Feature Opinion

Rockey Analogue: Tackling suicide in song

Suicide is an unnecessary tragedy and its risk factors often go unnoticed and undiagnosed until it’s far too late.

This becomes unnerving when you consider that, according to South African Depression & Anxiety Group Partnership (SADAG), “In South Africa 60% of people who commit suicide are depressed.” So how do you lend a hand and an ear to someone in need when you’re not privy to their day-to-day mental and emotional struggles?

Polokwane-based rapper and filmmaker, Rockey Analogue (Morokwe Kaizer Mokgobu), explores this in his latest single ‘Necktie Youth’. Borrowing its title from award winning filmmaker Sibs Shongwe-La Mer’s short film of the same name, Rockey Analogue’s track is a stark portrayal of the heartache and confusion left in the wake of two teenagers who tragically decide to end their own lives.

Rockey talks about this home somewhat nostalgically detailing, “I’m from a freakishly quiet neighborhood in Polokwane called Fauna Park where absolutely nothing ever happens. Our town is really small, throw a stone over a few streets and it will probably land in Flora Park – this is where the initial spark of inspiration for the song came from.”

“One night a friend of mine asked me to give a group of three or four male teens from our previous high school a lift home. We bumped into them at a McDonald’s and I guess they were from a party or something because they were pretty smashed… except one, whom I recognized immediately because his big brother was in our matric class,” he explains.

“After dropping my friend and his friends off, I chopped it up a bit with the sober one on the ride to his house in Flora Park. Although we only talked briefly before I dropped him off, to me he seemed quite aware and smart for his age, probably 16 or 17 at the time. A year later I heard that he had hung himself. I was shocked. Such a level-headed kid, how did that happen?” He stops and takes a deep breath.

Rockey goes on to detail how the tragedy of teen suicide kept chasing him around – from attending the Durban Film Festival and watching Shongwe-La Mer’s “Necktie Youth” for the first time, to his 11-year-old nephew surprising him by asking what committing suicide meant. The former (Sibs) loved Rockey’s track so much that he asked if he could feature a newer one in his upcoming movie “The Sound Of Animals Fighting”. The latter (cousin Kabelo) he incorporated into his track and as a result, the first voice you hear in the beginning is that very same question.

When asked what makes his track relevant, Rockey replied bluntly saying, “I think the song is quite relevant because of the current climate in hip hop, a subculture which highly influences the lives of youth, especially black boys and girls from township and urban areas. I love hip hop with all my heart, but I’m not in denial, I know that it’s a problematic art form.”

The fact that the lyrics tell dual stories of a girl and a boy are equally as important, as both experience their own sets of pressure by external social forces. “It must be really confusing being a teenage girl nowadays,” Rockey muses. “How do you even process feminism when you’re 13 and still figuring it out? Some people say you deserve to be equal to men, but you turn on MTV Base and the message that 70% of their videos communicate to you is that in order to be as powerful as Nicki and Cardi B, you have to be half naked, while Drake, Quavo or whoever else are fully clothed.”

Inspired by hip hop greats Mos Def and Lauryn Hill, as well as lyrical legends Bob Marley and Dylan, Rockey’s lyricism extends beyond that of simple words jotted down to create a canvas that’s all his own. “I love storytellers who leave you with something to chew over at night when you’re in bed alone. That’s what I’m trying to do with my music, challenge my audience like my musical heroes and heroines challenged me,” he confesses.

Aided by DJ and producer VB and soul singer Matlhodi, simply put, ‘Necktie Youth’ is a jarring track and takes on a topical subject that could do with a hell of a lot more compassion and empathy.

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Rockey Analogue is teaming up with SADAG to further raise awareness about teen suicide, a tragedy which according to Stats SA is the fourth leading cause of death amongst young people in South Africa.

To contact a SADAG counsellor between 8am-8pm Monday to Sunday,
Call: 011 234 4837 / Fax number: 011 234 8182

For a suicidal Emergency contact us on 0800 567 567

24hr Helpline 0800 12 13 14