Jaak: Paarl’s Hip Hop Philosopher


Jacques, popularly known as Jaak is a hip-hop artiste from South Africa. As he puts it, his name is an Afrikaansified (flattened) version of his birth name with graffiti cultural influences, in which a good tag name consists of five characters or less. Although he does not double in the art form, he strongly believes that there is a distinct overlap of concepts with hip-hop. Thanks to his cousin-a barman, who was friends with the local deejays, he was exposed to music at a very young age and was always privy to the latest hits. One of those hits happened to be that of the Native Tongues, a hip-hop collective of artistes from the U.S, who he took an immediate liking for because of their musicality and newspeak. He cites Big Daddy Kane and Busta Rhymes as being his biggest musical influences back then. Their rhyme capabilities and technique, as far as he was concerned were supreme to none. They were as a matter of fact, Olympian.

In 2009, through a handshake agreement that was later cemented officially in writing, he got signed to Pioneer Unit Records (P-Unit), an independent record label in South Africa. Here, he found a stable that gave him the creative license and agency to explore his talent fully without the bureaucratic hustles of a major record label. The crowd funding initiative platform that Africa Unsigned (AU) operated on initially, was introduced to him by his manager, DPlanet. In a competition that featured two other popular bands that had also not reached their funding target, the public voted in his favor. He emerged as the eventual winner.

Ongerep, is his AU sponsored EP. It features two songs namely, Revolusie and Ongerep. The creative process was done in a rather condensed period of time, as both songs were written on 30th and 31st December 2012, and recorded on 1st January 2013. Ongerep means pristine in English. It was inspired by AU’s ongoing campaign to help underground African artistes. He draws similarities between the virginal pristine African nature and wildlife to the untarnished and unpretentious underground world of music. They do not adhere to, nor follow the rules for commercial viability that major record labels do. Long story short, Ongerep chants down the major labels, bigs up AU and makes the world aware of conscious artistes.  He strongly urges artistes to put work out with a social-political message.

Revolusie was written at a time when he was engrossed in reading a lot of radical literature. The message he got from those writings are what he felt needed to be shared with the people. In this highly charged socio-political record, he suggests socialist solutions to the ills in the brown community. He bluntly states, “We are very loyal consumers and this fact makes for a very happy white elite. The people need revolution otherwise we’ll be stuck in this destructive cycle for decades to come. Apartheid is still here.” Inspiration for this song was derived from the many strikes that were happening all over SA at the time.

The Cape Town Effects tour is a collaborative project between Jarring Effects, an independent record label (French) and P-Unit. It was conceptualized in celebration of Jarring Effects ten year involvement in the Cape Town independent music scene.  Jaak is one of the featured artistes and will be touring France on the second leg of the project starting October.

Growing up in Paarl, where the Berg River segregated and still does to this day, the whites from the browns, further isolating the black people into the township area of Mbekweni, Jaak was exposed to extremely divided human ideologies. Economic differences and geographic divide brought on by a horrid past, manifested out rightly in land and property ownership complexities. The big homes and gardens were a reserve of the white community. During the height of the apartheid era, other racial communities were not allowed to own property.

At the time, a luxurious lifestyle for colored people was not in the offing. However, through holding such jobs as a live-in housemaid, they were able to vicariously enjoy the possibilities. This was how Jaak got a taste of the good life, by visiting his aunt at her workplace during the weekends. Things on his side of the river were rather grey, with no greenery he recollects. While living in the public housing projects, he observed the submissive nature of his people. Their existence was a smoothly oiled system of cultural and psychological oppression. The huge sense of entitlement whites displayed in Paarl, because of the privilege that history and apartheid afforded them, was quite problematic for a teenaged Jaak.

Hip-hop became a refuge of sorts. It served as an escape from the brutal realities of systematic sujugation with its lessons of rebellion. He instead found a cool way to express his concerns about the state of racial differences in Paarl. Back in 1993, he was part of the Funk-Shun 3 (FS3) trio, the first ever hip-hop group out of Paarl. It consisted of Bulbs, Ace High (R.I.P.) and himself. Their genuine love for hip-hop as a medium of artistic expression brought them together. Fast forward to 2013, he has singularly chosen to put the status quo of apartheid, on blast, lyrically.

Afrikaans is a language he proudly declares as one that represents his true self and allows him to authentically express his brown experience. Fans love the lyrics, whether they can understand them or not; they appreciate the flow and craftsmanship. A friend from France told him once that, despite not understanding the lyrics, he can ‘catch the substance’. Currently his music is more revolutionary than when he first started because there is a greater urgency now, since Paarl is still racially divided as ever.

Given the racially charged history of Paarl, which was built on the backs of 63,000 slaves brought from the Indian Ocean islands, Indonesia, Arabia, etc, add to the indigenous people (KhoiSan) who were also enslaved, it is no surprise his music is extremely forthright, conscious, and reflective. In the years past, he tells me that racial classification had it that white people were 1st class citizens, whilst the blacks were 3rd class. Post apartheid, the opposite is true albeit the fact that whites still retain the most economic power. In both instances, the brown people have continually been overlooked. Due to this marginalization, he has taken it upon himself to be the voice for “a people with no definite heritage and culture because the workings of racism ensured that the brown people have no link to their own history”.  His main objective is to show his people that their cultural and economic contribution in South Africa’s past, present, and future is just as significant as others. For this reason, he has become a tireless social advocate for his generation and people.

Clearly, he takes a no holds barred approach to music. He lays bare his soul in his works. Flêtse Maniere, his 2009 first digital album release was well received. It is a testament of the rawness with which he approaches music and a “play by play account of his formative years growing up in the flêtse of Paarl.” In it he featured his fellow Afrikaans rapper, Cream who is heralded as the next MC. In terms of collaborations, in the past, he has worked with fellow minded artistes like Scalywag, Cream, Ben Sharpa, Scott Williams, Tristram Atkins, Sketch, Maddstone, Ameen Harron, Nyambz, Griffie, Slim X and the list goes on. The Fokn Bois, Kid Koala, Immortal Technique are many among the group of artistes he would like to work with in the future.

Galant, is his next full length second album which he is currently prepping to release. He produced all the songs. A sneak peek into what’s in store for his fans reveals music that has been sampled off of all types of recorded Afrikaans media. From vinyl to VHS, simply put, it’s an album of Afrikaans rap over Afrikaans sampled beats. It’s really nice to listen to he muses.

Meanwhile, make sure to support Jaak by watching his ‘Bravo Papa’ song and video from his forthcoming album, Galant. The video content is quite heavy and is influenced by several incidents which involve corrupt cops not handling their business.  If you are looking to wild out to records, you might want to go to a club. Jaak is all about spitting that intellect, unapologetically.

Peace, love and elbow grease!






Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s