Sometimes Self Belief Is All You Need: R Peels' Underrated Consistency

I know. I'm even shocked that this is my first piece on what I hope is going to be a long-running series on this website. Justify My Bias(may be pronounced as a B***S***) depending on how outrageous I sound) is going to be my canvas for opinions no one asked for on Zimbabwean Hip Hop. I figured 240 characters on Twitter may not be enough to fully articulate nuance on topics from the culture that we love. Welcome to the internet, Mukudzei. 

Now back to the matter at hand, those who know me, know that I'm an unapologetic RayKaz stan. In fact, my appreciation for that man's talent has now crept into borderline obsession and delusion. But my own biases aside, (See? We're off to a great start) I wanted to shine my light on arguably the most divisive figure in Zimbabwean hip hop, Tanaka Mungoyo affectionately known as R Peels. R Peels is Zim hip hop's pantomime villain and he revels in it. Not because he's a bad artist, by no means, but because of his abrasive, outspoken attitude and unrivalled self-belief

R Peels

To be honest, we need characters like R Peels in any culture. The Seke native rapper has proved time and time again that you are your own best bet and no one will make you king unless you grab the crown yourself. Whatever you may feel about R Peels' music is your prerogative, I'm not trying to change minds, but one thing you can not deny is the work ethic and above all the consistency that he has shown over the years. I wouldn't be able to fully do justice describing who R Peels is and if you're new to his music the opening lines to his 2019 industry diss track "Not Impressed" will paint quite the picture.

F**** Given: Zero

Since dropping his debut album ''Zviri Eva Beautiful" in 2017, with the sequel set to follow later this year, the Chitungwiza-born spitter has gone on to release 9 more projects in a space of 5 years. I know what you're thinking, quantity doesn't always equate to quality and that's a fair assessment but you would be hard-pressed to find many artists who have matched that output or who at the very least have projects that have been well received by the general Zim hip hop populous. 

2022 hasn't gone to plan as far as quality output is concerned. It's halfway through the year and you can make a case for Brian Jeck, Leo Maggoz and Bling4's collaborative effort "Fire Emoji" being the sole candidate for Song Of The Year. It's been mostly lukewarm releases as far as solid projects are concerned. A far cry from the bombastic releases of 2021. Celebrated veteran emcee Synik's "A Travel Guide For The Broken" has been the standout so far in my opinion. Holy Ten's much anticipated "Energy" has had mixed reviews with most stating that it is formulaic and lacking in virility as compared to his previous releases. 

All this has made me ponder and appreciate R Peels even more. I once tweeted that the drill movement in Zim hip hop owes R Peels his flowers. Obviously, there's bound to be a blowback when you tweet something like that, and if I'm being honest I probably should have clarified my take. The core of my argument was that R Peels has been the biggest risk-taker in how he tries to revolutionize his sound. He didn't start with the drill in Zimbabwe but he certainly played a big part in popularizing it. Since his 2020 drill hit "Eke" aided by the incredible JaxDaBeatBully, the splinter effect has been visible. I'll bite the bullet here and say that we don't get Voltz JT without R Peels, even though the former was releasing music prior. That is why it was great to see the two collaborate on R Peels' "Zino" off the Revelations album. A track which veers away from the typical nihilistic heavy drums associated with drill music and takes a more halcyon and tranquil approach.

A lot may disagree with this but R Peels will retire a Zim hip-hop rap legend. He's already moving like one as we speak. Take a look at his latest collaborative effort, the "Mu Race EP" with trusted producer JaxDaBeatBully and upcoming Gweru-based youngster Kayflow. An artist I've had the privilege to interview 3 years ago on a radio show emerged to me as one of the most exciting talents in the Midlands. His aggression, passion and freestyle ability made my hair stand up and that's why it's so exciting to get the love that he's getting from the community. In what feels like a throwaway project, not qualitatively speaking but in the sense that the EP gives a vibe that the three had time to kill in the studio and decided to record a tetrad of records as an appetizer to R Peels' next record while simultaneously introducing Kayflow to his audience. Two birds with one stone but what is admirable about this union is how R Peels seems to be playing the big brother role to Kayflow and believe me when I say that's rare in this ego-driven industry. 

Make no mistake, I'm not trying to eulogize R Peels' legacy, he doesn't need me to. He's not perfect and I have my own reservations about his artistry, particularly his rhyme structure and flow patterns which can boil my piss sometimes. I mean bars like, "Pandinochinja flow ndina Kayflow, we complimented/ Vanhu vanovhara door. they ain't even know kuti I'm obligated/". Come on man. 

But one thing you can not deny the man is that he knows how to make an album. Proof? Since his debut, R Peels has yet to have a project not nominated for the best album of that year. An award I feel he should have won at least once. Fellow hip-hop artist and entrepreneur, Noble Stylz once mused that to be certified in this industry your album has to win the Zim Hip Hop Awards' highest accolade, "Best Hip Hop Album".You're free to contest that of course but it feels like at this moment that is the crowning moment R Peels needs to fully be appreciated for all he has done. He hasn't hit 30 yet and yet his resume boasts collaborations from names such as Tehn Diamond, MU Netsi, Guluva Se7en, Tulkmunny, MC Chita, and Xndr only to mention a few. That's an incredible run. 

Zim hip hop needs artists like R Peels, he's serious about his craft and you can tell from the projects he puts out. It'll be evident again this year when he releases "Zviri Eva Beautiful II", which I feel is his best chance yet to win finally win Album of The Year. Unless of course,, RayKaz drops. I'm joking! Or am I?

You don't have to like the man but you can at least respect him.
Mukudzei Mlambo

A bit of Romans 7:15 and 90s Hip Hop & RnB. I write words about things that fascinate me in Zim hip hop on my column series "Justify My Bias"


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