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To Be A Black Man

by Warren Glam / 14.09.2012

Copposites, is a South African body swap comedy starring comedians Rob van Vuuren and Siv Ngesis, riding on the successful box office formuala of hits like Freaky Friday and Like Father, Like Son, just in a distinctly, race-obsessed South African way. In this particular story, a white cop and a black crook are exposed to a DNA altering formula that switches them into each other’s bodies and forces them to work together to switch back. Of course! Taking their cue from the film’s plot, South African musicians Trenton Birch from Trenton and Free Radical, Sotho Mafia’s Nasi were brought together by Cape Town based Crack Pot Realist to produce something original for the soundtrack. It’s all about getting past cultural boundaries. We recently sat down with the Crack Pot Realist a.k.a Adriaan Hellenberg to discuss the project.

Mahala: How did you get involved with the project?

Crackpot Realist: Well basically, I was working with the director, Oliver Rodger, on another movie doing location sound, and he asked me to write the promo for this movie he was releasing called, Copposites. I did, he really liked it, and he suggested that we create a full song out of it. So I said great.

And how did you hook up with Trenton and Nasi?

I’d written the music and I had an idea in my head, you know, about getting a black rapper speaking in vernac, but blending with English, and then also finding another white rapper because the movie’s about a black guy turning into a white guy, and a white guy turning into a black guy.
I found Nasi quite easily because Glenn Sebeelo from Sotho Mafia, is a very old friend of mine. We lived together in Johannesburg. And I just asked him: “Would you put yourselves out there and do something for this?” So he brought Nasi in, and Nasi just killed it. I mean he laid it down once in Joburg, and that was the vocal sorted. He really feels music.
And then I started stressing because now I had the chorus part and a bit of a verse, but I didn’t have a white rapper yet. And I’d sent out a couple of emails and Facebook requests, but nobody was getting back to me.
Then suddenly, Trenton just sent me this Facebook message and said: “Hey, what’s this about?” kind of thing. I’d known him on and off over the past couple of years, so I sent him the song, he liked it and said: “Cool, let’s do something with this.”
And he was really busy at the time because he’d just had a song released with his band, Trenton and Free Radical, and that was doing really well on the airwaves. But I managed to sneak him into the studio here and there. He was really easy to work with. He’s both very humble and very creative.

Talk us through the concept behind the song?

The concept behind the song is, you know, Nasi talking to all the white people out there and saying: “You don’t know what it’s like to be a black man.” And then Trenton’s saying, well you know: “People look at me funny when I’m walking in the townships because I’m white.” It’s all about the kind of funny uneasiness that everybody feels if you’re in a different culture. That’s what the song’s about. It’s there to help people laugh about it, and get over it.

How did you guys express that in the song through the various elements?

Okay, Nasi’s choruses are quite progressive, I think. They’re happy in the way that they’re brought across, but, if you listen to what he’s saying, it’s quite aggressive. And his verse is also quite real, but also brushing off. You know, he talks about whether he should worry about what people think of him. And then Trenton’s kind of a little bit more comedic, but still real; just to kind of lighten everything up. You know, the beat’s very light, it’s happy, it’s very danceable. And then at the end, it kind of just says: “What are we so worried about? Let’s just get over our frustration.”
I think the creativity of the vocalists really shines through.

What’s your stamp on the song? What about it says Adriaan?

I think what says Adriaan is the bassline, and the hook melody of the song. That says who I am, and what I am. Also, the production and the arrangement; the way that I arranged what these guys had done so amazingly – and, to be honest with you, without too much direction from my part.

So what’s next for the Crackpot Realist?

I have something in the pipeline with my sister, Monique Hellenberg. It’s a pop house kind of track. Besides that, I’m busy with my band, Phobia, as well as a couple of collaboration projects featuring a whole bunch of different vocalists.

Copposites launches nationwide on the 19th October

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