Having been dubbed Future Kwaito upon their momentous arrival on the SA music scene Stiff Pap have had their work cut out for them filling the shoes of the icons that came before. It is through their mastery and amalgam of styles that they are (or will be) the new musical heroes who honour kwaito forefathers but see themselves more in line with fellow pioneers like DJ Lag, Christian Tiger School and K.O. However modestly they downplay their torchbearer status, the duo’s complete command of their sound and aesthetic has set them apart as a shining light worthy of attention and praise.
Words: Tshiamo Seape
Stiff Pap, made up of producer Jakinda and lyricist Ayema Probllem, is a musical act, but also a fruitful experiment demonstrating the creativity of South African talent. In a relatively short time the group has carved out a definitive space for themselves and we can’t wait to see what more they have to offer. From the Red Bull Academy to Afropunk 2017 all the way to their irresistible debut, Based on A Qho Story, Stiff Pap’s journey is one to get familiar with.
So, let’s begin. Where does the name come from and how did Stiff Pap begin? When did you meet and begin making music together?
Ayema came up with the name. The name represents authentic South African culture, something the average South African can relate to. Everybody knows stiff pap (the food), we want that. We met at University, initially via hearing each other’s music. We also happened to be staying at the same residence. So we met up and decided to make some songs together
Jakinda, you’re not originally a DJ and you’ve said that your artistry originally fell more in line with visual art, so what made you move into music?
Well, I’m still not actually a DJ. I can’t really be compared to someone like K-$ or DJ Lag, they’re real DJs. I’d just say I’m an artist. I became a big fan of Jean-Michel Basquiat when I left high school. At that point, I was pretty set on becoming a visual artist. One of the things Basquiat pointed out (in relation to dating Madonna), was that he envied her. He envied how much more accessible music was than fine art. Music reaches a far wider audience than fine art – I envied that too. So I decided to start throwing parties. I wanted art to be exhibited and I wanted DJs to play music. I had some friends that were DJ’s, some that were rappers, painters, photographers and sound engineers. I got everyone together and started throwing parties called The T.R.A.P. I decided to start learning to DJ on my laptop so I could fill slots on the line up at the parties. The parties went really well and I continued to play on my laptop until my friends taught me how to mix on cdjs. I wasn’t that good though, I just played really good underground songs. I really loved providing new sounds in my sets so I got interested in producing my own music. I got FL Studio and took it from there.
Ayema do you have any secret origins or have you always pursued music primarily?
I’ve always been into music. My brother was in a hip-hop group when I was younger and, they would always have rap battles and cyphers at my house. Growing up around that was dope, It influenced me to do music.
Your sound has been dubbed Future Kwaito and that carries with it a lot of weight and expectations, especially seeing as it is an original South African art form. In carrying the title were you trying to make a statement/ flex on the OG’s, or is it more subtle than that?
Our sound can’t be boxed into one specific genre. People just wanted something to call us, so Future Kwaito was the closest thing they could associate with what we were doing, so we just went with it. It isn’t necessarily how we would label ourselves.
How seriously do you take the moniker of pioneers? Do you relish the idea of being seen as the first in a new line of experimental South African artists?
Yeah, it’s super dope, we love it. We love being seen as the leaders of a new wave. We’ve always wanted to do that. We want to influence the culture.
Your sound brings so much to the table, but where do your individual influences lie?
Jakinda: A combination of Kanye West, DJ Lag, Christian Tiger School, James Blake, Bon Iver and Ethiopian Electronica.
Ayema: A combination of K.O, Okmalum, Schoolboy Q, Kasi Rap and Industrial Hip Hop(Vince Staples, Earl Sweatshirt, Death Grips.
You’re both based in Cape Town now, but you guys didn’t grow up in the city. How much has the scene in the city shaped your tastes and your progression as musicians?
It had a huge influence on our sound. I (Jakinda) am hugely influenced by Christian Tiger School, we’ve sampled them twice. They have a very left-field electronic sound, so that’s definitely impacted the direction of our sounds. The city loves electronic music and we immersed ourselves in the culture because we love music.
Your popularity is well established by now, but I want to find out when you realised that this project was really about to take off?
We don’t really feel like we’re established, at least not as far as we want. There hasn’t really been a moment like that. We’re still waiting for it. We’ve grown a lot but, we’ve still got a long way to go.
What’s the recording process like? How much input does Ayema have on production and Jakinda on songwriting?
It’s different on every song, there isn’t really a formula. Each song has its own organic process.
Cape Town is known more for its alternative and electro output, yet Stiff Pap has managed to find a space. Was it difficult establishing yourselves given the fact that you have such an authentically South African sound?
We’re based in Cape Town but, we’re not really tied to a location. We just want to grow in our own lane, without any boundaries.
Your debut has no features (surely to give fans a taste of the true Stiff Pap), but who are you looking to work with in the future?
That’s a secret, but you will find out soon. We don’t usually like doing features.
You’ve had Afropunk late last year and CTEMF this year, any other big name events on the cards?
Yes, there are some exciting things on the way, which we can’t announce yet. For now, Jakinda will be supporting M.I.A. at her show in Cape Town.