Pretoria is having a moment. The music industry is no longer set on its ways. Pretoria is the main focal point of the current evolution of South African Hip-Hop. There’s been a large volume of great projects released within the last two years alongside radio implosion of Pretoria’s artists. The Wrecking Crew (as individual members and as a collective), Miles, Focalistic and Llucky. The Calm Before the Storm is a great description of the South African industry’s ongoing change. 2018 serves as a warning in regards to the incoming great quality music and radio dominance.
Huey’s “The Calm Before the Storm” EP is certainly deserving of radio and critical acclaim. At 6 songs in length, the EP’s length is well-thought through as it deviates from the South African music industry’s tendency to release long projects packed with “album fillers”. It allows him to express his thoughts, hold the listeners attention and ensure he doesn’t oversaturate his content. The project sees him explore different styles, write his own story and exhibit his lyricism throughout. Coming off the release of guest verses and multiple singles, he’s managed to gather attention and steam. His rollout began with his successful single, “Big Boy”, under “Cutthroat Entertainment”. While most people enjoyed it, I personally thought it was lazy and unimaginative. I questioned if he was capable of releasing a great project, the EP dispels every single one of my prior thoughts.
The project opens with “Welcome”. The song serves as an introduction and a greater indication of what is the EP promises to hold. The song’s title is a double entendre in itself. It’s an introduction to his own “show” but his confidence eludes to a greater meaning. He’s already aware of his listeners being thankful for his work and well.. “you’re welcome”. On some “Thank Me Later” shit. The instrumental is dope. Luni’s production opens with the use of dissonant piano chords. The chords create suspense through the use of melodic tension but as rich hi-hats, cold 808s and Huey’s verse begins, the tension is resolved. While I haven’t heard of Luni to date, this instrumental has me keeping an eye out for his production. Huey begins the EP with clear intentions to kill the instrumental. A self-assured cadence, ferocious delivery, good rhyme density and a clean flow. There’s plenty of wordplay as he asserts his own challenge for the throne. He’s beyond capable as an MC. Interchanging flows, great wordplay and focused writing. He writes dextrously and it’s a vivid experience. He sounds far better than all his prior singles and verses have exhibited previously. “Sorry for the long wait, I been in the lab every night plus all day.” He’s been perfecting his craft and it’s easy to recognise.
“As I close, you may begin the show. Listening closely as I reveal my soul. All my highs and even all my lows.Things about me that you shouldn’t know. My ambitions nigga, all my goals. Listen closely to how the story goes. Huey, magic. Purple City Gold.”
Thereafter, the production begins to transition and “Jaded” begins. Again, Luni’s production is crazy. However, the instrumental is based on charms, sliding 808s and cool drums. This one is for the streets. The content focuses on women, weed and money. The content isn’t of any real substance but it goes hard. It’s a banger with radio appeal if marketed well enough. Huey seems to have a knack for creating dope hooks and he does so facilely. His flow is engaging while his cadence carries a laidback energy. It’s a good follow-up after the strong introduction into the EP.
“Triple Plat” follows. The song’s focus is his aspirations and addressing his competitors. As a rapper, your mentality is your greatest vice or virtue. Huey’s mentality reiterates his self-belief in his ability and it makes it more plausible. His cadence and delivery brings across a sense of arrogance and his lyrical ability explains exactly why he’s feeling so confident. “Learnt from every lesson and it’s really a messy game but dawg, I’m ambidextrous. That’s what makes me the rightful king. My music’s all I’m left with. All or nothing, there’s no discussion.” He’s managed to detail his life’s occurrences while coupling triple entendres and killer punchline. These are the attributes which separate good from great. While the lyricism is awe-inspiring, the production is also great. The instrumental manipulates a simple guitar riffs and synths as he turns them into the fundamental backbone of the song. Based on minor tonality and accompanied by exaggerated 808s and rhythm-building drumlines, the low-tempo melody is well-suited for Huey’s slower delivery style and further proves the chemistry between Huey and Luni.
Subsequently, a charm-like melody begins. “Dance” sees Huey show his ability on all fronts. The production is based on the harmonic use of timid yet beautiful synths alongside upbeat drums. Taurus of OTI’s instrumental is mellifluous. It’s a soothing experience on it’s own. However, the song only becomes greater as Huey enters. While he’s proven himself a lyricist, this seems him prove himself on various facets. Most rappers creating a song, centred around love, sound unnatural and forced. In fact, most love songs are corny. However, Huey excels in this format. Slick wordplay and a hook for the ages. The storytelling is detailed and focused as he intimately expresses his love. His flow is engaging while his cadence and delivery is apt for the song’s R&B inspired sonic direction. The song only becomes better as it goes on. While Huey’s contribution were completely enticing and worthwhile, the show is stolen by Fentse. A dulcet voice singing gorgeous melodic runs which make the song sound angelic in its entirety. As a vocalist, her tonality is clear, falsettos are heavenly and she controls her voice adroitly. Her harmonies with the instrumental’s synths only further enhance the song’s experience.
“A Hood Rich Interlude” sees Huey rhyme over Lincoln Long’s production. An eerie synth and cool drums. The production isn’t particularly noticeable and the rapping isn’t as enticing as his previous efforts. He sounds too laidback while the production tempo is downbeat. The song is only two minutes long and it’s short length, lack of vigour and repetitive themes show how the song leans towards being “filler”. The song fades out and the EP’s final song, “Blessings” concludes the project. The song opens with the use of an ascending choral harmony. The harmony is heavenly. Again, Luni is on some other shit. The instrumental is beguiling. The choral arrangement directly relates to the songs central theme - blessings and God. The song sees Huey get back into his best. He rhymes about his heartaches, hunger, pain and insecurity. However, he speaks about how those experiences have resulted in his success today. His flow is remarkable as it uses high rhyme density while his verse is filled with hidden wordplay, storytelling and and a well-equipped delivery. Huey flips the switch by using singing cadences and it works smoothly with the instrumental’s rhythmic bounce. As a musician and a lyricist, Huey is capable of enthralling. The song transitions as he flips a cool chorus that sees the production fade smoothly. It’s a great ending to a great project which further solidifies Huey’s name.
“The Calm Before the Storm” is a dope project in totality. It shows glimpses of Huey’s potential as a wordsmith and as an artist. On both facets, he’s improved vastly. It’s alarming to see because “If I say so my damn self (man), the boy quite special!”. He’s showed signs of being able to release a project with consistent quality, content variation and a clear ear for production. Pretoria is the focal point of the music industry and Huey has undoubtedly released one of South Africa’s best projects of 2018. While nobody lies on the throne, he’s part of the pack vying for it. If this EP is an indication, this is the calm before the storm.