Durban (my home base) is a city with a history of protest and revolutionary thinking. The man who founded the ANC (the majority party in our current self-styled government of liberation) was from here, and successive leaders of that original organization of unity have been based here. The Natal Indian Congress that coordinated and conducted effective passive resistance stay aways and go slows and such civil disobedience, was based here. Gandhi began to develop his legendary ideas of ‘satyagraha’ by acting together with the civil society movement of Durban. Our International Convention Centre has welcomed on many occasions variously foreign leaders, diplomats and captains of big business, and on as many occasions has had to build barriers against communities and social movement members who gather outside that cathedral of capital to let their voices be heard.
It’s on this old battleground for civil and human rights that a fresh fight is forming.
This fight will be one that unites many communities into a single entity, as we collectively acknowledge a clearly defined ‘enemy’, recognizable to us all in it’s various shifting forms, from government and capital collusion, to brutal policies of forced removal, to environmental destruction. Together with this oncoming wave of fresh marginalization of our civil society voices, and it’s building brutalization of the poor and disenfranchised, the way is most certainly being paved for the type of high-level corporate corruption we have grown so used to in our young democracy.
“Capital B to the R to the I – C – S / 5 letters suggest who writes the cheques / but never checks the Rights / so the peoples lives are economically blocked by some Capital lies…”
B R I C S stands for Brazil – Russia – India – China – South Africa. These five countries are defined in money talk as “emerging economies”, which basically means that up till now they haven’t been allowed to eat at the big table with the traditional leaders of the global economy. These “emerging economies” are seen to pack significant weight in import and export capital and what opportunities they offer others in terms of infrastructure development both at home and abroad. Now, with this growing power, they are more interested in working with each other (economically speaking) then with the ‘old guard’ (the USA, the UK, the EU) who have been scrambling to maintain any credibility/superiority through the last few years of managing a financial crisis that might have been avoided.
That’s what BRICS is: a group of new heavy-weight economies that want to start doing business with each other to create a collective fresh big swinging dick on the Global playground.
“Maite tells us not to criticize / coz they’re bringing us a BOOM like ‘industrialize’ / but we don’t want more construction, corruption and drama / eyes still wet from the tears of Marikana…”
Economists, politicians, government planners, and other such people whose careers are based solely on legitimizing this sort of international gamesmanship, will call up all kinds of verifiable figures and concrete facts together with clear government sanctioned policies of implementation that will lend massive credence to the notion that this is collective is going to “benefit” all of the countries involved.
Here’s where it get’s tricky, sticky and straight-up bull-shitty: isn’t a country largely defined, not by it’s global economic standing, but by the well-fare, the wellbeing, of it’s people? Can a country even be said to exist, if it’s natural resources (again, NOT it’s economic resources), it’s actual natural beauties and environs, no longer exist? Can there be any “benefit” in asking a people who’s lives, even in the last twenty years of “freedom”, are largely defined by continued hardship and a struggle to access even the most basic of human rights (shelter and dignity), to sacrifice on behalf of an unseen entity like ‘the economy’?
If the answer to the first question is yes, and to the second two is no, then how is it that the South African government, thought its parastatal TRANSNET, in an apparent attempt to punch above it’s economic weight and justify its standing in this arrogant acronym (BRICS), would sanction the expansion of the Port of Durban in an effort to make this city the “Gateway to Africa”, if that means the displacement (forced removal) of 6000 South African citizens, the destruction of a series of natural African eco-systems, an increase in the already rampant and chart topping pollution of the Durban South Basin, and the undermining of a local manufacturing market that employs thousands?
“It’s just another power BLOC / fokkol change / 99% playing in a 1% game…”
When the Occupy movement grabbed the worlds attention in 2011, when they moved to shut-down Wall Street in New York, when they camped outside St Pauls in London, inspiring multiple synonymous movements around the world to take up fresh arms, the common paradigm was of a world where 99% of the population worked and in many cases slaved for the benefit of the 1% few.
BRICS has set itself up as a clear case of the operation of the mechanics of maintaining this absurdly weighted percentage paradigm. While the biggest ‘players’ in this game, the leaders and ministers of these countries who are in control of ‘international cooperation’ (foreign policy) together with their private capital counterparts, continue to meet to discuss the easiest ways to ensure the quickest and most effortless profits, the people on the ground that will be directly affected by any moves made “on their behalf” are consistently excluded from this policy making process.
Unless of course they decide to find alternative routes to reminding those at the top that the foundations tend to crack, that the base starts to get shaky, when the people decide that movement is necessary.
Once again, Durban plays host to just such a social civil society movement: The South Durban Environmental Alliance . This movement, that is built from below by real “human bricks”, while operating in protest to the Port of Durban expansion, is in effect operating in protest of ANY type of traditional top-down political play that seeks to make pawns of a people while the Kings breathe easy.
This meeting took place today. Don’t worry if you missed it. It won’t be the last, not by a long shot.
[Follow @BricsFromBelow to link with a growing movement of eThekwini communities mobilizing against this juggernaut]
Lyrics by Creamy Ewok Baggends
Music by Charles Amblard and BLUE GENE
Looking for the animal in man? Here I stand / cat cooler than polar bear sweat gland / top down / check crown / microphone controller / skew peak speak o’ street poetry persona / hang with the slang when ye world grow colder / sparks off the page like the pen’ll solder / picking up the pieces after blasting boulders / lava flows but eruptions over / HEAT / it’s a climate crisis / venomous pimps selling kids their vices / now they wanna battle over who the nicest / all about the cake and the means to ice it / some catch crumbs from some that slice it / some want more then crumbs and pull the gun / Blam! Blam! / gunshots gangster cool / got Godfather types that’re still in school / wanna break / first you have to learn the rules / study the machine then select your tools / wanna mess with the engine / better believe / I got more then an oil change up my sleeve / I twist nuts / while these suckers bust them / all the shit talk and I’m supposed to trust them / selling me the same when I paid for custom / never spin the wheel when the roulettes Russian / got my name on ye slug but ye bullets a blank / tryna buy me out you’d have to blow the bank / I be the Grandmaster Caz not the Big Bank Hank / I be all about the think so remove the tank / my posse roll on the track so the trail got a bump and a groove you can feel like braille / to the snakes we’re bringing in the anti-venom / BLUE GENE / you’re dealing with the deadly denim…
Throwing scripts off the stage like I’m sick of rehearsal / director it’s time for a role reversal / the kid’s taking charge of the dough dispersal / no more feature film following your cheap commercial / this quality come at you from first to last / if it’s all about the bomb then be the first to blast / if it’s all about the function / meetup at the junction / I’ll point to the show where we show you the point / of leaving microphone’s wrecked’s to connect like a joint / make it count like I’m number crunching / down for the count like I’m doing the punching / step into the space like I took the gap / worldwide iconic like a Yankee cap / never that / I’m just a regular rap chap / check it from my kicks to the rest of my claptrap / people want to know what I’ve got in my backpack / ’nuff books ’nuff beats ’nuff reason to rap / tough times never easy when you’re talking the truth / they put the poison in the pudding when you’re looking for proof / people kill for a cause so the cause don’t die / people die for a cause and never question why / so I ride on the track to keep my poetry primed / to cut the head off the spine just to change a mind / coz the answers there / the question’s clear / what kind? / you don’t know what you know until you’re forced to find / you only find the groove when you’re doing the time / you won’t find where you’re at if you’ve never been / sometimes you support / sometimes you lean / sometimes isolated / stand alone unseen / sometimes you connect through a blue gene…
Some people think that I’m trying to battle Suli Breaks. I’m not. Before you read this, watch his video:
Now watch my response:
Now dig this:
A lot of people might think that I disagree with this cat. I don’t. Before we go any further let me just state openly that I have big respect for Suli Breaks, and for anyone like him that uses a true talent and impressive skill to inform and inspire others beyond the self-gratifying nature of most contemporary pop culture that only seeks to serve itself and sell that self to others.
This cat walks the talk. As I said, much respect.
What he has done here has inspired me to respond. People think I’m battling him. I’m not. The purpose of my piece was to take his argument further. There is a competitive edge to it, it seems to be provocative, and in a lot of ways begs a response, but that’s the nature of what we do as Spoken Word artists, and I’m pretty sure that he would understand my intentions here better then anyone.
I’m not battling him, I just don’t think he made enough room in his exam argument for the teachers and parents that are out there with a broader view of their role as educators.
Now I never like to explain my poetry. I think it’s like explaining a joke, and a good joke needs no explanation. However, there is more to this piece then simply the poem. There is the question of context, his British versus my South African. There is the question of audience, the difference between the pupils he is talking about, and those who came up to me after class one day, excited, saying “Sir, have you seen Suli Breaks? You have to see it sir! It’s Spoken Word sir, go check it out!”. I did check it out, and I wasn’t going to respond, until one of the teachers in my department said to me how she felt like her students were using this video to attack her, how they seemed to be accusing her of some kind of collusion in what was to them a seemingly corrupt system. Hearing that, the way the video had been picked up as a kind of banner to be flown in the face of teachers and parents without considering some of those broader questions, I had to respond.
My response was in the form of a Spoken Word piece that mimicked Suli’s style and production, a direct reference that openly identified with the genre and stood in the same space to literally re-focus the argument. When they heard it, the fellas at the school I teach at part time wanted to create a video version as a further direct reference to the original.
As I said, and as you hear me reciting in the piece, I think that there is more to exams then the final mark, and that the real benefit that comes from any test is not in the final result, but in the process of preparing, studying, and honing mental skills that will serve you beyond any specific subject.
In one sense, as a friend and colleague pointed out, exams results do matter. For example, if you had the choice to drive over two different bridges, one built by an engineer who got 100% on his finals and the other by an engineer who got 98%, which would you choose? If you had to have open heart surgery and you could choose between two surgeons, one who got 100% and another who got 95%, which would it be? I don’t think you could be blamed for wanting to go with the one with the higher score.
However, I think Suli knows this, and I don’t think that is what he is saying, so I tried to say it like “Exams are a way of working out a kind of worth, but students who are working will always be worth more then exams…”.
Okay, now I’m explaining my piece. Bad joke.
I’m going to leave it up to you to decide, one way or the other, because the ability to be able to do that, to be able to take in information and develop your own opinion, to be able to use your brain to assume an individual position, that’s the education that I think we are both banging on about.
Once again, respect due to you Suli. I know you didn’t mean to, but you’ve sparked a worldwide debate.
Much thanks to all of the staff and students of Clifton College Durban for making this happen. If it is a battle, I’d rather it be for education, and not entertainment.
p.s. This is dedicated to my father, who educated me about teaching, and to my mother, who taught me about being an educator.
It must be one of my greatest honors, to be associated with the 031 FLOOR ASSASSINS, a crew of hard working concrete cracking blood stained Breakers that I have had the pleasure of watching progress over the last (almost) 10 years. I will let them speak for themselves with the video clip below, but just to know that these fellas are one hundred percent homegrown Hip Hop talent, and I can vouch for that, having watched them take literally every step of their journey to international success and status. I was there when they took the title of Durban Champions way back when at the Life Check All Elements Battle of the Year. I was there when they travelled as a four man squad to compete in the African Hip Hop Indaba in Cape Town, their first experience of the world of professional Breaking and Battling. I have seen them broaden their perspectives and in embracing contemporary styles, broaden their horizons. They have grown from kids into choreographers, carrying the roots of Hip Hop culture and its philosophy of expression followed by freedom into every aspect of their craft. I have nothing but respect for these fellas. They keep the fire burning and bring us all in from the cold.
If you didn’t know, now you know. Floor Assassins forever.
Ewokessay’s photostream on Flickr.
An ongoing collection of my aerosol artwork.
My freshest Spoken Word piece inspired by the new Black Moss album “Public Interest”. This cat is one of the most astute yet humble minds to ever make a microphone a message. Black Moss for president. This is for you homie.
Did you hear that? Did you HEAR that yo? I’m saying, let’s do this, let’s do this, lets take it from here. I’ll take it from here, we gonna take it from here, its cool bro, yo, we got this, we gonna take it from here, lets take it from here people, we can take it from here…
Yo! This is Hused Whut and you’re listening to Dazed and Amazed on Radio Is Anybody Out There FM brought to you by End Of Days Entertainment saying let’s take it from here people, let’s take it from here…
Take it from here where the drama is / the daily biz of wanting this selling this buying this consuming this consider this wanted bought sold and consumed
Take it from here to there. To where? To where you wear the TRUTH in its shiniest brightest and YES I SAID IT most SWAG appearances so the truth can be as obvious as all of us wanting to be cool is
let’s take it from here to there where the truth is the swag that they all wish they had
take it from here to there
take it from here…
Yo! This is Hused Whut and you’re listening to Why Bother on Radio Believe in Boredom FM brought to you by Million Dollar Mediocrity Entertainment saying let’s take it from here…
Lets take it from here where history is blood sweat dust and old logic / written in codes of clinical capital cold product / gold product / the sole product of selling souls for product
Take it from here where history’s old gains were tied up with souls shackled in cold chains
Take it from here from then to where? To where? To now wearing gold chains on cold frames replacing hot blooded fired up bodies and brains and lets see if we can take it from here, here is history, to there, there where the fear is a mystery to where we’re asking why are we too scared to change from chains to brains?
Still without the sense without the change the chains remain until we take it from here
So let’s take it from here…
Yo! This is Hused Whut and you’re listening to Brick to the Head on Radio Wake the Fuck Up FM brought to you by No Planet B Entertainment saying let’s take it from here my people, we have to take it from here…
Let’s take it from here, we’ll take it from here brother, it’s cool, we got you, we’ll take it from here, take it from here, from here
where we ask no questions from where they tell those lies to keep us all satisfied in our subdued lives
take it from here where we’re satisfied with nothing but NOW
nothing but NOW
FUCK the future
let’s just FUCK spend and chow
but how we gonna chow when the cash cow got screwed by the golden goose and landed blind on the track to get smacked by a gravy train that’s linked together by that same chain?
How we gonna take it from here? Where we gonna take it too? When it comes from where we can walk over the underground that supplies us with no knowledge of the depths of the worth that the earth supplies us while we teach ourselves to tap on the surface
and our tap shoes are strapped with precious minerals so the richness of our rhythms becomes nothing but dull echoes to the miners below who know we don’t know how they’re chained to our cash flow coz if our bodies could sense that chain then we could also sense their strain but still they throw up the rocks for us to roll with before throwing up fists for us to run from so we throw up the barbwire
ring them in fences
bring in the SAPS yes its two in the back now the strike is done and they can take it from here and let us guess where it comes from
Yo! This is Hused Whut and you’re listening to Speak The Fuck Up on No-one Can Hear You FM brought to you by Silent Submission Entertainment telling you to take it from here before its taken from us and we’re left with nothing to take so we have to take it from here…
Still, we have to take it from here, can we take it from here? We gonna take it from here
where the fear is to there where the clean air is so we can breathe free and fearless but first we have to steer this in that direction with wisdom in our words and courage in some convictions before sipping another concoction of nerve numbing / determination dissolving easy to aquire self satisfying laugh it off liquor that leaks onto the seats of your rich ride or drips out the lips sucking the dictators doctrines of subordination
here from where the sheep sleep in violent silence
to there where the lions live one day to say they escaped the circus and kicked down and left the clowns and the popcorn junkies arguing over who was more funky
escaped to where you can be King of the Jungle and still be humble
We’ll take it from here when we risk something a little more radical
no more eat the meek
no more just another cannibal
no more death to auto tune if its still just auto YOU my bru
you aught to be tuning into a fresher frequency
fresh like winds of change
from here where all you win is chains
to there where we’re all in where we’re all the same snapping the same chain to free the same frame
tune into that one frequency of freedom justice and equality
tune in to take it from here
Yo! This is Hused Whut and you’re tuned into Stuck, Struck and Straight Outta Luck on Radio Nothing But Static FM brought to you by You Had Your Chance Entertainment saying take it from me
that’s that and this is me:
This is Hused Whut and
you’re listening to “Same shit different day” on Radio Who’s Really Listening FM
brought to you by Lost in the Chaos Entertainment
produced by Go Against the Brain Media
which is a part of You’ve Been Suckered Again Enterprises
who just sold all their stock to We’re In Control Corporations
who are now the majority share holders in Your Soul Is Ours Capital Investments
for more information you can go to www.DropBomb.com/boom
Graffiti can be a nasty business. There is so much ego at stake when the main purpose of your expression is to gain anonymous fame by writing your name on everything. It’s understandable that Writers are competitive in a game like that. Whole crews can disintegrate from the days of extreme almost blood loyalty to bitter rivalry and sworn enemy status.
Putting all of that aside for the purpose of this piece, I want to focus on how a ‘scene’ starts and how it sustains itself. Not the whole story, just a part of it (this type of story shifts from scene to scene). I’m going to talk about my city scene, Durban “Poison City”. Specifically, the evolution of a small shop situated on the second floor of the Sandy Centre in the industrial Durban suburb of Pinetown.
The store is called STEP UP, previously CRAK, and before that THE YARD. This was the first Graffiti lifestyle store to open in Durban. Some might even tell you that it was the first store of its kind to open in South Africa. From day one it was all about real underground Graffiti and Hip Hop cutting edge culture. Customized clothing, local labels, vinyls, comics, magazines, toys, and of course, that all important and most highly valued commodity, aerosol paint. You couldn’t get the variety of cut price cans on offer anywhere else. In fact, most hardware stores, the traditional suppliers of a Writers main tool, were comparitively ripping people off with their cheap brands and inflated prices. THE YARD, situated in the heart of Durbans original Graffiti Mecca, Umbilo, was all about the culture, and tried to keep its costs low enough to serve the scene and stay afloat at the same time.
The brains behind the operation in its original manifestation was local Writer and proprietor Phil Botha who, with the support of his immediate crew and the beginnings of a strong following, kept the customers coming and the culture ticking.
Behind the scenes however there was a whole other force that has yet to be fully recognized or celebrated in its entirety: The McReadys.
Mel and her daughter Kirsty are the proprietors, the money and the marketers behind STEP UP. They have been there from the beginning, fronting the capital to bring THE YARD into existence, employing writers when work was scarce and bills abounding, sponsoring events, supplying paint and product on credit, stocking local labels trying to promote their product and get it off the ground, and all of this hustle and grind on behalf of a scene that could prove extremely unforgiving at times.
Without being writers themselves, Mel and Kirsty have been embroiled in the beef, the aggressive rivalry, all of the attitude and immaturity of a scene struggling to sustain itself. Despite all of the pitfalls and financial difficulties, all of the anger and ego, all of the uncertainty that comes from trying to serve a niche market in a small town that has a bad reputation as being “backwoods”, these women have stuck to their guns in fine style, ensuring that the Durban scene has had a steady foundation on which to build.
When the dry spell of below quality paint was finally broken in South Africa, when stock of superior quality international aerosol began to cross our borders, brands like Montana and Belton (brands we had only ever dreamed about handling one day), Mel McReady was there to make sure we got our share. Products that had only ever appeared in our imagination or in the coveted magazines brought back by homies from overseas (black books, markers, caps, masks) suddenly were right there within reach. Through all of it’s manifestations, it’s no surprise that they have finally settled on the name STEP UP. That’s what they have always been about, about taking the scene to the next level, elevating it.
As it was so well conveyed by local writer STOP in an online conversation we were having about support for STEP UP, “They are a business, not a car boot.” Their existence is not only about themselves, it is about a whole scene, it is about the creative existence and space for expression that they help to sustain by keeping us stocked, by keeping the channels open for us to expand as artists.
That goes for any of the outlets in SA that keep stoking the fires of Graffiti and Street Art culture. The difference here is that these ladies aren’t Writers, they are fans of the culture and they have been involved long enough to be educated and informed contributors to the scene. You ever hear someone talk about doing it “for the love”? That’s the foundation of the McReady’s influence on Durban Graffiti and Street Art.
Us heads under the ground like to throw phrases around like “hustle” to talk about the daily grind of trying to make our own way in the world. The McReadys define true hustle, but beyond that, they sustain the hustle of so many others. They don’t get a lot of props, they aren’t (in)famous for their efforts, but they are so tied into the history of our scene that I would even suggest that there might not be any such scene without them.
Respect ladies, I hope you are around for a long time. Even if we don’t always show it, believe that we need you more then you need us, and you have my thanks for sticking by us through it all. From bailing us out to bigging us up, thank you for playing your part.
[This is the tenth anniversary year for STEP UP and the plans include an old school park jam and a print publication of a Durban Graffiti retrospective. Stay tuned if you are around Poison Town at all this year. You just might land at the right time.]