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Old Skool Shit

by Rob Cockcroft / 15.03.2011

I’m a sucker for old skool shit man, an anachronistic hip hop fiend who was on the fringes of a dying breed of 90s boom bap rap. In high school I had a shoe box full of mixtapes; perfect compilations I recorded off shows like Hotbox on UCT Radio and Headwarmers on Bush. Everyone back then had rap aliases, some stupid ones like The Indefinite Article (me) and The Shrew and Pencil. Once I phoned into Headwarmers and recorded myself on cassette, spitting stoner raps about smoking hydro. When the presenter asked my name I got so nervous I said, “I’m… Just High”, which wasn’t my real moniker but it was true.

Back then we used to lie to our parents about sleeping over at a friend and catch the last bus to Town in pursuit of a hip hop jamboree. We didn’t know where to go so we’d always end up at Getafix because there was once a party there. We’d be bummed and dik gerook, sharing futons with 50-year-old hippies. But that didn’t curtail the quest and we’d end up there again the next Friday.

Soon we discovered The Lab, which didn’t last too long. It closed, burned down, I think. Then our weekly dose became The Lounge (now Zula). DJ Raiko, DJ Hamma and Big Dre. Entrance fee was five rand and we could smoke as many bongs as we wanted on the balcony. It was a movement that attracted quite a crowd. Hot chicks as well, especially that Rasta clique. You could immediately discern the regular cats from the crowd, they were there every week in the same Circus Ninja hoodies and beanies with the peaks.

Fellow hip hop soldaat and Mahala writer Montle Moorosi put me on to Bootcamp Clik and “Lefleur Leflah Eshkoska” became our anthem. Next thing we started saying things like “Eshkoska nigga!” and “I’ma get my yipes on!” Nobody had a clue what we were talking about, but we still thought we were the shit. It’s all relative, baby.

So, feeling schmaltzy about my formative years I decided to risk hepatitis B infection and check out some of my old skool heroes at Purple Turtle a few weeks back. It couldn’t be that bad, I mean I’ve been squashed nuts-to-butts on Marvel’s odious dancefloor before, so I thought why not.

The line-up was League of Shadows (LOS), Isaac Mutant and KAK (Koloured Ass Krooks); Scallywag to be the presenter. I used to watch some of the dudes at places like the Rasta club Uhuru Int. and had met some at Fire on the Mountain, a hip hop festival in Franschoek.

When I arrived I thought I was at the wrong venue, a few bored-looking people flanked the stage at some tables and white ballies shouting at a muted TV playing a rugby match. Where were the cyphers and the heads with cheeseburgers in their backpacks and cargo pants?

My chick already started her “this is boring” shit. So we went upstairs to Ivy League where she could dance to house while I guzzled draughts thinking about another failed attempt at a gig review. Luckily I’m a cheap-ass drinker because when I found out I was being charged three rand more per drink, I went downstairs to buy one.

Now they were playing some dark underground shit and the hip hop ilk were beginning to emerge. I rushed upstairs excitedly to call my girlfriend who just rolled her eyes and sighed, “okay fine” as she stood up listlessly.

League of Shadows

Downstairs I bought her a double jammie and lime to stop her bitching. When I was drunk enough to ask questions I went to Garlic Brown (L.O.S) and asked if I could buy some weed from him. I also asked where Isaac Mutant was. He didn’t make it because “he had some shit he needed to take care of”. Aaight man, can’t dispute that. Turns out he wasn’t even booked in the first place.

Instead, we were made to suffer the open mic session. Don’t get me wrong, Cape Town has a burgeoning scene of unrecognised talent but some MC’s are so self-absorbed they hog the mic for five minutes with one verse that sounds the same. So fuck that, guzzled another draught and smoked a joint on green market square.

I came back to what we had all been waiting for. LOS took to the stage with such a presence it raised the neanderthal pubes on the back of my neck. It made me realise why I came to this shit in the first place. They’re well-seasoned mic titans. Words came spewing out like a turd out of hell. Unlike most MC’s that concentrate on flows that sound complex but render the words muffled, LOS have the combination to make it come off crisp.

I’m so drunk now that I’m swaying with my hand in the air and shouthing “Yeah!” like Li’l Jon at all the punchlines. Evertyime I do this I look to my girlfriend for approval but all I do is catch an expressionless stare from a Rasta standing nearby me. By now I’m worried that she’s doing lines or even worse, hooking up with someone else who likes house, so while they’re on the last song of their set I find her and we get ghost.

*Opening image © Adriaan Louw / The Assembly.

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