“I have more faith in the music than I do in the PR and in the imaging,” says Stogie T frankly. “I think people, once they hear the music, and that’s if they care to, it’ll all make sense. They’ll go ‘oooh, okay, so he’s not gone!’ Because the values are still the same; we still value rich, beautiful, great music.”
In 2016, Tumi Molekane found himself having to field at the but-you’ve-changed question to varying degrees. He wasn’t — isn’t — the same cipher-hopping kid he was in ’96, or the multi-syllable-flippin’ young adult whom we got to embrace, him and his Volume, throughout the 2000s.
Look closely at the sleeve for his Stogie T album, the details will start to pop up. You’ll see the pantyline cascading up a perfectly round booty. You’ll notice the half-filled wine glass making a guest appearance in the picture frame. Your attention will scat to the man in a satin tux. His crisp white t-shirt is tucked in. His gaze is confusing-as-fuck, at once confrontational and inviting, contrasting starkly to that of the lady in the background, whose side-profile doesn’t reveal much.
True to character, Stogie holds a cigar in his right hand, the other tucked comfortably into his pants’ left-hand pocket. Ms. Jozi re-appears in the background, hair in a bundle, with her one hand either putting on or slipping off her low-cut black dress.
Herein lies the dilemma: Are we coming, or are we going? It’s hard to say. What’s legacy to a man who’s willing to throw it all away in pursuit of living true to his reality?
In 2017, Tumi Molekane as Stogie T is about as real as any rapper, anywhere, will get. He’s a family man with growing adulting-related pang; an artist becoming more aware of the societal implications of his actions on his immediate and greater community; a rehabilitated narcissist whose biggest concern is becoming a repository and orator of said greater community’s stories.
Stogie T’s not making some shit that’ll expire after two months. In this era of enhanced rap one-upmanship where different eras are contending for space in the market, he’s making magic with the same set of producers everyone else and their uncles are using and successfully managing to sound like no one. Great music’s still the ethos but, in the interests of attracting more fish, the net has been cast wider.
The love for cigars came about while touring in Europe. “I didn’t really have a vice, and cigar-smoking became that vice for me,” he says. He was also drawn by their wide appeal. Everyone, from the opulent royals to the blue collar workers to revolutionaries tokes on them. “They represent a wide spectrum for me. Also, just my growth; it’s my growth,” says Stogie T.
Look back to the image, and it all makes sense. The man on the cover, cigar in hand, a transfixing gaze rested upon the lens, is saying to us: I dey run my race. I no compete with no one. Here, where I stand, I be number one!
- Stogie T performs with The Rebirth of Cool at the Lyric Theatre this Saturday, July 29. Get tix.
- Opening image: Stogie T @ the lauch of Diamond Walk/Big Dreams, ’16