A-Reece, one of South Africa’s premier rappers, unveils a timely and totemic album, Today’s Tragedy, Tomorrow’s Memory. The work hosts 13 tracks that command to be heard, written in all-caps, and wrapped in the eye popping cover art of Samurai Farai. Right from the jump, with the opener “MARK 15:35”, we find a spiritual weight to the opus and a broader reflection on the loss of A-Reece’s father just a year earlier. The themes of impermanence, legacy, and duty pop in and out of boastful bars bolstering A-Reece’s premier role in the African rap game. For the South African Hip-Hop Awards ‘Lyricist of the Year’, and 2021 MTV Africa Music Awards nominee, A-Reece has plenty to brag about. However, the young rapper has come a long way since his 2016 debut Paradise which he released at just 19. This go around we hear from someone who’s been through a lot and had time to marinate on the in’s and out’s of life in music and beyond. Nonetheless almost every bar is quotable, and each track is pregnant with experience. It’s fitting that A-Reece includes features from his older brother Jay Jody on multiple tracks, a slew of former collaborators like Ayanda Jiya and Wordz, and some fresh slated newcomers like BelaSalo or Stogie T. Despite the dense lyrics, the whole album feels effortless thanks to the Kanye West inspired production that matches soulful instrumentation and a carnal minimalism with A-Reece’s confident flow. We caught up with A-Reece to pick his brain on the album and find out more about the many interpretations of his finest lyrics.
This album feels especially personal. Can you share with us the meaning behind the title, “Today’s Tragedy, Tomorrow’s Memory” ?
I feel like the title is self-explanatory. I lost my father last year and it took a toll on me emotionally and creatively. It felt like my journey was starting to lack purpose until one day after having a conversation with an old friend and he told me not to take for granted the influence I have on the kids of today and how I can turn my pain into something positive by putting it in the music and overcoming it.
The title and tracks are also capitalized. Is there a message there?
The capital letters emphasise the meaning behind every title. I feel like it commands attention. If you were to interpret it in a literal way it’s almost like I’m exclaiming.
You open the album with “MARK 15:35” a passage in the Bible referring to the passing of Jesus. How do you link that to your own experience?
After losing my father, I kind of compared myself to how Jesus felt which was being separated from God, feeling betrayed and abandoned. Something inside of me died as well.
I hear some new influences on this album. Maybe a bit of Pop Smoke via ad libs on “THE 5 YEAR PLAN”? Can you tell us your inspirations for this project?
Rest in peace to the legendary Pop Smoke but I’ve never really listened to his music, I’m only familiar with the smash hits everyone knows. The tape is mainly inspired by Kanye West specifically in terms of the production style.
Do you have a 5 year plan? Is there a map for the future of A-Reece?
I guess the five year plan is already taking its course. In 2017 it was the beginning of a new chapter for me as an independent artist after dropping out the label. Fast forward five years later I’m still around releasing music on a much bigger platform. As for the future, I’m also just as curious because anything can happen. At this current point in my life I’m just happy I can still do what I love.
Jay Jody has some big features notably on the lead up single “MORNING PEACE”. What can you tell us about Jay Jody and how you linked up?
Jay Jody is my older brother. He’s the reason why I started making music, period. Linking up with him to make this mixtape happen was a walk in the park. Our chemistry is unmatched.
On “RESIDUAL SELF-IMAGE” you rap, “How many lives can this record save? How many minds can it liberate?” Are these your goals when putting together music, or just on this track?
Definitely when I’m putting music together in general. The more I want to be great at it, the more I feel a sense of heavy responsibility on my shoulders to make sure I give it my best and keep it true.
You also tackle political issues like gun violence on “NO MAN’S LAND”. Do you consider yourself politically active?
I don’t see myself as a politically active individual. I’m the observer just speaking on issues that are common in every neighbourhood in the world including where I’m from – one of them being gun violence. I have friends who have lost their loved ones to firearm homicide. It’s just a reality some people have to live through and I’m the vessel to spread the message through my music.
“DOTTED LINEZ” also refers to a close run in with the law. “I was just a dotted line for trapped inside a cage”, care to elaborate?
By “I was just a dotted line away from being trapped inside a cage “ I’m actually speaking about how I was a record label contract away from being exploited for my talents, being told how to make my music, what to wear and how to act. The cage is a metaphor for how these record labels limit you and your art.
What do you want people to take away from this latest project?
I want people to believe in themselves. I want people to have hope. Anything is possible.