Album of the month: ‘HOME’ by Tyson Sybateli

Tyson Sybateli’s latest project ‘HOME’ is our album of the month for May. ‘HOME’ is an expressive display of vulnerability, playfulness, and, most importantly, impeccable rapping from one of Pretoria’s emerging voices.

By The Observer

In his latest album titled HOME, Tyson Sybateli sincerely tells personal stories of growing up and existing in this world, which ties in nicely with the title: HOME. In a note Tyson shared on his website prior to the release of HOME, he explained that, on the album, he would tell stories describing what home is to him. “I define it for myself, my community and maybe I will help you define it, too,” he wrote.

In the first verse of the song ‘Growth’, the gifted wordsmith paints a complex picture that begins on the road with a flat tyre that became a life lesson. The verse takes you into his household and extends to his community when he touches on the complexities of South Africa’s history of segregation and how the current generation is dealing with it. He also touches on his journey as an artist, looking at the struggles musicians are dealing with.

On ‘Homecoming’, which features R&B star Una Rams, Tyson extends the idea of home beyond the self into the realm of love, rapping, “You won’t be lonely, you home with me.” ‘Homecoming’ is one of several love songs on HOME that contribute to the home theme: he connects with singers Amarafleur and Marcus Harvey on ‘House’ and ‘Riddle Me’ featuring Feziekk.

Tyson Syabateli, who was born in Umlazi, Durban, grew up in Pretoria, a city that played a huge role in the rapper he has become. He’s part of a new crop of PTA rappers who make sincere rap music, an aesthetic one has grown to expect from the city’s MCs since the days of OGs such as Blaklez and PDotO. Currently, the likes of A-Reece, Wordz, Jay Jody, Thato Saul and IMP THA DON are carrying the torch. A majority of them appear on HOME.

Read: Thato Saul: From Saulsville to the spotlight

‘Chauncy II’ is a heartfelt posse cut in which Tyson, Mass The Difference, Wordz and IMP THA DON rap about their vulnerabilities as artists. “… your sister looks up to you/ And your friends’ boyfriends tryna fuck with you/ You face the mirror knowing you don’t trust in you,” Tyson bleeds over a muffled vocal sample and warm drums and bassline.

It’s the same case on the album’s lead single ‘If Found, Bring Home’, a collaboration with Jay Jody which sees both MCs bare their souls about the game over a drum-less beat built on mellow piano keys. Jay Jody makes the declaration, “After The Anvills, we the best shit that ever happened to the city.” ‘If Found, Bring Home’ is one of the finest rap moments of HOME (and there’s plenty of those) alongside ‘Home & Away Games’, a 6-minute-long rap-off between Tyson and fellow PTA spitta Thato Saul.

Tyson tells his story with an unmatched conviction, and he picked great beats that allowed him to speak from the heart without any disruptions. As a result, HOME will keep the listener engaged from track 1 to 12; Tyson tells serious stories with sprinkles of humour and rapper bravado. HOME is accessible; Tyson’s raps are clear and the sung hooks contribute to the palatability. It’s an album that will impress the hip-hop fan without being overly technical.

It’s safe to say HOME is the best South African hip-hop album of 2022 so far. We are only five months into the year, so it’s too early to declare it AOTY yet, so for now, HOME is our album of the month.

Stream HOME by Tyson Sybateli on Apple Music, Spotify and other platforms.

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