Johannesburg’s Spoek Mathambo (real name: Nthato Mokgata) first hotwired our world with a series of collaborative projects—Sweat X, Playdoe—that placed his smart, dirty vocals on top of electro-rap bangers that activated dance floors across the globe. Things went darker and deeper with his 2010 debut album, Mshini Wam, a record which took Spoek’s love affair with South African culture and his coined “township tech” as a starting point. As always, he pulled those influences in a direction all his own (incl. a pitched-down wobble-house cover of Joy Division’s “She’s Lost Control”).
With the arrival of his second album, Father Creeper, Spoek Mathambo makes the Afro-futurists look old school. Each song arrangement is a statement in and of itself. Rock moments swerve electronic. The crisp, changing rhythms of Mathambo’s live drummer go cyborg with drum machine beats. Guitar lines snake and ripple across the album, ranging from summery highlife melodies to amped-up rock riffs. Soulfully sung choruses shift up into double-time rap choruses as video game bleeps splash through Mathambo’s gutturals. Lyrically, Father Creeper flips the concerns of mainstream rap by embracing a deep sensitivity for a traumatized society where the fucked-upedness is real, the optimism stubborn and the booty ripe. The more you listen to Mathambo’s world, the more it makes sense. The big picture shows us a musician hitting his stride with enough confidence and vision to craft songs as robust and challenging and attractive as life in our electrified, apocalyptic 2012.