I remember the first time I met Thato Saul in person. The Rap Religion team went to go see him to discuss the album he had recently dropped back then, "Member's Only." I was quite excited to be meeting him in person because at that point, he was already one of my favourite rappers. And as an artist and fan of the music myself, I saw this as an opportunity to learn from one of the finest.
The conversation we had with Thato touched on a lot of things regarding the album, his personal life, and what he was working on next. It was fitting that he was surrounded by his team as well. Never neglecting their importance.
What stood out to me most was how he carried himself. By this point in time, Member's Only had been out for a month or two and was gaining extreme traction – with the album charting top 10, radio/playlist plays, acclaim from fans, and even plenty of "big-name" artists showing the album love (notably, A-Reece and Mashbeatz, among others).
Despite all this though, Thato remained unfazed. He was more focused on what he had to do next to achieve his longer-term goals. Admitting, that he rarely spends enough time to pay mind to his current successes.
It's now been 6 - 8 months since that conversation. Not only was Mashbeatz an admirer of Thato Saul, but they made a whole fucking mixtape together. On the 9th of July 2021, Thato Saul and Mashbeatz gave us their collaboration mixtape, "IF YOU KNOW YOU KNOW."
And while it would be easy to pick out various songs to pick apart from the tape, there's one that stood out most to me: "FLOWERS."
The beauty behind "FLOWERS" for me is that it sees Thato Saul finally give himself the flowers that he deserves. It brings me back to our conversation with him months before about how he never really looks at the magnitude of his accomplishments, but for the first time. And on this song, Thato Saul finally stops, sits back and acknowledges his efforts.
He talks about a few things. They discuss what he and his team have managed to achieve, his growth as an artist, and he goes as far as addressing constantly mentioned issues about non-existent "OG’s" in the South African industry. The guarded few at the top of the game, clinging to their position in the hierarchy, rather than making way to actively assist new and young blood in a collective effort to eat. Thato makes the differences between those OG’s and the 'real' OG’s he knows in his life. And how the OG’s that he's been exposed to in his community act as father figures to him, and how they face actual challenges like prison and death – just to do their parts for the younger generation.
The message behind this track and it’s context are why it represents so much to me. The production that Mashbeatz creates also enhances to aid this feeling, as he displays chemistry and synergy on the song to match Thato Saul. He caters to Thato Saul's sound while keeping true to himself, all while using the cinematic samples that Mashbeatz is known for. "FLOWERS" also uses a tag from IMP THA DON, a young throwback to Mashbeatz’s TWC days, bringing it all full circle.
It's been amazing to witness the run that Thato Saul has been on. Making it 4/4 with this, Members Only, At Your Service (With Tyson S.T & Dooushii) and For God's Sake. The amount of growth he's had in the space of two years is incredible for such a short amount of time, and he and his team deserve that.
Big shoutout to his team. Made up of Beatshoven (producer), Feziekk (mixing and mastering) and Mo (photography). Can't leave them out.
While for Mashbeatz, as someone who's name has been long established and acclaimed in the game, I love the opportunity of him now being able to see him work with other artists and explore those differently styles. He’s just solidified his genius after his efforts on "Fire In The Water" and "Thanks For Nothing".
Not only is this collaboration big for 012 × 015, but this collaboration is big for the entire music industry. Especially for artists who are still amassing their mainstream appeal, by showing that what should matter most shouldn't be the connections or the status of how long someone's had their place in the industry. It should always be about the quality.
So let's give these two their flowers. This is a moment.
Written by Ipeleng Thobejane | Twitter @InsightThobe
Edited by Dithekgo Mogadime | Twitter @DithekgoM