ART STATE Editor Ace Moloi reviews Prince KayBee’s new album I AM MUSIC.
Volvo: our place of safety
Ventilation is conditioned at a low. If you were to sit in here for an hour without moving you’d eventually freeze. Or maybe I’m afraid of the cold. It is necessary, though. The air conditioning: both for its actual purpose and the point of this gathering. But we will get there.
Outside the venue, he is leaning against a GP-registered silver Audi. His eyes are fixed on whatever it is his companion is showing him on the laptop. Patrolling the vicinity with a camera for an AK47 is none other than Tank Khumalo: one of Free State’s meticulous snipers of moments. I take this moment to move inside and survey the setting. It looks intimate and privileged. A red Volvo V40 gives me a welcoming, yet territorial look. It is with its clan of other bold, muscular and masculine members, positioned as if they were bodyguards. I’ve always known Volvo to be a brand of safety, but today it gives us the necessary clandestinity—exactly what we need for award-winning and platinum-selling DJ Prince KayBee’s I AM MUSIC exclusive album listening session, masterminded by radio personalities Nkox the Leader and Shaun Dihoro.
Kgutso ka kgotla!
Early birds have by now caught the fattest seats. The Miss Glamorous entourage too has settled down. Two of the gorgeous finalists sandwich me, and the room temperature begins to make sense. More and more sense as the show goes on, but as I said, we will get there.
The atmosphere inside Volvo Bloemfontein is of a parliamentary caucus. Prince KayBee is a member of the executive and is here to account to us, the elected representatives of Mangaung art. Among us are deejays, presenters, photographers, writers, music compilers, entrepreneurs, beauty queens and those Shaun Dihoro dubbed “social sensations” a few days ago on his show, Lapeng Rush.
Two things stand out for me as they relate to the audience: (1) I admire the fact that some of Mangaung’s finest personalities have come together to support this album listening session, and (2) it is not a session of praise and worship, but of critical conversations, edifying commentary and emotive speech.
Questions fly in the air in a dignified, yet frank way:
What other genres does Prince KayBee listen to, which in turn influence his own music? Does he feel the pressure to carry Free State on his back everywhere he goes? In this era of political consciousness, what is the role of his music? How does he plan to grow his brand beyond music?
It’s a hailstorm of questions, I tell you—the kind that breaks the skull, literally and otherwise. I doubt this is what the star of the night himself had in mind when we started.
The hostage situation
Helen Van Slyke, in ALWAYS IS NOT FOREVER, tells us about a newsroom conversation between a young reporter and her editor, regarding a disappointing interview the reporter had just had with a famous artist. She is not prepared to back down, though, despite her boss’s view that the musician is not feature material: he lacks depth and intelligence. “I doubt he ever thinks about anything but himself, his music and his women, in that order,” says the boss lady with saucy candour. But the feature writer is not prepared to accept defeat—a position she upholds with some of the profoundest words I’ve ever come across. “He is a thinking, complicated artist with a lot to say. It’s just that I don’t know how to write it.”
I AM MUSIC Listening Session co-host Nkox the Leader (CUT FM) doesn’t suffer from this inquisitive bankruptcy, but succeeds in asking questions that take out the best from Prince KayBee’s mind—and heart. In contrast with the fictional magazine writer of Helen Van Slyke’s composition, Nkox knows which angle to shoot from and which preamble to bargain with as he loops himself around the Better Days hit-maker to get us some juicy revelations. He displays on-the-ground authority in the Mangaung entertainment scene, is attentive and medium-winded in his line of questions.
Shaun Dihoro is Shaun Dihoro as always. He is not here for some serious talk. He knows his strengths, and declares them upfront. “I’m here for the comic side of things,” he announces. His role is to refresh us from deep thinking with his comedy. I imagine him in the brainstorming session saying, “Monna, Nkox, wena sebetsana le bona ka kobong with this English ya hao. Nna ke tla ba mona feela!”
Of this duo I remark in my journal that, “Their partnership is genuine and strategic. To hold people hostage in this manner, you must really be a host of ages.”
I AM MUSIC is Prince KayBee’s second album, and is scheduled for release on 28 September 2017. It has a total of 13 songs, on which he features artists such as Donald, Mpumi, Busiswa, NaakMusiQ, Lady Zamar and Presss, to mention a few, without forgetting Tank Khumalo on graphics. It tells a tale of a prince who has come to claim kabelo ya hae.
Although the album is overwhelmingly electric, I personally shortlisted five songs, which I believe are the engine of the project, which is a difficult task. I mean, the album is so musically packed I think I need a million listening sessions to unpack it.
If the CHARLOTTE ACOUSTIC VERSION is a type of prelude that builds intense expectation in you, then CHARLOTTE (feat. Lady Zamar) is the big bang that gets you out of bed to make breakfast with rhythm. This is the most known song on the album, potent of becoming a song of the year. But it took serious persuasion and authority from Universal Music for the song to be released. “I didn’t believe in the song at all,” confesses Prince KayBee. Just as denied paternity produces a walking copy of the father, an idea executed with uncertainty lives to remind you of your lack of faith in it.
The song’s narrative is relevant to our times: the days of ho jellwa on BBM, WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook. On average, there’s a Charlotte for every Juliet.
ANGIYIFUN’INDODA is an exchange between songbird Mpumi and musician-cum-actor NaakMusiQ. This is one for the independent woman whose bank card is not allergic to the speedpoint when the bill lands on the table.
From the moment the sound operator presses PLAY, our heads nod in agreement with the tapping of our feet as BEAUTIFUL GIRLS (feat. Presss) heats everyone up. I forget my role as a writer and begin to do the things in the air that deejays do on the decks. Everyone signals with the glow in their eyes that this song could be the captain of the album. Presss has for long been the Morris Chestnut of Free State music. His lyrics earn men a side eye of, “Utlwa thaka tsa hao di bua mantswe a monate a jwang.” But here he is one with the masses. He is naughty and raunchy, and desires only the crunchy.
The story behind this feature has Shaxe Khumalo behind it, and Prince KayBee accordingly observes the Biblical injunction to give honour where honour is due by mentioning that this collaboration is indeed “the house that Shaxe built.”
Though this is the relationship that they built together, Zanda now feels alone and neglected. “It’s becoming one dimensional. You should know that I’m a woman with needs,” she cries out. I see this song, YONK’INTO, becoming a mouthpiece for every woman married to a captured politician, or in love with a too-holy-to-be-horny church boy. YONK’INTO speaks to a declining relational intimacy in this world of technology and social media. Seconded by Prince KayBee’s signature guitar, and a beat that doesn’t clutter the important message, it reminds many of us that our women must be appreciated. It is not just about doing the deed; it’s about meeting the need.
Zanda here is every Precious, Princess and Priscilla: a starving woman who now has to recruit a new gardener for proper weeding. The gardener is young, enduring, skillful and most importantly, grateful. His complexion errs on the side of darkness, but he can walk freely in Heidedal without insinuations of otherness. He has a meticulously trimmed moustache and his eyebrows are as thick as this thumb he is using to rub her neck.
He has never seen a body like this. This rear view is a rare view. Phew! She has never felt this fresh, as her blood rushes with the speed of electricity in his awed hands. The room is dimly lit. Rose petals are sprinkled on the blindingly white sheets like fallen Autumn leaves. He tactfully two-fingers her bra apart, and in taking it down, walks his fingers down her cleavage. It’s a black bra with pinkish dots. She bought this entire lingerie – which is now lying on the floor – for their wedding anniversary, but hubster was in Saxonwold.
By now she is no longer shocked by intimacy with a man. She has in fact taken control of her desire. His belt is lying on the floor like a cobra, and the rod feels like a cobra in his hands. “This is so wrong,” she whispers, barely audible. He bites her ear and encourages her, “Don’t fight it.”
The heat coming through her thighs is of a flame-spitting dragon, and as he tenderly inches her legs open, she shakes deep in her belly. Like Moses he parts the Red Sea between her Egypt of need and her Promised Land with his rod. Her moist walls can feel its pronounced veins as he thrusts with heavenly consistency.
He is saying the things she has been dying to hear. He is singing her a song, to which he dances in the choreography of tsipa-tsipa. It’s the last and most powerful track on I AM MUSIC. It is Prince KayBee’s and everybody’s favourite, and sounds somewhat nostalgic of Revolution’s Vhavenda.
For her, in this dimly lit room with rose petals and sensual melodies and love bites and neck kisses and heartfelt moans and groans and gasps and sighs and rubs and scratches and traditions and new styles and whispers and orgasms, this song – KE A O RATA – is a tune of blessed assurance.
“Don’t stop, please,” she asks him, while engraving a prayer in his back with her long nails. So, he sings it on and on and on: “Ke a o rata. Ke a o rata. Ke wena feela.”
PICTURE: Tank Khumalo