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Photo by Sabelo Mkhabela.

'Joshua The I Am' Is The Rapper Changing Up South African Hip-Hop Videos

Joshua The I Am puts effort in his visuals.

South African hip-hop music videos are getting mundane by the day. It's always the same shit—party scene with plenty of light skinned women dancing aimlessly while the rapper recites their rhymes. Add a fancy car as a backdrop.

Riky Rick has been one of the few artists who have consistently put an effort behind their music videos for a long while.

But time flies and Riky is not new school anymore. Enter the Joburg-based rapper Johsua The I Am, who just released his new music video for the single "Glitch."


The video launch was coupled with a mini exhibition of Joshua The I Am's portraits curated by the man himself at Mama Africa in Maboneng, Johannesburg. The photos being exhibited had graphic embellishments, the work of Joburg-based illustrator Seth Pimentel.

The mini exhibition at the video launch. Photo by Sabelo Mkhabela.

There was a computer gaming station on the corner of the venue to commemorate the song's theme (Joshua sings, "Can you pass the controller, I will show you which buttons to press, you know I'm the best at this game," on the song's hook).

"The song was remade at least 20 times," the rapper says while talking to Slikour On Life at the event. "And then the video, there's two parts to the video. The first part is old school… glitched, right. And the second part, the video is mad futuristic. The first part of the video we shot it about a year ago before The Hustle started. And the second part, shot a month ago."

Joshua The I Am was the runner-up in the rap reality TV show, The Hustle on Vuzu TV last year. Shortly after the show ended, the rapper was announced as the new signee under Vth Season, the indie label that's home to Big Star, Zoocci Coke Dope, Tresor, and formerly AKA, among others.

"They understand art," says the rapper on Vth Season. "They understood that 'we aren't just signing some trap rapper, but a fully fledged artist, somebody who actually cares about creating something that it's aesthetically and sonically pleasing.'"

The video for "Glitch" shows the MC with the girl who broke his heart (as per the lyrics of the song). The two are arguing, and low-light filters create a fitting mood for a bumpy relationship. Towards the end, you see the rapper wearing virtual reality goggles. There is no chaos in that part of the video. She has clearly passed the controller.

"Glitch" isn't the first video of this kind from the artist. Previous videos for songs such as "Gassed" and "No Return" all showed hints of an artist who wants to do more than what other rappers are offering visually.

Seth Pimentel and Joshua The I Am. Photo by Sabelo Mkhabela.

Joshua's music videos haven't reached their full potential, but he's on the right path to setting himself apart from his counterparts.

Follow Joshua The I Am on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and SoundCloud.

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This article was originally published on OkayAfrica in March, 2017. We're republishing it here for our Crossroads series.

It's 2000 something. I'm holed up in my bedroom searching for samples to chop up on Fruity Loops. While deep into the free-market jungle of Amazon's suggested music section, I stumble across a compilation of Ethiopian music with faded pictures of nine guys jamming in white suit jackets. I press play on the 30 second sample.

My mind races with the opportunities these breakbeats offered a budding beat maker. Catchy organs, swinging horns, funky guitar riffs, soulful melodies and grainy and pained vocalists swoon over love lost and gained. Sung in my mother tongue—Amharic—this was a far cry from the corny synthesizer music of the 1990s that my parents played on Saturday mornings. I could actually sample this shit.

The next day, I burn a CD and pop it into my dad's car. His eyes light up when the first notes ooze out of the speakers. “Where did you get this?" He asks puzzlingly. “The internet," I respond smiling.

In the 1970s my dad was one of thousands of high school students in Addis Ababa protesting the monarchy. The protests eventually created instability which lead to a coup d'état. The monarchy was overthrown and a Marxist styled military junta composed of low ranking officers called the Derg came to power. The new regime subsequently banned music they deemed to be counter revolutionary. When the Derg came into power, Amha Eshete, a pioneering record producer and founder of Ahma Records, fled to the US and the master recordings of his label's tracks somehow ended up in a warehouse in Greece.

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