I remember being in high school in Lesotho, back when Channel0 was still airing for free at certain times on SABC1. I remember seeing Looptroop Rockers’ (then Loop Troop) “Fly Away” video. And I remember that round about the same time, they came to South Africa for a series of shows. I also remember thinking that Promoe was Tim Horwood; of course I discovered a tad later that I was wrong.
From then onwards, I’ve remained a firm follower of Looptroock Rockers, from making A4-sized full-coulour print-outs of the artwork which could be downloaded off of their looptroop.nu website (they’ve now switched to looptrooprockers.com); to almost paying good money to hear a copy of their then-newly-released “Fort Europa” album. There are much too many memories, so I thought to do a short post of their top ten videos, along with small nuggets on each one.
1. Fly Away
I remember being in awe of the animation style on this video. I remember getting the “Struggle continues” album and playing the songs on repeat, each time getting incrementally amazed by DJ Embee’s style of production. Round about that time, I became aware of his “Tellings from solitaria” album. But it would be two more years of waiting before I heard it.
Sample lyrics: “I’m sorry for all ‘I’m sorries’ that came too late/ I’m sorry for the times that I went away/ but yo, I’m still here/ ’cause my love came to stay/ remember that, even though the weather is gray today“
2. Fort Europa
This is the title track to “Fort Europa“, their 2006 effort for which I nearly paid money to someone who had an mp3 copy. The intro to that album remains among one of my favourites in hip hop – a ball drops during a round of table tennis; DJ Embee then chops the first few seconds of either side’s throws, creating sizable pieces on which to layer the melody. He then adds piano chords onto the loop, slaps a phat, moog-y bassline, then rounds up the thrill with padded strings. Then the intro segues into this very song, a tale about Europe’s struggles for self-preservation in the new world.
Sample lyrics: “..this way some people snuck in/ only to become second-class citizens/ not listed in the system, not existent in a sense/ ‘illegal immigrants’/…this world is cold and evil , I should’ve never went to Fort Europa“
3. Long Arm of the law
I used to go to a college with fairly good Internet access. During one of the classes held in a computer room, I’d have the Loop Troop website open, downloading videos to watch at home. They were in .wmv format, and this one in particular was about 15MB in size. I marvelled at it for its realism, it’s unassuming nature, and its raw hip hop aesthetic – dope beats, dope rhymes, dope visual imagery.
Sample lyrics: “When the long arm of the law/ is grabbing you/ backstabbing you/ police cars passing you/ on dark avenues, mad lights flashing you”
4. The building
This is a rebellious song; lyrics about burning stuff down. It has the feel of punk’s philosophy about it – the ‘get-down-in-the-moshpit’ neck-snapping danger, however impending it may be. I was listening to this song around the time when Promoe was solidifying his solo standing.
Sample lyrics: “..so my neighbour, the cop/ whom I suspect of beating his wife had to tell me to stop/ and I wish I had the guts to tell him ’bout the noise from his apartment/ but that’s their business that I don’t get involved with“
5. On repeat
I was doing campus radio when this one came out. They put up the link on their website. It was an important song released during a vital moment in Europe’s shift towards the right, attacking the Sverigedemokraterna party incident in particular. It is social commentary at its best – immediate, scathing, and in tune with the times. I remember being excited about hearing DJ Embee’s sound at that juncture. I find it amazing how he manages to upgrade the Looptroop Rockers’ sound with every album – trying out new things, envisioning tested tricks in a new dimension, and bringing some elements of familiarity for the sake of balance.
Sample lyrics: “Well it looks to me/ like our history’s/ running on repeat/ over and over again/“
6. Professional dreamers
Besides their work ethic, I admire Looptroop Rockers’ quest for travel. They are always playing in different places, and documenting some of those processes in their songs. Promoe, for instance, made a reference to their trip to South Africa in his song “Long distance runner“, off of his solo effort of the same name. This particular video was shot in Spain, and was released a few months before the album. They did a cool campaign on their website in the build-up to this; they profiled their heroes in different fields, friends of theirs who were achieving new heights daily in their chosen fields.
Sample lyrics: “I’ve got memories for sale, autobiography/ everything that’s real now started as somebody’s dream/ a vision of the future/ notes on a wrinkled piece of paper like ‘my feet getting too big for these shoes, see you later!’“
7. Looptroop Rockers 20th Anniversary
Well, the video sums it all up. They have been through many set-backs; at one point, one of the members, Cosmic, left. Promoe rapped: “..that’s why I think of the Troop, I try not to think/ that we miss a friend and a member.” But alas, he returned on their “Professional dreamers” album. I’d dig to interview them about their journey thus far; to do a full-ass spread for some publication. Perhaps it’ll happen one day. Their new album is out; it is an all-Swedish affair, and I am yet to give it a listen.
**Thank you to Mikko Kapanen for contributing information and making suggestions for stuff to post.