1000 Degreez - All Day No New Clique

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A Brief History and Appreciation of 1000 Degreez 

 

By now we are familiar with some of Joburg’s solo rising stars, crews, and collectives. 1000 Degreez are Pretoria’s answer to the likes of Skhanda World. Founding members IMP THA DON, Ghoust, Boom Bap The Problem, Krish, TY, A-Reece, and SHVDE have built respective careers from the foundations of the collaborative effort. The all-star cast is not strictly a membership only type of affair but has hosted a number of other talented musicians and artists. Perhaps crew is too strong a word or description. We here at snf. would prefer to describe it as a collaboration of artists. IMP Tha Don and Ghoust’s track Muhammad Ali/Chuck and Deuce is the latest release among a list of impressive collaborations. The most notable is Live From The 012 - an EP released in 2016. LFT012 features production from the brilliant Tie-On-IT/TY (who appears on the production credits as Tie-Master), Nexus 88, Luni Skipz. Collaborators (Boom Bap, SV) and affiliates (North and King) play the role of a supporting cast on the 11 song project. 

 

Pretoria has always been regarded as the kind of good looking cousin of all the major metropolitan areas. A cursory look at all of it and it seems unremarkable. Pitori does not have any of the allure of Jozi’s bright lights and economic buzz. It is far from Cape Town’s historical charm and idyllic farmland. And even further from Durban’s languid, imperturbable beach life. Despite standing shoulder to shoulder with Joburg, Pretoria has always felt small. Artists have always had to carve an alternative route to the mainstream through the narrow passages and channels of Pretoria. The social scene exists due to the many intersections and connections of inner-city activity. Naturally, with all of the mingling happening, artists find each other and device plans to branch out. It is not always the case as some artists prefer not be caught up in the politics, mess and hype. The experience of living as a talented young person in a cloistered, rugged, and self-conscious city is the basis for the lyrics and thumping soundscape of Live From The 012. Ambitions, dreams, flaws and self-praise are laid over Lex Luger- inspired beats. Of course that is not the limit to creativity. Every rapper and producer brought his own repertoire to the project. And the influences range from trap to Motswako. 

 

It is quintessentially Pitori. The album cover portrays Pretoria, serene, but mysterious and seductive. The rappers do a fair job of showing all dimensions of the city, while keeping up to their own commitments. Street anthems are delivered in a variety of styles and flows. For example trap provides, terse and intense outlooks on life, while Motswako and Spitori emphasise the subject as coolly as possible. Pitorisms are interspersed, in the trap flows, hooks and vernacular. “As soon as re kena ba bona masepa” one of IMP’s lines translates to as soon as we enter they are in trouble. Spitori (the Lingua Franca of the citizens) features prominently on the mixtape. It has been celebrated (and declaimed) for its colloquialisms and tone. The dialect flows in a way that it sounds incoherent and unserious or amusing and concise to those hearing it for the first time (or the 100th). New slang is created before one can be settled on which terms to use in daily conversation. Animating, pretentious, idiosyncratic, mixed- up, accessible, obscure are just some of the adjectives that come to mind when one thinks of how to describe the language. Some terms are so unusual they warrant explanation, while others can be understood, as easily as the universal sign - a head nod. Pitori’s people are famously (or notoriously) known for offering very little in the way of instruction on what words to use - you pick it up, then pass it off with the same attitude. Is the uncanny ability to say a lot but withhold even more a gift or curse? The only reasonable answer is - if you know you know, it ain’t got to be spelled out. 

 

The story of the crew’s formation has been told in a series of anecdotes by the artists themselves and the rarefied class of early fans, affiliates and haters. It is safer to follow your ears – the music is a reliable 

source for most of the information on the crew. Any chance at a comprehensive account of the crew’s beginning would be combing through digital archives, internet caches, and those anachronistic creatures – desktop computers (some tracks were recorded on these living fossils) to (re)discover records. 

 

Languishing in PCs and laptops, are moderately successful singles and EPS as well as unfinished/unreleased projects, some awaiting the consummate final touch of an engineer or mixer and others completely abandoned, all bearing comical titles derived from song lyrics or whatever was on the producer’s/artist’s mind at the time (cashfloedit1). The early posse cuts, beat projects and solo work are the story. Most of it is impressive and parts of it corny and funny – but contains none of the melodrama of split ups and backbiting. That’s always been the collaboration’s greatest strength, a healthy sense of humour, which plays out fantastically through teasing and its complement self-deprecation. If you can’t laugh at yourself, don’t bother making jokes at the expense of others. Of course this is not to say all the artists are self-parodying jokesters, or highly-charged pranksters. Critical judgement and support between artists thrived in an environment of sh*t-talking, blunt rolling and working through the music. The story of 1000 Degreez being the first “crew” to emerge from the West is a prevailing half-truth. It is true that the collaboration was the first to produce a star among its ranks (A-Reece). 

 

BenchmarQ, the predecessors to 1000 Degreez had a late rise to success, partly due to a number of false starts, lack of support from peers and local industry, and ambivalence (outright rejection at other times) from the city’s house-crazed audiences. Following the footsteps of PJAY BenchmarQ and Tkay BenchmarQ, ambitiously, set out to doing their own thing, whatever that thing was to become, was unknown. What was known was raps had to be dropped and beats were ready. Shashi studios, the working space, took in as many artists as possible, most of them eagerly waiting trying to shake off the pre-recording nerves. While other artists fussing over the details of their work, circling producers. 

 

At the same time producers working while the regular studio cast and newcomers pouring in, with new ideas and songs in mind. Traffic in and out of Shashi Studios was heavy. The room should have been fitted with a revolving door, to avoid congestion and accidents. This is all happening in the backyards of quiet and modest homes. Entire streets were roused by the sounds of raps over trap beats. It’s not so much disturbance as it is youthful energy thrusting itself into the material world. In every suburb, there’s a group of talented guys defying the complacency and conformity of older generations. IMP Tha Don proudly announced on LFT012 “1000 Degreez the name of the clique.” This statement rings true four years after it was first dropped. Muhammad Ali/Chuck & Deuce is a product of the collaborations’ undisturbed creative process. 

 

The video shows scenes of how young people do typical young people stuff. It is all very grungy, active, unpretentious. Of course the lyrics are exaggerated as rap lyrics should be. It follows the tradition of tracks split into A-side (Muhammad Ali) and B-side (Chuck and Deuce). The beat is crafted by SHVDE, the rapper-come producer. The hook begins with the time-honoured classic “float like a butterfly sting like a bee” And ends with IMP comparing his style and flow to the boxing legend’s technique and prowess “the punches keep coming like Muhammad Ali.” We do not know if IMP has amateur boxing credentials but the fighting stance and flurry of punches are surprisingly good for a rapper. He embodies Ali’s confidence through raps and his form in front of the punching bag. He swaggers along a bridge, the streets of Danville in different sweaters and a durag. That is classic rap culture. “How they run the game when I got it on lease/How you run the game when I got her in my sheets” is the type of bar his fanbase and others like to hear. It is brash and effective without splitting his vocals or over the top theatrics. 

 

Ghoust leads the second joint with pomp and great rap hands. The B-side alternates between Ghoust delivering raps at one moment on the edge of what is supposed to be a window of a room on the upper 

level and at another in the centre of the room. He looks perniciously close to launching himself from the frame onto God knows what lies below. The rest of the crew is huddled in a semi-illuminated corner, bobbing heads, allowing smoke to rise and fill the background, while THE TRAP BULLY dominates the beat. The daredevils cutting athletic and ominous figures on ATV bikes deserve a nod. They cut past the screen before the camera can register their faces or any of the tense, strenuous work needed to operate those machines. It looks effortless. An intimidating and well groomed pit bull makes a cameo, handled semi-professionally by a 1000 Degreez affiliate. 

 

The location, Danville is a formerly white township, and in the center of suburbia is the main stage house which resembles a Bando. Graffitied walls and ruins formed by chipped paint and fallen concrete belie the would-be splendour and purity of this house. The East of Pretoria abounds in palatial homes, while the West is a mixed bag. As it stands, bare-boned and unlived-in, presumably, abandoned a few stages from completion, it could be the worst or best of the West. It is a mini-mansion, not entirely ready to be lived in but adequate for half scripted/half improvised, rap videos. It is jarring - vacant, sparsely-lit (all of the light comes directly from the sun) and used for spray paint doodles. It comes as no surprise that this is the structure that attracts the rap director’s gaze. It is a peculiar sight in an otherwise straightforward, uncomplicated landscape. Neighbourhoods don’t come as working class to lower middle class as Danville. And through that fretless, low activity, charming scene, rappers are able to work and play under their own conditions. Whatever they can get their hands on is an instrument, a theme, a music video set. We can’t make a strong case for liberal use of privately owned property. However appropriation to achieve aesthetic goals for an impressive visual component to the song gets a pass. What more could audiences ask for? The best parts of the city shine through the creative output of Bafana Ba Pitori