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Life Check

Get a Life… check

by Nathan Zeno / 12.08.2009

Lifecheck has been around for a while now and it exists outside of any mainstream media awareness. It is a series of monthly battles at which young MC’s hone their skills and graf artists experiment. Every year around this time it culminates in a day long celebration of that culture. Kids from all around flock in, the BAT centre hall is packed, the parking lot filled with spray paint dust and the deck overflowing with teenagers, and it’s only three in the afternoon. While I recognize the value of Lifecheck to give kids something other than alcohol drugs and delinquency to swell on, I was surprised by the large Red Bull Land Rover blasting out Gangsta Rap and Beyonce hits outside in the Graf area. It set a bad tone. If the alternative to drugs and poverty being offered is rampant commercialism and superficiality, that that music represents, then I’m a little flummoxed.

Lifecheck

To be perfectly fair to Lifecheck, I really didn’t stick around long enough to fully take in everything that was going on. The pounding commercial rap outside and the teenagers wearing Ed Hardy set a dismal mood and the battles I did watch were more like “My daddy has a bigger dick than your daddy” than anything approaching a stylistic or linguistic stretch.  I totally get that its part of this culture to sift through indeterminable amounts of average gangsta posing to get to that one good moment, but I don’t have the enthusiasm or stamina for teenagers insulting each other in rhyme schemes that always end in “-ness”. I see you think your the business, but I am the fitness and I’m all up in your daddy high test. And, at the risk of sounding like an old curmudgeon, I find it intriguing that the crowd responds to one MC merely repeating the previous MC’s insult with a different emphasis as some kind of triumph. In fact the crowd’s responses all seem to be based on the emphasis rather than style or content. But as I said, it was hot in there, sweat drenched air, stifling, and I didn’t stick around for the end game, so maybe really what do I know?

Lifecheck
At least the Graf work was dope…

Apart from the fact that I approached two different young writers, who hang out in this scene, to write this piece and was greeted with these responses, “Why bother?” and, “I’m pretty apathetic about it all”.

Look, in terms of Hip Hop, I’m a Digable Planets kinda guy, so the commercial Rap and R&B pumping out of the Red Bull Landrover might have just thrown me off balance. I totally think that the guys organizing Lifecheck have their hearts in the right place, but either the concept is played out, or they are stretching themselves too thin. If Red Bull could get more involved on a Red Bull Music Academy level, and hook up some kids who want to learn with workshops with Ewok, Black Moss and even some out-of-town guys like Hymphatic Tabs, then maybe Lifecheck would seem more vital. But for me, it was just a display of how Hip Hop has lost its way and become just another form of pop music. A basis for people to express nothing more than the most superficial of playground desires. If only I could have found some young kid to tell me different.

Lifecheck

All pics by Dain Withani

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RESPONSES (21)
  1. Tara says:

    The exercise of apathy – well done Luca.

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  2. Andy says:

    If you don’t exercise your apathy regularly, you lose it… and you become all hyper and enthusiastic… ewww!

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  3. Yeller says:

    Hip-Pop. That’s what the media sell, and it’s flyin outta the shop like hotcakes, bra. Laaities must wise up, realise they been sold the same shiz, repacked as the new biz. All this crotch-grabbin’, bitch-an-ho-callin kak is like school playground jols bra. Tits an ass an pretty baubles, bout as much depth as a fuckin birdbath inna middel of a highveld winter.

    Pah. Load a winkie pop. Gimme da drugs an da electronic beats anyday.

    One-two lukka graf tho – smaak the zulu vs. saki cow speech, that’s 100s.

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  4. Luca says:

    fuck all of you lil wayne is dope

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  5. Robbie du Plessis says:

    Cat like that
    in the hat like that.

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  6. Ewok says:

    This article leaves much to be desired in terms of responsible journalism.

    Once again a media outlet gives itself free reign to disseminate its own misdirected and ill-informed oppinion with no consideration for the event or individual being discussed.

    The journalist gives themselves away in the first couple of lines. Life Check IS NOT a monthly battle event OR a monthly Graffiti Event. It is a monthly Open Mic event. The annual battle is the only time during the entire year when any outside branding is apparent and this is ONLY so that the NON-PROFIT event can draw enough sponsorship to make it happen. Without the support of corporate enterprise this event wouldn’t happen. Would this be a suitable alternative? Would this satisfy Mahalas righteous quest for cultural freedom from “rampant commercialism”?

    Let’s get real here.

    The author repeatedly maintains that he/she didn’t stay long, and that is most apparent in his/her overall appraisal of the event. No mention of the break battle, or the krump battle, or ANY of the other SIX events that took place ASIDE from the MC battle? What did you expect, a debate? A panel discussion? Does the author even know what it takes to perform at ANY level in front of a hungry crowd? If not, then why does he/she expect us to place our trust in his/her judgement?

    There has obviously been little research done to back up some of the statements made in this article and yet it still tries to serve as some kind of accurate representation.

    Once again, a media outlet places itself on a pedestal and the rest of us are examined under an extremely blurred lens by the egotistical vision of another hack who thinks their pen is mightiest.

    And you wonder why LifeCheck exists outside of any mainstream media awareness?

    Digable Planets would know.

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  7. Nathan Zeno. says:

    The Author attempted to contact lifecheck twice before the event. Arrived at the event asked to speak to the organizers and left his phone number and email at the front desk. The author repeatedly maintains he didn’t stay long primarily to show that this is not an accurate representation.

    The point The Author was trying to make about the sponsorship was the fact that upon arrival the music being pumped out (Beyonce!) seemed out of sync with the ethos behind the event.

    I imagine, in your view, anyone who has an opinion would have an “egotistical vision” and be a “hack” except, of course, yourself. I thought Hip Hop was all about letting people express their point of view.

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  8. Andy says:

    Ewok, thanks for finally weighing in. You spend a lot of time attacking Mahala – perhaps without realising that we’re an independent platform for free thought and opinion on South African Music, Culture and Reality. And you should know that anyone who participates in a cultural and creative space is fair game for criticism. Not all of it will be positive, but I think we were as even handed and constructive as possible. Truth is, we appreciate good works, and really wanted to say good things about LifeCheck – because deep down we know that it’s a good initiative. But maybe it’s time for you to take on board the concept that your gig wasn’t as awesome as you think it was.

    All the way through the piece Nathan is trying to look for the silver lining and each time he makes a negative comment he prefaces it with “maybe I’m wrong” or “maybe my opinion is misinformed”. Then take into account that we tried to get two different people more intimately involved in the Durban hip hop scene to write this review for us – and both of them were too apathetic to contribute. Finally, our journalist Nathan went to great lengths to contact the organisers for their perspectives. That is really all that can be asked of someone who came to review the gig.

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  9. Nathan Zeno. says:

    Ewok.

    Here’s the deal. If you have can find someone non-partisan (I mean has no hidden agenda) to write their opinion of LifeCheck we’d be happy to put it up on the site.

    Email us through the contact section at the top of the page.

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  10. Tara says:

    Debate is good..even if it doesnt rhyme.

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  11. djf says:

    Ewok, I side firmly with the mahala crew on this one. Your indignation seems to be fuelled by the fact that Nathan freely expressed his opinion in a fairly lateral manner – contrary to your expectations.

    This is what you get when a truly independent media body covers such events, rather than the thinly-veiled promotional blurb that masquerades as “coverage” and “journalism” on most of our websites and in the majority of local publications. Such sycophantic blurb is particularly rampant in South Africa, to the point that many of us have been duped into thinking that it is legitimate and examplary journalism – I suggest that you check out foreign media coverage of similar events and performances overseas to recalibrate your thoughts and your attitude towards Nathan’s article.

    It’s okay to post comments with factual corrections, but quite unnecessary to attack the author with a persecution complex the size of an abnormally loaded vehicle.

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  12. Nathan Zeno says:

    Ewok? Calling Ewok?

    Oh. I see. You only care about your opinion, not about what people think about your opinion. Which is probably why this little story made you so mad. Oh well, If you ever check back in here, the offer still stands.

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  13. Graeme Feltham says:

    What is this, Wodja Wabbit?
    Most of these quaito and gangsta rappers would soil their pants if confronted with the real thing. Don’t tell me about Zola and Mandoza – they are more effective at facial scrubs than scraps of any sort.
    Mattafix and Faithless – in placing the microcosm which is them within the influence of the wide microcosm – get it right in their screaming their vulnerability till it becomes a way of fighting back, a kind of trumpet call.

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  14. Graeme Feltham says:

    For the above – the second “microcosm” was a Freudian slit, it is “macrocosm”.

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  15. Ewok says:

    I HAVE OUTLINED MY DETAILED REACTION TO THE ARTICLE FOLLOWED BY MY SPECIFIC RESPONSES TO THE RESULTING COMMENTS.

    FROM THE ARTICLE:

    “While I recognize the value of Lifecheck to give kids something other than alcohol drugs and delinquency to swell on, I was surprised by the large Red Bull Land Rover blasting out Gangsta Rap and Beyonce hits outside in the Graf area. It set a bad tone. If the alternative to drugs and poverty being offered is rampant commercialism and superficiality, that that music represents, then I’m a little flummoxed.”
    IS THAT ACTUALLY THE ALTERNATIVE BEING OFFERED? FURTHER EVIDENCE OF THIS WOULD BE MOST APPRECIATED IN AN ATEMPT TO ISOLATE THE APPARENT NEGATIVE EFFECT LIFE CHECK IS HAVING ON THE YOUTH.

    “To be perfectly fair to Lifecheck, I really didn’t stick around long enough to fully take in everything that was going on.” BEING PERFECTLY FAIR TO LIFECHECK WOULD INVOLVE ADEQUATE RESEARCH, NOT ONE LINE.

    “Apart from the fact that I approached two different young writers, who hang out in this scene, to write this piece and was greeted with these responses, “Why bother?” and, “I’m pretty apathetic about it all”. THIS GOES TO SHOW WHAT EXACTLY? THAT YOU DISCOVERED TWO APATHETIC YOUNG WRITERS? MAYBE YOU COULD HAVE TRIED HARDER TO SOURCE CREDIBLE JOURNALISTS, FOR THE SAKE OF REALLY WANTING “…to say something good about Life Check” AS ANDY ASSERTS IN HIS MAHALA RESPONSE.

    If Red Bull could get more involved on a Red Bull Music Academy level, and hook up some kids who want to learn with workshops with Ewok, Black Moss and even some out-of-town guys like Hymphatic Tabs, then maybe Lifecheck would seem more vital.
    LIFE CHECK IS ACTIVELY INVOLVED IN AN ACADEMY WORKSHOP PROGRAM TOGETHER WITH REDBULL THAT HAS BEEN RUNNING SUCCESSFULLY FOR THE PAST THREE YEARS INVOLVING BOTH INTERNATIONAL AND NATIONAL GUESTS IN THEIR CAPACITY AS EXPERIENCED MUSICIANS AND PROFESSIONAL ARTISTS. ONCE AGAIN, SOME RESEARCH MIGHT HAVE HELPED HERE.

    “But for me, it was just a display of how Hip Hop has lost its way and become just another form of pop music.” MAHALA PUBLICISES AN OPPINION LIKE THIS AFTER ONLY A SELF-ADMITEDLY BRIEF PARTICIPATION IN THE EVENT FROM THE AUTHOR?

    IN RESPONSE TO THE COMMENTS:

    “NATHAN”

    1. The Author attempted to contact lifecheck twice before the event. Arrived at the event asked to speak to the organizers and left his phone number and email at the front desk. HOW IS IT THE AUTHOR FEELS HE HAS ANY REASON TO EXPECT SOME ATTENTION ON THE DAY OF THE EVENT AMONGST THE ACTUAL PRACTICAL EFFORT AND ENERGY THAT IT TAKES JUST TO KEEP THE EVENT ON TRACK?

    The author repeatedly maintains he didn’t stay long primarily to show that this is not an accurate representation. SO, IF IT IS ADMITTEDLY NOT AN ACCURATE REPRESENTATION THEN WHAT IS IT, OR MORE SPECIFICALLY, WHAT IS THE POINT? DO YOU THINK THAT A GRASSROOTS ORGANISATION LIKE LIFE CHECK TRYING TO STAY AFLOAT NEEDS OR DESERVES OR BENEFITS IN ANY WAY FROM THE UNINFORMED NEGATIVE APPRAISAL OF AN OUTSIDE EYE?

    The point The Author was trying to make about the sponsorship was the fact that upon arrival the music being pumped out (Beyonce!) seemed out of sync with the ethos behind the event. WAS THAT THE ONLY MUSIC BEING PUMPED OUT? HOW IS IT THE AUTHOR FEELS THEY HAVE ANY AUTHORITATIVE VOICE ON WHAT THE ETHOS OF THE EVENT MIGHT BE?

    I imagine, in your view, anyone who has an opinion would have an “egotistical vision” and be a “hack” except, of course, yourself. I thought Hip Hop was all about letting people express their point of view. NOT AT THE EXPENSE OF OTHERS. WITH GREAT FREEDOM COMES GREAT RESPONSIBILITY, ESPECIALLY WITH FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION, A LESSON HIPHOP TEACHES AND THE MEDIA CONTINUES TO NEGATE.

    “ANDY”

    1. Ewok, thanks for finally weighing in. You spend a lot of time attacking Mahala – perhaps without realising that we’re an independent platform for free thought and opinion on South African Music, Culture and Reality. DOES THIS ENTITLE YOU TO PUBLICISE AN OBVIOUSLY UNRESEARCHED AND HEAVILY NEGATIVE APPRAISAL OF A STRUGGLING COMMUNITY BASED ORGANISATION? FOR THE SAKE OF WHAT, FREEDOM OF SPEECH? THE PEOPLES RIGHT TO KNOW? THAT FLAG SHOULD BE FLOWN WITH MORE CARE.

    And you should know that anyone who participates in a cultural and creative space is fair game for criticism. YES, BY AN INFORMED AND EDUCATED SOURCE, NOT BY SOMEONE WHO SELF-ADMITTEDLY “…didn’t stick around long enough to fully take in everything that was going on.”

    Not all of it will be positive, but I think we were as even handed and constructive as possible. ONCE AGAIN, EVEN HANDED? CONSTRUCTIVE? PLEASE DETAIL THESE AREAS OF THE ARTICLE I MIGHT HAVE MISSED?

    Truth is, we appreciate good works, and really wanted to say good things about LifeCheck – because deep down we know that it’s a good initiative. But maybe it’s time for you to take on board the concept that your gig wasn’t as awesome as you think it was. ONCE AGAIN, FOR YOU TO PRESUME THAT YOU HAVE ANY IDEA OF WHAT I THINK MY “gig” WAS OR SHOULD OR COULD BE POINTS TO A GLARINGLY OBVIOUS LACK OF RESEARCH RESULTING IN A SIMILARLY OBVIOUS LACK OF INSIGHT.

    All the way through the piece Nathan is trying to look for the silver lining and each time he makes a negative comment he prefaces it with “maybe I’m wrong” or “maybe my opinion is misinformed”. MAYBE IF “NATHAN” HAD SPENT MORE TIME AT THE EVENT THEN HE DID ON THE ARTICLE THE SILVER LINING MIGHT HAVE BEEN EASIER TO FIND?

    Then take into account that we tried to get two different people more intimately involved in the Durban hip hop scene to write this review for us – and both of them were too apathetic to contribute. AND THIS BECOMES THE YARDSTICK BY WHICH YOU DAMN THE ENTIRE SCENE? TWO PEOPLE?

    Finally, our journalist Nathan went to great lengths to contact the organisers for their perspectives. THERE ARE BUT TWO ORGANISERS WHOSE DETAILS ARE READILY AVAILABLE TO ANY AND ALL WHO REQUIRE THEM FOR WHATEVER MEANS. PLEASE EXPLAIN HOW THE AUTHORS “great lengths” WERE THWARTED?

    That is really all that can be asked of someone who came to review the gig. HOW CAN YOU STILL BE CALLING THIS ARTICLE A REVIEW AFTER IT HAS BEEN POINTED OUT AGAIN AND AGAIN BY BOTH YOU ME AND THE AUTHOR THAT HE DIDN’T ADEQUATELY PARTICIPATE IN IT BY ANY MEANS?

    “NATHAN”

    1. Ewok.
    Here’s the deal. WHOSE DEAL? HOW PRESUMPTIOUS IS IT TO ASSUME THAT WE ARE LOOKING TO HAVE YOU JUDGE OUR EVENT? If you have can find someone non-partisan (I mean has no hidden agenda) to write their opinion of LifeCheck we’d be happy to put it up on the site.
    Email us through the contact section at the top of the page.

    “DJF”

    1. Ewok, I side firmly with the mahala crew on this one. Your indignation seems to be fuelled by the fact that Nathan freely expressed his opinion in a fairly lateral manner – contrary to your expectations. WHAT EXPECTATIONS? I HAD NO IDEA WE WERE BEING “reviewed”? BY “lateral” YOU MEAN WHAT, INFORMED? EDUCATED? RESEARCHED?

    This is what you get when a truly independent media body covers such events, rather than the thinly-veiled promotional blurb that masquerades as “coverage” and “journalism” on most of our websites and in the majority of local publications. HAVE WE REQUESTED OR SOUGHT EITHER “coverage” OR “journalism”?

    Such sycophantic blurb is particularly rampant in South Africa, to the point that many of us have been duped into thinking that it is legitimate and examplary journalism – I suggest that you check out foreign media coverage of similar events and performances overseas to recalibrate your thoughts and your attitude towards Nathan’s article. I APOLOGISE. OBVIOUSLY YOU ASSUME THAT I AM LOOKING “overseas” TO SET MY PERSONAL STANDARDS AND CODES OF PRACTICE. THIS IS NOT THE CASE. I AM SORRY IF YOU WERE MISLED.

    It’s okay to post comments with factual corrections, but quite unnecessary to attack the author with a persecution complex the size of an abnormally loaded vehicle. THAT PERSECUTION COMPLEX COMES FROM THE MISUSE OF THE MEDIA AND ITS RESULTING ABUSE OF HIP HOP CULTURE USING THE SAME “played out” ANTI-COMMERCIAL ATTITUDE THAT HAS BECOME THE CALLING CARD OF ANY WRITER ATEMPTING TO ADD AN EDGE TO THEIR OPPINION. DO YOU THINK WE ARE NOT AWARE OF OUR FAULTS? IS THE RAMPANT COMERCIALISM, EVIDENT IN MOST IF NOT ALL POPULAR YOUTH TRENDS, SOME KIND OF NEW INSIGHT THAT DESERVES ANOTHER UNORIGINAL MEDIA APPROACH? HOW ABOUT AN ARTICLE COMING TO GRIPS WITH WHY THE YOUTH ARE SO SUBSCEPTIBLE TO SUCH INDOCTRINATION, WHY THEY CRAVE THIS SUPERFICIALITY? HOW ABOUT ACTUALLY TACKLING THE ROOTS OF THE PROBLEM INSTEAD OF THE TYPICAL FINGER-POINTING FINGER-WAGGING WE-KNOW-BETTER-JOURNALISM?

    “NATHAN”

    1. Ewok? Calling Ewok?
    Oh. I see. You only care about your opinion, not about what people think about your opinion. Which is probably why this little story made you so mad. Oh well, If you ever check back in here, the offer still stands.
    AS MUCH AS I DON’T WANT TO JUSTIFY THIS CHILDISH PETTY LITTLE DIG WITH A RESPONSE, I FEEL IT NECESSARY TO POINT OUT THAT I HAVEN’T BEEN ABLE TO FIND THE TIME TO ADEQUATELY RESPOND UNTIL NOW. SUFFICE IT TO SAY THAT HIS COMMENT GOES A LONG WAY TO HIGHLIGHTING THE EGOTISTICAL ATTITUDE OF THE AUTHOR RESPONSIBLE AND UNFORTUNATELY THE SHARED NATURE OF THE PUBLICATION THAT SUPPORTS HIM.

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  16. Andy says:

    Ewok
    wow thanks for that detailed response. The short of it is this, throw better gigs and you’ll get better reviews.

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  17. Carol Reed says:

    ALL CAPS!!!!! Have you been reading Kanye’s Blog?

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  18. Ewok says:

    Andy
    wow thanks for the super cool persona. The short of it is, it wasn’t a ‘gig’ and we didn’t need it ‘reviewed’.

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  19. Andy says:

    Ewok who cares if you “needed” it to be reviewed. We reviewed it, deal with it.

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  20. Roger Young says:

    Lifecheck is amazing. They go great work, they are saving the world. The music that each individual involved with Lifecheck makes is the best music ever. Their opinions are basically THE WORD in terms of how you should live and what you should do. In fact questioning Lifecheck or thinking outside of Lifechecks SOP is forbidden. Lifecheck knows whats good for you. Lifecheck has it all worked out. Lifecheck is never wrong. We respect Lifechecks opinion that this is so. Lifecheck does not respect our opinion that it is not.

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  21. joegz says:

    eish this is gonna be a hard act to follow

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