Stream Blxckie’s Debut Album ‘B4Now’

South African hip-hop artist Blxckie's highly anticipated debut album 'B4Now' is out.

Blxckie's ascent has been beautiful to watch. The 21-year-old Durban rapper, singer and producer did it the hard way. Taking advantage of the 2020 lockdown, he dropped freestyles, singles and music videos daily.

He has since scored hits such as "Big Time Sh'lappa", "Uppity", "Stripes", and recently, "Ye x4" which features fellow Durbanite Nasty C. Dr Peppa's "Mntase", which he did the catchy hook for, also helped to further solidify his name.

B4Now is a combination of songs from that epoch of explosive creativity and recent songs. He sounds polished throughout the project which, at 12 songs and 36 minutes, is the perfect length.

He recently told Apple Music in the album's notes on the streaming platform:

"B4now is a mixture of stuff I was doing before I got into the 'Big Time Sh'lappa' era, and then some new songs also. I'm also telling people a story about how things happened—me being in Durban for a while, and then coming to Jozi to work out a plan to do everything. It's basically an introduction."

In the project, Blxckie showcases his different colours as he tells his backstory, opens up about his family and also gets to rap his ass off. Most of the production on B4Now is trap-based as expected, but Blxckie refuses to ignore the zeitgeist as he joins the growing number of South African rappers who are incorporating amapiano in their music. He does this on the song "Sika" whose refrain is a nod to kwaito legend Arthur Mafokate's 2005 hit "Sika Lekhekhe". The refrain is a sexual innuendo that doubles as a birthday song.

The way the song came about speaks to Blxckie's connection to his fans and the use of technology in his career, in true Gen Z style:

"The melody for 'Sika' is something I've been working on, I don't know, since I was in grade 10 or something. I wanted to make a song with that melody, but the lyrics were bad. I was on Instagram live once and I had just finished recording a song, and thought, 'I need to make a song like this.' I'm lucky enough to have a person like Christer in the studio, where if I have an idea, he can actually play it because he's good at listening and playing. It's a song for the people. I decided it was going to be a birthday song. And I'm also talking about how enjoyable it is to be in the space that I'm in, and being content with everything I'm doing," Blxckie says on the album's notes.

B4Now is a solid effort and marks the beginning of a run that could define South African hip-hop's 2020s. The new wave has been bubbling under for a few years, all they needed was a leader. And it looks like Blxckie is the best candidate.

Stream B4Now on Apple Music and Spotify.

Photo by Don Paulsen/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Hugh Masekela's New York City Legacy

A look back at the South African legend's time in New York City and his enduring presence in the Big Apple.

In Questlove's magnificent documentary, Summer of Soul, he captures a forgotten part of Black American music history. But in telling the tale of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, the longtime musician and first-time filmmaker also captures a part of lost South African music history too.

Among the line-up of blossoming all-stars who played the Harlem festival, from a 19-year-old Stevie Wonder to a transcendent Mavis Staples, was a young Hugh Masekela. 30 years old at the time, he was riding the wave of success that came from releasing Grazing in the Grass the year before. To watch Masekela in that moment on that stage is to see him at the height of his time in New York City — a firecracker musician who entertained his audiences as much as he educated them about the political situation in his home country of South Africa.

The legacy Masekela sowed in New York City during the 1960s remains in the walls of the venues where he played, and in the dust of those that are no longer standing. It's in the records he made in studios and jazz clubs, and on the Manhattan streets where he once posed with a giant stuffed zebra for an album cover. It's a legacy that still lives on in tangible form, too, in the Hugh Masekela Heritage Scholarship at the Manhattan School of Music.

The school is the place where Masekela received his education and met some of the people that would go on to be life-long bandmates and friends, from Larry Willis (who, as the story goes, Masekela convinced to give up opera for piano) to Morris Goldberg, Herbie Hancock and Stewart Levine, "his brother and musical compadre," as Mabusha Masekela, Bra Hugh's nephew says.

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