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BEIT: Lil Tee

By Backyard Online

Lil Tee in his home studio, 2020. PIC: Lefty Shivambu

People around the world who take time to listen to music will tell you that music is not just about the beat and the melody… it’s also about spiritual connection. There’s an element about it which can evoke emotions that may have been otherwise perpetually suppressed.    

Others will speak of how a well composed song can alter one’s mood in a wanton manner, shifting it back and forth like a ping pong; from being engulfed by sadness to being overjoyed, then back again to a state of despair, just like that. Even musicians have admitted as much; expertly stating that the craft is more than just entertainment… that it is in fact a spiritual calling and often times when they write songs they feel like they are possessed by a spirit that they cannot explain.    

In one of his songs, reggae great Peter Tosh attributes his creative process to the manifestation of Jah; “in my song, Jah is the melody; in my song, he’s the sweet inspiration; in my song …the perfect meditation”.   

For its part South Africa has been abundantly blessed with amazing talent which dates back to the days of Sophiatown where artists such as Dorothy Masuka, Thandi Klaasen, Dolly Rathebe composed and performed songs which kept the spirit of the township alive. Through music, this generation defied the Apartheid regime in its vicious attempt to destroy the soul of the people. As a result, many musicians from that era were forced into exile. 

Fortunately, the country still managed to produce great musicians, including the likes of Conry Ziqubu with his all time classic Skoro koro, the dynamite Mercy Pakela with Ayashisa Amateki and of course, who can ever forget Brenda Fassie’s “Weekend Special” and the classic tribute to Nelson Mandela in “Black President”.    

However, to appreciate South Africa’s taste in music one has to be open-minded. This is the same country that will, on the one hand, captivate the world with hits like John Cena by Sho Madjozi and the much acclaimed Jerusalema by Master KG and Nomcebo, but on the other hand, turn around and make pronouncements that such hits may be too appealing to the world to be considered SA’s favourites of all time, unlike Sister Betina by Mgarimbe which is eerily engraved in every South African’s heart.   

This is not to say that SA does not or has never been influenced by foreign sounds. In fact, Americans continue to be a very big influence and it’s most prevalent in a genre like hip hop. In the 1980’s when the Americans were being mesmerized by the fresh sound of NWA, Tribe Called Quest, Arrested Development etc, SA was not exempt; it too caught the flu. Nearly a decade later it would also witness the rise of artists like P.O.C., Amunishn, Mr. Selwyn, Skwatta Kamp and the Zimbabwean born Mizchif among others.   

But the biggest influence came with 2 Pac, whose style and lyrics seemed to outclass most of the rappers in the 90’s, to a point that even young people all over the world started imitating him. One of the people who found resonance in the rapper’s lyrics and lifestyle is a Limpopo born photojournalist, Lefty Shivambu. To this day Lefty continues to be one of 2 Pac’s biggest fans; even naming his first born son after the American star.   

Lil Tee wearing a shirt with a picture of his namesake, 2020. PIC: Lefty Shivambu

At 16 years old, Lil Tee, whose birth name is Lil TuPac, is now grown enough to make his own decisions, and as a rapper himself, as soon as he started recording his own music he deemed it important to have a name that is unique to him.   

The young rapper represents the generation known as Skrr-Skrr, which is deeply influenced by street hip-hop and by American artists such as Young Thug, Travis Scott and Migos to name a few. However, his personal favourites are South African born, A-Reece and, of course, Pac. 

Lil Tee’s talent for making music really comes through in songs like “We the Best” and “Know yourself” from his latest album, A Childhood to Remember. He attributes his love for hip hop to his father’s influence, “my dad has been playing hip hop music ever since I was young”.   

The youngster started his rapping career while he was still in grade 4 and three albums later, he is now mature enough to know what he aims to achieve with his music. He says his songs, which he writes and records by himself, mainly speak about his life, “how I grew up or what I’m going through, also how I’m feeling and where I wanna see myself in the future”.   

“I’m actually focusing on the youth because they are the ones who will be listening to my music when they are older, they are the ones who will tell their children about me”, he says.    

Although the Danville based rapper does not have a recording deal just yet, he believes that the support his parents give him is more than enough. “My dad markets my music and my mother is my manager”, he says.   

Whether Lil Tee will grow up to be as highly praised as his namesake is yet to be seen, however, what is clear and indisputable is that he originates form a country which has never failed to produce great musicians, and like those before his time, he too deserves to be given all the support that he needs.   

To listen to Lil Tee’s music click on the following link:

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