There are magazines that niche and those that tend to overdo it. Some call themselves family magazines because they are not sure about who is reading them and market research costs money. It's that inaccurate story which they take to advertisers who retort by asking, 'can we place the new ad for a BMW M3?' to which they are met with a reluctant, 'I guess so'.
Now HYPE magazine has no time to throw the net but chooses to fish the stormy seas using a rod and bait. Even when they go for sardines they still deploy bait. Don't be fooled, theirs is not catch-and-release, they play for keeps. Brave enough for them to claim, SOUTH AFRICA'S ONLY HIP HOP MAGAZINE. Short sightness perhaps if one thinks about the copycat enterpreneur spirit of hundreds of folks who can easily access funding from Media Diversity Development Agency, Industrial Development Corporation or Empowerment Fund to start their own hip hop magazine and call it WAY TOO DEEP or WTP. In this event HYPE will have to rework their slogan.
But interesting enough, HYPE is not really all hype and no smell. When Nirvana sang 'smells like teen spirit', HYPE smells like hip hop and tastes like what MOBB DEEP's Havoc said, 'beef/ what?/ i overcooked that dish'. Actually HYPE, or the issue under review (Feb/Mar'07) smells like meat-balls. Maybe again Prodigy this time would rhyme, 'meat-balls/ what?/ i wrapped and sold that meal'. Okay, down to the nitty-gritty.
HYPE, which prides itself of being 'bigger than hip hop' is edited by a music producer of serious note, Mizi, which should be encouraging to cats who want their underground venom to be compiled in the ever-thought-provoking CD that accompanies all six issues of the mag. Mizi, to the uninitiated worked on production with artists such as Tumi and Zubz (he confesses on page 17). Even before being exposed to this information one cat looked at the editor's picture and commented, 'he looks like an emcee'. Well, I don't know what an emcee looks like, especially when you have Tumi (minus The Volume), Tuks, HipHopPantsula, Damola and Mo'lemi looking like the kasi guluvas who you usually find chilling over a phat blunt and trading Tales from the Crypt.
Some cats then told me that an emcee looks like Zubz, Proverb, Trusenz and Middle Finga - that promisemaker look. Okay, you need a cap or sporty, baggy jeans, an oversize T-shirt and bling, or something related to glamour- they told me. When I questioned 'why bling?', whereas underground cats should be consious of the millions of blood diamonds in circulation today and should shy away from portraying a nouvre riche image while they are still hustling tapes from the boot of a Peugeot 404, they said 'even the hardest street disciple sang, 'Africans pick diamonds out of dark caves/ now we wear 'em on our necks/ just so we can light up the stage'. Alright I surrender, but I still say it ain't cool even though The Game (on the cover of HYPE)'s got diamond studs.
Back to HYPE. I usually don't give first prizes and I'm not going to start now. HYPE, out of five gets four mikes. And here are my reasons even though I owe them to nobody. Credit should be granted to the former editor Fungayi Kanyuchi for having stood strong even at the time when everybody was looking down on hip hop and its future. It's not easy to pioneer any concept and pass over a healthy torch to your predecessor (ask Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe), and for that - four mikes. Same credit should go to cats like Amu, Ramesh, Spex, Selwyn, Proverb, Zubz and those Rage (Outrageous Records) visionaries (Kutlwano and the crew) for sticking with a genre that the majors gave zero chance to succeed while their overseas bottom lines were lined with hip hop generated revenue. What they were actually saying was that 'you people can't outrhyme the cats in the United States of America'. Going through the Feb/Mar'07 issue of HYPE, I can stand ontop of the torch held by Liberty (statue) and proclaim, 'people in the Bronx, Harlem, Yonkers, Brooklyn, Staten Island and the West Coast, bring it on, don't forget them Dirty South niggas'
What I found to be the weakest link in the Feb/Mar'07 issue was the cover picture of The Game. The westcoaster might be the hottest beefer right now but from the comfort of my critics chair I didn't forsee this one coming. The Game on a mag promoting SA Hip Hop? Looking at the inserted picture of Tumi, something (the non editor in me) told me that the cover have easily marketed the brand, more so because HYPE is not a family mag but has a cult following - but that Tumi could have easily brought the same numbers. In marketing lingo they say it has a niche - regular market share that you can only grow or lose.
Well, HYPE Sessions Vol 13 CD is packed with hunger and it was inspiring to put faces to the cats with such stinging rhymes on page 4 & 5. I should also say the layout is clean and not cluttered as you'll discover in Chimurenga and Y.
The letter page (Yo Word) touched on something I emphasized on the last review (see Y, in this issue). Hip hop is a universal language and it's refreshing to see people shouting their words from as far as Cathcart (Eastern Cape), Emalahleni (Mpumalanga), East London (EC), Nelspruit (Mpumalanga), Polokwane (Limpopo), Queenstown (EC) and Thokoza (Gauteng). Right there you've got national representation that if well nurtured can multiply by 15 and a half. What I mean is 15000 sales in one province by 15.
Rhymezyouwrote (page 12), all good, but what is Proverb doing there? He should give the deep underground cats whose rhymes have not yet penetrated Y and Metro the opportunity to cremate us; like Mo'lemi's BEEF with BEE. Mo'lemi only misses the point when he gives love to COSATU's Zwelinzima Vavi, forgetting that everybody in that feared political Trinity is a capitalist, some more overt than others. However this column rocks and one wants to see rhymes from cats based in other parts of the country. There's an emcee in Mpumalanga named St Lucas tha Ribelatti (H.eye.V) and one can't help but wait for his take.
Minefield (page 14) is nice, but let's get artistic doing different flavours. HHP and Mo'lemi did not work because they are one and the smae. Let's do motswako and something else, deeprooted Zubz and one emcee from Merafe, maybe the Farmer could have worked again cuz they'll have a diverse theme.
I hate comparing local stuff to someting foreign but I couldn't resist the temptation to see The Source magazine in HYPE. I'm not saying this in a bad light but as a compliment. There was once a time when at a CNA situated at The Promenade (Nelspruit) The Source was retailing at R85 and we bought it religiously for years. And now that HYPE has filled that space one saves over R50 on a mag that comes with a CD. It's more like a man who has been buying the same whore at Quartz Street (Hillbrow) for the past ten years until he finds a woman he makes his wife and saves a lot of moolah because the whore wasn't cooking for him or listening to his fears on cold winter nights.
Mizi, Nicole and the team must rest assured that they are living up to the expectation of cats in this toddler industry. My one criticism, The Game, there's too much of him, but overall - four mikes is not bad. HYPE will get the fifth one when it adds 60 more pages and has a spine.
* HYPE retails for R18,95 at most book and convenient stores.