iFani (pronounced Eye-funny even though his real name is Ayifani. Isn’t that funny?) is not your average rapper. He brings something completely new to South African’s hip-hop table with his oddball goofy Xhosa geekiness, but there is a method to the madness of this Computer Engineering graduate even though his crazy scientist look might fool you.
Just ask Sony Music, where iFani is now a stable-mate to the likes of D’banj and Toya Delazy. His album I Believes in Me (1st quadrant) will quite literally crack you up and add some truth to the stereotype that Xhosa guys are the funniest. An album with a few English words peppered here and there it obviously alienates groups that don’t understand the Xhosa language but in a genre that uses American hip-hop as a blueprint, his choice to make his album exclusively vernacular makes it original, adding a local flavor to a genre starving of it.
Anyway one doesn’t need to understand what iFani is saying to enjoy his album since his voice and his beats make up for that. He moves from being a lightning-speed human rhyming Xhosa dictionary to a chill calmed flow that rides on the beat. He switches up his rhyme pattern, changing his vocal style again and again. He’s probably the most quotable MC in the country with lines like “Boity, ndicel’ undenzi side dish!” and his signature adlib “Hhayi mani!” can be heard everywhere. He is consistently funny and can get ridiculously over-the-top when he wants to.
The register in his voice when he rhymes lets you know that he is being humourous even if you don’t what he’s saying and the lush sweeping beats add to his voice instead of taking away from it. Really, the production on iFani’s album is nothing less than amazing. The beats are fresh, warm and expansive and just make you want to blast the whole album from your speakers.
To get a sense of the persona that is iFani one only has to peep his music videos. With a whopping five videos and radio singles in Chocolate and Vanilla, Ewe, Shake and Milli. These tracks basically typify a standard iFani track – funny and a bit silly at times.
In the middle of the album iFani gets serious with tracks like “Mamthembu” an ode to his late grandmother and “Lady Friend” a song that shows his romantic side . “Sundiqhela Kakubi” will have you in stitches whereas “Kudala” describes how hard this up-and-coming has had to work to have the success he enjoys now.
It’s strange that iFani has had to fight for acceptance in the hip-hop fraternity and still today faces side-eyes and scorn. It seems as if, if you don’t wear snapbacks and kicks and rap braggadocio-style you are labeled as “not hip-hop” but it’s his non-conformity that makes him so awesome and so very hip-hop. He rhymes over a beat, plain and simple, and he makes his audience laugh while doing so which makes him an original lion among these rapper sheep.
Written By: Nomusa Mthethwa (@NomusaMT)