In groups, strength in numbers is inevitable, but at the same time there are a few that may stand out and be seen more as an individual well within the collective.
“I’m a quarter of the Slaughter and half of the dream team” – Royce da 5’9 spews this scary analysis of his affiliations. He is one of the four members of the super hip-hop group alongside Joe Budden, Crooked I and Joell Ortiz. Also, he is one half of the duo Bad Meets Evil with Eminem (who also happens to be Slaughterhouse’s boss in Shady Records). Now read all the names mentioned carefully; each has a caliber to be in anyone’s top ten emcees lists. Each of the mentioned emcees have a stellar careers and are deemed as talented wordsmiths in their persona;l capacity. There is no weak link in the group – this is a rare case in terms of hip-hop groups.
In South Africa the groups are few and far between yet the weaknesses are abundant. This phenomenon is exposed when one or more of the members in the group decide to embark on a solo quest. Results from that either expose their individual characters or worse, show clear signs that the group was their crutch.
How do groups decide on whom goes solo first? Is there a need for a member of a group to go solo?
Many may argue the fans choose their favourite and that becomes an ego boost for that member to pursue a solo career. Some may even say the most talented will go solo first. Be that as it may, a solo from the group comes with great risks and possible greater returns.
Take the case of the group Skwatta Kamp. In the seven members the crew holds, six have done solo joints. Slikour is on his third album, Shuga on his second album, Flabba preparing his sophomore solo, Infa has a few random songs, Nemza did his solo and Bozza released a house album. Now, take a look at Skwatta’s success and then re-look the solos that came out of the group. Are the solos a reflection of the group-combined skills or do the artists standing on their own dwindle into non-existence? I mean, one rapper made a house album!
The issue with SA groups is that the majority of them don’t have a long-standing discography as a group before embarking on a solo. Just as the industry warms up to the idea of a group, their focus turns on to being a solo act and all the glamour that would have been bestowed on the group falls on to the solo act. A perfect example is Morafe. A talented trio released two albums before Khuli Chana released The Motswako Originator. The first single of the album, “Tswak Stick ‘Em” had the other two members having a cameo appearance in the video. Khuli Chana was more famous than Morafe was. To date, Khuli has two solo albums, Towdee recently released his solo titled “Lesson 1” and KG has a song on rotation.
Solos make fans re-analyse the group and ultimately point out the group’s weak link. When the said weak link goes solo, there are more doubts in the industry than there are great expectations. Solos are also known to kill the synergy that a group has. Ever listened to a ‘reunion’ album and it doesn’t sound half as synced as the group’s previous offering? It is well understood that as an artist you are an individual, in a group you are a link in a strong bond but does a solo break stand to break up that synergy and at same time drown your career?
Few SA artists thrive when they separate from the group and even more fade away into obscurity. The pursue of one man’s glory becomes the death of a career in some cases. Where is Crazy Lu? Where is Snazz D? Where is Baphixile (well that’s a whole duo)? These are some of the names that came to prominence or at least were known for their participation in a group. Cashtime Fam lost two members in its less than 5 years of existence. Question some may ask – is it a difference of personality and character that affects the coherence of a group?
Glitz Gang is another one of SA hip-hop ‘groups’ (although they’re more of a collective), consisting of members Maggz, Sean Pages, Morale, L-Tido and Z-Supreme. In concept this has only been a group by name. No offering as a collective has been released and each member have their own lanes they’ve been focused on. L-Tido and Morale have albums whilst we wait for Maggz and Sean Pages to release. Do we classify them as a group since they only appeared in Sean Pages’ “Get It Right Remix”?
Until we have a successful groups having just as successful solos, we cross our fingers that the minimal number of groups still out there continue their collective synergy instead of pursuing solo careers that flop.
Written By: Siphiwe Zwane (@SDotJR_)