Photo by Sabelo Mkhabela.

Priddy Ugly Impresses On His Highly-Anticipated Debut Album ‘EGYPT’

Listen to the new album from one of the most exciting South African rappers.

Last week Friday, Priddy Ugly released his highly anticipated debut album EGYPT. Here, "EGYPT" doesn't necessarily represent the country, but is an acronym for "Everything Godly Yearns Patience and Time."

Priddy Ugly is one of the most exciting rappers in South Africa at the moment. Even though you can pick up a few of his influences in his music, just like with every rapper in the world, his style is unlike anything you've heard before.

The rapper released one of the best EPs of the current decade with You Don't Know Me Yet last year. His eccentric delivery, which sees him emphasize syllables with a cooler-than-you drawl, sets him apart. His chemistry with his producer Wichi 1080, who produced YDKMY in its entirety, makes the two an indomitable force of nature.

For the past few years, Priddy Ugly, alongside extremely talented rappers like YoungstaCPT, Rouge and a few others, has been playing on the fringes of the mainstream. That didn't make sense to a lot of his fans. The music industry, as we know it, operates in a weird way, and great music doesn't always win.

After years of being "slept on," it looks like the rapper who hails from The East Rand in Johannesburg, is ready to expand his fan-base.

On EGYPT, which is his first release since he signed to Ambitiouz Entertainment earlier this year, Priddy shows an understanding of this.

In the first five tracks, he hardly raps, opting instead to croon most of his verses, which is a deliberate and calculated move. We can't escape that hip-hop is becoming prevalently melodic, and singing is a style that helps artists penetrate markets they otherwise wouldn't if all they did was rap.

In a back-and-forth with a disgruntled day-one fan on Twitter, who felt the album was "too commercial," Priddy Ugly retorted, "Do you still wear the same clothes, and do the same things you were doing 7 years ago? The aim is [to] grow, [and] that includes the fan base."

The song "Ambition II," which is a sequel to "Ambition" from YDKMY, a song that's close to the rapper's heart, sets the tone for the album. Priddy Ugly reflects on his personal life and his journey in the game. At the end of the song, the rapper lets us in on a personal phone call with his auntie.

In the song, he trades the 808s and knocking bass lines for an actual bass guitar and smooth keys. "I Pray," which features TV personality and Priddy Ugly's girlfriend Bontle Modiselle, takes the same singing route and the production leans as far from trap as possible. In "Look Alike" the rapper carries on his singing streak, this time over a familiar soundscape.

Things start getting heated up on "Smogolo," the sixth song on EGYPT. Over a slowed-down skhanda-type beat by the pioneer of the skhanda subgenre, production genius Lunatik, Priddy Ugly starts to sound like the Priddy Ugly fans fell in love with on YDKMY–he's rapping and the beat will see your face contort.

"Smogolo" has a kwaito influence without sampling any old school kwaito song, unlike most hip-hop songs that are inspired by kwaito. "Tshela," the second single off of EGYPT, takes the same route: a kwaito influence and Priddy flexing flows and rapping in more vernac than you've ever heard him.

In our interview with the rapper earlier this year, he revealed the song had been two years in the works, and because of the amount of vernacular rhymes it contained, he wasn't comfortable releasing it because he was more comfortable rapping in English.

"Tshela" transitions seamlessly into "Bietjie," another bass-heavy gem which features the trap god Emtee. These transitions are rife on the album, and they contribute to the coherence and wholesomeness of EGYPT, and are an indicator of great craftsmanship at work.

From "Smogolo" until the last song, Priddy Ugly and Wichi 1080 prove that they both deserve a spot on your top five list. EGYPT becomes a fest of bravado, slang, lyrical delivery and virtuoso production skills on songs like "Karrots," "Karapao," "02Hero" (featuring Shane Eagle), "Truth Be Told" (featuring KLY and Wichi 1080)" and "In The Mood" (featuring Saudi). And can we talk about that Shane Eagle verse, though?

The pair's chemistry shines throughout. Wichi 1080 pulls out tricks from his sleeve–the bass lines knock hard, the 808s complement them, and the synths and pads vary from dreamy to grimy and every mood in between.

Depending on your taste and your interpretation of the first five songs, EGYPT is a solid album, with the right amount of features, and varying subject matter. And most importantly, EGYPT has songs that, even though monolithic, aren't duplicates of each other. There are uncountable single prospects, which give Priddy Ugly a huge chance of doing great things in 2018.

Listen to EGYPT below, and download it here.

Revisit our in-studio interview with Priddy Ugly and Wichi 1080, from a few months ago, here.

Image: Courtesy TIFF

Jenna Cato Bass is Capturing the Horrors of an Unhealed Nation

The film marks the South African director's third debut and stride towards making a name for herself in the international film circuit.

Ever since premiering her debut film, Love the One You Love, which won the Best Feature Film at the Jozi Festival in 2015, Jenna Cato Bass has been a name to watch on the international film festival circuit. Her 2017 feature, High Fantasy, was the first of her films to land on the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) lineup, followed by Flatland in 2019. Her latest offering, Mlungu Wam (Good Madam), debuted at TIFF in September of 2021 — marking her third time at the esteemed Canadian film event.

Often provocative, always thought-provoking, Bass' films have come to establish her as a director who looks at South Africa's youth, the lives they're living and the future that awaits them, with a nuanced, open-minded lens. For the first time in her career, Bass uses the genre of horror to dig into an enduring mark of the country's past — that of the fraught, complex relationship between madam and domestic worker, in Mlungu Wam (Good Madam). Set in Cape Town, the film follows the unusual, disturbing things that start happening when a young woman moves back in with her estranged mother, who is the longtime caretaker for a rich, white household.

Bass also co-wrote the film Tug of War (Vuta N'Kuvute), which became Tanzania's first film to be selected for TIFF this year, and she co-wrote Rafiki, which was Kenya's first film at TIFF in 2018.

She spoke to OkayAfrica about playing in a new genre and her hopes for African cinema.

Still from Bass's film Mlungu Wam Image: Courtesy TIFF

This story revolves around the relationship between a domestic worker and her 'madam.' What made you want to make a film about this subject?

When I make films, I like the concept to revolve around something that we all have in common - because, despite the many fractures in our society, these shared places exist. And in South Africa, we felt that everyone - in some way or another - has been deeply affected by domestic work and domestic workers, who are a keystone in our society's structure. Additionally, the 'maid' and 'madam' relationship is the ultimate symbol of race relations in South Africa - as well as how they haven't changed significantly, despite almost thirty years of democracy. So a domestic worker was the perfect character around which to centre a South African horror.

The genre of horror works really well to explore this subject and tell this story — when did you know it would be the genre you'd want to use?

The early stages of developing a film aren't always linear for me. I'll be thinking about a genre I'm interested in, and then parallel to that I'll have an idea for a story or a character, and later on, will realize that these pieces all fit together. In this case, I'd been wanting to make a horror film for ages, but hadn't found the right story… until I had the idea for Mlungu Wam, and I realized I was finally ready to try this genre.

What challenges did you face in making a horror?

It was my first time working in this genre, and it was intimidating because there's no saving you if you fail. We were also working on a very, very limited budget, so it wasn't possible to show as much as we'd like to - but then again, this story was all about the subjective and the unseen, so I did as much research and planning as we could, and just had to trust it would work.

Where did you film, and did that have any impact on the process at all?

We filmed in a house in Cape Town, in a gated community in the Southern Suburbs. The house and the environment had a major impact on the film - especially because we were also quarantining there for the full 7 weeks of rehearsal and shooting. The house was our set and our accommodation, so it was very intense, very claustrophobic, and very triggering for many of our team members.

How did you and co-writer Babalwa Baartman work on the story? You've included cast members in the writing process in your previous work — did you do that here too?

Mlungu Wam was made along similar lines to my first two films, Love The One You Love and High Fantasy, where we started with an outline, cast actors, then workshopped the characters collaboratively before completing the story breakdown and using improv for the dialogue. Babalwa and I had worked together using this method on a short film we made in 2019 called Sizohlala. She really understands the process, and it was a really rewarding experience exploring the story with her and our cast.

How did Kristina Ceyton, who produced the excellent acclaimed horrors The Babadook and The Nightingale, through Causeway Films, come to be involved in this film?

I had met Sam Jennings, who is also a producer with Causeway Films, several years ago at a festival. We really connected and kept in touch over the years, sharing our work, and hoping there'd be a chance to collaborate. So when we were developing Mlungu Wam, I pitched her and Kristina the concept and they were immediately supportive. It has been a massive pleasure working with them both.

Your films are known to venture into themes of identity and healing from the past — how does this film speak to that?

Mlungu Wam is definitely about this too - it's a story about three generations of women (actually four, if you include Tsidi's grandmother, who is an unseen character in the film), how they are haunted by the past and eventually refuse to remain chained any longer. Their healing is collective, linked to each other, and wouldn't be possible for them alone as individuals.

Still from Bass's film Mlungu Wam Image: Courtesy TIFF

You've been at TIFF before - how has your experience of it been this year, with it being a hybrid of virtual and in-person?

Things have been quieter and a bit harder to navigate, but the TIFF staff have done incredible work getting the festival off the ground, despite endless challenges. It has felt very surreal to be here, and a privilege - and inspiring too, that we can still get together to celebrate films, even though our world is in such a mess. We had over 200 (socially distanced) people at our last screening, and that was an amazing feeling.

Yours is one of few African films on this year's line-up - is there anything you'd like to see happen to try improve that?

Regarding African cinema, TIFF has a real range of films this year, across several sections. Compared to many other festivals, they seem really invested in supporting cinema from the continent. Of course, this could be better, but it's also an example to other festivals who claim there aren't enough African films, that this is clearly not the case.

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