VenomRaps balances upbeat music, R&B and hard raps in his debut album, Zolani
After gaining traction by opening up for Cassper Nyovest at the 2018 Newcastle Winter Festival, Kwesta and Emtee at the 2019 Annual Spring Festival, and DJ Tira at the 2019 Spring Fest Pre Party, VenomRaps drops his debut album, Zolani, that lets people in on his purest form as a musician and a young black man living in South Africa.
The album opens with a solo piano piece called ‘Energy (Intro)’ that prepares the listener for what he has to say on the first song, ‘The Vendetta Pt. 2’. This song has VenomRaps proclaiming that he deserves more respect for his rap abilities than anything else, as he raps, “It’s very clear that I’m a menace I hope you people see/ You speak to me, you show respect or you just hold your peace.”
Cape Town rapper Energy makes an appearance as he handles the vocals and hook on ‘On & Off’, a song about the challenges Venom faces as he pursues a rap career in a house music-dominated country like South Africa. “Trust that I’ll be patient in my race/ Seen all these people hopping on the wave I swear it’s crazy,” he raps.
‘Ties’, my favourite song on the album, brings a more upbeat vibe laced with a catchy hook, repeating the word “Azishe” at the end of each line. Venom narrates how he and his team are hustling day by day to make money, a message he carries on to fan-favourite ‘Gang X3’ in which he raps in mostly isiZulu and isiXhosa, rapping, “See I’m with the gang and I’m lit/ What it is, I just pop up and knock out some hits.” It features rapper and producer KiidBlunt, who is part of the producer duo Thekidsnextdoor with Luther Brax, and a rapper called TheArsxnist.
VenomRaps shifts the listeners’ focus back on who he is as an individual, on the self-reflective ‘Zolani’s Interlude’. In it, he touches on his mixed emotions about being happy for those he loves around him in their respective successes and his inner turmoil about not doing enough for his own success. He raps, “Paranoia got me thinking I ain’t done a lot/ Peers moving on, I feel like I’m just here to watch.”
He recruits Chvrlie Earthling on ‘Gassed’, and the R&B singer handles the catchy hook that goes, “B*tch, I’m gassed, gassed, gassed, gassed…” This song serves as a continuation of his interlude as he raps about the pressure that comes with pursuing an unconventional passion, which he always has to remind himself will get better with time.
He further shows his variety on the R&B-induced ‘What You Want’ with singer Rasool. He opens himself up to the listener about being vulnerable in a relationship that is struggling to stay afloat; he raps, “I can’t promise we’ll be fine when it’s all sad/ Got our tempers really high, girl it’s all bad.”
Keeping with the cohesive theme of friendship, Venom sends a shoutout to his friends for always being the best key points for inspiration on his lyrics and music. He sends his deep appreciation for the love they continue to show him in everything he pursues; “Want you to know that when I make it, I won’t go without you/ And, to the friends, I hope you know I just do this for you.”
He closes this well-articulated debut album with ‘Break From Newcastle’ as he concludes how all his life experiences will be the building blocks for his ideal future and he touches on how he feels held back in his hometown as he raps, “I’ve been trapped in the city, man, I need a break.”
As a seasoned rapper and musician, VenomRaps managed to find the sweet spot that comes with making a debut album as he balances upbeat music, R&B, and hard raps to deliver an album that managed to chart at number 173 on Apple Music’s top 200 Hip Hop chart.