image provided by Stogie T on Youtube
I struggled to look for a South African hip hop song post-2020 that would cover social justice. South Africa and Africa in general tends to be hidden from the rest of the world and its music is usually listed in “world” music on music platforms. By the time one is able to find a South African song the pickings are usually today’s top hits. As I searched, I suddenly remembered I had a friend who grew up in South Africa, and that is usually the best source! I quickly called her, and I was so glad I did because it led me to Love and War by Stogie T.
This song, released in 2020, details the tough reality of our greatest heroes having the worst flaws. From the lyrics to the flow of the music and instruments used, Love and War makes listeners think and ponder about those we regard so highly. Before we get into the music however, let’s talk a little bit about Stogie T, as his background made this song and the video what it is.
Stogie T was born Tumi Molekane in exile to activist parents who helped in the struggle against apartheid. Growing up he never had his parents around and he often doesn’t like to talk about his dad in interviews. He uses his music as an outlet to do so. In the 2000s, he was the lead in the group Tumi and the Volume, a South African hip hop group that toured all over the world. The group was never recognized as a hip hop group and in 2012, Tumi took on the name Stogie T.
Now let’s get to the music! I loved the rhythm and tempo of this song so much. The drum beat was very simple and the vocals in the background gave the song a little bit of a darkness. It’s the type of vocals used in movies about Black struggle and the fight against oppression. The lyrics were extremely powerful as Tumi rapped about this struggle of trying to love our heroes despite their shortcomings in other areas. He says,
Love child with the village hooker
The scandal is hidden in the nook
Hush now nigga shush
Medals for bravery, bronze star for the crook
We often see our heroes without blemishes, because what they’ve done in the past is so good, the bad can be overlooked. He draws the listeners attention to those that have been affected by these leaders and heroes shortcomings like a child who feels unwanted because the father is a hero and the mom is a prostitute. Afraid of scandal more than the consequences of being a deadbeat father, the hero abandons the child and is still celebrated with the skeletons in his closet. I loved this line as well which says,
My poppa died for a freedom that I now enjoy
But left some frightening demons we ain’t recovered from
Apartheid was a horrible horrible thing and its heroes are celebrated everyday as they should be. But Tumi dares the listener to think deeply about some of our heroes in general and how they can be a hero and a villain at the same time. It’s a hard pill to swallow and he does this with class.
The music video itself was very interesting! Visuals done by motion billy, a Capetown based filmmaker, are captivating and daring. I enjoyed the candlelight imagery very much as it felt like a tribute to fallen heroes of the struggle. I thought the imagery of Mandela was also a very bold move by Motion Billy as well because I wondered if they were trying to say that Mandela too was a hero with his own shortcomings and if so, this was a very daring move because of highly he is thought of all over the world let alone South Africa. It also could have been a tribute as well so I’m not sure. I enjoyed his use of the electric guitar in the end as well, definitely an ode to his time in a band.
Overall, this song was so so good and it really made me think about all of the people I look up to, and who they might have hurt from their own shortcomings.