INTERVIEW: it’s been a busy year for South African rapper Mx Blouse – with debut album ‘Elementality’ and more to come from this emerging star – kwaito and their art keeps flourishing

Photo by Brett von Dort

Mx Blouse is based in Johannesburg – and inspired by 90s kwaito, hip-hop, electro, deep house, grime and jazz – their music is becoming globally recognised, with critical acclaim far and wide. The gender non-conforming rapper is hitting the headlines, after their singles Phukphuku and No Match, as well as a feature on frequent collaborator Thor Rixon’s Khahlela, pulled in plaudits from Highsnobiety, OkayAfrica, Kaltblut and more.
 Active since 2016, Mx Blouse has performed at some key music festivals in South Africa, including Oppikoppi, Smoking Dragon and Basha Uhuru. In 2017, they toured Germany, playing in Berlin, Leipzig and Nuremberg. This year the Elementality album dropped and more is in store.

Having heard Mx Blouse on Thor Rixon’s 2018 album Michele on Roastin Records/Get Physical Music, it’s a pleasure to hear a full album now with the expert flow of the South African star front and centre. World Treasures Music spoke to Mx Blouse following a video shoot in South Africa for forthcoming material.

WTM – What’s the last few months been like with the release of your album?

“It’s been well received, I would say. The reviews have been nice and hearing from strangers on social media who have listened to the album has been specifically satisfying. That said, I wish I could perform live to a real audience but I’m sure that will happen soon enough as the lockdown rules have eased up a hell of a lot over the last few weeks.”

What’s the music scene like where you live?

“South Africa’s music scene is very much mainstream driven. It’s very difficult for artists with a different sound to make a mark. There are pockets of communities in every city and I’d like to think we all do our part to support each other, but to tell you the truth South Africans don’t really like listening to anything they don’t hear on popular radio.”

Your sound really appeals to record collectors of vintage South African sounds, but with a modern twist, what’s been your journey in music – creating and collecting wise?

“I’m honestly not a big collector of music. I buy a lot of music from my fellow indie local artists to play on a radio show I do with a friend of mine, but beyond that I listen to music on streaming platforms. I subscribe to a couple for different reasons. In terms of creating, I started a few years ago in Cape Town which has a much more developed dance music scene than any other place in the country. In other cities I find that whatever is trendy at the time – amapiano and hip-hop right now – is what dominates. In that sense I am grateful that my journey began in a place where people are less afraid of experimenting and failing as they go along. Elementality is my first album and it’s a culmination of several years of just playing with different sounds and approaches. At its core, though, my sound is based on kwaito, even though I personally don’t call it that. I think genre is a weird concept when it comes to art.”

What specific influences have you harnessed for your recent productions?

“I listen to a lot of electronic music and try to pack as much of all my influences into my sound, so a lot of what you hear is based on what I like to hear. I’m fortunate to have found producers who kind of get what I like in the sense of not getting locked into one particular sound and, really, a lot of Elementality was made off the cuff, visiting the various producers in their home studios and just feeling a lot of different things out without thinking too much about the influences per se.”

What challenges have you faced in the music industry?

“I think funds are the biggest hurdle for all indie artists and like I mentioned earlier, South African audiences are really into whatever’s trendy at any given time, so it becomes quite difficult to find promoters who have faith enough to trust indie artists with their audiences. Everyone is playing it safe and I get that but it makes it difficult for anything different to flourish. As many indie local artists will tell you, radio playlisters go as far as saying outlandish things like “you sound too South African” or you are “alternative”, often meaning you don’t sound Drake enough, so I think we have a long way to go.”

“I know a lot of what the rest of the world hears from the few South African artists who are on heavy rotation globally sounds new, but for us a lot of it is just more of the same.”

Who or what inspires you outside of music?

“Traveling and experiencing cultures that are different to my own. I’m a very weird traveller in the sense that you will never find me visiting a famous tourist attraction. I prefer meeting strangers in bars and tagging along with them to wherever they go to have fun.”

“I’m also inspired by critical thinkers, famous or not. It could be someone I meet somewhere that I think has an interesting point of view on any given topic. I also find seemingly insignificant things like watching a dating show fulfilling. Dating Around on Netflix is a particular favourite. I guess what I’m trying to say is I’m inspired by the human spirit and fleeting experiences.”

Mx Blouse’s early singles such as A Fetish Ain’t Love have blossomed into a hybrid dance album of significant endeavour, making evident a highly-skilled craft beyond a debut LP – future sounds are so very eagerly anticipated. Further global acclaim should be not far away.

For more go to Mx Blouse’s Bandcamp

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