The South African rapper recollects how his Sub Pop full-length debut came to be
At about this time yesterday, Spoek Mathambo was washing dishes in his Malmö kitchen, thousands upon thousands of miles away from his birthplace of Johannesburg, South Africa. But as he explained to SPIN, Father Creeper, his first full-length for Sub Pop (due March 13), is an album born in transit. Mathambo assembled so much of its zig-zagging rap ruckus while touring throughout Europe, North America, and South Africa in collaboration with his wife, Swedish rapper Ana Rab a.k.a. Gnucci Banana, Copenhagen-based multi-instrumentalist CHLLNGR, and Okamulukat of South African hip-hop troublemakers Dirty Paraffin. Below, get an exclusive first listen to the disc while you read Mathambo's recollections of how each vibrant piece came to be.
- Spoek Mathambo — Kites
- Spoek Mathambo — Venison Fingers
- Spoek Mathambo — Put Some Red On It
- Spoek Mathambo — Let Them Talk
- Spoek Mathambo — Dog to Bone
- Spoek Mathambo — Skorokoro (Going Away)
- Spoek Mathambo — Father Creeper
- Spoek Mathambo — We Can Work
- Spoek Mathambo — Stuck Together
- Spoek Mathambo — Grave (Intro)
- Spoek Mathambo — Grave
" 'Kites' has quite a long history. It started with the producer that I originally worked with, Richard the Third. He kind of built the sound of my debut. And then we've added Nick on guitar and he's now a permanent fixture. He built a lot of the sound of the album from there. Lyrically, it's just supposed to be a dreamy, kind of a thick, love song. With a sad edge as well. Just like different sides of a personality. And rapping. Having a lot of fun rapping on that track. Because that's really where I come from. It's cool to have that on an album where I also move far beyond that. This was he first year where I became producer and arranger as well."
"Nic [Van Reenen] wrote this. I just loved the beat. It feels really elastic, and fun. It allowed me just to be energetic and buoyant on the track. We were listening to a lot of music that's faster than we usually would. Not speed metal, but more like modern electronic stuff. We really got into that type of rhythm, and Nic threaded that throughout. He played a lot of the big, epic rocky stuff on the album, but that's his production on the electronic side."
"Put Some Red On It"
"My wife, Ana Rab or Gnucci Banana, wrote this with a friend of hers after watching a film about the diamond industry. And she wrote like a more personal vibe to it. A kind of twisted R&B vibe to it and put it against the conflict and the war. She never recorded the song and I had liked it for years. Eventually she said I should make it, so I produced the beat with my friend CHLLNGR and added my vocal stuff and yeah, it's an exciting collaboration. Like a full-on, dope songwriting team."
"Let Them Talk"
"That one was honed from playing live. That totally developed from Mshini Wam on the road: Richard the Third, Jake the Snake, Nick, and me playing a lot, but also getting to know each other as well. Like that space rock at the beginning, when it was developing, I didn't see that as a direction that I wanted to go with in music at the time. Then after being on the road and working in that state, and developing these songs I got so much more excited. It was dope. And now we shot a short film, our own video treatment, directed alongside Justin Mcgee. It's short film about it with an epic dramatic feel, set in the '50s in South Africa. It's gonna come out in a week. It's the first time I've gotten to like write a full-on video treatment."
"Dog to Bone"
"Songs like that were always quite personal, and I didn't put them out. I kind of wrote them when I was working with other people. Stuff that was a bit intimate than what I wanted people to see. But now with the albums that I'm doing, I don't feel like I need to compromise. I can put out stuff that I appreciate and that I think represents me best and not worry about like what another person necessarily thinks. That song was written at such a period in my thinking and in my mind. It's not my perspective but the way it's written that I really appreciate, and I thought it had to be made."
Skorokoro ft. Okomulukat
"An exciting collaboration with the homie Okemalume from Johannesburg. He wrote that and it's a mixture of English flows and Zulu flows. It's a tribute to old school South African music, to the great singers of our country. We wrote that and it's an old style love poem, but with a new, digital, squelchy bass sound. It's nasty. And he's a really, really dope rapper. His project is called Dirty Parrafin, so look out for that."
"It's a strange song that I wrote a while ago that I didn't fully get. I was in college working all the time, and passed out on the floor in my room after a 24-hour work shift. I woke up and that song was playing in my head. Like I had dreamt it. But I thought it was too like weird and obscure and in the back of everything to ever make. But then working with CHLLNGR I finally thought, 'We can do it.' It has this epic outro. But just in terms of the arrangement, his is really happy and big and buoyant."
"We Can Work"
"This was one of the first songs I knew would be on this album. Markus Wormstorm, a producer from Cape town that I work with and I recorded a choir. Like a children's choir from the south of Johannesburg. It's these eight kids and the whole school is a blind school. Then one of the students kept calling me, like, 'Hey, we should make music.' I put it off for a long time. It was this persistent 16 year old who like really wants to sing, and she's got a lot of guts to like keep on us. So I was like, 'Okay, I'm gonna be supportive.' So we started recording stuff with her. She wants to be a gospel singer. But she's got mad stuff and mad attitude. She's on the rap tracks and doing her thing on all kinds of styles. I'm excited as a producer to work with her and make her a banging gospel record."
"That was the first track I wrote for a cousin of mine who passed away when we were 14. He committed suicide. And it's not often that I'm not like thinking of him, dreaming of him. We really grew up like brothers. Being a writer and being a storyteller, I've never like spoken about him directly. But it's something that always been with me."
"Another cool thing about this whole project is that I worked with my friend Marvin. He is a producer from Paris who releases under the name Marvy Da Pimp. He really liked Chicago House and Ghettotech and that kind of electronic stuff. But he thought it was exciting to tap into his guitar music side. He put me on to stuff that I had no idea about. Forget the biographical stuff, it was cool to mix it with him because we got to explore a really dope studio in Malmo, where I stayed in Sweden. It's called Gula Studio and they've just got a ton of old gear that we could play around with. Marvin is just a great explorer, so a lot of the production of that stuff, comes from that. The story of it is also stuff that I've dreamt, or has come to me some other way. The other side of it is just your stupid, personal, love story."