Teargas combine hip-hop and Afropop with lyrics that raise awareness about society's ill and the issues facing South Africa's youth.
Artists who are creative enough to do that while still maintaining catchy beats and attention grabbing lyricism are few and far between.
Teargas is made up of Ntokozo “KO” Mdluli as well as brothers Ezee “Ma-E” Hanabe and Bantu “Ntukza” Hanabe. The group's name was inspired by the country’s political past where police used teargas to disperse protesting crowds in South Africa’s townships, and see their music as a tool to discuss socio-economic problems such as crime, HIV/Aids and poverty.
The group was first brought into the limelight with the release of their single Chance from their album K’shubile K’bovu in 2006. The song, which speaks of redemption and raising oneself out of poverty and adversity, won the trio the best album award at the Metro FM awards. The group has since won Sama award for best rap twice (in 2009 and 2010) for their albums Wafa Wafa and Dark or Blue.
The group was to an international audience when they were nominated for a BET award for Best International Act: African in 2010. This opened doors for them to liaise with international artists such as Trey Songz, who requested the group to be the opening act for his South African tour. They established a relationship with him, and together they recorded a song (unfortunately not completed in time to be included on their latest album).
“When we were there [ in the USA] we had access to all these people and it is so overwhelming to be given the same type of treatment as the A-list stars,” says group member KO, who met with the M&G on behalf of the group.
The group has recently released their fourth album, Num8er Num8er. The album, which took three years to produce, has already climbed to the top of charts and sales lists and is well on its way to reaching gold status. Thealbum has beaten DJ Vetkuk vs Mahoota’s Dinaledi and Zahara’s much anticipated live DVD on the best-selling charts nationwide.
Num8er Num8er is township slang for “mission”, and KO speaks of how they strive to motivate the nation with their message of hope and perseverance. From their first album K’shubile K’bovu to their most recent, the goal has always been to address social issues in a positive light. “A lot of our rappers try sound American and rarely make reference to what is happening in our surroundings. When people on the ground cannot relate they turn and act confused when sales do not do well. You need to be able to relate to your local audience. Look at yourself and ask if you are speaking to the people on their level.”
I ask KO if they planned on voicing their stance on the country’s current political issues. “We are very careful in voicing the deeper issues because it is so easy to piss off the wrong people. We focus rather on the ones we can address and put a positive spin on. But if you ask me what I think of certain leaders who constantly ridicule our elder leaders; I will definitely tell you that for a country that fought hard for Ubuntu and respect some of our younger leaders have completely lost the plot.”
Having been on their musical journey for the past six years, the trio has established a brand that is synonymous with quality music and performances. “We are not just competing with our hip-hop peers but with south African music as a whole. We are all about growing not only ourselves but the music and the culture.”
Away from the music, the self-managed trio run their own business, Cashtime Entertainment. They have also been grooming hip-hop newcomers Cashtime, who won a Channel O award for Most Gifted South African Video over the weekend. \\
“We are very proud of our boys. It is always a good idea to work with new talent because it also keeps our product fresh. We have big plans for those boys so you should expect some amazing things.”