Ndlulamthi. Photo by Sabelo Mkhabela.

Ndlulamthi Offers A Screenshot of Life in Cape Town's Black Townships in His New Album ‘Hard Livings’

If you understand IsiXhosa, you'll be waking up and going to bed to this album for a long time.

Revered Cape Town-based hip-hop artist and poet Ndlulamthi recently released his sophomore album, Hard Livings, seven years after his debut, Isibhilivane.

Ndlulamthi's music is mostly centered around social consciousness as is the case with most spaza artists'. For instance, in 2014, he released the single "Andivoti," in which he gave his reasons for not hitting the ballots during the municipal elections. The song is still referenced by the streets of Cape Town during any kind of election.

In Hard Livings, the artist shares vignettes of living in the black townships of Cape Town. He touches on mob justice ("Abahlali"), crime ("Skelem Tsotsi"), gun violence ("Gun Dubula"), fatherhood ("Usengu Tatam"), and online dating ("Diary") among other topics. He raps passionately about loving a place you grew up in, but refusing to raise your children in it because of the ills you've seen. He also raps about his passion for rap music, like in the nostalgic "From The Era." On "Late Bels Ngomgqibelo," he paints the picture of what happens in the hood on weekends, from hedonistic drinking to casual sex. Listening to Hard Livings will remind you just how detrimental the apartheid's dumping sites have been to black people.

Ndlulamthi's storytelling skills are second to none. His command of the Xhosa language is goosebump-inducing, as he uses clever yet accessible similes and metaphors. He does this with a conversational delivery that's crystal clear, ensuring you get every single word.

What makes Hard Livings even more special is the specificity of the stories—black stories are usually told by people who have no context, treating black people as homogenous. At the same time, Hard Livings is a story that will resonate both nationally and universally, as ghettoes all around the world have many similarities.

Listening to Hard Livings gave me the same feeling I got when I first listened to Illmatic and Good Kid, M.A.A.D City. As much as Nas and Kendrick Lamar were telling the stories of Queensbridge and Compton with the specificity of someone who has a lived experience, I found myself relating to most of the stories.

Photo by Sabelo Mkhabela.

The production on Hard Livings leans towards boom bap, again this is always the case with most spaza artists. Long-time collaborator and friend, FiveSix produced most of the album, with contributions from fellow Cape Town-based producers Inkanyamba and Simmz.

Read: Meet Dee Koala, the Young Cape Town-Based Rapper on the Verge of Blowing Up

The album's title, Hard Livings, is inspired by the notorious Cape Flats gang of the same name. "It's not because I glorify the lifestyle, but because ganging is more of the friends or the brotherhood you tend to keep," says the artist whose real name is Sizakele Gegana. "Well, my special friend is more of an imaginary character than a real one. His name is Ndlulamthi. I think I gave up my own life for him. I could have easily been one of your forgotten nobodies, but he has kept me afar from the troubles of my youthful years up till parenthood. He makes thoroughly sure I find closure peace and overstanding by just letting me express my inner through rhymes."

If you understand IsiXhosa, you'll be waking up and going to bed to this album for a long time. Hard Livings is not an album that's only great because it explores social and political issues, but Ndlulamthi excels as a sharp lyricist who understands his strengths and uses them to the fullest.

Stream Hard Livings below or download it here.


Listen to Gigi Lamayne and King Monada’s New Gqom Banger ‘Fufa’

Listen to Gigi Lamayne and King Monada's collaborative single 'Fufa.'

Gigi Lamayne's raps and melodies find a new home over a high-tempo gqom beat on her latest single "Fufa." The song features house sensation King Monada, who usually owns the summer in South Africa with his infectious hits. Last year, his hit "Malwedhe" had the whole continent doing the hilarious idibala dance.

Keep reading... Show less
Photo courtesy of Doble Seis Entertainment

Burna Boy, Teni, AKA, Sho Madjozi, Mr Eazi & More Earn 2019 BET Award Nominations

This year's "Best International Act" categories are stacked with some of the biggest names in African pop.

The nominees for this year's BET Awards have been announced, and one again, some of the biggest names in African pop have been named in the " International Act" categories.

This year, Nigerian acts Burna Boy, Mr Eazi have been nominated in the "Best International Act" category. They've each had standout years, with both artists performing at the Coachella Music Festival this year.

They're nominated alongside South African star rapper AKA, who won a Kids' Choice Award earlier this year for "Favorite South African Star," and the French-Malian pop singer and one of OkayAfrica's 100 Women Aya Nakamura. French-Cameroonian and Togolese rapper Dosseh and UK rappers Dave, and Giggs round out the heavily-stacked category.

Keep reading... Show less
Photo still courtesy of Chika Okoli.

This New Documentary Sheds Light On the History of a Beloved Nigerian Staple—Agege Bread

'Fresh Agege Bread' by Chika Okoli's FABA gives us a much-needed insight into the popularity of Nigeria's coveted Agege Bread.

This new documentary following Nigeria's own Agege Bread contributes to the need of preserving and documenting food culture on the continent.

In Fresh Agege Bread, directed and produced by filmmaker Chika Okoli of FABA (For Africans By Africans), we follow food researcher Ozoz Sokoh as she traces the history and popularity of Agege Bread featuring its pioneering bakers, community figureheads and locals. The documentary touches on the rise of the booming product as well as addresses some of the controversies around the health and safety measures applied in the production of this staple.

For Okoli, the inability to find such insights about this significant food in Nigerian culture is what inspired her to develop this documentary.

"Agege Bread is so popular in Lagos but shockingly, there is very little information about it online and the same can be said about other cultural elements that are significant to our way of life," she shares with us.

Keep reading... Show less

get okayafrica in your inbox