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League of Shadows

Creeping in the Shadows

by Rob Cockcroft / Illustration by Luis Tolosana / 08.09.2011

Whether Cape Town’s infamous League of Shadows are rocking a ghetto park jam or opening up for heavy hitters like Ras Kass they definitely keep crowds aflame with their brand of ominous lyrical sorcery.

The emcee’s kinda emcees, they fiercely guard the gates of this subterranean hiphop movement which is as much about having the sickest rhyme flow as swag is to a wack rapper like Da L.E.S.

Recently L.O.S have put out a rugged, low-budget video filmed at Marcus Garvey camp in Phillipi and have slowed the tempo down with a beat by Saturn to school us on some Rasta tip. We got together with members Fungus Mutated Lung, Gambeno and Garlic Brown (AKA Vulgar Tongue) to find out what lurks in the minds of this off-beat Kaapse hip hop trio.

Mahala: When you say “too many dreadlocks not enough Rasta, Rastafari’s not about smoking ganja” are you being critical of some rastas?

Garlic: That statement was made to break down all stereotypes that go with dreadlocks. Rasta, for me, is a divine conception of the heart and the dreadlock is just a reflection, a manifestation of what’s inside. Also, certain brothers are going out there pretending to be Rasta and wearing the lions mane in vain. They may have their red, gold and green on but they’re smoking cigarettes or they got some alchohol. Its all good man, you can do those things even with your dreadlocks but don’t pretend to be Rasta.

Gambeno: What I got from that hook is; we see the Rastas in our ghetto man, they just like, “blessed king” en wat wat but they don’t mean it. They’re just a bunch of pypkoppe rooking out of Black Label bottles. Maak ‘n mix, maak ‘n pyp, maakie stop vol. That’s just how they are man. They just also using it for a front to smoke a lot of dagga everyday. It’s a pretense. Me, I’m not Rasta but I’m not gonna portray it and fake it. That’s not who I am.

Do you cats hold a certain sound sacred, this video has got that very 90s boom-bap feel to it?

Garlic: As the League there’s a certain sound that we have but we’re not just a crew we’re also individuals, as individuals we feel different tracks. Whatever inspires us to the point where we wanna actually spark a cypher on that beat or we wanna grab a pen and a pad and just write something down in the moment. It’s all about that. Basically connecting to that frequency that comes through on the music. As an emcee there’s a certain beat that inspires me to write, I can’t explain it, only when I hear it. It will actually make me feel like, yo, I wanna kill this beat, strangle it or maybe I just wanna be one with this beat ‘cos I just feel it so much, it feels familiar, it feels like the soundtrack to my life. It makes me feel like this is the story I wanna tell on this beat.

Gambeno: Fuck, I’m not gonna lam it out and listen to Soulja Boy and T-Pain and all that kak because it’s not what inspires me. It goes with the time, right, but it’s not real man. That shit that they had in the 90s, that was the struggle. That is hip hop. Like when I hear a fucken ill, mad jazzy beat. You know Saturn? He makes the ill shit. And in terms of going with the times, fuck, we’ve jumped on stage at dubstep parties. Rubadub. If there’s a dubstep beat playing we gonna freestyle on that shit. It just shows versatility.

League Of Shadows

League of Shadows; the imagery the name and the lyrics are all very dark and ominous, what kind of place is that coming from?

Garlic: As Bob Marley says all we have is songs of redemption. We come from very dark places, when the Europeans first came here to Africa they never had a name for it, the only name they created was the Dark Continent because what dem did sight through their eyes was darkness. But the darkness also created the ignorance and that created a lot of things amongst our people.

Fungus: We’ve been waiting in the shadows for more than a decade already, everybody knows us, has seen us, they pass us everyday but basically we’re just in the shadows. That’s where we operate from, not where we choose to be. That’s basically where society places us. We’re in the position of the underdog but it’s cool because people don’t really see it coming when you’re underneath. Its froggy style, it’s like doggy style with a bit more bounce from the back so you don’t see it coming, excuse the pun.

Gambeno: I come from a line of mad drug addicts, from that shit I just ended up focusing more of my time on writing rhymes. And with the dark comes the light, so we are good people all in all, but we have a dark side to us and that comes through in our rhymes and you’ll find there is still a consciousness within it.

Before gigs you cats are freestyling, still hitting up rap battles (Fungus won last year’s Sprite Lyrical Warfare). How important do you think it is for the culture?

Fungus: Us, being the generals, have to test the cats. Just be like, yo, fuck, spit your shit! Let me hear your shit. If these cats are sounding shaky you must be like, yo dude, sit down for a moment smoke more of the blunt. You go chill over there, we gonna keep sharpening. It’s all part of what we do. Our ritual before we get to the sacrifice, if you wanna call it that. That’s just from an emcee’s point of view. All that shit is really relevant.

Garlic: In life, man, we all have different eras, different ages. The golden age, silver age, the bronze age and I guess right now we’re living in the age of wackness, basically.

Gambeno: It’s fucken rusting now!

Garlic: Everybody’s just accepting wackness. The power of marketing has really shadowed the art in this time.

Do you only portray what’s real? Are you against that gimmick style?

Fungus: I don’t wanna only rhyme about the experiences I’ve had in life. I’d like to think I could listen to a story you tell me and go and rhyme about that shit. So I’m definitely gonna be broader than everything I’ve seen. But there’s obviously a certain dignity I’d like to have, like there’s certain things I won’t do. I guarantee you, at our next show, halfway through verse one, if I say, “yo Vulgar Tongue” and he drops his pants and everyone else just whips their cocks out and we film that shit we gonna get hits on Youtube but obviously that’s not the legacy you wanna leave, dude! We got some crazy shit at the moment and it’s not even a gimmick, just people we know. We got this one cat, Dj Sakkie de Kock. He’s gonna be onboard at a lot of our shows and there’s a couple of characters that we’re working on. We might just be bringing a bit more because that’s what these people are doing, they’re just re-enacting shit that they see. They just don’t know that the shit that they acting is actually us, that’s our fucken culture that they’re taking and raping. Like that’s the original trash right here, cat. We like the bottom of the food chain, bushmen, you don’t get worse. That’s like the lowest. Like dude, we the owners of this land and we got fuckall, we not even in the constitution like the ANC won the big victory and we’re still living under trees.

You cats rap about anything from Rastafari to sneakers to being gam. How do you find that balance between the more conscious stuff and the more fuck-around, fun stuff? Do you think there will ever be a stage where you’ll become stricter and use this medium just for the message?

Gambeno: For the LOS anything goes. We mix light with darkness, we mix sadness with happiness. We’re on that level of lyricism where we can’t hold back anymore. When I used to write there would be a lot of things I would scratch out because I wasn’t ready to say that because I knew as an emcee, saying something projects a certain image. You plant a seed in peoples’ minds. As an emcee you always have to stand firm. You also have to learn to accept yourself for who you are and then you can be yourself.

Fungus: People must just accept. We’re not trying to impress some aya sitting in Delft. I’m just trying to have people hear my shit. Who likes it, likes it.

I noticed in your rhymes you don’t like Helen Zille very much. Why?

Garlic: As we know, Helen Zille, is this big icon to certain people because of the way that she works in society. She always just there to lend a helping hand to uplift communities, but what is the goodness behind what she is doing, I feel like it’s a curtain to cover something else up that’s happening behind the scene. I feel very uncertain about her place in society because of what she has done to one of the greatest African storytellers by the name of Credo Mutwa. She was also almost responsible for his death for writing a story upon that man. He is one of two spiritual guides left in Africa, an African shaman. I would even say he’s part of the League. In the spiritual realm.

Fungus: But also on the Zille tip you can’t respect somebody who says they are wanting to do good if they don’t acknowledge who the indigenous people of this place are. So what the fuck is she actually doing? Helping people that robbed our heritage. If you don’t acknowledge who is the original people of this place and give them the privileges that are owing to black people in this country, then you ain’t doing shit you just just passing the buck to the next person in line and when will it eventually get to us? Fuck, by the time it comes to us it’ll be like the apocalypse.


*Opening illustration © Luis Tolosana.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Of course that video has a 90’s boom bap feel to it. The beat is the instrumental of Company Flow’s 8 steps to perfection……

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  2. Anonymous says:

    Oh I see … the main feature video is half way down the article, oops my mistake, cool video….

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  3. grim says:

    nice article. no permision given for the los sketch. no one asks these daze. beg borrow stealth. a shame really. dope crew. hard to the core. where you at mavis?

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  4. Narique says:


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  5. Nero says:

    Credo’s website is pretty interesting…

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  6. poenbek says:

    credo be smoking alien foreskin!

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  7. zero says:

    @ poenbek, was that after the aliens molested him

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  8. danny brown says:

    are these guys just gonna rhyme in a cypher till they nearing 40 yrs?

    thats so underground bra!

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  9. quest says:

    @ danny brown. do artists have to make cash off their craft to be good at it? I don’t think so. How many commercial cats are turd nuggets?

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  10. Anonymous says:

    straight from the lions mouths.nice 1

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  11. Andy says:

    What did Helen Zille say about Credo Mutwa?

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  12. danny brown says:

    @ quest

    im did not saying anything about money.

    i suppose rap is their hobby then?

    thats cool. everyone needs a hobby.

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  13. pedro de pacas says:

    @ danny brown

    rap is more than a hobby for these mense … just cause they haven’t made it big doesn’t mean they haven’t tried.

    its not so easy when you live in the flats and dont the means to pump your shit in this age of internet marketing. all they have are their skills.

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  14. Danny brown says:

    @ pedro d pacas

    to make money off your craft you need fans. to get more fans, make free street mixtapes, give that shit away for free via the internet, which is also free to do. im sure someone knows someone that has a internet connection somewhere.

    get a buzz, post more free mixtapes, send them to people that run music blogs.

    then…once you have followers, make a tape to sell.

    i dont know man, really not that hard to do thesedays.

    anyways good luck to the brasse

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  15. Narique says:

    It is my belief that LOS is the most versatile underground crew around, and somewhere along the line they are going to get paid for it. Such is the ebb and flow of giving and taking, absorbing and reflecting. They are highly conscious beings – not helpless in the least, as some of these comments suggest.

    Hobby? Jou ma se hobby.

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  16. Anonymous says:

    google says that Credo Mutwa said “ We had all been supervisors in various municipality instalments, which were damaged during the unrest. We were all called before a judge in Pretoria. The judges name was Justice Celine. Celine wanted all of us to give him a clear report of what we had seen take place, and how the installations that we had been supervisors of, had been destroyed during the unrest. Many people were afraid of speaking at the Celine Enquiry, so we were promised that our names would remain anonymous. But, when this enquiry was on, I noticed reporters at the enquiry, in a place that they were not supposed to be. Amongst the reporters, was a white woman called Helen Zille. I spoke to the judge, answering his questions and then I said to the judge:

    “Protection for workers in Soweto is completely inadequate. Innocent workers are being beaten up, and sometimes killed by the rioting loons. Cant more protection be supplied to more of our people who are willing to work?”

    This journalist went on to say that I said that the army needed to be called into Soweto to quell the unrest. Here was a white woman, defying the ruling of the judge, breaking the law, with impunity almost. Many people testified saying worse things than I said, but only my name was betrayed. After that, my home was attacked by 500 or more school children. My wife was raped, my children were beaten. How they managed to escape, I do not know. I was stoned and stabbed many times, and when I was lying on the ground helpless, petrol was thrown over me, and that was when I knew fear, because we African people believe that not only is your body consumed by the flames, but that your soul is destroyed as well. We believe that, although a human being possesses an immortal soul with him or her, that soul can be destroyed by fire. How I escaped from that, I do not know. Something must have frightened these children, they all ran away and left me lying in my blood at the back of my house. Not a single one of the many neighbours I had, many of them I had helped with loans of money and gifts of food, not one of them moved to help me at that time. I managed to crawl to a municipality yard where I hid in a corrogated iron shack. There were people looking for me everywhere. Then someone found me and took me to one of my followers who was also a Sangoma, and she hid me under her bed until the police came to take me out of there. I was covered in wounds, and a broken knife was lodged in my body. After that, I hid in the back yard of a police station until my immediate superior (at the installment where Credo worked), a white gentleman, smuggled me out of Soweto, and took me to Natal (Now known as Kwa Zulu Natal), where I stayed for over a year recoving from my injuries. All that from one white journalist misquoting me in the newspapers. This shows how easy it is for the media to manipulate people. The enemies of human kind, have in the newspaper a devastating weapon, a weapon for which there is no answer. Through a newspaper, they can lash out at anyone, knowing that this victim can not fight back.”

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  17. Bradlox says:

    Just on a point of correction… the LOS is not a trio… More of a collage of different MC’s. The person writing this article needs to come correct… There are many members in the crew. Myself, the one called Apollo13 and Garlic came up with the name and the basic idea was to merge different MC’s with various styles… You’ll find other MC’s like Merciless Midus, Slew Dada, Bio-Hazard (Illogical Paradox), Gini Grindeth, Jon Doe and many more all forming part of this collective. Yeah the track only feature 3 of our members but that doesn’t make the crew a trio. The Dark Lords actually preceded the formation of the League of Shadows which consisted of me, Apollo 13, Garlic Brown now known as Vulgar Tongue, Loxinism and Merciless Midus. For example like a Soccer League that is made up from different soccer clubs the concept behind the LOS is pretty much the same… Headz will tell you what da deal is… At the time of the shooting of the video I was in Nam doing some studies… we were going to film another joint, but cats decided on that one cause those were the cats that were around… keeping the ball moving! At the time most people was into some happy clappy style of Hip Hop… Lets hold hands and make the world a better place! But there were all this other none sense happening that no one was talking about. LOS came to set this straight… LOS is for advanced listeners of this art form. Just a question for anyone who reads this… Do you know where the concept League of Shadows spawn from??

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  18. Bradlox says:

    And on the real… Big shouts out to DeFeat who made the illustration here above… not mentioned in the article… One needs to give props where it is due… You feeling me! Also mad shouts out to Raiko… Headz of State for life! Yo LOS has been in the shadows for a minute! But our works has entertained people for long time. No one remembers some of our members being the brains behind the Hip Hop Connected… before Artscape jacked the concept. Do any one remember one of the illest MC battles between Fungus and Gini Grindeth? yeah LOS is here to expose the puppetry behind our politics and how its really motivated by economic interest! Like the whole things about Helen Zille the reptilian! Yeah she got people in Houtbay to vote for her promising them everything they wanted to hear and what did she do next… she came in with her forces clothed as police (just like back in the Apartheid days) to evict people from their homes! Now can one just be mute about this! Come on yo! Back in Zille’s journalist days she put Credo Mutwa’s life in danger by misquoting him and fabricating some nonsense which got published! Credo is one of only two African History Bearers (‘Sanusi’s). Thats why we the LOS give respect to Credo and we brandish people like Zille as a reptilian! People need to realize that she has another agenda going… She also was saying some things like Rasta’s are shit-stirrers in the community! Rastafari is a liberation movement fighting against oppression! Now her henchmen is frisking every Rasta they see on the streets. How can we be mute about this like Silent Bob! Do anyone know what happened to the case about the cops killing a rasta (Champoin) in Marcus Garvey. The story is just silent! Thats whats up! Also now people are under the impression Hip Hop is just for a party vibe… almost yeah lets just get wasted… some form of escapism… Yo peeps you need to wake up and smell the shit under your pillow! Back in the day Hip Hop was a vehicle to express our hate for Apartheid here in SA. Now it is still a vehicle to express our hate for the Masters of Puppets. Hate is sure a strong word to use here and I might on some days agree… but using dislike just doesn’t cut it! This is my feeling! And like we say… Our feeling is our healing! Peace

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  19. Carol Reed says:

    Yo! Bradlox

    Why didn’t any of the other League member mention this shit in the interview? This stuff about it not only being 3 members?

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  20. Bradlox says:

    To answer your question Carol I think they weren’t really directed in that way with the questions… Also where it is mentioned here is not actually in the q and a section rather in the intro… “to find out what lurks in the minds of this off-beat Kaapse hip hop trio”.

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  21. Carol Reed says:

    So is the interviewer an asshole or not, trying to figure out whatchoo sayin’

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  22. Bradlox says:

    Nah I wouldn’t say that in the least… and on the real maybe you shouldn’t say that either! He just might be a tad bit on the uninformed side… thats all! besides its a dope article and big ups for the article just being there! But he could have asked some question like what is the concept behind LOS? Where does the name come from? You know… anywayz! Any exposure in this industry is good!

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  23. Carol Reed says:

    Yeah, shouldn’t have said it like that, I mean I dig the fact that this shit is finally getting out there.

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  24. Andy says:

    thank you anonymous… where did you find that? Can you post a link?

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  25. rob c says:

    Sorry for the wrong info. Los is made up of more than three peeps. It was a poorly worded sentence that referred to the trio, as in the number of dudes I interviewed. My bad. No exclusion just a bietjie confusion

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  26. sakkie de kok says:

    i will fokking skommel evry god fearing day of my life until my nutsbus as many times as president jayZ and as fungus is my gardener i know he feelz the same way about hiz rhymes the okes r all ova fifty accepting gam so danny browneye will u plz hold my scrotum as i unload them ova ya turd eye brows

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  27. Andy says:

    sakkie de kok… i’m definitely going to steal that

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