BIG FKN GUN: The process of evolution
BIG FKN GUN: Pop Models
The first whiff I caught of the collection was a six-track EP, with tracks such as the dub-house fusion title track, the thunderous space odyssey of Wunga and the infectious, boogie-inflected thump of ABC. This was before the release of the seismic, darkly tropical R!ot (named after the illustrator that did the cover art).
In the process of evolution, they also added verses from South Africa's electro tastemakers Spoek Mathambo and OKmalvmkoolkat to the throwback yet futuristic anti-gold digger anthem Space; threw in a few spaced out interludes and instrumentals to tie it all together and printed up some physical copies, while directing everyone else to iTunes.
What the added tracks give you is a hint of the future direction of BFG – less recognisably hip-hop but steeped in the knowledge of hip-hop as the pivot that anchors any fancy footwork.
If you were ever looking for a group that embodies the DIY, boundary-pushing creative force that is sweeping through South Africa’s independent music scene, look no further, but be warned, MC Bra Sol’s version of Durban street slang is sometimes hard to penetrate. Brushing up on your Zulu lessons is a good entry point, though.
Sol hardly compromises on his language choices but tracks such as the languid, insomnia-celebrating Can’t Get No Sleep prove to you that he is in fact equally nice in two languages, a fact very few MCs in this country can truly gloat about. In the album, he boasts about damn near everything, most directly on ABC, a bragging track in the classic hip-hop style.
On Swanky, he and Grand Jo (the alias of producer/manager Mr So&So) trade verse about their affinity for fine cotton threads. Much of Sol’s subject matter also focuses on fobbing freeloaders; the pitfalls of “running game” you can’t back up, and aiming automatic firepower at backstabbers (Umangozini) – the usual fare. Cadence, rhyme scheme and believability win the day though.
While Sol is maturing as an MC, the seal to BFG’s excellence is consistently high production value (helmed by both Soulfaktor and So&So), that will soon make its way to DJs' crates, and find space right next to Sa-Ra Creative Partners, Spoek Mathambo and rare bubble-gum grooves.
The M&G sat down with with So&So from the Durban/Johannesburg hip-hop trio BIG FKN GUN.
Can we talk about the evolution of the album. It started out as an EP and has now doubled in size, at 14 tracks, in an age of depleting attention spans?
It evolved on its own really. Our initial idea was always to make an EP that would sort of give you a taste of what's to come. It was never meant to be an album, at least not by standard definition. I guess it felt right to take it where it went. It was not forced so when five tracks became nine tracks, then 14, it was the right thing to do rather than just throw tracks 'cause we felt like the EP should evolve into an album. There's a lot of stuff which didn't even make the cut that wasn't even gonna be considered 'cause it didn't fit the soundscape.
In terms of attention spans, this product is seamless so the way we see it is that you probably won't even notice that you just played an entire album before your attention falls off.
The sound is very cohesive. It evokes Sa-Ra, the West London movement and the Los Angeles beat scene in general. What was your sonic inspiration when creating the album?
I never thought of it that way, I guess one's biggest influences come through subconsciously. We always wanted to make, even from the beginning, something that would have an unfamiliar familiarity about it. Sonically we are quite ambitious at times to try and create that sense of "this is so new and so fresh but I can relate to it" kind of sound. I can get down to it without feeling too lost or too far removed. It was quite an ambitious space to be in especially because the two worlds are often separated. It's almost like you can either come in from the left or you can come in from the right.
Even though it was a challenge to find that space, I think we were able to go there sonically. Part of it, I think, is the fact that our influences are so wide in the first place, so the musical construction process was like marrying worlds that were never going to collide.
How has the stage show evolved?
It's still evolving. I think the guys are finding a sense of confidence about their performance. At the last show, which was the first show of the Pop Models Tour in Durban, we had Mzi, also known as Skaftin, playing keys with us over Sol's vocals.
Sol was like a high priest presiding over a charismatic church belting out an emotionally driven set. What I loved most about the show evolution is the different colours that Bra Sol and Soulfaktorr were bringing to the stage. It's become very much like a rollercoaster of sonic colours and crescendos. But that was always the idea, to take people through a journey rather than just perform song after song.