Friday 14 February 2020

Definitely Not a Cry for Help - Chapter Seven: Cape Town

Wednesday 5 February 2020

Mensvreters: Eating People for a Good Cause

Mensvreters Boef Lewe Cover Art

2017. That’s when it happened. That’s when Mensvreters first crawled out from their sewers and infected our dying planet with their debut album, prompting everything to die a little faster. They named it Die Gevaarlikste Bende and it was anything but a marketable product. On the contrary, this was an onslaught of vomit spewing from charred mouths, running thick like a putrid paste of violent imagery slyly hidden inside of their mother Afrikaans tongue. But for those of us in the line of projectile fire... well, we were never quite able to scrub that rancid stench away.

What makes Mensvreters special is not that their shock tactics are truly shocking (they are) nor is it that their gross-out foul play squeezes the listener’s face through the keyhole of their comfort zone (it does). Rather, it’s that they utilise these techniques as part of a much more intricate package. Unlike the vast majority of controversial horror-rap acts out there, these vulgarities are not a series of cheap shots to dominate the show. This was never a desperate ploy to provoke a reaction in hopes of obscuring a sloppy lack of proficiency. Instead, the suffering is yet another detail from an outfit whose attention to such details is their strongest asset. Sadly, this strength is also Menvreters’ biggest tragedy; a message so expertly offensive that your malfunctioning mind may shortcircuit and overlook the talent completely.

Boef Lewe (translated: Thug Life) is their 2020 sophomore record and it sinks even lower into this dark pit they’ve created. The heavy sperms of metal music have aggressively smashed through a scratchy old-school hip hop centre, impregnating an egg now birthing something between these two dirty genes. And yet the production itself is flawlessly clean, granting both styles enough space to suffocate you beneath the anger that they spit through gritted teeth. There is a worryingly unhealthy obsession with bodily fluids here. You may drown within their gushing of animosity towards... well, everything. And if you’re looking for trouble, then please enjoy the Fok Die Polisie theme scattered throughout this album, echoing those same aggravating anthems that N.W.A. used to summon chaos back in the late-80s.

If you can hold your lunch down, then peel back the scorched skin and look. There are plenty of fresh layers underneath the gore. This album functions as a singular unit. It’s void of any filler and cohesively stitched together by well-acted skits that shove their roots deep into South African heritage. Certainly, the group have taken a calculated stab into more English territories this round, and it’s a smart move to harvest a larger audience (or perhaps scare even more away). But, make no mistake, this is still a proud observation of their home country, effortlessly mixing Afrikaans into their flows (complete with translations provided) whilst weaving cultural icons and African folklore figures into their themes. Tokolosh Tracker is a strong example of this strategy, relaying tales about the evil Tokolosh spirit that runs rife throughout Zulu and Xhosa mythology. Of course, in this story, Mensvreters have taken upon themselves to assist the creature by introducing a tracking gadget into your rectum. Does this notion excite you? Then you’re in for a treat. Because the Tokolosh single comes with a music video too, illustrating the concept for a greater understanding. Don’t worry though! It’s completely safe for work. Just kidding. You shouldn’t watch this at work or anywhere else unless you enjoy puppet semen used as condiments or prolapse juices caught in a jar. Standard stuff, really. This is Mensvreters after all. Their art is always going to be a struggle to digest because their art is toxic.

Be that as it may, Mensvreters’ craftsmanship still outgrows their indecencies. Their Mumble Rap diss-track holds up a necessary mirror to the current dismal state of radio hip hop, detesting the genre whilst delivering their message using a commercial sound in itself—a great irony which is as big of a middle finger as anyone could conjure. And then there’s Suffering Sonata, an album highlight where the disease spreads to the heart and almost surrenders a tender spot, ultimately working as another easy entry point for further anguish. It is within these examples that the true intelligence behind Mensvreters lies. It’s a contradiction where exaggerated and absurd fiction somehow ascends to something more genuine than the vast majority of today’s faux wokeness; a contrast against a society where everyone is rushing to exploit “higher awareness” for more Likes on Instagram. Mensvreters are above that by dwelling far below it, illustrating to us that the world is in trouble. Art is in trouble. And we need to start kicking the doors down to rediscover where the boundaries stand.

Then you hear a song like Rotten Human Curry (featuring Australian team Butchers Harem and Dollrot) with lyrics such as, “Flies are raping, laying eggs, mating on your flesh, grazing, it’s fresh for the taking, pupae larvae hatching, flesh from bone detaching, meat chunks flapping, I’m grabbing and snatching, tooth on bone I’m gnashing, vocal cords pulsating, keeping you alive just to hear you cry”... and you realise this might just be an impure assault of torment after all. To be honest, I have no idea.

The Perversions of Quiet Girls Photography

It doesn‘t matter. Because when the momentum of creative imagination clicks with the skillsets required to manifest the product, it’s obvious that the bigger picture is still a long way from completion. The most damning evidence of this prediction is a short film titled South African Fried Human. Here, the trio offers us an important social commentary on the fast-food industry by treating a person in much the same manner as a chicken would be treated. When something this violent is shot with such a professional eye for specifics, then the line between horror and comedy blurs beyond recognition, and one becomes uncertain whether it’s better to laugh or cry. It’s difficult to be so equally humoured and terrified at the same moment. You start asking yourself questions.

Because that’s just it. That’s what Mensvreters are all about. It’s an exercise in facing your own psyche and challenging what you think you thought. Everyone has opinions about cutting open stomachs and eating flesh and shoving poop into a baby’s face. These opinions are usually unfavourable. But if you ever find yourself at a Mensvreters show, you will be forced to deal with these opinions on a raw, realistic level. When artists with this excessive amount of talent at their disposal intentionally choose the crooked path of noncommercial filth, it’s a beacon of hope that the monster behind the corrupt entertainment industry will never completely conquer the playing field. As a result, it may take some time before Mensvreters can bubble over into the particular scene that is out there somewhere waiting for them, but at least for now we can be a part of this underground knowledge. We are the secret Mensvreters community, musing that, one day, we might be telling our children about how this outfit broke into global consciousness and destroyed everything in front of our very eyes. Furthermore, we must also ensure that those same children never listen to this stuff because it’s definitely not good for them.


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a Non-profit Marine Wildlife Conservation Organisation.