ByLwansta’s THE CHIP IS StALE is cheaper than therapy, and well worth it

I find a good shower can bring a healthy amount of introspection. Something about the rushing water that lulls you into reliving the good, the bad and the straight-up embarrassing moments with the zen-like calm of 4-hour loadshedding on a Sunday afternoon. But my best self-criticisms pop-up while I’m driving. Late night drives especially. 

It’s apt, maybe then, that I’m listening to the newest offering by ByLwansta not while I’m hydro-meditating, but while I’m cruising in my beat-up Fiat Panda on the left lane of the N1 between Plattekloof and Monte Vista. A little bit on autopilot and a little bit melancholic.

THE CHIP IS StALE is the second album by the rapper, producer and art director Lwandile Nkanyuza, in art ByLwansta, and although it bears melodic similarities with previous album SPIJØNGET, it is (quite simply put) a bona-fide evolution of any past work. 

It’s an account of modern life that looks at how we navigate through people-pleasing, imposter syndrome and your garden-variety social anxiety, all in order to reach the hallowed ground of self-actualisation.

Yet, whereas most artists make the mistake of trying too hard to set themselves apart on these topics, ByLwansta embraces just how commonplace these topics have become, and how they should still be explored by more people through music.

“I tend to feel very lonely when I get sad, it’s been this way for a long time,” says Nkanyuza. “During my more angsty years I gravitated a lot to Eminem’s music, I felt seen. Then I grew up and couldn’t relate as much anymore, and found myself lonely again, so I wrote the stories I needed to hear.”

Nkanyuza’s lyrics are intrusive thoughts given space, complex emotions made relatable, all abetted in their cause by seamless flow made easy and comfortable. I may have drifted over two lanes without indicating while listening to “CLUTCH BALANTSI (TIME IT)”.

“ARE YOU PLEASED” will very likely take up a rent-free residence in your hippocampus but the real star of the song is the creeping bass line. It generates a stank-face so deep it could cause concern, all while being accompanied by a slightly off-beat snare and kick combo. And the same thing could be said for “VIOLENT CARTOONS”.

“Sonically, my brief was to sound a lot more refined in comparison to my SPIJØNGET album,” explains Nkanyuza. “I became more intentional with my production in 2017, so I’m always trying to measure my growth and know my limits… there are bass lines and chord progressions I had written and programmed that I had Crunchy Sweater or OLOTU refine and reinterpret, as the experts in that field. It’s about my personal growth, but also about what’s best for the album.”

The album is stacked with various collaborations, including artists such as Kimosabe, Thato Feels, Wandile Mbambeni, Hannah Lane and Chipego. “I always say, you learn about yourself through interactions with others, that’s what the concept of ‘BUBBLE BOY’ speaks to,” he explains. “You can’t isolate yourself out of fearing the world because that bubble will eventually begin to suffocate you… so yeah, we should shed that bubble.”

It’s no wonder that even talking about the future, ByLwansta seems more than positive. He’s eager and hungry. “I have an inner filmmaker that’s dying to cook up some music video treatments for some of the songs,” he says. “We’re currently developing a new live show as well based on the new music and we’ll be taking it on the road soon (or to the sky).”

I get home just before the album ends. I get the feeling I should stop ignoring the signs and I happily make my way inside. THE CHIP IS StALE is fresh… go figure.

Feature pic courtesy of Lefa Ditshego.