Have you ever wondered what happened to a particular famous person, group or iconic brand that seems to have disappeared? In a new monthly #Trending column – Bakae, Where They At? – we travel down memory lane. Our second instalment sees Phumlani S Langa finds out what happened to Godessa.
As a laaitie, my favourite local rappers were Godessa. An eight-piece band that shot their stanzas from the hip, they painted a portrait of the experiences of coloured women living in the Western Cape.
Shameema “Shame” Williams, Elouise “EJ” Jones and Bernadette “Burni” Amansure would run rings around most of the emcees out there today with major deals and all the buzz in the world. Godessa gave us two full-blown records, Spillage (2004) and Socials Ills (2002).
Their work was moulded to inspire hope and progress, not merely to flaunt their success. The timeless Social Ills is the perfect example of this.
To the young ear, this kind of hip-hop will sound like dungeon consciousness and, yes, the popular flow of the time was similar to the way Ben Sharpa or Hymphatic Thabs deliver a verse. At least the template was local.
After two albums it ended though, and there doesn’t seem to be a reunion on the cards. We catch up with one of the lead vocalists:
So where they at?
Shameema resides in Cape Town.
“I still work in the industry, creating music. I have been using all of this experience to create a new career path in the digital world. Last year I performed in the Castle Lite Unlocks Hip-Hop Herstory concert, and I am focused on releasing a new project if I ever find the time to complete it.”
Elouise resides in Holland and is learning to play the drums. She is also involved in a Réunion Island music project.
Bernadette is in Switzerland, currently taking a break from performing. She has been going at it overseas since the end of Godessa.
The instrumentalists – Grenville Williams, Ricardo Moreti, Shawn O’ Tim and Dub Master China – are all still playing music either in Cape Town where Dub Master and O’ Tim reside, or in Italy where Moreti is from.
I am still puzzled about the dissolution of a solid band and whether or not this was a move everyone agreed with.
Shameema doesn’t respond to this. Instead she reminisces about first falling in love with hip-hop: “It was a poster of Run-DMC on my uncle’s wall ... the rebellious image, the Adidas swagger with the Kangol hats and gold chains that drew me in”.
The fiery essence of rebellion was an addictive energy.
“The poetry of words, movement and style inspired me.
There were moments and records that further drew me in as I grew older, such as seeing Prophets of Da City perform for the first time, watching Yo! MTV Raps tapes with Lords of the Underground and LL Cool J videos, and hearing Public Enemy’s Fear of a Black Planet and then Nas’ Illmatic for the first time.
Hip-hop was like that, every few months someone released something that made you go ‘Damn!’ and fall in love all over again.”
You notice how she speaks about all that wholesome energy in the past tense?
Love for the new era
She does, however, enjoy the fact that this art from the street corners has found a home in a cosy corner office, so to speak.
“I love that we have an actual industry that has begun to invest in South African hip-hop and that South African artists are touring, recording and performing internationally. However, the problem that was remains – that the commercialisation of hip-hop is centralised in Joburg, with very few artists from other parts of the country being able to get maximum exposure.”
Even back then, Shameema says, it was challenging for the band to have a presence in Joburg.
“Cape Town artists such as myself are asked to cover our own expenses to make an appearance, and then it mostly feels like our inclusion is only necessary when they speak on history, and they know Cape Town’s role in it can’t be ignored.
Youngsta CPT may be our biggest success in that he’s crossed over into the Joburg scene, somewhat, because like Sho Madjozi recently said: ‘Be so damn good that they can’t ignore you.’”
She loves what the women of hip-hop are doing in this new era.
“The visibility and greater acceptance of women shows in terms of sales and awards. Female rappers are no longer considered a novelty, but true competitors in this male-dominated field of entertainment.”
She gives high praise to artists such as Rouge, FiFi Cooper, Gigi Lamayne, Sho Madjozi and Yugen Blakrok. She claims to have enjoyed AKA’s Touch My Blood, which I thought was very kind.
Alas, we had best not expect a reunion record.