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Spoken Turd

Spoken Turd

by Lindokuhle Nkosi, illustration by Rico / 11.05.2011

A poet shuffles onstage with fake reluctance. Swooning happens, understandably, as the hot new-age Shakespeare flips through his Moleskine notebook, searching for a piece. The excited crowd shout titles at him, making requests. He clears his throat to quiet us and begins to read. Girls (his aspirant ‘star’ fuckers) gush into their organic hemp panties as he recites lines about “her hair in the moonlight” and “his finger tips slowly tracing his love down her spine”. Someone shoot me please.

No such luck in this crowd of irie-dreadlocked brothers and sisters. Peace-lovers all. Instead of soaking up the groovy Pan-Africanist feel-good unity thing, I tried to figure out whether the alarming groin bulge on said poet was as deceptive as his practiced demeanour. Under the denim, I imagined, a penis as flaccid as his words! Getting meaner, I wondered, after making his groupies wet with lyrical foreplay, he whisks them off to his studio in the cool part of Braamfontein (where its safe for white people) and prematurely ejaculates in their eyes. Yep, that’s what this poetry night has felt like. An intellectual eye-squirt.

Hi my name is Linda and I’m a hypocrite. I attend poetry sessions and nurse a warm Hunters Dry at the back while rolling my eyes and gagging at the pseudo-deepness. The sugary candyfloss lightness of uninspired language. What the fuck is Spoken Word?

Poetry, that impotent solace of the self-absorbed, thanks to the energizing rise of hip hop and rap’s reliance on verbal rhymes, has leapt from A5 notebooks onto countless live stages the world over. Popularised in the late 80’s with the materialisation of poetry slams (a formative pillar of hip hop), poetry readings are a very mainstream aspect of global pop culture. A far cry from the hipster Beat movement of the 50’s (with Ginsberg’s era-defining Howl) which itself picked up on what Dadaists, Concrete Poets and Surrealists had explored in the early 20th Century: the immediacy of poetry as performance. The Beats were predominantly white bohemians while Spoken Word entrenched itself in the ghettos of black America on the back of popular shows like HBO’s Def Poetry Jam.

I don’t exactly hate Spoken Word. What I don’t like is the whole scenester aspect as it plays out in big South African cities. The predictability of elaborately wrapped turbans. Burning incense trying to mask the heady smell of weed. Regurgitated ideas and counterfeit originality. The fact that the poetry is no longer about the words but how long your dreadlocks are and how many Zambuck tins are attached to the hem of your ankle-length, recycled skirt.

How “deep and real” you look. Whether or not you use the right in-group catch-phrases, imagery and tropes: Azania, African maiden thighs parting, capitalist fucks versus some vague unexamined communism. What happened to the words man? We’ve regressed from the inherent beauty of poetic language. The quiet surprise of an unexpected juxtaposition. Gone is rhythmic relevance and lyrical liquidity. Words no longer shout, poets do.

So I’m not exactly doing cartwheels at the prospect of another vintage clothing sale/poetry reading. By now it feels about as authentic as clothes cut and dyed to look vintage. As legit as the Gil Scott Heron poem the orator onstage is trying to pass off as his own. As superficial as dinner party concern for the less-fortunate. Romanticising poverty only soothes our own guilt. I’m bored of the disingenuous sentimentality, but mostly, I’m offended by the elementary standard of it all. Playground poetry passed off as paradigm-shifting epiphanies. I’m not even looking to learn something new; I just want to hear something good, because frankly, poetry doesn’t have to be elaborate to be emotive. Poignancy lies in the bareness and simplicity of the writing – but if you’re not educating or entertaining, what the hell are we watching you read your poetry for? Actually, I do hate Spoken Word.

*Illustration © Rico.

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  1. Phumlani says:


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  2. der moderator says:

    Yes, very nice. We need more cultural journalism of this ilk. Unashamedly opinionated with eloquent substance to back up the stance.

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  3. indigo says:


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  4. montle says:


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  5. Libby says:

    And all rap is Drake. There is an authentic side to every subculture which remains less popular, or unpopular. For your piece to complete itself as the – admittedly – justified and insightful criticism it is, you ought to acknowledge the intelligent, relevant individuals active in our Spoken Word community. If you aren’t aware of this side of it, perhaps you aren’t entitled to publicly scorn Spoken Word just yet. It’s not all wanking, headwraps, generic rhyme schemes and Azania, Azania, Azania. The community of selectively aware cynics are as farcical.

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  6. Phumlani says:

    Libby I don’t think she has generalised the entire spoken word sub-culuture.

    “I don’t exactly hate Spoken Word. What I don’t like is the whole scenester aspect as it plays out in big South African cities. The predictability of elaborately wrapped turbans. Burning incense trying to mask the heady smell of weed. Regurgitated ideas and counterfeit originality. The fact that the poetry is no longer about the words but how long your dreadlocks are and how many Zambuck tins are attached to the hem of your ankle-length, recycled skirt.”

    Like you said “There is an authentic side to every subculture.” She is obviously not commenting on this side, but making fun of the part of it that’s waiting to be ripped apart.

    “Gone is rhythmic relevance and lyrical liquidity. Words no longer shout, poets do.” maybe she’s being prematurely nostalgic, I don’t know school me maybe…

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  7. Gamado says:

    Spot on. The fakery of these ‘poets’ is enough to make you want to throw up a little in your mouth with each overwrought and swooned line. With dipping and rising cadence stolen from so many Nuyorican examples, this cafe consumerism dressed as consciousness is as shamelessly plagiaristic as our ragga rappers and kwaito hipstars.

    Why – please, god, tell me why – are we still aping American accents and postures? Are our own cultural designs and styles still not good enough for us? Have we – shit I think I’m just about to answer my own question – swallowed and regurgitated the Western condescension of all things African?

    Poetry? Pfff. These ‘poets’ add flames to the argument that those who spew spoken word can’t handle their prose.

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  8. Libby says:

    Fair enough, you’re right. But geez there’s a lot of that on this site- the “making fun of the part of it that’s waiting to be ripped apart.”

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  9. Nick Frost says:

    Nice title, very punny – very clever, but I think every Mahala article should start with the phrase “We Hate Hipsters Who: “.

    Mahala’s articles aren’t informative, engaging and relevant; instead they are cynical, nit picky and self-indulgent – usually taking a tangent towards the writer’s impressive ability to describe every day occurrences using the biggest, most juicy words available.

    So what is Linda saying in this piece? Let’s highlight the prominent points in this article:

    – 1st Paragraph: In the first sentence she implies that the poet is faking reluctance – an immediate judgement call that is unfounded. Fair enough if she’s speaking hypothetically – but then why all the hate? Basically, we can sum the first paragraph up as: Hipster poets make hipster girls horny. This makes me angry.

    – 2nd Paragraph: Wow. Where to start. Why she was staring at the poet’s penis instead of listening to his words escapes me. Does she go stripclubs for the decor? Nice comparison between his penis and his words though – describing them both as flaccid. Skillful word-smithery there. But that’s easy. This article is like the writer’s vagina; a black hole.

    – 3rd Paragraph: A little introduction. Nothing of importance here, except the fact that the writer likes cheap cider. Let’s hope her taste in beverages doesn’t reflect her taste in poetry.

    – 4th Paragraph: here we have a nice collection of information, but still enough personal opinion to know that the writer doesn’t think very much of poets (“that impotent solace of the self-absorbed”) which begs the question: why write about it?

    – 5th Paragraph: Here we reach the crux of the article. The fact that Linda DOESN’T hate poetry. She actually just hates hipsters (hence, my first comment).

    – 6th Paragraph: here she reinforces her hatred of the hipster kids and their cool jargon. “The quiet surprise of an unexpected juxtaposition.” Jesus, if her head was any more up her own ass she would be a juxtaposition herself.

    – 7th Paragraph: I think this sentence “Poignancy lies in the bareness and simplicity of the writing – but if you’re not educating or entertaining, what the hell are we watching you read your poetry for?” may be the best part of this piece, but oh so ironic. Maybe Mahala should take some of that advice to heart. To be fair, the articles are always entertaining – but the whole “I’m angry about hipsters/something popular/the world/my life, spin is getting old – for me at least.

    – She ends off with a line that turns the article into one indecisive, overindulgent rant “Actually I do hate the spoken word”.

    Glad we cleared that up.

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  10. Happy says:

    Lets say that there’s the biggest ever show in South Africa, with everybody’s favourite artists included in the line-up. The booze is cheap, the venue is amazing, the sound is great, 60 000 people are having the best time ever.

    A Mahala writer would moan about people who sit on each others shoulders.

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  11. Piss artist. says:

    Good piece Linda, fuck what the critics say.
    I liked it, true to it’s words. Cape Town does tend to cultivate a sense of pretentiousness and i think that’s what she’s trying to get at, Nick Frost.
    Although i cannot vouch for this event, she certainly paints the picture well.
    A group of rich fucks who are bored with their lives and spending daddy’s money.
    Their talents in fashion or design cease to exist so they attempt the next best thing in order to fit into the scene. They decide to go “deep” and try poetry.

    It’s not cliche as such, and poetry can be beautiful in some instances but as said, how is it spoken from the heart if it’s unoriginal? We are, after all, all individuals and poetry portrayed in this piece, or at least the genre and target audience somewhat resembles the opposite of this as if they’re missing the point of what poetry is. Well that’s my deduction from the article at-least.

    Have a flaccid day my lovelies.

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  12. Thishiwe says:

    Such a binary people; these mahala readers.

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  13. Nick Frost says:

    @Piss Artist – Everything is unoriginal. Their are only new takes on old things. And Cape Town doesn’t cultivate anything, it’s just a place. It’s people/articles like this that cultivate things – in this case, a sense of negativity about local culture. Which is almost worse than any sense of pretentiousness doing the rounds. You decide.

    If the poetry was shit, tell us why it was shit – don’t try scrape your justification off on the participants clothes and lifestyle choice. What did he/she say? Why was it unoriginal/derived? How old were they? Where are they from? Do a little research for God’s sake. You can’t just launch into a supposedly informative article using only your own knowledge, opinion and sexual metaphors as means of justifying everything you say.

    Once again @Piss Artist, you say ” I liked it, true to it’s words.” Everythingwill be true to its words if it is written on a basis of one person’s biased opinion.

    And Thishiwe? “Binary people”? I can’t fathom your meaning? If you mean that Mahala readers are a group that is divided down the center with regards to views and opinions… Congratulations, you’ve just won the title of Captain Obvious.

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  14. Ewald says:

    Blanket acceptance is the pathway to mediocrity. @Nick_Frost surely there are things that you too are critical of? Or do you live with blinkers on?

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  15. Nick Frost says:

    Ewald, I wasn’t targeting her critique. I was targeting her lack of… well… anything else.

    Also, a blog is a form of social media. Social media came into existence as a way for people to share relevant information, opinions and thoughts. Basically, it’s goal being to spread good content. For the same reason that there is no ‘Dislike’ option on Facebook (because spreading bad content/thoughts/opinions would be irrelevant – and possibly detrimental – to the human race’s progress) I choose to write about things that excite and interest me. When I do write a critique on something, I try to justify it using external references, opinions and examples.

    So no, I don’t live with blinkers on. Maybe microscopes though.

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  16. nissim says:

    Despite Nick’s diatribe, I like.
    Like a mandala, we can all take different stuff from this piece.
    My take-out:
    Great poets need to take great chances.
    There’s no satori in safety.
    And the greatest chance an artist can take is to be truly original.
    The piece works for me.
    Sure, it’s a bit self-conscious and dis-sentful – much like the “poets” being villified – but it has flow, focus, heart, and some nice turns of phrase.
    (Could do with a few more expletives to give it hipster credence, though)

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  17. Nick Frost says:

    Diatribe? I’m not bitter? But you liked the article, so you obviously can’t pick up on bitterness very well.

    That being said, I agree with you totally on most of your points. But:

    – How would you know there weren’t great chances being taken? There was nothing written about any real poetry in this entire piece.

    – No satori in safety? Explain Buddhism then.

    – Original ideas are extremely hard to come by. In fact, I believe the concept is dead. Today, their is only original delivery. As far as guilty parties in that regard are concerned, I’d say Linda can take the cake and eat it.

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  18. Phumlani says:

    Nick you seem to pack a mighty punch…

    But should we not be able to call spades, spades and not digging instruments? By this I mean that although the overriding theme of the article is negative and dissuasive of the kind of slam poetry session she attended, she does validate her reasons and opinions.

    Mahala has the angle of personal journalism, it’s a platform for writers to put forth their work and into a public for criticism. Which fair enough are a giving.

    What I really don’t understand, for someone who speaks of external references and opinions is why you would only want to read only positive reviews, that would in MY opinion leave a lot of what already is in this country mediocre and lax.

    The like button on Facebook is for Facebook users, while the kif or kak buttons are for Mahala readers. If you find it that nauseating why do you keep coming back?

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  19. dylan says:

    Nick, Nick, Nick

    ” because spreading bad content/thoughts/opinions would be irrelevant – and possibly detrimental – to the human race’s progress) ”

    Don’t play yourself like that.

    Its embarrassing.

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  20. nissim says:

    andy, please pass the mike to Nick. seems like he has something really important to say to us. (I just can’t make out what it is)

    dear lord, may I never get so jaded, trite, condescending and self-absorbed to say shit like “I believe the concept (of original ideas) is dead”. (even on suicide tuesdays)

    get a life dude, or a new reading list.

    if you can’t find anything original to read, see, think or do in this age of infinite access, you have only yourself to blame.

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  21. Nick Frost says:

    Dylan, Dylan, Dylan: I’ll deal with you first because it’ll be quick.

    Your inability to understand context is matched only by your inability to use quotation marks and apostrophes correctly. For future reference it’s ‘It’s’ because IT IS ‘it is’ with a submission of the letter ‘i’. Now go practice, before you “play yourself like that again”.

    Phumalani, thanks! You have good points.

    But I think my point is being glanced or altogether missed. I don’t ONLY want to read positive reviews (by the way, was this piece a review… of what exactly? See my point?) but if I read something bad, I’d like to know WHY the author thought it was bad. Is that so strange?

    If someone told you that they hated you, wouldn’t you want to know why? Or if they hated a film? To say “I do hate the spoken word” is crazy without justification.

    And hating hipsters does not qualify as justification.

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  22. Nick Frost says:


    Who’s Mike?

    Or do you mean mic, as in microphone.

    The “original” literature that you are so familiar with seems to be leaving some bad habits.

    I am Nick’s protruding tongue.

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  23. dylan says:

    Hahah the fakt of the mater is that even if do”nt use punctuation Correctly ,

    you have a ignorant view on what the internets purpose is, i mean please “Basically, it’s goal being to spread good content”, what the fuck just think about that statement

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  24. Nick Frost says:

    Social media’s purpose, not the Internet as a whole.

    Thanks for your uninformed opinion. I am thinking about the statement that you said I should think about. Still thinking about it.

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  25. Lindokushle says:

    @Nick, as your dissection has been, you have still managed to blanket it as a general hatred for hipsterism ( which is not one big, general subculture).

    Perhaps in your attempt to defend the sanctity of coolness, you have misunderstood what the piece is actually about: Spoken Word.

    The poet in the piece is not a fictional character, neither was this event. They take place every fortnight at Bassline in Newtown( Research and information:check). So the apparent forced reluctance was evidenced, not inferred, thus a fair eye-witness description of an actual occurrence. If you’re offended by the written account, you imagine how painful it was to actually be there. Hipsters don’t make girls horny, a goodlooking “poet of the stage” kind; yes.

    Why the penis and not the words? Because his semi was the only form of excitement to be had the whole night, still not stirring enough to invite him into my black hole. Yes ,I am black, but my hole, like every other females is pink. (Research Nick)

    One can only assume that you don’t actually attend Poetry gigs, because as much as you try to discredit the piece , you offer nothing to show that you actually familiar with the Spoken Word movement to contradict anything I have said.

    I have no problem with hipsters, but you would thinking that at Spoken Word gatherings; the actual words would play a pivotal role.

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  26. Nick Frost says:

    Finally! A match!

    Linda, I take all of what I’ve said back. Now that I know the details behind the piece, I can put it in context and enjoy what you’ve written – while also learning something new.

    That’s all I wanted. Note: review in context = Kiff. Review out of context = Kak.

    And all in time for lunch. Later!

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  27. Phumlani says:

    🙂 all’s well that end’s well.

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  28. Roger Young says:

    Not for the unnamed poet.

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  29. Brian Green says:

    Anyone else think that Lebo Mashile is a bit crap, and over-hyped by SABC 1?

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  30. Tim says:

    Spoken word.
    It’s so absurd. It Hurts.
    Intellectual eye-squirts.
    Semen seeping deep in: through the tear duct;
    Glue the eyelids shut while the dumb fuck struts.
    Back and forth across the stage.
    Eyes dart across the page;
    semi strains against it’s cloth cage…
    maaaaj-or disappointment.
    But everyone’s so heavily jointed;
    They don’t notice, that the poet’s,
    feeding in to their sense of what it’s meant to be;
    of their past symbols of spoken word
    That they miss the present evidently
    and feed into the absurd.

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  31. Nick Frost says:

    Tim, good man!

    I guess poetry is also a means of getting a point across ambiguously. That way, people who don’t understand it can’t get pissed off, people who do understand it appreciate it – and people who don’t understand it and criticize regardless, end up looking like fools.

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  32. lindokushle says:

    @Tim, if only you were on the stage that night…

    Nicely done

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  33. nissim says:

    @ Nick

    FYI, I asked The Cloud what the proper abbreviation for microphone is – mic or mike?

    Answer: “Both are common usage.

    “Mike” was first reported used in 1927. The first usage of “mic” is thought to be 1961.

    It’s believed “mic” has gained popularity because it is the common abbreviation on sound boards.

    Common complaints against mic are that it reads like “Mick”, and it breaks normal grammar usage (a long “i” with a hard “c” sound sould be spelled: “ike”) . Other abbreviations (coke, nuke, bike) virtually always are spelled to reflect the intended pronunciation. Also, conjugations of “mic” are awkward. (although the proper conjugations are miked and miking).

    There are a number of web sites and internet threads that encourage the use of mike over mic for these reasons.

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  34. Anonymous says:

    Tisk, tisk.(http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_is_the_proper_abbreviation_for_microphone_mic_or_mike)

    For someone who’s so pro-originality you copy/paste very well.

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  35. Nick Frost says:

    Anonymous was me.

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  36. nissim says:

    yissus, but you’re obtuse.
    of course I copied and pasted it – for reference not edification. that’s why I started off by saying “I asked the cloud” and progressed with quotation marks.
    BTW “asked The Cloud” is my original way of saying “I looked it up online”. (So much for “originality being dead”, Dodo)

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  37. fobias tunke says:

    Fuck, this piece is excellent.

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  38. Nick Frost says:

    Let it go Nissim. Just let it go.

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  39. nissim says:

    @Nick – you jibe without accepting retorts
    you have been an unworthy and dour sparring partner

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  40. Nick Frost says:

    Cry me a river. Just read every single other Mahala piece’s comment thread. It’s got to end somewhere.

    How exactly would you like me to ‘accept’ your retort? The same way you’ve “accepted” mine? In that case I’ve been playing ball the right way.

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  41. Nick Frost says:

    I got hoes like a young ass bitch
    I could fuck any broad
    Cuz I’m that fuckin rich
    I could put her on a mount
    And I’d make her suck my dick
    This is young Based-God, I’m the Pretty Boy bitch

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  42. Nick Frost says:

    Poem from 2009..

    Turn my swag on cuz I’m so narley
    Young Based-God and I’m shuttin down the party
    Bitches suck my nuts cuz I look like a prophet
    Beggin me to fuck her, I told that bitch “Stop it.”
    I’m so pretty you can’t even touch me
    VIP hoes, dog you can’t even hug me
    Young Based-God running bitches like rugby
    Young Based-God I fuck her face like er husband

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  43. nissin says:

    That’s not Nick Frost. I’m not an idiot.

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  44. nissim says:

    that’s not nissim.

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  45. Piss artist. says:

    Here is a poem.
    Nick, Nick, you seem like a prick
    Is this because of your flaccid dick?
    Your virginal rhymes,
    are they from your household chimes?
    Or do you just roll to stay away from new times.
    Even though you seem a cool ass guy,
    I wonder what you pay for when you naai.


    Stay Frosty, Eat your Cornflakes.

    (Referencing an inner being of the former self.-not that eating one’s soul is considered orderly in these contexts)

    Can i get a noddy badge now? See? I can also write poetry.
    i started today.
    P O E T R it’s coming along rather nicely.


    and now i am going to get a reply from Nicky boy kakking out aaaaallll the Mahala commentors, or atleast, just me just to prove that you are right and i am wrong to compensate for your oh so glorious and dumbfounding poems, prejudices, hate and counter-culture, Justice but this riveting, but alas, i’m afraid i have research to do. So check you “lil rappers lata!”

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  46. Andy says:

    I’m still stuck on “black hole”

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  47. Andy says:

    KAPOW! we have a winner

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  48. mega-douche says:

    While this is not the popular view here, I’m sided with Nick Frost on this one. His points relating to quantified and explained criticisms hold water. In the long run, writers who don’t shed some light on why something is shit/good are just contributing to the noise that is the explosion of voices in modern times.

    Good breakdown from Nick @May 11, 2011 at 9:48 am.

    Unless there is light poured in, i imagine all vag to be black.

    I take mic. Mike seems like a bloke’s name.

    Great comments section on this one. Good interpersonal mud. Good venom. And good pettiness. Loved the volleys guys, keep it up!

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  49. nissim says:

    i reckon mahala should host a party and invite all regular commentors. the trick would be to guess who the real people are behind the PSEUDOnyms. they can get shit sponsored by the advertisers, and the Mahala writers can play spot the hipster.

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  50. DeadEd. says:

    great entertainment, i’m never going to a gig again, definitely not a spoken word one that’s for sure… just gonna read Mahala all day and all night

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  51. StMike says:

    I just want to thank everyone for their contributions. The writer, the critics, the fans, the critics of the fans and the fans of the critics. You have all made my day a little bit more bearable.

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  52. nissim says:

    @ St Mike – dude, this is nothing – you should have seen the furore that followed Montle’s take on AfrikaBurn – a freakier freak show than anything he saw (or didn’t see) in the dessert.

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