Leading The New South African Wave in Hip Hop

Today I’m bringing everyone another exciting artist out of South Africa. I’ve been noticing a lot of hip hop artists hitting the scene from this region lately, and I am always impressed with how easily these artists meet the American mainstream standards for the genre. The artist on review today is Vukile Charles Mbokazi, who goes by the stage name Elephant Noise. The 27-year-old is making his beats and recording his raps all from the rural township of KwaNdengezi, near the large port city of Durban. Elephant started making music in 2015 at the Boston City campus where he was taking a course in Music Production. He says he became passionate about learning everything he could concerning the process of building a beat and wanted to have his hands in every part of the process of making a song.

This is not only commendable but to myself and to a lot of us from an older generation, this is relatable. Elephant Noise Continued building his skill sets and released song after song, project after project. His work ethic is commendable, if not enviable. Soon, he was a mainstay on the South African hip hop circuit, headlining festivals and scoring notable features. Well on his way to success in South Africa, Elephant Noise has recently decided to try and hit the same lick with American audiences.

Elephant Noise’s latest single, “Yoga,” is entirely on trend with what’s going on in hip hop right now. Even from the other side of the globe, his ear is right on point. With laidback wavey vibes and rich auto-tuned vocals, there’s a sort fluidic quality to the whole composition The instrumental composition for this song, produced by a friend of Elephant’s, is reminiscent of Fetty Wap’s “My Way” featuring Monty. “Yoga” employs a modern style hook with expertly layered auto-tuned vocals which sound like the hook in “My Way.” I find the hook in this song to be so similar to Fetty Wap, in fact, that I’m not sure I would know the difference if someone played for me and told me it was Fetty Wap. The verse vocals are a little more monotone, and the flow is a staccato classic trap style, most comparable to that of Migos, especially in the song “Stir Fry” where the vocals share the same use of auto-tune and fall on similar patterns of flow and cadence.

The production for this track was well done, especially for the industry niche it’s obviously trying to fill. With classic knocking hip hop drums adding rhythmic structure, the rest of the song is notably low key, making it the perfect vibe for low key parties.

The lyrics in “Yoga” are well written for what they’re intended to be. In songs, there is simply not enough time to tell a story using every detail one might give if they were telling the same tale in conversation. So, choosing the right details is essential. Choosing enigmatic details that give us snippets of information which come together to build a vague framework of what has happened in the story, is probably the most accomplished way to do this in songwriting. My only concern is with the use of the line, “Shorty got a nigga doin yoga.” This is repeated in the hook every time, and I think this is where his use of enigmatic details somewhat gets away from him, as this concept is a little too vague to fully convey meaning to the audience. It’s unclear whether this is a sexual innuendo, as in, we had elaborate sex in multiple positions as if we were doing yoga. Or maybe it’s meant to be taken literally, as in, this girl I met drugged me and then made me do yoga with her while I was totally faded. Then again, maybe it was meant to be visually descriptive, as in, this girl drugged me and then I was so high, I felt like the way someone looks when they’re doing yoga. Any of these takeaways for “doing yoga” would work !2 of !2 Elephant Noise, “Yoga” great in a song like this, but knowing which one it is, here, seems pretty important. Otherwise, it’s hard to vibe with the main idea of the song, much less relate to it. I think Elephant could accomplish this with the addition of one descriptive supporting line somewhere in the verse, which further depicts what “doing yoga” means here.

 
 
 
 
 
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The production for this track was well done, especially for the industry niche it’s obviously trying to fill. With classic knocking hip hop drums adding rhythmic structure, the rest of the song is notably low key, making it the perfect vibe for low key parties. The main melody follows suit with the lead being comprised mostly of a synth mallet, drenched in delay and creating the ideal ambient chords. A minimalist lead sitting mainly in the high end keeps the song feeling light and airy. Pitched horns are used as riser fills between sections to an almost EDM like effect, but given that these riffs occur only intermittently, the composition still follows the form and structure of a modern hip hop jam.

Every time I get an artist out of South Africa cross my desk, I am blown away by how well they fit into the American standard for hip hop. He speaks with a voice of authenticity and inclusion as if he has been immersed in the American hip hop culture his whole life. He has put in the time and effort to build his skills in every area of hip hop, which is the hallmark of a true devotee to the art-form. If he continues to put out songs like “Yoga” I have no doubt he will catch the attention of a record label, and, if that’s the route he wants to go, I wouldn’t be surprised to find him on the mainstream scene in few years. He definitely has what it takes, and we can’t wait to see where that takes him.

-ERINEM

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