Best New Music: Thato Saul & A-Reece Uphold Classic Rap Values on “Put It On Me”
Best New Music: Thato Saul & A-Reece Uphold Classic Rap Values on “Put It On Me”

Best New Music: Thato Saul & A-Reece Uphold Classic Rap Values on “Put It On Me”

A lyrical masterpiece off Thato's 'Life Is Gangster' album

Bravado and a seen-it-all honesty lies at the centre of everything Thato Saul raps about. Having grown up in Saulsville of Pheli, a township in Pretoria West, the 26-year-old had intimate references of the society’s darkest ills and its vivacious communism, diluting those qualities into the music he began creating around 2014. Since then, Thato has ascended among the most respected lyricists in South Africa, the introspective weight of his bars often streaked with the brutish haughtiness of a rapper who grew up on diss battles.  


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Over the weekend, Thato’s ‘Life Is Gangster’ was released to considerable acclaim, extending his prolific catalogue with some of his most boisterous cuts yet. In thirteen songs, he evokes the gritty landscapes of Pretoria, from its shared stories down to the infamous heat of its streets. Collaborators broaden his ideas, infusing impressionistic verses and choruses which complement his vision of taking rap’s inherent storytelling qualities into the peculiarities of living on the poorer and more challenging side of the social classes.

For as long as rappers have existed, making it out of such places makes you special. And the fact that everyone wouldn’t necessarily concur with that renders it even more narrative quality, introducing the prospects of haters into the fold. Right at the beginning of ‘Life Is Gangster’, Thato delves into this arena of rap. He calls up A-Reece, a trusted rapper with similar qualities who makes the perfect feature.

Thato Saul has spoken in interviews about the influence of 50 Cent and 2Pac on his rap ambitions, his earliest models on how to come across as authoritative without sounding fictitious. On “Put It On Me,” he makes his reputation as menacing as a gun, spraying on hypothetical enemies with remarkable precision. “I ain’t dead my homie, you can put on me/ I ride there with homies, you can put it on me,” he raps on the chorus, segueing into his verse with similar verve. 

He is even more direct in his verse, taking no prisoners as he stakes his claim among the greats of the country’s current scene. With humorous detail reminiscent of Frank White, he spits lines like “I take the S out of Spain, your ankles will get sprained/ That’s if you think this is a game/ Sugar coaters you’ll be cane”. His focus never wanes as he switches rhyme schemes, rounding off his verse with, “Protecting all my street cred/ Born and raised from the crumbs was how a nigga was bred”, employing in that last word a cheeky wordplay which aptly reaffirms his street ethos. 

On his part, Reece is more attentive to the nuances of being one of the most visible rappers in the country. It’s a spot that comes with juicy positives but also with the awareness of proving one’s mettle during specific times, which is exactly what he accomplishes alongside Thato. “These niggas is tryna master a technique that I invented/ Get your prepositions right cos I don’t think you understand,” he raps with seamless vigour, then stating the humane vision of his lyricism in what is the perhaps the song’s most striking line: “I ain’t talking rap money when I say I’m tryna touch millions.”

The production is sparse but effective, layering head-bumping drums and soulful vocal samples with melancholic, glossy keys. The result is a cinematic record, impressively lined with the Zulu-tinged vocals of Thato and Reece.

Listen to “Put It On Me” here.