This is an unapologetic piece, and it’s very evident because of the difference in genres. Music is subjective! But listen to me, I am a genius. Here are my top three artists and projects from before 2020 that you may have missed, with the world turning upside down.
An artist at heart, ByLwansta happens to be the personification of the term “trust the [creative] process”. The first time I ever heard about ByLwansta was in a leading South African Hip-Hop magazine in 2017, and he was listed as one of the most promising artists in the country. He is, really.
What sets him aside from everybody else is his alternative sound, the ability to tell captivating stories, his roll-out, and his cover art. To make things interesting, ByLwansta’s idea of a perfect album is one where you don’t burn yourself out, and give people quantity, instead of quality.
The evidence is the two last projects titled, SPIJONGET Chapter 1 and SPIJONGET Chapter 2, which are storiees inspired by his personal life, his artistic life, and his love life. To make things more interesting, we’re supposed to get SPIJONGET Chapter 3 before the end of the year. Nice.
As much as we love ByLwansta in South Africa, he seems to be getting a lot of support and gigs in Europe, and this is something we should investigate as a country because we can’t keep watching our best products leave us for “greener pastures”. Go listen to Bylwansta!
Where to start? “How ‘Bout Now”, “Lindiwe” and “Stay Naked”
As a former video games content writer, I found Shawn James at a job, this job in particular was to check out the teaser for The Last Of Us 2 in 2017. So, the teaser trailer includes Shawn James’ “Through The Valley”, which now happens to be his most popular song.
What I love about Shawn James is his ability to go from a soft acoustic song to a very gritty, americana folk song, which I am sure he grew upon. Now, Shawn James was a member of the Shawn James and the Shapeshifters, a band that used to do dark americana before his departure. This pretty much explains his ability to change notes in a blink of an eye, this can be heard in songs like “Burn The Witch”, “Curse Of The Fold”, and “The Guardian”.
He definitely is one of the greatest voices of our time, in my book. Lastly, Shawn James’ unique lyricism on writing about dark times, tales, and war surely juxtaposes him from the artists we hear on our headphones and loudspeakers. Try him out. Available in all digital stores.
Where to start? “The Guardian”, “Burn The Witch” and “Through The Valley”
If you’re an indie music fan or one of their over 3 million monthly listeners on Spotify, then you probably already love Arcade Fire, but for the uninitiated, doesn’t the name just scream “Try me out”?
I found Arcade Fire on the soundtrack of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, a film inspired by a book of the same name, written by author, Suzanne Collins. The name of the song was “Abraham’s Daughter”.
Arcade Fire really knocked my boots off, it really did, considering that I was a Hip-Hop fan at the time, and if you could ask me to describe their sound to you, I’d say that they sound fun. Fun happens to be what sets them apart from everybody else, and the word “fun” also includes the vocals, lyrics and composition.
Where to start? “Sprawl I (Flatland)”, “Here Comes The Night Time” and “Ocean of Noise”
Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd
No, I definitely am not trying to look cool or anything, I just love Wish You Were Here, Pink Floyd’s 1975 album. I only got introduced to Pink Floyd when I had to write an Image Interpretation assignment in varsity and the band had the greatest album art in the 20th century.
Wish You Were Here has a fewer tracks compared to other Pink Floyd albums, so I chose it because it gave me more free time, and I had to listen to everything in order to understand the story behind the art. So, the album mostly focuses on a former band member (Syd Barret) who did a lot of mushrooms to a point where he developed a mental disorder.
The album was mostly dedicated to him [“Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts I-V)”, “Wish You Were Here” and “Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts VI-IX)”] and also the ups and the downs of the music industry [“Welcome To The Machine” and “Have A Cigar”]. As an album art fan, I assure you that the album will be one of your favourites before you even listen to it.
Favourite song? “Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts I-IV)”
WOLF by Tyler, The Creator
Perfection! In 2013, Tyler closed off the series story of his alter ego, Wolf Haley, who was a problem child, forced to go to summer camp, with this album WOLF. The whole album is much like a story, but what makes it different from Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, which is considered as one of the greatest stories of all time, is that WOLF is clearly purely fiction (even the stuff he says sounds like lies).
As fun as WOLF sounds, it’s a violent album (kinda my stuff) and if you aren’t into gangsta rap, I certainly wouldn’t listen to WOLF as it has psychopathic kid vibes with mentions of rape and murder (I have an issue with this part). I wouldn’t highly recommend it but it’s a nice album production-wise.
Favourite song? “Rusty” featuring Domo Genesis & Earl Sweatshirt
WILLOW by WILLOW
WILLOW’s WILLOW was released in 2019 and it was recommended by a friend who has the same music taste as I do. This album is defined by the words: feminisim, internal conflict, and an eternal ‘shroom trip’. With a guest verse from hersibling, JADEN, this unusual project is the definition of breaking your music sound virginity (and stay a virgin in a literal manner). Do give it a listen.
Favourite song? “U Know” with JADEN.
Words by Xolani Ntuli // Follow him on Instagram