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Third Eye’s Flowers: Token of appreciation, controversy

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SIGNING OUT? — Third Eye

By Chawa Mswayo:

Not often would one see Third Eye (real name Mandela Mwanza), one of the country’s experienced underground hip hop heavyweights, going on a spree dishing out flowers to his fellow rappers.

If anything, the Lilongwe-based hip hop giant has, in the past, been increasingly heralded for repeatedly engaging himself in heated lyrical battles (on and off the mic), and constantly dropping the mic and make a return to it.

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And of course, taking a swipe at other rappers and vice versa, also known as beef or diss in the hip-hop realm.

But, in the world of hip hop, beef, as we know it, can neither be regarded as strange nor unhealthy to the culture. In fact, some quarters have further argued that beef, the game of verbal gladiators, acts as a perfect ingredient for the hip hop culture together with its success. Beef promotes competition amongst M’cees, conjuring ingenuity in them and, in the process, aiding the audience to separate the chaff from the grain. Beef, however, is not the paramount reason for this write-up, though I will touch base on it as we go — Third Eye’s Flowers is.

Since last week, social media has been awash with Third Eye’s Flowers, a rap song. In it, Third Eye is heard, once again, kissing the last goodbye to the game, waxing lyrical, flirting with words, engaging similes, fluidly and poetically, and most importantly, giving flowers, in a show of appreciating the artists, whom he is also calling them unsung heroes, who have been fundamentally instrumental to the music fraternity and beyond, to other art disciplines like poetry — something Third should unreservedly be credited and lauded for.

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I won’t even bother delving much into the

instrumentation of the beat, albeit, on the face of it, being a sample of 2 Pac’s Krazy. The beat, produced by Prolifik, is evidently well arranged and laid-back, rendering the artist a smooth sail on it and have control over it. However, I will deep-dive into the lyrical composition, the trajectory, and the progression (or the success thereof).

In his pronounced husky and deep voice, the rapper introduces the first line of the song by nostalgically recollecting how his brotherhood with musical legends like Lucius Banda, Mlaka Maliro, and Billy Kaunda came to be and flourished onward. How the artist used to share the same stage with the afore-mentioned crop of legends as headliners and their fondest encounters backstage. As the artist raps, ‘I was a headline in shows with them back in ‘09/I was backstage, young, I couldn’t believe my eyes/ When the legends walked, giving me Hi5/ They were forty-something, and I was twenty-five.

Further, in the first verse, Third Eye’s appreciative gesture towards other old guards in the music industry cannot go unnoticed as the artist, audibly extends a bouquet to veteran jazz maestro, Eric Paliani, and the celebrated spoken-word poet Q Malewezi. Third Eye also savours old moments when the two artistic giants rallied support behind him through and through. Third Eye refuses to let D1, his longtime producer go unnoticed: the artist reminisces the old days when D could drop beats as he (Third) dropped rhymes. Third Eye doesn’t stop there, as he posthumously pays tribute to the fallen veteran musicians namely; Wambali Mkandawire, Evison Matafale, and Kenny Klips.

As the song progresses into the middle, in the second verse, one cannot help but notice a sudden significant shift in tension build-up in the artist’s tone as Third Eye lives up to his reputation as a somewhat verbal gladiator and his record of taking a swipe on other rappers.

In the second verse, he takes a brief break from giving flowers as he seemingly takes a brutal jab at someone. Someone he considers unworthy and undeserving of his flowers. As he raps, in part; and now they act like I ain’t got rules in my home/You can get the flowers from your brother-in-law/I only give my flowers to the people that deserve them/ The rest I give them thorns….

Third Eye’s target, the recipient of his thorns, as is the case, remains undisclosed, leaving the audience to its own devices— with others quickly drawing conclusions that the hat fits well his long-time hip hop contender, Gwamba. But they could either be biased or somewhat balanced in their verdict. Who knows? Third Eye himself does. We can only speculate. But that a subject for another day.

Still, in the same verse, the Kumidima hitmaker is heard proclaiming how he earned his spot, that it was never given to him on a silver platter; instead, he had to break a sweat for it, as he remembers his rap journey which dates back to his days in Kenya where he attended college and then later, fuelled by his passion for music, dropped out halfway through to live his musical dream. In a bid to overstate his significant contribution to the local hip hop culture, Third Eye stresses how he made hip hop real big in Malawi, in the process, sounding hopeful that one day he will be gifted flowers in return — leaving everything in the hands of time.

Throughout the third verse, which is also the last, with Third Eye calling it a “Chapter,” the artist recoils to gifting flowers to the not-so-old rappers on the hip hop bloc; the likes of Hayze and Classik, the two promising rap artists and former members of the defunct rap duo called Home Grown Africa.

Then he goes on to pay a tribute to Martse, also, a hip-hop titan who died in May this year in a fire accident. Krazie G hasn’t missed on Third Eye’s list of flowers along with other ‘Dope Rappers’ as Third Eye fondly labels them like Sagonja, C-Scripture, describing them as unwavering to the game.

Talking about divorcing the rap game, Third Eye has proven yet again not to be a stranger, really, at the habit of hanging the mic despite returning to it now and again — an inconsistent habit his fans have definitely forced to come to terms with. A love story of two exes mired in unfinished business, this is.

The artist is reputed for quitting music in 2014 whilst in his prime, citing that, in his own words then, “I’m officially retiring as a hip hop artist and starting my new career as a youth activist.” He further said, “I will also soon be launching a charitable organization called The Mandela Mwanza Foundation whose primary focus is youth entrepreneurship, HIV and Aids, environment, and sanitation.” Despite making that public announcement, Third Eye resurfaced later on, with an album dubbed as ‘No Room for Era” on his sleeves which he dropped in 2020. He even went on to organize a show in Blantyre this year which didn’t attract a desirable number of people.

But then, however, the song begs a question; is ‘Flowers’ really Third Eye’s last goodbye as espoused in the hook? Because in the hook, Third Eye is heard rapping that the song marks his “last goodbye” and he signs out in solemn peace; not carrying grudges, and not holding punches. Therefore, calling forth the mentioned unsung heroes (alive) to come and get their flowers. But can Third Eye be trusted to keep his end of the bargain? We can only wait.

All in all, Flowers transcends the lines of diss and the rapper’s controversial character. The song comes as timely, when appreciating other people’s positive contributions to the society is rare.

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