What: Live Set
Where: Madison Ave.
When: June 25, 2017
Vibe: Young, local, slightly sloppy but excited crowd, with a short, energetic hip-hop/electronic set
Having seen PHFAT twice in 2014, I was super keen to see how he’s progressed over the past 3 years. He opened his set without warning with the go-to banger, “Lights Out”. As people instantly drew closer to the front of the small stage to surround rapper/vocalist, Mike Zietsman, I could see that pretty much everyone at Madison were PHfat natives as they effortlessly bobbed to the fast electro beats and knew the key choruses to his tracks. Given PHfat’s reputation as one of the most popular, and unique rap musicians in South Africa, I think that Madison came up a bit short as a venue for one of his shows. It was nothing more than a college-filled, makeshift club on the outskirts of Long Street and seeing the tours and collaborations that Mike has been making as of recent, it didn’t feel deserving of his performance. Lucky for us, that didn’t seem to stop Mike from having a hell of a time on stage, loud and sweaty, just the way we like it.
I wasn’t planning on going to this set with my electronic-theme blog in mind because I categorised PHfat as hip-hop/rap remembering the content being grimy, deep rap lyrics, but after seeing him through new eyes, I decided he 100% piled on to the electronic Cape Town culture as an iconic glitch rap artist–the “glitch” part primarily being the fast electro beats that complimented Mike’s rapping.
Mike’s presence on stage was as effortless and contagiously energetic as I remembered. He’s one of those people that just belongs up there when putting on a show. His lyrics are deep, aggressive and confusing, and the fact that you can see the veins on his temples from spitting (literally spitting) so many words in so little time is guaranteed to get anyone hyped.
Now a one-man-show, Smooth Mike hasn’t been slowed down since the slimming of PHfat a few years back. His fast tracks, aggressively deep lyrics and passionate nature never fail to get crowds dancing, jumping, singing, and at times shouting. His nameless genre is a force to be reckoned with as he’s gained a great following of devoted fans and spreads his indie-hip-pop-rap-electronic-whatever-else-you-wanna-call-it performances across Africa with loads of other great African artists.
PHfat is confusing just as much as he is awesome. While his lyrics can be graphic as hell, calling women “bitches” and rapping of women’s breasts as if they were objects in your grocery store (see, “Egodeth” lyrics) and other bizarre lines, Mike’s actually a sweet, socially-aware guy that’s against public health issues like sexual assault. How do I know? A few drunk, overly confident girls in the front row grabbed him by the ass mid-show. Not only did he clearly show discomfort via facial expressions during this, but he took the time to stop and discuss the inappropriateness of touching people without their permission once the song was over. He even addressed the wrongness of the term SOMF! Talk about contradicting. But still awesome.
He also created and funded his own campaign of inexpensive shows paired with quality production/sound because he was fed up with events overcharging people to see amazing talent with mediocre sets. In his words, “…the goal is to provide an immersive night out that allows musicians to present music the way they hear it in their heads and to allow music listeners the chance to hear it”.
A standup guy overall amiright? Smooth Mike will always have a place in my forever-confused heart.