The rapper’s name is becoming world famous, but her music is more Tsonga than ever.
After a period marked by her younger sister Nyeleti’s tragic passing, the last thing expected from Sho Madjozi was a project as enthusiastic as What A Life. From the cover to the tracklist, the EP is probably the best representation of what the artist has embodied since her debut: a “21st century urban Tsonga“, a mix of tradition and futurism, a diversity of skin and fabric colours, a South African and Pan-African ambassador. Produced in her own image, What A Life is a joyful and flamboyant project. As in her Gqom debut era with Okmalumkoolkat, Sho Madjozi once again takes rap to another level by generously combining it with the different colours of South African electronic music. Shangaan Electro, in particular, is clearly highlighted. Its frenetic tempo and solar sonorities are the artist’s umpteenth form of cultural celebration, putting the spotlight here on the Shangaan people, a fraction of the Tsonga population. On her previous Limpopo Champions League project, Sho had already timidly explored the genre with “Kona”; two years later, What A Life devotes half of its songs to it. In contrast to this light-hearted energy, the rapper also didn’t let down her dark Gqom, which introduced her to the entire world through her hit “John Cena”. “Sena Ala” or “Tsha Dovha” prove that she has not lost any of her skills in this domain. The same can be said with the Amapiano wave, on which the whole Rainbow Nation is currently surfing : clever, Sho decided to dip only one toe in it, on the track “Jamani “.
Far from following the hype, we can feel that Sho Madjozi wanted to take pleasure in doing this project. Immersing herself in Electro Shangaan could only be a choice motivated by the love of the culture, more than by an economic strategy. Her choices of featurings reflect this idea even more obviously: the artist has already performed on American TV and could have afforded herself high class collaborations (like her latest with AKA or Davido), but preferred to invite local legends like musician Thomas Chauke, DJ Mfundhisi or singer Sunglen Chabalala. However, part of the new South African guard is represented on the powerful “Tsha Dovha” with singer Makhadzi and Manu WorldStar, Congolese artist from Johannesburg. The youth will also be able to find themselves in the range of themes addressed in the project: while “Di Hawks” mocks the many corruption scandals among local politicians, “Amajoy” is named after an iconic South African candy. Probably as sweet as What A Life, to be consumed without moderation.