Few similarities can be drawn between the fictitious jungle of Jumanji and the squalor of South African township life.
To escape the “jungle” that township life can often present, you must clock the game.
24-year-old producer and rapper Tweezy was born and bred in Jabulani, Soweto. On his new single, Jumanji, only his second release as a solo artist, he uses his knowledge of the trappings of township life as a call to action.
“My gimmick is spreading good music and turn up music with a message,” he says.
“So Jumanji is inspired by telling the story of the ’hood and empowering the ’hood at the same time.
The ’hood is figuratively like a concrete Jumanji. It’s a song that talks about all these social issues in the ’hood that set people back from achieving what they need to achieve.”
He compares it to his first single, Ambitions, but with a little more focus: “Jumanji also encourages the power of prayer and being optimistic. Instead of just talking about the ambition of making it, it has more depth about what people go through than Ambitions had.”
The quality of Tweezy’s production has never been in question. His long line of credits, which includes production for the likes of Riky Rick, AKA and Emtee, has earned him back-to-back Producer of the Year awards at the SAHHAs (South African Hip Hop Awards).
As an established producer looking to grow into a bankable solo artist, he’s still finding his feet and searching for a clear direction. But Jumanji shows growth. It also maps out the path he wishes to follow more clearly.
When we last spoke in September, a few weeks before his still-unreleased mixtape Fuego was set for release, Tweezy told of how he was embarking on a journey as a solo artist that required his fans and music critics alike not to box him up based on Ambitions, but to allow each of his releases to act as pieces to the puzzle. His vision and sound would be clearer once the mixtape dropped, he’d explained.
With fans still waiting for Fuego, Jumanji acts as a much-needed buffer from the noise and pressure that comes with a delayed project.
On Jumanji, Tweezy’s production is at its most thunderous with the pounding sound of gunshots strewn around its rapid, menacing bassline.
His rapping, a combination of Zulu and English, is sharp and decisive.
“I’m looking to do a whole lot more features this year with the mainstream DJs and mainstream artists,” he says. “I’m looking to produce more songs of course. It’s just the year to expose myself as an artist a bit more.”
Last year, Tweezy’s customary production tag wasn’t as evident as in previous years. Many interpreted this as Tweezy doing less work. But Tweezy says he just turned the tag off last year as a branding strategy.
“I was switching from producer to artist at that moment, so to get my focus up on being an artist, I switched off the tag so it could kind of distract my producer hype, which was quite successful. This year I’m bringing it back so we have more face in the production again.”
2016 wasn’t plain sailing for Tweezy. He had to navigate a very public beef with former collaborator AKA and try find his feet as a solo artist amidst an audience reluctant to accept him outside of his production work. He says he negotiated these challenges by staying positive, focusing on his fans and working hard. If Jumanji is a teaser of what’s to come this year, it’s easy to see him breaking through as solo artist and making a name for himself outside of his famous Ayobuur tag.
Tweezy’s much-anticipated Fuego album has fans on tenterhooks, so he released Jumanji to show he isn’t playing games.
Rapper and producer Tweezy is encouraging ’hood dwellers to keep on following their dreams, just as he pursues his own.