On: Yugen Blakrok

As the world marvels at Yugen Blakrok’s appearance on the Black Panther soundtrack, Helen Herimbi sits down with the Mzansi MC The last quarter of 2017 was a reaping season for Yugen Blakrok. Now the Eastern Cape-born, Johannesburg-based rapper who is signed to prolific independent hip hop label, Iapetus Records, finally gets the shine she deserves. In the last three months of that year, she embarked on yet another European tour – where her 2013 debut album, Return of the Astro-Goth sells better and is shown more love than in SA – which saw her stay in Berlin for a while, then hit places like Zurich, Basel, parts of Austria and more. It was while preparing to leave Berlin that she got a message that would catapult her into the kind of attention that has Billboard magazine calling her talent “undeniable” and more. I meet Yugen Blakrok at an eatery, and we settle into the nook of a restaurant that has Ponte prominently winking at her past the floor to ceiling windows. She tells me: “It was a random Sunday night and we were moving out of this Berlin apartment, and it was just stressful trying to put our stuff and merchandise in certain places. Then I get contacted by someone from TDE (Top Dawg Entertainment, the American label that signed Kendrick Lamar, SZA and more) like: ‘Hey, there’s this project we’d like to involve you in.’ So I said: ‘Cool, let me know more about it. I don’t have a lot of time right now but send me your idea.’ And then I see who it is…” Yugen Blakrok is grinning from ear to ear. “I was like: ‘Oh damn!’” Damn is right. That top secret project became the Black Panther soundtrack, which is curated and produced by Kendrick Lamar. It was released a week before the highly anticipated Black Panther film hits South African cinemas tomorrow. When Yugen Blakrok was tapped to appear on a choppy, militant beat that is now known as Opps – which features Lamar as well as Vince Staples alongside Yugen Blakrok – our Read More …

On: Yugen Blakrok

Yugen Blakrok is her mother’s daughter. In reality, her mom is a butcher and on records, Yugen Blakrok can kill, cut up and skin rappers. “I used to come home to a blood-stained apron,” the Eastern Cape-bred rapper who is based in Joburg laughs. But with a critically acclaimed debut album, Return Of The Astro-Goth, under her belt and a performance at Oppikoppi coming up, Yugen Blakrok is the one who is baying for blood. She’s very clear about pushing her performance boundaries and standing out. “I’ve always wanted to go to Oppikoppi,” says the dreadlocked wordsmith, “my mom is so excited. It’s a big thing for me.” She also says she’ll be “trying new stuff out with Kanif on the MPD, Vincent on the guitar and Raiko on the cuts.” New is what Yugen Blakrok has brought to the South African music landscape. Her brand of all-things-astro-inspired, word-twisting hip hop has made most people sit up and take note of what has been described as a future classic album. The 2014 South African Hip Hop Awards went so far as to nominate her in a three categories: Freshman Of The Year, Best Female Rapper and the most highly contested one, Best Lyricist. “The experience was strange,” she admits, “I’d like to believe I’m not caught up in award hype but I was surprised at how much I cared.” “I entered my album into the awards because I wanted it there in history,” she continues, “I was the only female performer on that stage and that jumped out at me because I was like: ‘I can’t be the only one!’” Yugen Blakrok may not be the only one who raps about what lies out beyond Neptune or putting UFOs in her videos but she’s the only one I know who is placing them in the Joburg skyline or wearing UV paint outlining her skeleton or talking about chicken heads as part of a lineage positively. “I’ve always been fascinated by astronomy and astrology,” she explains her album title, “I was a goth, moody, with teenage angst and too much eyeliner. Read More …