mx blouse, sandi blouse, african alternative musics

When the video for "Is'phukuphuku", a single by Mx Blouse, dropped, I mostly listened to it only watching parts of it because I was at my desk at my job. Maybe two years ago, I spent the better part of my day, at a different job, listening to an EP they had shared on SoundCloud. The raps were good, the flow amazing and the production gripping. The opening track, "Only Words Are Perfect" gives a 90s feel. The song is an artist statement "everybody tryna put me in a box calling me a queer rapper, queers calling me not queer enuf I'm just tryna be the best for Blouse." The music was easy listening and...cute. In my tweet drafts I have a very old tweet that got caught in the weak network web that simply says "Mx Blouse talk ya shit, bbz." It's probably from a second listen of that mixtape.

I know about Mx Blouse from their incarnation as a writer, critic and blogger -- long live Trends Beyond Threads. One of the songs they released last year, before "Is'phukuphuku", the reason I'm writing this, is called "Can't Walk the Streets" and sounds like it could have been written in tandem with a 2014 blog post called "Walking the Streets Blond Braided." As a nonbinary person, it goes without saying that Mx Blouse experiences all kinds of harassment for presenting whichever way they choose on a particular day.

"All this fragility that niggas think is power"

"Can't Walk the Streets" is in the same vein as their previous music I'd heard, rap. The chorus feels universal for those oppressed by the patriarchy, even as Mx Blouse raps from their singular nonbinary perspective: Can't walk the streets without a nigga saying something/just tryna be/ imigodoyi busy howling/fucking bitches/ they can't hold their excitement/I dream of shooting niggas just to get a bit of silence"

On First listen, "Is'phukuphuku" made me sit up. All the signature bits, a nice track, sick flow and those isiZulu zingers were all present but there was another element. With "Is'phukuphuku" Mx Blouse, whose use of his language of isiZulu in his previous rap projects has been clever and exciting, there's a very clear change. Even with the production, you can tell that these aren't your regular raps.

Even with the kwaito-leaning approach to the music, Mx Blouse's ethos and artist's statement from earlier projects is still there. They're a clever black, they're woke and they get down af. 
"Bathandi bezinto asenzeni umathanda/akekho ozositshela/hakuna mathata"
While the music video for Is'phukuphuku is now not something I'd return to (I love their fit! I love the presence!), the song is is still a regular on my playlist. The video would have sat better with me had they been in all those settings alone. I don't know, maybe it's the township jumping out, maybe it's why I have not made any contacts with my contemporaries in the creative industry. But the sight of the white people -- and, to an extent, the brown ones -- in pantsula costume, in an empty fish and chips shop in the CBD -- the cynism rises.

But do watch the video. The shots where Mx Blouse is rapping in the salon are potent. There are black women in the background of the shots and it's immense when you take into account that black cis women are just as bad as the cis men when it comes to harassing queer people. The moment maybe lasts a split second but one of the women smiles, impressed. That's the truth of Mx Blouse, as well. They will take up space.

Is'phukuphuku was followed by two digital singles, "Siyajola" and "Gwala Ngami". "Siyajola" continues the kwaito feel started on "Is'phukuphuku" and reminds me of things my fathers would have danced to in the early 1990s. And in the time of ghosting and other trash dating behaviours, the request for clarity resonates as purely 2010s content. "Gcwala Ngami" is breathy and sensual and again asks me to rethink what contemporary rap can be, what a queer artist can talk about and what the next phase of what we listen to and praise can sound like. With every new song I listen to, Mx Blouse sound unmistakably like themselves, a thing cross-over or international reach cannot threaten.

Perhaps, what I'm calling the evolution of the artist is simply staying true and constantly returning to the centre.