- Earlier this summer, UK label Goon Club Allstars dropped a bomb with the Rudeboyz EP. Showcasing the young gqom scene in Durban, South Africa, the release coincided with a flurry of interest in the sound, including one hell of a mix. In Gqom Oh!, we now have a label dedicated to the explosive style. Named after an onomatopoeic word—"gqom iz da sound u get wen u drop a rock on tiles," as the label puts it—the genre is endearingly rough, like some mongrel hybrid of kwaito and UK funky. The Sound Of Durban EP precedes a full-length comp offering the coastal city's best, and judging from these three tunes, it's sure to be a rawer take on the sound than the Goon Club 12-inch.
Though percussion samples are a key part of gqom, these three tracks place even more emphasis on borrowing. Each based around a well-known pop song (an approach that mirrors some early footwork), they all follow the same formula: ride a chopped-up sample for minutes of thunderous repetition, let it unspool into a breakdown that reveals the full song, then pull it back together to hammer on for a few more minutes. On The Sound Of Durban, this process offers three results that vary in mood but they're united by the same ominous melodies and slamming drums.
On Citizen Boy's "Hometown Glory," Adele's yelps gradually disperse into a delay-drenched breakdown, where the song's already immense power is made to sound impossibly epic and portentous. The terse strings on Mafia Boyz's "Shabba," a rework of A$AP Ferg, add a strained sort of paranoia to gqom. Only "Touch It," by Cruel Boyz, feels slightly underdone, letting its Busta Rhymes rap go on for too long and losing some crucial momentum in the process. Though a bit simpler than Rudeboyz or Menchess productions, these three tracks muster up a hulking sound out of very few elements, and they do it without coming off macho or alienating—an achievement on its own.
A1 Citizen Boy - Hometown Glory (Gqom Remix)
A2 Mafia Boyz - Shabba (Gqom Remix)
B1 Cruel Boyz - Touch It (Gqom Remix)