music, who is the artist of the five songs I featured. Emtee, one of the most prominent trap artists in South Africa is the creator of ATM (African Trap Movement), which is an indie label and movement. ATM as a genre is characterized by trap production which has subtle South African sensibilities. Lyrically, it’s characterized by storytelling, relatable lyrics and melodies that reference South African genres such as Afro pop, maskandi and mbhaqanga. And most of the lyrics are in South African languages, mostly IsiZulu.
What I admire about South African Trap artists, Emtee specifically, is that he creates a reflective and constructive approach through his music. His strong reflective approach is highlighted when he writes about his neighborhood and the world around him, but simultaneously has a constructionist approach because he is creating a reality of what South Africa is like for his listeners that have not been their themselves.
I wanted my playlist to not only effortlessly flow into each track, but to also tell a symbolic story of a young adult’s journey growing up in the hood. The playlists starts off with Emcee’s debut hit “Roll up” for two reasons. First, because it is popularly believed to be the song that exposed the world South African Trap and paved the way for all of the other ATM artists, so I felt it was necessary to be on a trap themed playlist. . Second, because this is the song that made him famous , so to me, it was a metaphor for being “initiated” into a gang, or in this case, the music industry.
The second song is “Corner Store” where Emtee describes his life hustling, flipping, and spending his money. He says
So much much dough
I’m tryna spend it at the corner store
Max out then I make some more
I just ran up the money
Now they looking at me funny when they know I’m hustling
OGs put me on ’cause they know I keep seeing one hundred
And they don’t underestimate me no more
I’m the one to tell the shooter, “See who’s at the door”
Although he was simply reflecting the world around him, he was also constructing a reality that SO many people around the world can relate to. Everyone whose grown up in the hood knows that the corner store is where EVERYTHING happens. It’s where all of the gangbangers, crackheads, and bad ass kids congregate throughout the day for various reasons. In addition to being a known hotspot, it’s also one of the most dangerous places to be because it’s where you’re likely to get caught slipping, which leads me into the song that follows which is titled “Manando”.
In the song “Manando”, Emcee tells an evocative story of his friend Manando that “got caught slipping”, and was shot and killed. He gives us a glimpse into the life Manando and himself lived, the type of loyal and supportive person he was, and goes on to narrate the events leading up to his death in his the second verse. He beautifully depicts the paradigm shift that occurs in ones life when they lose someone they love to the streets. How from that day on, everything you do is not only for you, but for your loved ones and the ones that weren’t able to pursue their dreams any longer.
It seems that after losing one of your homies, you start appreciating everyone whose held you down doe the longest, which is usually your momma. This is why I followed up the song “Mama” where Emtee shows his respects and appreciation for his mother. It’s common among rappers who are involved in gang violence to realize once they’re older all that they’ve put their mothers through, and how much they owe them for dealing with their chaotic ways. Mother appreciation songs are always my favorite because I think it’s toxic how men carry this habit throughout their relationships with women by treating them terribly, but expecting them to stay by their side like their mothers did, but let me stay on topic.
I ended the playlist with “Ghetto Hero” because it is an inspirational anthem. Its the point that you reach if you’re able to make it out the ghetto alive and want to inspire those after you. Emtee says he aspires to inspire kids who are just like him that grew up in the hood and want to go beyond its confines.