By Temnotfo Mvubu
You absolutely cannot count the hottest hip hop artists in the local music scene today without jotting down SmokeyAndWigo on the list. Period. With a laid back vibe and catchy production levels, this rap duo is nothing like we have ever seen. Their music is what I can best describe as a flavorful fusion of lyricism and emotion. A couple of months ago, I had the pleasure of meeting SmokeyAndWigo for the first time and getting to know them in their home turf: Swazi Jive. Fast track to just a little under six months later, we are anxiously awaiting the drop of the first ever EP titled Birth. Something which Wigo in a recent Word!s exclusive episode defined as “Once we drop this, we’ll no longer be upcoming artists. We will have arrived.” (I’m actually mentally slow clapping while writing this)
SmokeyAndWigo shot to fame in 2017 through the Bushfire firefly and although they did not win, they went on to become a household name thanks to their studded performance at Hipnotik just a few month later. Since then, the duo has been keeping us at the edge of our seats with their crisp fresh sounds and sauced-up swag. Their individuality in an industry that tends to make a habit of repeating styles, is a breath of fresh air. They fuse art with intellect and tell their stories through their songs, it is truly incredible. Never in its history has this country’s musical fabric experienced what it’s like to be living in the Age of SmokeyAndWigo. Ever. With Birth dropping in just under a day, I got to do a real quick Q&A with one half of the pair, Wigo, and man was it one for the books. So, I wrote it down. (See what I did there?)
Temnotfo: What is an EP? Please break down the term for all the SmokeyAndWigo fans who might not be gurus at music terminology?
Wigo: EP stands for extended play. It’s basically a good excuse for artists not to drop a body of work and not call it an album. It’s a playlist or catalogue of songs. Usually not more than eight. So we decided to call it an EP instead of Album because we do not yet feel album ready in terms of our brand. This is our debut project. Hopefully later on we will drop an album
Temnotfo: Who produced this EP?
Wigo: Well, it’s self-produced. I mean, we produced all these records ourselves. We wrote all these records ourselves. Except for track three, titled blessings, which is a collaboration between Ice and us. Ice is a producer from both South Africa and Swaziland and he is very talented so we decided to collaborate and create blessings. That’s the only song we just wrote lyrics for, the production was done by him. And that was interesting to try because it was the first time to get on a song that wasn’t produced by me or Smokey.
Temnotfo: What inspired ya’ll to take the self-production route?
Wigo: We are creative, we love creating stuff and we trust ourselves so we chose to produce Birth ourselves. I’ve always been a musical person. Growing up, I was a pianist since I was in grade 6. Smokey and I met in high school form four and I was already making music but nobody really knew. I’ve always been curious in how music is made and I would listen to all sorts of music: classical, jazz and even deep house. So when I got the chance to get into music, I was more fascinated by the production side than anything. And for the longest time, in the past two years, I was the only one between us two who was doing the producing, but Smokey’s been learning along the way. And we really enjoyed that process and we fell in love with it. At one point in time, we even started enjoying producing more than writing.
Temnotfo: Why birth though? I’m interested in knowing the story behind the name of the EP.
Wigo: This project was actually supposed to drop 2016. It had a lot of different songs which had a completely different sound then than now. We have had the term birth since we started music, imagine. Because we felt like it represented the opportunity for something new to exist. We really see ourselves as a new breed of artists. A new breed of creative energy that’s about to hit the market. Our sound is very different, it’s very pure. It’s a blend of a lot of different influences around the way we grew up. Birth also meant our first baby. Our first creation. That’s how much we really value our craft. It just means a new beginning.
Temnotfo: What does Birth mean to ya’ll?
Wigo: This EP is everything that we are counting on for our lives to be the way we imagine them. So everything we have is based on this project. Our dreams are very huge. We are aiming very high. We are aiming for international standards, hence the type of sound that we make. We feel like there’s a lot we want to communicate with this project.
Temnotfo: How long have you been working on it?
Wigo: To be honest with you, it feels like our whole lives were leading towards the creation of this project. We started making music three years ago but this EP documents everything we have been through growing up. Like I said, we really almost dropped this EP long ago, but it had different music. We made so many songs and had to filter a whole lot of them out and it hurt. It really hurt because they were amazing. And even still, we have a lot of songs right now but they aren’t on this project. Some songs we made three weeks ago, some three months ago, others the beat is two years old. It doesn’t mean they aren’t good, it’s just that the type of message and impact we wanted to create didn’t match some of the songs so they had to be removed from the project. But we actually recorded this in a space of three weeks.
Temnotfo: What is the sound of this body of work? What should we expect to hear?
Wigo: I don’t really want to spoil the whole thing. But id’ say the sound of the project is very musical. So people should expect songs that will be very emotionally demanding. It’s a very deep project. It’s not really mainstream rap or pop, or anything you’ve ever heard.It’s a blend of all the experiences we have been through. Everyone can relate to it though.
Temnotfo: Which song on the EP did you most enjoy making?
Wigo: Ahh, damn. The ones we enjoyed making the most were Intro, SOS, real one, blessings, city of Gold with Foo, Broke Girls, okay, Don’t go, Palm trees, night mode, Ten times more with Timbs, Pop, God’s grace,African woman with L.O, All I had, Where are you now. We enjoyed making all of the songs on the EP. Most of them demanded emotional attachment. We had to dig deep into our emotions. While some were a vibe and some demanded a lot of consciousness. It’s unbelievable that we actually pulled it off. Yeah, we recorded the verses to palm trees late though so that was kind of challenging. Cause we felt like we were getting tired of the song, and as soon as we recorded them we were like ”Damn, this song’s a hit” and we fell in love with it all over again, Then Pop was the last song we recorded. Oh and Ten Times more was such a vibe. We enjoyed the energy in the Studio. Timbs is really talented and that was great to witness.
Temnotfo: Why May 30th?
Wigo: We actually had a meeting. We wanted to drop the EP on the 8th of June but then we settled on the 30th of May because of certain commitments we want to venture into and plan out. We had to drop it early so we can do everything that we want to do this year. Plus, its winter. And this project has the right sounds to keep you warm. Just plug in your headsets and listen to some great music.
Temnotfo: What are your intentions with it? The EP of course?
Wigo: We really want people to just see the whole picture of the type of people we are. We want people to see that we can make great music. We want them to hear us out and give us a chance. We are going to shoot a lot of music videos and push it promotionally. We really want this project to go Platinum. We want it to reach maximum levels worldwide. We are going to put all the energy we have into this.
Temnotfo: I love the cover art. What’s the concept with it? Matching jackets and all.
Wigo: We had a shoot with Sean a week before we dropped this artwork. He is an amazing photographer. So he shot these pictures of us and the next day when we saw them, we knew that this would be for the project. So Sakhile Nkambule worked on the edits for the artwork. We felt we had to show our faces. Obviously there’s a whole lot of ideas we had but we felt that this was the best because it represented what we wanted to be seen as. We wanted people to know who we are. It’s our first project. We really loved the pictures. The jackets were just sticking to the theme. The red, black and white. But ya’ll will see it at the launch. The visuals and presentation will come together then, but for now, people will just have to wait and see.
Temnotfo: Now tell me how we can access the EP tomorrow?
Wigo: People right now can place their orders. The EP will not be available on any free downloading sites. No Sound Cloud, no audio mac, no data file host, no YouTube. The project will only be on iTunes, Tidal, Spotify and if you can’t place it from there you can call or whatsapp 78053021/78511224 or email SmokeyAndWigo at email@example.com to place an order. There’s both a hard and soft copy available, all at E100. And the purchase comes with lyrics, photo shoot sleeze and a lot of cool interesting stuff and a lot of surprises that have to do with the launch that is yet to be announced. But yeah, no free downloads so do support and buy.
With just one day to go before Birth drops, the hype is on overload. May 30th will mark the beginning of a new Era, in not only the musical journey of SmokeyAndWigo but the music industry of this country as a whole. Their careers are taking off and their stipulated destination is right at the top. With the hunger and drive these two share and the authenticity they put into their creativity, it won’t be long before the rest of the world gets to witness their rise too. My thoughts? May we all celebrate the year of SmokeyAndWigo. After tomorrow, they will have earned it. Long live good music, long live.
Now stop reading and go place your orders.