Feature

Jedi Knight’s latest album, Dark Days Turn to Bright Knights, pays tribute to love, pain & Cape Town hip hop

Jedi Knight is back to let us know exactly who he is straight out the gates! His casual yet commanding voice, nestled in a cradle of slickly-produced old-school-style boom bap beats, sets the tone for a fresh new album: Dark Days Turn to Bright Knights.

“UV Beats with the battle axe / I come with magic like Orlando, then I hit you with the Shaq attack / For all the people at the back / Who don’t front and show respect, attentive when I rap a track” is the first thing you hear, laid over a violin-rich groove bursting with bold bass and head-snapping beats.

Inspired by a host of beautiful slow-paced backtracks, all produced by Cape Town’s own UV Beats, Dark Days Turn to Bright Knights is an album about everything from love and pain to his commitment to hip hop. Amongst slice-of-life tracks and emotive numbers, several tracks pay homage to hip hop culture, and there are, of course, a few light-hearted bangers.

“It’s just me trying to deal with all the shit I’m going through in my life,” says Jedi. “Music is therapy to me, and I mainly create to keep myself sane. The darker the times, the brighter one’s light has to shine – hence the title.”

The 10-track album encompasses a range of thoughts, memories and feelings, from the smooth, cheeky love ballad that is “Arabella Hotel” to concept tracks like “Over Heads” and “So Into Hue”. In “Fan First”, Jedi reminisces about his early days as a b-boy, a break-dancer taking his cues from the hip hop around him. From there he takes the listener on a journey through the hip hop scene he experienced in his youth, and describes how he first fell in love with the culture – all while reminding us that he was a fan before he became an artist, and that he will always remain a supporter first and foremost.

With a full studio set up in a room in his Bellville home, Jedi Knight writes and records everything himself. Even some of his music videos are edited together in his lab of inspiration, right next to his sticker-bombed recording booth.  This self-reliant, self-motivated attitude gives him the ability to explore his music by his own rules, creating a network of like-minded creatives with which to collaborate and discover new sounds.

“I’ve always been about networking and collaboration; I think there’s strength in that,” he explains. “You gain a lot of wisdom through it, through collaboration.” Jedi has worked with a veritable who’s who of local hip hop, such as Linkris, Knoffelbruin and Logikll Paradox, vocalists like Kimberleigh Venty and eL’surai, and has even collaborated with Atlanta hip hop artist Tha God Fahim.

This respect for the artists he works with is one of the reasons he’s sharing the stage with UV Beats on this album – the other is that he’s a producer himself (under the alias Stormlooper), and understands the importance of production in the making of a great album.

One of the most refreshing things about Jedi Knight’s entire body of work is his refusal to be anyone but himself when he’s behind the mic. No fake gangsta persona surrounds him, no pretence at outlandish riches confuses his message, and no pseudo-American accent pollutes his delivery. “I’m Capetonian, I’m going to represent my city,” he tells me, “I’m going to rap like I speak.” And he sure does, with liberal use of local slang and machine-gun rrrrr’s bringing proud tears to the eyes of this CT local.

This purity of self comes through strongly in Dark Days Turn to Bright Knights, and sees Jedi moving from a classic style of writing to a style that is equally more thoughtful, more playful and more lyrically-accomplished than his first album and EPs.

“For me it’s not about being better than anyone,” he adds, “it’s about being better than yourself, being better than the person you were yesterday.”

Those sound like words to live by to me.