On: Ben Sharpa

Friends and family of the culture-defining Ben Sharpa reminisce about the late, great rapper, writes Helen Herimbi “No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.” That phrase, from the film, Dead Poets Society, was immortalised by the late, great emcee, Ben Sharpa. As a rapper, producer and thought leader, his words over eccentric rap beats and ideas around social justice galvanised members of underground rap as much as it gained him fans across the globe. Because he gave us B.Sharpa, a seminal album, 10 years ago, he was able to change the scene and make the world realise you could be an alternative to the mainstream and still be popular. Ben Sharpa, whose real name was Kgotso Semela, had been living with Type 1 Diabetes and passed away on July 26 in Johannesburg. He was 41-years-old. He will be buried in Enerdale on Saturday morning. A memorial service, which will be open to the public, will be held on Thursday (August 2) at Stop Sign Gallery in the Nedbank Majestic Building on 141 Bree Street in Johannesburg at 6pm. The seed of ideas having the ability to change the world was planted in Sharpa at a very young age. His sister, the musician and educator, Tebs Semela, recalls: “Dad was an academic and my mother is a teacher so my parents always instilled a sense of being busy and doing as much as you can to change lives in a positive way. Kgotso took that and ran with it.” In 1979, Sharpa’s dad got the opportunity to leave Soweto to study in America. He came back for Sharpa’s mother, his older sister and Sharpa in 1980 and Tebs was born four years later. In the years that followed, having moved from St Louis to Chicago to Michigan, it was there that Sharpa developed a knack for a dice game and academia. “He topped the whole state of Michigan in English and mathematics,” says Tebs. “Those are things people don’t know. He actually played the viola and that’s how I started playing the violin. I always Read More …

On: Pure Solid

When it comes to music, Dplanet and Spo0ky are solid as a rock, but off stage they like their drinks hot, writes Helen Herimbi. Sade wails softly in the background. Earl Grey and Five Roses teas are brought to the table – much to Dplanet’s disappointment, the restaurant was all out of camomile. Spo0ky tells me about a wonderful time she had at a local spa. This treat was a birthday gift. This scenario is a complete 180° shift from the last time I saw Dplanet and Spo0ky. Back then, the pair, who are collectively known as Pure Solid, were slap-bang in the middle of some loud speakers and had party-goers at Cold Turkey like putty in their hands. Dplanet (Damian Stephens) moulded the crowd’s bodies to every booming bass beat he laid down and those who weren’t dancing had their eyes transfixed on the visual onslaught brought by the images Spo0ky (Anne-Sophie Leens) sliced from her computer to the projector. The sounds were past ambient and somewhat dirty, the visuals were dark and confrontational. Taken in together, this was a refreshing sensory experience. Pure Solid offered a mash-up of original footage, recycled vocals (from local and international musicians) and dub beats that somehow seemed to work as a complete performance. Oh, and they played Drake over dub. It’s not far-fetched to assume Young Money – one of the jaggiest rap crews of our time – would be something Dplanet steers clear of. I mean, originally from London, the producer-cum-DJ and founder of Pioneer Unit (the independent record company that boasts Ben Sharpa, Driemanskap and Rattex on its roster) has been vocal about his disdain for some of the ideologies music like that which Drake and Lil Wayne make represents. “That kind of rap as well as grime can be quite depressing and leave you cold and empty. I don’t want to promote that message, but,” he looks at a nodding Spo0ky, “Lil Wayne is a special case.” Imagine, if you will, Weezy’s A Milli over a dub beat. This has gone down well with crowds because, Spo0ky smiles: “With Read More …