Bittereinder is a South African rap/electro/visual outfit consisting of three members, a rapper, an electro wizard and a visual genius. They have been making vibey electronic music for the last 6 years and have crossed the boarders of Afrikaans and English to include some Dutch and Xhosa in some of their tracks. With their new album Skerm, they reach into new and bold frontiers, tackling themes from mass consumerism to something more existential, like their own demise as artists.
Skerm delivers interesting insights into how main lyricist, Jaco van der Merwe, views himself as a Hip-Hop artist in the 21st century. He poses the following question with angst: “Am I getting out of touch with my audience or is my audience simply growing up?”. This is a valid concern, with their move into a more modernized rap space. The danger isn’t so much that they lose their audience (in fact, they would probably grow their audience), but rather that they lose the artistry that they were able to display in previous albums. Their famous collaboration with Jack Parow on “A Tale of Three Cities”, saw them exercising the listener’s nostalgia muscles and digging into what makes growing up in South Africa unique. The emotions conjured on Skerm resemble self-doubt and angst, but are not as easy to relate to as the artist would have hoped.
The tracks on Skerm certainly punch harder than their previous albums, but are lyrically simpler and easier to digest. It is not necessarily a con, but lyrics with strong poetic motivation are far and few between on Skerm. What is encouraging about the album, is the impressive electronics produced by beatsmith Peach van Pletzen. The visual component to Bittereinder is created by Louis Minaar. The first video released for the album perfectly conveys the theme of online domination in a like-obsessed culture.
Overall, the album is an ambitious move forward for this native mixed-media collective, and it seems to pay off. I hope they find themselves digging further into what it truly takes to stay relevant to your audience.
Bittereinder – Skerm (Bittereinder, 2014)