UE.45: Strange New Generation
Hailing from Katlehong, a small neighbourhood on the eastern side of Johannesburg, are Strange New Generation. A three-strong collective of exuberant producers and rappers, SNG are a new voice on the alternative rap scene, as much influenced by LA beats and the jazzy sounds of Soulection as they are by the likes of South Africa’s mega rapstars.
While we can loosely term their music ‘alternative boom bap’, what sets them apart is that there’s honestly nothing coming out of South Africa right now that sounds anything like them. Their debut release, meraki, from last year was a tightly woven mosaic of moodiness and melancholia, lazy, reverb-drenched vocals and woozy low-end. Somewhat like the distant love child of Dean Blunt, Radiohead and Fleet Foxes.
The smoky ballad, ‘Far’, for instance, is equal parts sleaze and sorrow, and features one of the most beguiling vocal melodies of 2017 by associate Gugu, while their more instrumental excursions ‘Amour’ and ‘Foreign Language’ could stand the test of any experimental club setting. The beats are unfailingly rough, the atmosphere thick and hazy, but their knack for carving out a groove, no matter what tempo, is spectacular – not least because they seem to be completely in their own lane.
Ahead of new material due out later this year, SNG have put together a fascinating and characteristically divergent mix of influences recent and less so, ranging from Wayne Wonder to Jorja Smith. We caught up with them below.
Tell us a bit about how you approached the mix.
Same way we made meraki, it’s all about making music that we listen to on a daily, it makes it easier to understand, we even get so excited when the end product gels well with artists we look up to. That was the whole approach with mix also, trying to put people up to speed on where we are musically in a way. Especially if you’re not an open minded listener in music, it was to help the catching up to our sound easier.
What’s the meaning behind your last album title, ‘Meraki’?
Meraki, first of all is putting your heart and soul into doing something you love(music in this case). Well we realized that, every classic album or just music that lasts forever, that we love, is always songs/records that have soul and a lot of effort into them, like how you never forget an album that touched your soul or that was just personal to you, so meraki was just so personal, that the name just stuck to it.
Johannesburg’s not a city often associated with such melancholic music. What has informed that experience of your hometown?
We are from a small town in the east of JHB called Katlehong, and to be honest with you, it’s really hard being alternative artists, compared to everyone around where you stay, the simplest comparison we can use now is, imagine having a rock-star image but residing in a place like Compton(the hood side of it they always show in these music videos), that’s how it is, we were just rebels to everything & everyone around us, grew up listening to rock, funk and slow jams. I guess we can just say, growing up in our hometown made us curious to what’s behind other doors, than that one door we always see.
How did the group come about?
We had this place, where we always hung out at after school, it was sort of a group organisations, anyway always on Fridays they’d be talent shows, so different people would bring their art, whether music, dancing or poetry, anything and everything art. In such cases you always find friends you relate to and just took it from there, and like how they always say “time reveals all”, with time we sifted apart, we assume the love of art wasn’t really the same through out the group and we met then through mutual friends of each member, i guess the timing also was perfect, because we were all strangers before, but we started the band as a fashion & photography thing, instead of music. We later diverted to music which has led us here now.
What’s your production set up looking like?
Our production set, quite old school really, old school hi-fis & amps. We set it up as a bedroom studio, with just basic equipment, that we needed. and that’s all.
How’s the live scene in Johannesburg right now for a band such as yourselves? Boom-bap seems healthy there.
Well as mentioned above Jhb is filled with everything and everything, I’m sure you’ve seen or heard about Braam in Jhb, so its pretty much different styles from trap, neo-soul, electronic, rap, etc. It all comes down to people’s preferences we guess.
Which other South African artists are inspiring you at the moment?
To be honest with you, can we just say we highly respect other artists in the country, because of our strict preference on what we listen to, and its not about the artists, but the music they release, it doesn’t really resonate with us sometimes, but at the moment we still inspired by the older generation of S.A music, like your 340ml(Even if they are from Maputo, still), Lebo Mathosa, Malaika & Brenda Fassie.
What’s next for you in 2018?
Well since we still the “newbies” and all, it’s just getting people familiar with us. We working on a new record, that might come out probably August, (That time we haven’t made not even one song for it.) but this year we releasing new music, gonna focus on visuals mostly, and just getting ourselves out there as much as possible.
Furns – Keeper (Sample)
Strange New Generation – Way Too Long
Furns – True Longing
Wayne Wonder – No Letting Go (Remix)
Flume – Wall Fuck
Little Dragon – High
Strange New Generation – Introverts
Galimatias – Won’t Forget
Jorja Smith – Something In The Way
Majid Jordan – A Place Like This
June Marieezy – Summer Time
FKJ – Blessed
Lapalux – We Lost
Strange New Generation – New Faces
Maebh – Moon & I
Ego Ella May – Love Hard
Strange New Generation – I Know
Alina Baraz – Dramagar (Make You Feel Remake)
Sonder – Invite Me (Remix)
Ravyn Lanae – Moon Shoes
Strange New Generation – We Should