It’s the beginning of a new month but the theme of pioneers carries on with today’s In sync with Last Days Fam. This Movember we celebrate the shine the light only on male CHH rappers, so today we zone into the heavyweight triad….
Last Days Fam came together back in the early 2000s in Tembisa at youth service, “after the session. So we would meet while you’re waiting for the transport, we would hang around you talking about hip hop and talking about raps and of course, there’d be a freestyle session…. you know, there’s a big egotistical element to hip hop, right? So, everyone wanted to showcase their skills, that’s where I officially met, Last Days Clan. And from there we then would meet on weekends to play basketball. And then, um, soon after that, we realized hey, you know, we all like rap, we all like basketball; it’s time to start a movement,” reminisced Landmarq. They started taking it seriously in 2005 performing together, in 2007, they released a single, and in 2008, an album.
Baggz, Bonafide and Landmarq all grew up listening to hip hop, and were naturals at spitting bars from a young age, in the backdrop of their hometown Tembisa where the hip hop culture was prominent amongst the youth; they were raised on the shoulders of pioneers of not just Christian Hip Hop but South African Hip Hop. The hip hop heads not only schooled them but inspired them to sharpen their talent to cut their misconceptions that gospel rap is less skilled than mainstream. Although they won’t be boxed in the world’s definition of being in the CHH genre; their faith ripples through all their songs. All of them had a different first encounter with rapping about their faith, “as I got more serious about my faith, uh, it just became a natural step forward to rap about my Christianity, my faith in God and my faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ. So it was just a natural extension. It wasn’t a hard decision to make. Although, before, I was just rapping about what everyone else was rapping about and not necessarily, focusing on Christianity. I was just rapping the same as what everyone else was rapping… then through the influences of, Thekza, Bonafide and other guys, making the transition to Christian hip hop was very easy,” explained Thapelo “Baggz” Mpai, whilst for Bonafide the transition was natural but his first encounter was slightly doubtful, “so like when I got into the faith, Kaitron was the only dude that I knew who was doing Christian Hip Hop, and I could never understand the concept, I was like, is there such thing as Christian hip hop? You know, so I think for me it was a natural transition cause I was like, yeah. And it only makes sense, you know? So like for me to rap about, you know, my faith and my walk and, and what I know; I feel Kiatron was one of the pioneers of Christian Hip Hop who showed us the way,” he expressed, “I remember seeing Kaitron performing on stage during Praise and Worship…. that’s where the fascination started, I mean, I personally of course had been rapping since the nineties, my first official performance was in ’97… just rapping in a broader sense and then rapping in the faith or of your faith. In the beginning, I was apprehensive. I didn’t think because of what I know I was known for. I thought it was, I actually was like, something’s not right. I can’t do this. This is wrong, but I really loved this. And then I think what happened was that I found the hip hop groups like Tunnel Rats. When I saw Tunnel Rats, I felt like I belong because their style was similar to what mine was fairly hardcore theory, literary lyrical” elaborated Landmarq.
In 2008 they released their album Official Street EP, followed by singles Still Here, New Era and Doin’ It Right in 2011, they the realised a full album titled Eternal Effect (which is also the name of their record label) in 2012, followed by Dissent in 2017. The group was originally 4 but is now three namely Thabang “Landmarq” Byl, Thaphelo “Baggz” Mpai, and Tshepo “Bonafide” Shabangu. Their musical style carries the culture of underground hip hop with the catchiness of mainstream, yet unique in a manner that they are their own pathfinders, which in essence makes their work pioneering.
“There was a time where I was like, we need to start a website. We need to be having authors, designers, dances… I remember speaking to this one particular guy who was an incredible dancer. In fact, he was in our first video, and I told him I need you guys to have an outlet in last days fam and Eternal effect, was what the eventual product label would have been… we needed to do something to have a place where people of the faith could find it and could express themselves without being judged. So for me, it was just creating a safe space, for Christian to flourish, for Christian urban arts to flourish, which was very difficult at the time,” shared Thabang “Landmarq” Byl.
You can’t follow rugby rules on a soccerfieldBaggz
LDF highlighted that SA CHH is not losing their way however there is a need for Christian Cats to up their game “sometimes it’s not even about like you just saying you’re rapping about Christ and whatnot, you know, it’s about how you bring it as well. Yeah. So I think it’s an important element that you should consider, like, I don’t want to say like the rules as per se. Cause you know, with every sport, like there’s like rules, you know, you cannot break out of them… I remember Kai and he was like what you’re bringing is whack; you need to up your pen game,” Bonafide pointed out.We discussed the need for the return of spaces like the Grid to school and correct each other in the art of rapping for Christ, “they need to have that, you know, because let’s say if we were to like call maybe different rappers to represent in a cypher, regardless of whether you’re a Christian MC or not, when you bring it like they should feel you and be like that guy is rapping about God but his bars on point, so you don’t want to be like a timid dude.” In everything, in order to grow, we need to be teachable, and we need those safe spaces once again to stimulate the growth of not just the promotion but the standard of SACHH. “When we were starting, we used to perform everywhere, in the church, outside of the church. So at least that gave us some sort of feedback in a sense, when you when you’re performing for non-Christian crowds, there was a sense in which mandated they react and they critique you for your work, you know, but if you performing in a church, man, as long as you say, Jesus, people will love you. And a lot of the SA CHH guys are used to performing for the church where everyone just loves them. And they’ve got unconditional support, which is not wrong in itself, but that means that they’re not getting the relevant critique from outside of the church in terms of quality of music and quality of style. If the CHH movement wants to grow there needs to be some healthy feedback, critique, as well as sharpening each other, because that’s how we grow amongst ourselves. We’ve grown because we sharpen each other, we critique each other and we help each other where we lack and I think more of that needs to happen in a greater scale, in CHH” elaborated Baggz.”So is it progressing? I didn’t think. I’ll ever see – like yourselves – a publication online or anywhere, and I didn’t think I’d ever see, um, so many rappers, emerging, like Flows of This World and Bradley… I mean, there’s, there’s a bunch, right? I didn’t think I’d ever get to a place where I could safely say. No, there are people to succeed us. I mean, we’re getting old, I’ve seen the thought carried out by, uh, some interesting individuals and who have really come to their selves, you know, they’ve come into their own. I’m like, yeah, this is dope. I mean, Lux, for instance… I still remember him at the beginning of his career. And now he’s his own man, you know, there are podcasts. I think there are so many things. I think it has progressed. I think it really has. I think one would have to be blind to say that just because it’s not, I mean, even if you think about Last Days Fam, there’s a bunch of people who still don’t know who we are, so we are by no means the standard. It cannot be, you know…I would say it is moving ahead and it’s encouraging to see, people carrying the torch and redefining, what is Christian Hip Hop overtime. So, yeah, I think there’s definitely signs. The fact that people are writing about it. I mean this is dope,” Landmarq added.
“I think Blaque Nubon is still underrated, as far as holding up the flag is concerned. I really think he is like a formidable force. I mean, he hosted us at a conference some years ago. He wanted the industry to get up and then really kind of formulate a position, so I think he’s still a crazy force, not only as a rapper or a performer but also just as an administrator. So yeah, I would say Blaque Nubon, and MelisaGotGrace she recently converted to Gospel rap, yeah look out for her,” suggested Landmarq. They would like to collaborate with Yah Boy Codi, Lux Kent and Samson Spencer. Between them, the SACHH artists you will find on LDF playlist are Blaque Nubon, Zeal, Lux Kent, Courtney Antipas, and Yah Boy Codi.
Last Days Fam’s work is potent with scriptural truth and the top three songs they recognised that have scriptural truth is Sins by Zeal featuring Landmarq, The Process by Incense “just talking about his struggles and like the process of being sent and stuff, it’s a good song, it has deep scriptural references,” noted Bonafide, and their very own song Amazing Grace “I choose that one because I mean, the most important thing that we all need to know is, is God’s amazing grace. So I think that has a lot of truth in it. And it’s the one truth that we all have to get to grips with,” added Baggz.
Read more in In Sync with Last Days Fam Part 2.