Inside The Local Hip Hop Scene via The Sobering Podcast
Over the past three years, The Sobering has cemented its place as a reliable and insightful space to learn about – and hear hot takes and considered appraisals of – South African Hip Hop. Hosted by three staunch heads namely Kitso Moremi, Kabelo Moremi aka Lil Frat and Javas Skolo, the podcast either puts a guest on the hot seat or sees the trio commenting on recent Hip Hop events, releases and other happenings.
Rappers Stogie T, Zubz, Reason and Ginger Trill, ex-editor of Hype magazine Fred Mercury, and radio personality Lootlove, are among the prominent names who have gotten in front of a studio mic for an interview with the trio.
“Me and Kitso were at a party,” says Javas Skolo, giving the story of how the podcast started in 2015, “and we were arguing about Nas’ ‘Ether’ and Jay-Z’s ‘Takeover’. And I’ve always wanted to do a podcast, so I thought this guy is cool, maybe we can do this. When we started it, Kabelo (Lil Frat) happened to be in the studio and didn’t want to leave, so we gave him a microphone.”
Kitso, who’s a sound engineer, has access to a professional studio, where the podcast is recorded. Lil Frat used to be a campus radio host, while Javas is a producer for some mainstream radio stations, so the foundation of the show has been about pooling their skills and resources.
Listen to The Sobering:
What makes The Sobering a compelling listen is the knowledgeable subjectivity of the hosts – they don’t hold back their opinions about anything or anyone in South African Hip Hop. Their coverage manages to straddle both mainstream and niche areas of Hip Hop – no easy feat in a fast-growing and polarising Hip Hop landscape, such as ours.
“We are rap nerds,” says Lil Frat. “We consume this content on a fan level, and nobody critiques better than a fan.”
“These people who are employed to critique, they’re not about it. And the thing about us is that we are about it, which is why people gravitate towards our platform.”
The Sobering has a niche following, just like South African Hip Hop had just a few years ago. Podcasts aren’t big in South Africa. Hip Hop podcasts are, as Kitso says, a niche within a niche – which is a far cry from what the podcast scene is like in, for example, the States. When US rapper and commentator Joe Budden, in 2017, was rumoured to have signed a $5 million deal for his podcast, it wasn’t unexpected. He later debunked the rumoured amount, but the fact remains, podcasts are a big deal in the US.
Most major publishing spaces, including the New York Times and Rolling Stone, have dabbled in podcasting in a big way. Added to that, those big players aren’t dominating the space like they do with written coverage, with 1000s of other small independent podcasts getting regular large volume downloads on every variety of every topic under the sun. Hip Hop podcasts there rake in thousands of downloads and have become important platforms for having crucial conversations around the culture.
Seeing the gap in South Africa, Kitso, Javas and Lil Frat were convinced people would jump at their podcast. “From the beginning, I was hyped up,” says Javas. “I thought it would be the biggest thing ever.” Things haven’t gone as smoothly as the trio had hoped. “A couple months later, we had a talk and said we have to make peace with the fact that we might eat from this, but we are not the ones that are gonna eat the most, it’s possibly the ones that are gonna come after us.”
Kabelo Moremi aka Lil Frat
Some other early movers in podcasting in SA have since died out, given the slow uptake of the medium in SA – mostly high data costs and secondarily, lack of awareness.
That lack of awareness of the medium in SA (for now), also means that artists aren’t always willing to sit down with the trio.
They’re working to change that, but it’s not always easy. “Every other medium that we can use to get to the masses properly, is a dying medium,” says Kitso making reference to traditional media. They credit the website Slikour On Life for always showing them love and sharing their podcast.
Platforms like The Sobering are necessary – critique and insight from individuals who are clued up about Hip Hop are few and far between – and South African Hip Hop doesn’t generally have a well-documented history or archive.
In 2018, things are slowly changing, however. There’s an influx of YouTubers and bloggers who are devoting a huge amount of their time in documenting localised Hip Hop. Some artists are even creating their own archives with personal photographers and videographers capturing their careers for posterity – and hype.
“But I don’t think any importance is put behind it,” comments Kitso on the shortsightedness of both artists and documenters alike. “Everything in South Africa has a fast food type mentality behind it,” he says. “Nobody is like ‘we are making something that 20 years from now will be so important.’ So it’s not where it should be, but it’s getting there, especially with the available technology. I see a lot of kids at shows with cameras. I don’t see the footage, though, but in 20 years time, I don’t know where that footage is gonna be.”
The three guys have bigger aspirations than just hosting a podcast. Alongside growing numbers for the podcast, they plan to create a network of platforms that document youth culture beyond Hip Hop – the way Complex Media does it.
In the meantime, however, those in the know will eagerly anticipate an episode from the hardworking, passionate team every month – and watch it grow into it’s full potential.
Listen to The Sobering on Soundcloud, and find them on Facebook and Twitter.
Article produced exclusively for The Jameson INDIE Channel by Platform Magazine Content Network.