Teargas asked for another chance and scores of fans obliged. With two smoking-hot singles on heavy TV and radio rotation, the group is burning up the charts, writes Helen Herimbi.

“Abo-darkie ba swimma nga ma make me nice” says Ntokozo Mdluli to raucous laughter.

This comment, which, loosely translated from Zulu, means “black people swim with sunglasses on” isn’t out of character for the members of a rap group that has made a name for itself as the ghetto fabolous boys with bling, Ice-Creams and metallic Ama Kip Kip T’s.

As he says this, Mdluli fingers his gold-rimmed shades, which he has just retrieved from the bottom of the swimming pool that he and brothers, Bantu and Ezee “Ma-E” Hanabe, play and pose in for our cover shoot as the faces of the sound of this summer.

“Give boys guns or balls and they are happy,” advises my colleague, Therese Owen.

Teargas are lucky, they get three balls (one is suspiciously pink and has Barbie written all over it) and guns in the form of the water pistol known as a wazooka. Armed with two wazookas, the boys forget I even exist as they enter an aquatic combat zone.

Never mind that the pool is freezing and the weather on this particular day is moody, the rappers dive into the pool and World War 3 ensues. Poor old pink Barbie becomes the target for an onslaught of water that feverishly moves the ball from one side of the pool to the other. What did Barbie ever do to you to deserve this? I ask Bantu.

He shrugs and says: “I don’t know,” and with a grin continues, “but it’s fun.”

They continue to make the ball the prey of their wazookas, until, of course, they realise that human bodies are much better targets. So they aim for each other’s chests and spray insane amounts of water right in each other’s faces. And though it is fun to watch them channel their inner 5-year-olds, the guys get a little carried away with their water war and seem to have forgotten about the interview.

So, once we’ve managed to coax them out of the pool, we have a chinwag about exactly why they epitomise summer. Their readiness to go shirtless with their winter weight and throw themselves into a cold pool, notwithstanding.

But it’s pretty simple: their two singles are fire!

The award-winning group is thrilled that their Bongo Riot-assisted track, Champions, and the Tevin Campbell-sampled Have To Let You Know (both from their second recently released album, Wafa Wafa) have been well received, especially after the overwhelming success of their first hit, Chance.

But they refuse to dwell on past successes.

“Chance is our baby,” explains Ma-E, “and with it we created our own standard. We didn’t ever feel like we couldn’t reach that standard again.”

Mdluli chips in: “Yeah, our first album was a big success, but we aren’t trying to eclipse what we did with Chance. We came out in our own lane and people should appreciate the new album for what it is.”

And what exactly is it, aside from a smorgasbord of radio-and-club-friendly tracks?

Bantu answers: “We differ from album to album and can’t dwell on one style. Teargas is diverse on music and our mentality, this album is about growth, in it we give people variety.” And this is why vestiges of crunk, kwaito, ragga and R’nB filter through this rap record.

They have something for everyone this summer. In fact, the only musicians Teargas think might give their ditties a run for their money as the sound of summer are Rhythmic Elements, of 2By2 fame (see below for more on them). The house maestros get a unanimous nod from the rap group, but Teargas are also confident in their floor-fillers as we rejoice, woza summer! They shouldn’t disappoint after all, as Mdluli quips: “We’re one of the most hardworking bands in the country.”

And they play hard, too.

This article appeared in Tonight on 24 September 2008.