All words: Lu Makoboka
Prior to me listening to his mixtape, I knew Thembisile (aka Nelson) as a mumble rap fanboy by virtue of his social media posts. With that in mind, I took the release of his newest mixtape Hindsight is 20/20 quite lightly… Probably another local rapper with generic Trap beats and poverty-stricken lyrical content I thought to myself. When the word on the street finally reached my avenue that he ‘got bars’ (as the kids say these days), it certainly took me surprise by surprise. By the end of track #8 (Hindsight), I put down my earphones, scraped my plate and continued to swallow my pride since I could definitely consider myself a fan of Tembisile after listening to his offering.
Hindsight is 20/20 is a project filled with an honesty that leans just over the edge of vulnerability, making his lyrics so much easier for those that have gone through similar trials and tribulations to relate. For anyone that has thought of Tembisile as a ‘Trap Lord’, they would’ve been quite close to the truth at a point in time. He burst into the local scene featuring in a track called Rockstar which stacked up impressive stats on Soundcloud. Next, he featured on McKay’s ‘Lil Momma Please’ which is also ended up on MTV. On the song Twighlight he states “they told me that I’m a one-hit wonder” which refers to one of these hits, and it’s clear why some may have a problem with his progress since his first two songs received thousands of plays on the web. At the same time, it is the song Twighlight that has that ‘commercial’ sound within the mixtape.
Next, to the lyrics, beat selection is an important part of any Hip Hop project. It sets the various moods for the different parts of the project and it’s an opportunity for the artist to display versatility. Hindsight 20/20 alternates between Boombap, Trap and subpar executed Soulection style beats. Yes, I said it, come at me. It is Tembisile’s witty world play and content variation that truly grabs the listener’s attention. Tracks like Cape Town Problems Pt2 exemplify what I’ve mentioned above, with themes such as race, the city’s water supply and the rich-poor gap being explored. The headspace and mindsets of young men in relation to woman and money are also explored in the mixtape. The line in Hindsight that stated “I got new girls on the menu/that’s what men do” is not just a generalization but almost a factoid considering that you’re celebrated amongst peers if you’re seeing different women. Another recurring theme in Hindsight is 20/20 is, of course, the ex-girlfriend. After Spree and Bye and Everybody he may be associated with being ‘emotional’, but again it’s his way of vulnerability and honesty that makes him REAL-atable. Although the topic of his ex gets brought up so much, to the point where you begin to ask yourself whether he’s moved on… All I can say is good luck with that. The gem of the mixtape, lyrically and instrumentally is the Tupac/Jay Z influenced Broke Boy Raps. This boom-bap track is an acknowledgement of his relationships and his rise an artist. Not having much financially but trying to “do the best to get the zeros” is a good way to summarize it.
My first time hearing 20/20, J. Cole came to mind. Many have said Drake, but regardless the young man has his own organic sound and definitely has a promising future in the Hip Hop scene and hopefully beyond.