Photos
Yugen Blakrok and Kanif The JhatMaster. Photo by Sabelo Mkhabela.

In The Lab With Yugen Blakrok

We hang out with Yugen Blakrok and her producer as they work on her new album.

By now, you've probably heard South African rapper Yugen Blakrok on "Opps," one of the strongest songs on the Black Panther album. The song features her rapping a show-stealing verse alongside Vince Staples and Kendrick Lamar. Blakrok is one of the four South African artists featured on the project.

Her appearance on the album was an introduction to a lot of South African music fans who weren't aware of her. She has a niche following in South Africa, as her music is leftfield and will hardly play on Metro FM or MTV Base, or even feature on your favorite music website.

Photo by Sabelo Mkhabela.

Ever since appearing on the Black Panther album, though, the rapper has received overwhelming amounts of media from publications that would otherwise never cover her.

Blakrok and Kanif, her producer, wrapped up their third European tour towards the end of 2017. They are currently working on Blakrok's sophomore album, a follow-up to her 2013 album Return of The Astro Goth.


Photo by Sabelo Mkhabela.

"The media attention has kind of made me appreciate not being known," says the rapper, as she gets ready to record a verse on one of her new songs at the Iapetus Records studios in Joburg. She just finished making herself a cup of tea, which is a necessity for recording session, alongside weed. "I've never had a problem with being an unknown artist, I was focused on being an artist and I will continue to do that and not get caught up in being a socialite."

Photo by Sabelo Mkhabela.

The album currently has no released date, but is definitely coming before the end of 2018. "We working on it everyday," says Kanif.

On the song the two are working on today, Yugen Blakrok is recording just one verse. She tells me she memorizes most of her verses, as opposed to reading them.

She raps:

"Craniums radiate radio waves through cosmic membranes/ Voices ripping the fabric/ It's that space time classic/ Electric snake rattle thoughts with full metal jackets."

She records multiple takes until both she and her producer are completely satisfied.

Blakrok isn't only a perfectionist. "She's the pickiest artist I've ever worked with in terms of beats," says Kanif, who produces most of the music for Iapetus Records artists including Zetina Mosia, Fifi The RaiBlaster, Hymphatic Thabs, Shorty Skillz and Robo The Technician (R.I.P), among a few others.

Photo by Sabelo Mkhabela.

Kanif's production style consists of layers of morphed and filtered pads that creak with analog warmth. Listening to Kanif's production is like living in an alternative universe—his beats come with muffled and inaudible voices, which, when I ask him about them, he simply says, "It's the vibrations, man."

Photo by Sabelo Mkhabela.

The last time we spoke with Kanif was when we interviewed Fifi The RaiBlaster about her latest album, Black Matter, which came out last year. About his style of production, he said:

"I'm into sounds. I love recording sounds, and putting them into the music. And I like manipulating sound. I will make a break beat, and put it in the cupboard, and cover it in a pillow, mic it up, and record that back into the computer, tweak that and just see what happens. Air affects music. That's why the most beautiful instruments are acoustic—between you and that instrument there's air. So whenever it's just digital, and there's cables, it's in the machine, it's singularity, and it doesn't work."


Photo by Sabelo Mkhabela.


Photo by Sabelo Mkhabela.

Photo by Sabelo Mkhabela.


Kanif is also a DJ. This is his setup. He recently bought a new stash of vinyl while on tour with Yugen Blakrok. Photo by Sabelo Mkhabela.


Some stickers and posters of shows Iapetus Records artists have performed in. The latest is one in which Yugen Blakrok opened for MC Lyte, while on tour, which she says was a dream come true for her. Photo by Sabelo Mkhabela.


Listen to Yugen Blakrok's 2013 album Return of The Astro Goth below, and get ready for her upcoming follow-up.

popular

K.O Releases ‘Killa Combo’ Featuring Zingah, Loki, Tellaman and Mariechan

Listen to the first single released under K.O's new imprint Skhandaworld.

The last time we spoke to K.O., he revealed that one of his goals for the year is to launch Skhandaworld, a newly launched imprint founded by the South African emcee. The up-and-coming rapper Loki was a top priority as he is the first signee under the label.

Keep reading...
popular

Costa Titch Shares Highly Anticipated Visuals for ‘Nkalakatha Remix’ Featuring Riky Rick and AKA

Watch Costa Titch's music video for 'Nkalakatha Remix' featuring Riky Rick and AKA.

Costa Titch caught the game's attention with his single "Nkalakatha." The idea of a trap version of a kwaito classic was always going to be bizarre at first. But Costa Titch's song is an undeniable banger that inspires mosh pits at shows.

Keep reading...
Photos
Photo: Sachyn Mital for The Town Hall.

This Is What Fatoumata Diawara's NYC Concert Looked Like

In photos: the Malian singer performed a stunning show at The Town Hall.

Fatoumata Diawara played a mesmerizing show in New York City over the weekend.

The Malian singer, songwriter, guitarist and actor had The Town Hall swaying to a selection of songs from her latest Grammy-nominated album, Fenfo, as well as other classic cuts.

Fatoumata was joined on the night by a four-piece backing band that followed her every word and guitar riff, as she showcased her special blend of traditional Malian music and striking Bambara vocal melodies with elements of modern rock, funk, R&B and afrobeat.

"I didn't want to sing in English or French because I wanted to respect my African heritage," Fatoumata has mentioned."But I wanted a modern sound because that's the world I live in. I'm a traditionalist, but I need to experiment, too. You can keep your roots and influences but communicate them in a different style."

Fatoumata's main message, one which she stated throughout the show, is one of hope for the future of Africa and of female empowerment. It's "about the world, peace, how Africa can be a better place, especially for women, because I am one, and I am a survivor," she says. "I want to encourage those who have lost hope."

Browse through pictures from her show at The Town Hall, which was opened by Guatemala's Gabby Moreno, below.

Keep reading...
popular
Photo by Issue Sanogo/AFP via Getty Images

Togolese President Wins Re-election to Secure Fourth Term in Office

President Faure Gnassingbé prepares for a fourth term in office following an election wrought with fraud allegations.

Togo's electoral commission has just released the preliminary results of the first round of the presidential election.

President Faure Gnassingbé reportedly secured 72 percent of the vote while his main opposition and former Prime Minister Agbeyome Kodjo who straddled behind with just 18 percent of the vote, according to Aljazeera.

Keep reading...

get okayafrica in your inbox

news.