Johannesburg, Friday, 5 May 2023 – A blazing new single from South Africa’s DJ Lag and the UK MC Novelist is proving the malleability of gqom and making an audacious case for the South African genre’s ability to muscle into the music mainstream.
Titled “Bulldozer” the single was recorded in London and pairs Lag’s monstrous gqom beats with Novelist’s high-speed lyrical flow to create a sound that feels both natural and new.
The sonic meeting of these two fiercely independent artists is the first collaboration to be released during the Alpha Zulu World Tour Series that DJ Lag announced back in February. “I want to blend genres and create new sounds along the way,” said Lag at the time. This year is “going to be about exploring and experimenting on stages and studios,” he added – and, as a first shot, “Bulldozer” is as potent as singles come.
With its minimalist electronic production, syncopated rhythms and percussive heavy foundation, and Novelist’s explosive lyrics riding over the top, “Bulldozer” feels hefty enough to make out of the dancefloor – where it has all the makings of a summer club hit – and into the charts. It is also one of the first recordings to bring South Africa’s gqom and th UK’s grime together, the parallels of the two genres – lo-fi minimalism, DIY by young black artists – having been obvious to many of those in the global music scene for some time. Among these is Joe Cotch who showcased Lag and Novelist on his NTS radio show, Platos Combinados in July 2022 and helped orchestrate the studio session.
“The track came really fast,” says Lag of the collaboration. “I started the beats from scratch while Novelist was writing the lyrics. In like 30 minutes we were able to start recording and in an hour we were done. I would definitely really like to work with him again.”
Novelist is a Mercury Award nominated MC and producer hailing from Lewisham, South London who has also produced for the likes of ASAP Rocky, Skepta and Dean Blunt, won Best MC/Vocalist at the 2022 DJ Mag Awards and recently picked up ‘Best Male Act’ at the 2023 Urban Music Awards. After developing his skills as a lyricist on pirate radio, he went on to play a key role in the resurgence of Grime as a teenager but has since evolved into a genre-bending artist who can no longer be defined by any individual scene.
This ability to move through musical boundaries makes Novelist a perfect match for Lag who has staked his claim as innovator, advancer and ambassador of gqom – a South African music form that is as unique as it is globally resonant.
“I’m a king and I’ve got the best flows/Every time I say a thing something explode/This is not a lyric, it’s a manifesto,” raps Novelist on “Bulldozer”, his claim echoing Lag’s standing as the king of gqom, blazing a singular trail from the townships of Durban to the clubs of the world since 2016.
“Bulldozer” is epic is sound and words – “Big Novelist coming like a bulldozer/But I’ve got the enemy confessing that it’s all over/Never been a shookadem, I’m a true soldier – and builds anticipation for what will follow as part of Lag’s Alpha Zulu World Tour series.
The series began mid-February with dates in Bangalore, Mumbai, Delhi and Goa. March saw Lag play two dates in South Africa before heading to Miami, Atlanta, Brooklyn and Toronto, and in April the Alpha Zulu World Tour headed to Norway, London (Colour Factory, April 22), Amsterdam (Paradiso April 27th), and the Donau Festival, Donau, DE (April 29th). May tour dates include Les Nuits Botanique, Brussels (May 1st), Razzmatazz, Barcelona (May 5th), La Graviere, Geneva (May 13th) and Red Bill Unlocked, Johannesburg (May 27th).
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