/ 2 December 2022

The vinyl countdown

Kendricklamar ‘goodkid,m.a.a.dcity
Few can confidently ignore the culture reset that happened when Compton-born emcee Kendrick Lamar released his critically acclaimed and creatively ambitious concept album ‘good kid, m.A.A.d city’ a decade ago

After going through a long slump throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, vinyl records have been on the up-and-up, with some regions in the world seeing soaring sales. 

Last year, for instance, the British Phonographic Industry recorded 5.3 million sales in the medium. And while there have been disruptions in both manufacturing and transport due to the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, one remains hopeful the upward trend will keep going. 

We’ve compiled a list of seven recent and not-so-recent vinyl records you might want to consider while doing your shopping these holidays. Give our vinyl rack a browse — you might just find something worth digging into. And heads up: put some funds away for Thandi Ntuli’s modern-day classic Exiled, due out in the first quarter of next year. 

Tumi Mogorosi — Group Theory: Black Music (Mushroom Hour & New Soil, 2022)

Mogorosi’s sophomore outing as a solo artist comes nearly a decade after he broke into the improvised music scene with 2014’s Project Elo. Group Theory: Black Music is a drummetic, operatic suite delivered over 11 sweltering movements, each a guide map of both blackness and African-ness, straddling the continent and the diaspora, along with their attendant contours. 

With a stellar cast that includes Andile Yenana on piano and Reza Khota on guitar, the suite becomes a collaborative hub of three generations of South African jazz, with featured artists Siya Mthembu, Gabi Motuba and Lesego Rampolokeng lending their voices to an already firm foundation, backed by an angelic 10-person choir, cushioned by the piercing bass of Dalisu Ndlazi, and emboldened by the golden horns of Mthunzi Mvubu and Tumi Pheko. 

Mogorosi’s theoretical underpinning — that new black music is to find the self and kill it — is derived from the writings of Amiri Baraka, a revered scholar and defender of the avant garde. 

The collaborative streak eschews traditional notions of the singular composer while stretching into other realms of art with renowned photographer Andrew Tshabangu’s striking portrait of dancer. It’s a triumphant outing from one of Mzansi’s treasures, an innovative musician whose every offering thus far has stretched the limits of what the creation termed “jazz” can become.

M3nsa — Bondzie (MensaMusic, 2022)

The Ghanaian producer, vocalist and MC’s storied presence in African rap stretches back to the years he used to produce for Hiplife pioneers such as Reggie Rockstone and Obrafuor. The artist doesn’t compromise on his latest offering, Bondzie

We bear witness to an artist on a journey to connect with the higher self — not by talking about it but by producing the meanest cuts this side of hip-hop. 

This is post-pandemic music cooked during the strangest times of a pandemic, which forced the world to reckon with multiple realities — the fact that late-stage capitalism is killing us all; the fact that the ones we revere and financially reward are in fact useless when the nitty-gritty scary monsters come knocking. 

On a personal note, the pandemic was a chance for M3nsa to reconnect with his purpose, to rediscover his strength and to expand his already solid musicianship into other realms. 

He’s joined by journeymen like FOKN Bois co-conspirator Wanlov on BISA; the lyrical punisher M.anifest on Question for the Gods and Format, which also features the dreamy vocalisations of Efya; as well as Gasmilla on Moko Santé. This is uptown funk filtered through a West African groove; a real, hard-hitting travelogue into the mind of a sonic griot. Tap in, you won’t look back.

The Brother Moves On — $he Who Feeds You … Owns You (Native Rebel Recordings, 2022)

One of the most consistent and polished live collectives around, The Brother Moves On is a Jozi staple; a South African mainstay who, over the past decade and more, have dedicated their everything to inner exploration and the quest for eternal healing. 

Ever the forward-thinkers, their latest offering plays like a travelogue of Johannesburg from the minds of brothers who’ve seen it all, from kasi to inner-city to suburbia, right through to former colonies and repressive regimes of this here Mzansi. They are the present-day manifestation of sis’ Brenda’s Ngeke Ung’confirm-e; the connective nerve linking Batsumi, Madala Kunene, Busi Mhlongo and Moses Molelekwa to an elevated, woke generation tired of tried-and-tested methods. 

$he Who Feeds You… Owns You  is a reactive force field resisting false identities; a hidden gem that glistens with repeated plays. Every song on this album feels lived-in, like it knows its place. Every melody soundtracks the demise of a rainbow dream and celebrates the rise of a reckoning far from the truths and reconciliations of a past we’d all rather forget. Revolutionary doesn’t even touch the helm of this mould. This is fuck-shit-up music for the people dem.

Nduduzo Makhathini — In the Spirit of Ntu (Universal Music South Africa, 2022)

What makes Makhathini special isn’t that he can play the hell outta them keys. For anyone who has spent significant amounts of time gigging with greats like Busi Mhlongo, Zim Ngqawana and Zamajobe, and who’s been compared to the likes of Bheki Mseleku and McCoy Tyner, that is a given. 

It’s what he does to sound: how he hears riddims; how he improvises sublime chants and humanises the current castration of identity with the deftness of a wizard in training, like a modern sanusi (clairvoyant) throwing bones in the listener’s direction, hoping and wishing the impact doesn’t do damage, and instead heals and course-corrects. 

The producer-slash-pianist-slash-academic’s second offering on the American label Blue Note Records, and his 10th overall, is as close to an out-of-body encounter you will ever experience without consuming mind-altering substances. And it is indeed hypnotic, from the cyclic Chopi groove of album opener Unonkanyamaba, to the revolving fragility of Mama, a tribute to his wife Omagugu’s late mother, to the repetitive refrain of Senze’ Nina, a song addressing the femicide that has long been swept under the carpet in Mzansi. This is Makhathini’s moment, and you’re welcome to witness while he basks in it.

Kendrick Lamar —  good kid, m.A.A.d city (Interscope Records, 2022)

Few can confidently ignore the culture reset that happened when Compton, California-born MC Kendrick Lamar released his critically acclaimed and creatively ambitious concept album good kid, m.A.A.d city a decade ago. 

Not only did it lay the ground for what came next — the socially and musically auspicious To Pimp a Butterfly, itself a pursuit worthy of the highest praise — it ushered in a new type of conscious MC: woke and streetwise  and actively refusing to be contained by the limitations of their environment. 

Who’ll ever forget hearing Swimming Pools, a song about the ruins of alcohol, for the first time or, if you were lucky, seeing one of the shows he threw during his worldwide tour or the multiple highlights of that era, like his dig at contemporaries such as Drake and J.Cole? 

A decade later, it’s fitting to revisit an album that has become a mainstay in rap music, for the simple reason that its head-nod factor has continuously over-indexed, despite the passing of time. 

The recently-issued 10th-year anniversary edition comes with an exclusive alternate cover. 

A timeless classic, deserving of a spot in your personal collectibles before the festive season finds you with nothing to whip out when the uncles and aunties are around.

Little Simz — Sometimes I Might Be Introvert (101 Music/ Awal Recordings, 2021)

For those familiar with the Drops series, it wasn’t surprising when Little Simz scooped the Artist of the Year mantle at the Mercury Awards recently. Sis has been spitting timeless bars for a sizzling minute. 

But to appreciate the complex artist that is Simz, one has to start with her 2016 masterpiece Stillness In Wonderland. The record finds Little Simz holding her own against heavy-hitters such as Chip, Ghetts, SiR, and Chronixx. The deluxe version that came out in 2017 is out of stock now, which is perfect in a way, since it allows one to fully indulge Sometimes without feeling the slightest hint of guilt. 

At 19 tracks long, the vinyl offering of the award-winning album, which features among its songs the raw and revealing Introvert, as well as the celebratory and resounding, and self-explanatory Women (alongside Cleo Sol), comes in a milky-clear vinyl format spread over 2 LPs. Treat yourself.

Nas — Magic (Mass Appeal, 2021)

Nas is special. Even more special is the fact that we’re witnessing an elder statesman who turned hip-hop upside down with Illmatic, his timeless ’94 debut, rap the best he’s ever done. That’s rare. 

Nas found his Nemo in the producer Hit-boy and never looked back. 

Magic snuck up onto our unsuspecting ears on Christmas Eve last year, after his triumphant Grammy Award scoop for Best Rap Album earlier that year.  

When he raps, “I’m 21 years past the 27 club,” on album opener Speechless, it’s a statement of his longevity in the game, as well as everything he’s had to survive as an inner-city youth who made it out the hood fairly early in life and who has remained active in rap conversations ever since.  

Magic is a compulsory addition to any self-respecting music head’s collection, so do yourself a favour and don’t be caught slippin’.