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Okmalumkoolkat 'Holy Oxygen' [Premiere]

South Africa's Okmalumkoolkat premieres 'Holy Oxygen,' the title track on his forthcoming debut solo EP 'Holy Oxygen I' via Affine Records.


Photo by Mack Magagane; Artwork by Gregor Lehrl

Okmalumkoolkat is fast on his way to epitomizing what Spoek Mathambo means by the Future Sound of Mzansi. The Durban-born, Joburg-hailing emcee/producer has featured on more than a few of our "greatest hits" over the years, landing on our radar back in 2012 as one half of experimental hip-hop duo Dirty Paraffin and a trusty collaborator to London/SA producers LV. He followed up his 2012 "song of the year" featured spot (on LV's "Spitting Cobra") with 2013's definitive South African street anthem, "Gusheshe," alongside Mafikeng's Cassper Nyovest. This year Okmalumkoolkat has begun making strides as a solo artist. Fresh off of signing a label deal with Vienna's Affine Records, the boyznbucks rapper is stepping into the spotlight with his EP debut. The 4-track Holy Oxygen I features production from labelmates Cid Rim (Lucky Me) and The Clonious, and we're excited to premiere a first taste off the release here today. On the title track "Holy Oxygen," Okmalumkoolkat rides high with his signature nonlinear wordplay on a two-stepping futuristic bassline. It's the official coming of a self-proclaimed "demigod." Holy Oxygen I, which you can pre-order here, arrives on August 4th via Affine Records. Listen to the title track and watch a teaser trailer for the EP below.

Music

6 Samples From 'Éthiopiques' in Hip-Hop

A brief history of Ethio-jazz cultural exchange featuring songs by Nas & Damian Marley, K'naan, Madlib and more.

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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