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Zubz: from Zambia through Zimbabwe to ZA
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© 2004/5 Rage

In March this year disaster struck at the Outrageous Records studio, the system had packed up and the highly anticipated debut album from one of Africa's tightest MCs was gone. But the crisis ended up working in his favor, because as he got ready to record again spending his days updating rage.co.za and many a late night recording, he also hooked up with new musicians and vocalists to include on the album. “If I hadn't lost the first material, then this CD would be nothing like it is now, I only kept one song from the original album, the intro!”

Sure he worked with Outrageous Records' hip-hop group H20, soulstress Pebbles, genius producer Battlekat as well as Battlekat's group Optical Illusion. But not only that, he also hooked up with the kind of artists who have never been heard on SA hip-hop albums before. Louis Mhlanga added some of his guitar juice to “I Understand”, Pops Mohamed came through to pepper up “Brand New Day” with his indigenous instruments, when he covered Steve Makoni's Shona classic "Handiende" not only did he employ the guitar skills of Rasekgantsho he also showed that Palesa Mokubung is multitalented; she can design clothes as well as sing. Afro Z's Lois and singer Nabunya also added some female energies to “All I Need” and “I Understand” respectively. For the heads there's “Heavy 8” featuring Tumi, Mawe2, H2O, Proverb, Golden Shovel and Kaydo as well as appearances on other tracks from Pebbles, Kgantshe and Battlekat.

The result is a 19-track (and one remix) album of many flavors that are all easy to digest, whatever you may be in the mood for. “Expect a comprehensive collection of emotion-drenched, well-produced and written hip -hop masterpieces – I rap about everything from relationships, love, hip-hop, politics and a bit of religion and legends….”

Everyone says SA hip-hop in SA is getting bigger and bigger with independent and major labels vying to release rap groups, and that's true, so how is Zubz different to everything else that's out there? “I'd say the most obvious difference is the meticulous crafting of imagery and symbolism. The lyrics and music are carefully written and thought out and that comes out immediately when you listen.”

"I Write" was the first radio taste people got from Listeners Digest, that was followed by the obvious hit "Superstar" his cynical take on what it takes to become a "Superstar", check him teaching his pupils in the hysterical video. Zubz also suggests you look out for the humorous “Agony Haggz”, “Move”, “B.E.A.T “and “Brand New Day”.

He may not have released an album till now, but 28-year-old Zubz has certainly been making a major impact since he decided to pick up his golden mic. From simple limerick and rhyme in primary school and a heavy hip-hop influence in the mid-eighties, the path to emceeing was created. “I didn't realize it then, but as time moved on and I found myself being drawn ever closer to rhyming, I knew it had to be. I must have been, like, 12 when I wrote my first verse…”

In his teens the Zambia born Zimbabwe raised MC found himself at Rhodes University in Grahamstown South Africa where he performed at campus hip-hop shows and recorded a few tracks. When the time came for him to graduate in Computer Science, he was lucky enough to find a perfect home in multimedia company Black Rage Productions where he was hired as webmaster for their site www.rage.co.za and at the same time got to nourish his hip-hop dreams.

After making his mark in G-Town, the rest of South Africa started to feel Zubz's lyrical force when he took out Jozi MC's and won a major battle at legendary club 206 and graced the stage alongside Talib Kweli, dead prez, Black Thought and Jeru da Damaja at Black August. He started being heard on radio and CD players when his songs as part of The Originz (a group he created with Botswana-based songstress Hope) were featured on Outrageous' debut CD Rage. That CD featured the super powerful tracks “Family Of One” and “The Originz”, next his voice was heard on the Expressions compilation's ode to women “Multiple Choice” and then on H20's hit “African”.

In between all those recordings he was busy in the Outrageous Records' studio creating tracks for his dream album. “There were so many tracks, that I knew I wasn't going to put on the album, so I decided to release them!” It wasn't an ordinary release; he gave the CD entitled Last Letta to the public for free. Zubz feels that “It became one of the best moves ever, cos not only did it expand my fan base, feed my existing fan base as well as keep people up to speed with what I was about, the mixtape also kept me relevant on the street and on radio. It gave me a decent reflection of how to approach Listener's, as well as preparing my immediate environment for what I've put together on the new project. The mixtape did much better than we thought it would. We must have moved over 1500 discs on our own at the Outrageous office in 30days alone!! Assuming those experienced a prudent and conservative exponential growth rate, you're looking at 2 250 000 in a month!!! That's a lot of Last Letters floating around out there! ...Maybe I should-a charged.”

The response to Last Letta proved that there were loads of people out there hungry for a Zubz album. And now they can go and get it! The album reflects thoughts, ideas, influences and experiences Zubz has gone through since he began dreaming of his own album “I've been trying to release my debut album for 10 years, and its taken me till now to get to a point where I was ready to come out – the elements needed to be right, the timing had to be right…” The time is right now and the result is a CD packed with the tightest rhymes you could ever expect covering everything from hip hop battles to love and life, there's plenty to digest, as he says “19 tracks and one remix…”

And as is the case with Readers Digest, you can expect some fulfilling quality content. “It's called “Listeners Digest” for a number of reasons. Zubz explains “Mainly because it's for the listener as opposed to the feeler or the dancer/groover. As such, it could be a little heavy on some, but pretty intense for others. The album title's also molded off the Reader's Digest concept. I've condensed quite a lot into 75mins. What most people will find themselves doing, is listening to this album over a long period of time. Picking up different things with each listen. Selecting certain tracks to play at certain periods of their lives. Just as most wouldn't read the Reader's from cover to cover at one go, most wouldn't listen to Listener's from start to finish at one go…”

The Zubz album can be ordered online from places like Musica.co.za

Also read the Zubz interview!
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