“Promise” and “potential” – two words that can be the most frustrating terms in music writing. They’re often an acknowledgement of a raw talent, but can also be a hedged bet. Potential doesn’t automatically translate to movement, and when left un-nurtured can evaporate.
In 2015, when a diminutive producer based in Cape Town called Sipho The Gift started popping up on the credits list of a few international blog darlings, excitement around his potential quickly grew. A who’s who of tastemaker blogs featured him or his work in some capacity, and when this swell of attention culminated in Sipho self-releasing his rap debut – The Coming of Age – the kinetic momentum clicked into place to propel him further. But then, there was silence, and all the hype seemed to peter down.
Now, after nearly two years of only sporadic releases, Sipho is back with a single called ‘The Man’, leading up to a new EP Kintsugi. The track is a far cry from what many had come to know Sipho for. He strays from his roots-style street rap to a much more polished, auto-tune sung style. The content, and the depictions of his world and his hustle haven’t changed – but the confidence and the packaging have (perhaps inevitably, as no artists should be sounding like a facsimile of themselves from years ago).
Cape Town rap can be said to be suffering from serious middle child syndrome. Johannesburg has, very fittingly as the country’s economic hub, been established as the heart of the local rap industry – the overachieving older sibling. Durban, on the other hand, has seen a meteoric rise in rap status off the back off groups of youthful upstarts. Cape Town, though, has been serially devoid of national attention (especially if you ask it’s own residents), at the same time as it’s struggled to build a cohesive popular style.
One group that has been pushing to change this perception in the spaces they operate is Rude World Records. RW have been hoovering up precocious talents from around the Cape and giving them levels of backing beyond what they would achieve alone – and it’s through them that Kintsugi will be released. It’s an exciting move for Sipho, and could also be the impetus behind the evolution in style – less in terms of label-meddling but more in having a safety-net over which to creatively explore sounds with less risk.
‘The Man’ is produced entirely by Sipho himself, and tellingly conveys more of the story of his journey towards becoming great, rather than just claiming the title of ‘The Man’. It seems the past two years haven’t been spent relaxing or with laurels rested, and the future may just be looking full of potential again for Sipho.
Stream or buy The Man on most major platforms, which you can find here.