A common phrase you read on timelines and in conversations with friends is "doing the work". From all walks of life, this simple saying has come to symbolise grit, determination and a single-minded approach to achieving your dreams. There is something to be said for buckling down and getting shit done. This underdog mentality - the contemporary expression of the hero's journey - is embodied by Stiff Pap. - NATAAL
Stiff Pap is a South African electronic music duo fusing Kwaito, Gqom and Hip Hop to create their own unique sound. The duo consists of Zulu songwriter-vocalist Ayema Probllem and Red Bull Music Academy alumnus Jakinda. With Ayema’s enticing raps and Jakinda’s avant-garde production, Stiff Pap is at the forefront of African electronic music innovation - mixing a progressive global electronic sound with localised African lyrics and rhythms.
With just over five years in the music industry, Stiff Pap has performed at some of South Africa’s major music festivals, including Oppikoppi, Afropunk [Johannesburg], Red Bull Music Festival and Capsule Festival. Following a string of memorable live performances and two well-received EP’s Stiff Pap have established a growing global audience, which has enabled some milestones to be reached: opening for international artists such as Slowthai and Vince Staples as well as headlining Boiler Room Johannesburg alongside Sho Madjozi and Busiswa.
Supported by their growing following, Stiff Pap has established their own events brand under the name “Ebumnandini” which has become a platform for unearthing underground talent around South Africa. The platform is used to create opportunities for unity and collaboration within the growing alternative music scene. In 2020 Ebumnandini became one of the first recipients of the Ballantines x Boiler Room True Music Fund, in support and recognition of the role they’ve played in shaping South African club culture. This not only places the musical mavericks at the forefront of South Africa’s growing alternative music scene, but as increasingly influential tastemakers for South African youth culture as a whole. With the world’s attention turning to the eclectic future sounds of South Africa it is only a matter of time until Stiff Pap begins to spread their influence around worldwide.
The identity of Stiff Pap formed pre-musically, with the birth of two individuals on the precipice of a regime of terror and at the start of a period of complicated freedom. To come into the world so full of hope and freedom in their parents eyes and yet so tied down by the lingering prejudices of Apartheid is a kind of contradiction that formed a post-Apartheid black consciousness that has defined Stiff Pap long before its musical manifestation.
Jakinda grew up in Kensington, a middle-class suburb in Johannesburg, and Ayema grew up in Umlazi, a township in Durban. Fellow South-African alternative artist Okmalumkoolkat also originates from Umlazi, and played an important role in influencing and inspiring the foundations of what would become Stiff Pap. Townships in Durban were becoming hotspots of heightened musical expression, a kind of counteraction to the socio-economic suffocation of black communities in the post-Apartheid era, and they became the birthplace of much of South Africa's most interesting dance music such as Gqom.
Geographical distinctiveness did not prevent a similar experience, however, and both Jakinda and Ayema found themselves at the University of Cape Town in a move made to assume roles and achieve dreams their families had created for them. With being the first ‘born-free' generation there comes the structured expectation to be opportunity-driven professionals, that being a Law and Politics graduate in Jakinda’s case and an Accounting graduate in Ayema’s case. Increased disillusionment - with this elusive idea of opportunity in South Africa - came to them around the time that prominent student protests such as Rhodes Must Fall were taking place, and their activism therein and similar ideals surrounding class struggle, black experience and their love of alternative music led to their meeting and formation of a close friendship and the musical collaboration of Stiff Pap.
Following a two year hiatus, partially due to the Covid 19 pandemic, 2021 saw Stiff Pap return with their first full length project, TUFF TIME$, released through London based label Cotch International.
TUFF TIME$ is an intensely vivid snapshot of life as young black men in Johannesburg, set to the backdrop of a global pandemic. Showcasing the entire spectrum of their sound, from punked-out rap bangers such as ‘SASSA’, to the expansive dreamlands of ‘I See You’, to the clever integration of traditional sounds in ‘Riders On The Storm’, this project sees Stiff Pap stake their claim as one of the most groundbreaking and engaging acts to come from the African continent.
Following their journey, rising in the music scene and moving to Johannesburg in pursuit of their dreams, TUFF TIME$ is a semi-autobiographical story of rebellious black youth in Johannesburg’s inner city - rebelling against a broken system that South Africa’s born free generation has inherited. Growing up in an era of great hope for the new post-apartheid South Africa, Stiff Pap’s abrasive expression aims to disrupt all perceptions of Mandela’s “rainbow nation”, opening a conversation rooted in post-colonial discourse. In a time where global economies are strained, living as young black artists in the most unequal country in the world provides a sense of urgency to Stiff Pap’s rage and TUFF TIME$ serves as a rallying call for radical change. The story is told through the lens of Stiff Pap’s ever-growing multi-faceted audio-visual universe, touching on issues such as classism, racism and economic inequality as well as the fears of being a young ambitious artist held back by a system designed to disenfranchise you. Through this journey the duo finds healing, struggle and perseverance, fueled by the hope instilled in them by the generations who fought for their freedom and their undying commitment to their craft and each other.