Where, then, does it all begin? Here is what 2SMan says: “When I went to school I used to sit at the backseat where the subwoofer was. This was the time when Y-FM used to pump deep house and the sound of this intense music is what I fell in love with. This music was in me, and it was so profound in ways that I cannot describe.” It is around this time of 1998 onwards where deep house had airplay in the commercial radio stations. This is the time of street bashes and also where nightclubbing was at its high. It is the time where kwaito and deep house were rubbing each other’s shoulders. This is the time that can only be referred to nostalgically. Sadly though, these are the times that have scant documentation. Indeed, there is nothing to show now as textual proof, but fragments of what is left and memories of those who experienced the renaissance of deep house. But it is key to note that what really helped is seeing it continuing and setting the dancefloors of clubs and the turf of street bashes being on the boom. Deep house had to go underground again after having been declared “outdated” and even in its steadiness to date, it is not what claims the top spot. What, then, about deep-dub-techno? This is the genre that 2SMan takes knowing the costs of its marginality, its unfamiliarity, its strangeness. But what is the essence of thinking about the bass as a sound?
Well, for Thuso Mmoloke, popularly known as 2SMan, the maxim “It Won’t Make Sense With No BASS” is the way of thinking about it, making sense on its intonational presence, blasting it all out, feeling its vibe, being on it, if not of it. 2SMan’s declared maxim is his aesthetic signature, the constitutive entity of his sound, his track selection, the impulse of his sets, his stance, and his groove. He makes sure that the sound is felt from the deeper chronicles that are nothing but erudite. It is that way of making sense out of the bass, and it is when it is not somewhere in the background, but in the forefront. Since he plays different sub-genres of techno (dub, ambient, minimal, deep tech), the bass is what is made to hit the soul and it raises the dust from the ground, it is the thump, it pumps, it rumps. There in the background, there in the deeper space of things where the spectral tone of techno dwells, that there must be the roll from what makes sense.
What 2SMan does is not gimmicking or mimicking. He is on top of his game. And, of course, that comes with setting oneself apart as a serious DJ. This seriousness of making sense by way of exchange and engagement through the artform of being a DJ is what sets 2SMan on the high bar of generativity. This manifests by way of connecting all different rhythms in order to release harmonious energies, synthesized feelings. This can be a scene of events. But it is worth highlighting that in his aesthetic mix, 2SMan presses on that deep thing that lies in deep-dub-techno. Yes, he is not confined to it. He is moving across different accents of techno and house with that deep command and sensibility. But he is known for deep-dub-techno. He plays this genre with command. It is who he is.
Not doing what others want, but doing what makes oneself happy, and clearly assured in what one is doing, is the very essence of being free. 2SMan wants the visual and sound to be one and that, in the realm of deep-dub-techno, is somewhat hard to find. But this is the visual and sound that is of another sphere. Its abstract nature is tied to being true to oneself. This is often attuned to something that has to do with abstraction. In finding nothing wrong with being abstract, and what can be a harsh judgement of being obscure, being declared irrelevant, even, there is nothing that fazes the solid will of the one who is there in the underground and making sure that deep-dub-techno is South African cultural sonic fabric. Being authentic and standing for what one believes in, 2SMan’s focus is channeled into sharing that unique experience to the dancefloor, and this, as often expected, comes at a cost. But one thing that does not get mentioned is how those who do not conform always live to pay the price. It is all about creating, reshaping, pushing. It is doing what one feels as right, as just. Therefore, what they stand for becomes, typically, a subject of ridicule. In lousy terms, it is something that is termed crazy. 2SMan lives in the domain of the free.
Being free is not a given. It is what is not, in the domain of prohibition, permissible. In the sensibility of saturation, where sameness and familiarity find expression, what is different is subjected to censorship—or, rejection. Of course, the latter can be polite or rude. Rejection is what deep-dub-techno is subjected to. The reason for this is that it is not mainstream. Not that it is as such from its inception, but it has not been given a chance. This mark of its foreignness makes it not to have a place in many ears. It is the other of music, that strange thing, assault to ears, the corruption of the psyche, and all things that border on being out of order.
Deep-dub-techno is the sub-genre that is laced with a constellation of sounds and effects that are there to transcend limits, and the space echo, the sphere of what is the industrial, factory, warehouse, and other ethereal spectral effects that take dub to the lab to be experimented and brought to the shrine of the ambient mix and, throwing in the mix, its feedback loops, its metallic echoes, its chordal consonances, its ethereal caress, and its rhythmic reinforcements, this is what seasons the genre of techno to sound richer and more expansive. There is nothing of singularity when it comes to deep-dub-techno, it is a sub-genre of the multitude, a polyrhythmic sphere.
This is something that can always be understood in its rhizomic form as there is a constant development of connected sequences and networked modulations.
Listening to 2SMan’s mixes titled Feed My Cravings gives a clear sense of what is already at work. There is no doubt that deep-dub-techno is a performative network of many flows where there are many directions at once. It is what 2SMan gets more from, and what he devours and thus shares, abundantly.
For there to be the enrichment of sound, it is not far off the mark to say that deep-dub-techno has, for the most part, been about pushing the results of the experiment to be what leads to further experiments. This is all in the name of innovation which must continually unfold. Pushing things out has been the intensity at play and that is why the enduring legacy of deep-dub-techno has been a mainstay. Undoubtedly, at play, there is this force of having to push. This can go with directing things to elsewhere, but sometimes, pushing is persevering. It is making a difference and not submitting to the limits established or imposed. Pushing things down, and that tempo to be specific, the groove is intensified.
The name of what is being pushed for is that “It Won’t Make Sense With No BASS.”
Digging the sound from its underground, and dwelling there, this is where the pushing of deep stuff happens. What is deep, if not the whole sense in which things are done to make sense, even if they appear not to make sense? Yes, there is a whole sense to be sought in the manner that things are done differently. This is a different journey, always to destination unknown.
If the name of the sphere is “It Won’t Make Sense With No BASS,” it is known that the bass has that deep tonality and expression in it. Deep in tone, low in pitch, and booming, the bass sets things in vibration. But this bass must be curated in a certain way, it must be pushed to certain sensibilities for it to manifest. One thing for sure, in the aroma of noise, the bass must be louder but without the distortive blur and its brrrr brrrr… effect. Instead, its textured doof doof… duch duch… gugu gugu… effect is what is being aimed at here. The bass has that whole unearthing thing going on. Right there in the sphere of what is deep, the bass sets things in vibration. This is where the sense is sought. The deeper it is, the more intense it turns out to be. The making of sense is not figuring out, but the quest for the unknown and going even deeper, still. The sense of deep things and the way they happen to be, makes the bass to be what is thought about. If the bass must make sense, it becomes the domain of thought. Its curation is a careful deliberation, if not a daring experimentation, a leap.
Being what he wants to be and doing what he wants, 2Sman is invested in his creative process, its unfolding, its directionality, its deliverance. That is why he, in his sets, puts sound to work in improvisational ways, and that makes tones to map out moods and energies that are directed towards freeing everything that is bound. Sound unbound; this is what 2SMan is all about. This is what keeps him going and he studies sound in ways that, for him, speak louder in the volumes of spheres of sounds and influences that take him deeper in the chronicles of the here and now, near and far, classic and contemporary—that is, what is beyond the limit of what is within and confined in the box. By always pushing, 2SMan goes deeper to investigate the sound of what comes in the name of what makes the realm of culture to be something that comes as the deliberate effort of investigating the tone of the place.
Of course, the sound of 2SMan is nothing short of the cityscape. Yes, this is what deep-dub-techno is. And, since he is born in the city landscape, he is known to be playing the sound of the city, its spectrality across spectrums in spectacular forms.
For 2SMan, the Kagiso born native, also the founder of Deep Under KG, the latter which is the underground movement of the deep-dub-techno culture, he is all for the artistry of sound and that, as a DJ, producer, and sound engineer, becomes a demanding task that must be fulfilled even if there is marginalisation of all things that have to do with what is marked as different.
2SMan is the DJ who was born and bred in the township that is known for its vibrancy and which, from those who are provincialised by the proverbial Soweto, refer to it scantly and ignorantly so as “the child of Soweto.” Yes, Kagiso is an even older township than Soweto and there is no way that there can be a claim that there is nothing in Kagiso and everything must start in Soweto. The less said about this tired tirade the better. But here is a fact: Soweto is the 1930s phenomenon, and its centenary is not here yet, it is coming in a few years.
Kagiso is the area where black people were moved to arbitrarily just like any other typical township story in South Africa, and it must be stated that it is one of the oldest townships. In 2020 there was the centennial celebration of Kagiso which, in 1920, was established as there was the overpopulation of the migrantion labour system that was servicing the racist Krugersdorp.
Getting back to Deep Under KG, literally one can say that 2SMan blasts his sound in order to close those mine shafts which have created a crisis of sinkholes around Kagiso, not to mention contaminated water as a result of mining drainage. It is from deep under where his nocturnal workshop is in order to solidify the beauty of Kagiso.
What happens underground is what is deemed a secret because it is what is outside the preview of the surface. Similarly, the underground is what is linked to the secret location. What happens there is what is known by those who know where the location is, and they are party to the doings and the going-downs of that place. Taking Deep Under KG as the hub, this is the culture of those who do things that go with “Something Out of the Norm.” In the milieu that has to do with those who are on their own way, they are the ones who do things to own the own sense of freedom, their sound. If there is that deep thing in the Deep Under KG, there are protocols of the experimentation and that is a form of study. What is out of the norm comes out as the sound that carries images, words, and concepts—something that has to do with the whole spectrum and spectrality of deep-dub-techno.
Since this is the practice of what is in the underground, and going all deep, the workshop is not in the realm of the surface. Instead, in the underground, people come together to be part of the same experience. “A room of like-minded people” as 2SMan would say, is this sphere of the underground where the nocturnal workshop takes place. What happens there, is the groove, “where people are lost in a trance” and for 2SMan, this means “being caught in your own thing.”
Living by his name is what 2SMan does without fail. Since Thuso means “help,” this is the DJ who helps everyone to go under and helps them to be in the groove. He works in the workshop that is named Deep Under KG. This KG is obviously Kagiso (Setswana name that means “peace”), a Krugersdorp township west of Johannesburg, this is the black township that is built on top of mineshafts. It is in Kagiso where residents have been in the long haul of battles against mining operations. Even if the name Kagiso means peace, this unhappiness about mining and thus encircled by mine-dumps says a lot about the very opposite of peace.
If the cityscape is saturated with particular sounds, and which are deemed mainstream, and them getting audience, airplay, and gigs, doing what breaks from this saturation means that one is not streamlined but deviant. As the city soundscape has been under the fetish of the mainstream, there is the underground sound and it will always be there even if it is pushed out. By being underground, 2SMan is not playing what is trendy, but what, still, he does not embellish as special, but the real sound of the city that he wants to share and everybody to hear. He did not choose to be in the underground scene, it is the condition of the marginalisation of deep-dub-techno which, in refusing to be in saturation, breaks free from what attempts to capture and sanitise it. By being underground, 2SMan wants to keep the groove going and that is what he cannot compromise. In doing gigs, and thus bringing people together in order to be part of the experience, there is the engendering of the material conditions where attitudes, values, and beliefs are bent in order to have a different experience of what has always been relegated to the margins. It is calling people to come and be part of a whole. All this is happening in Kagiso and thus, in many ways, as a collective project, taking Kagiso out there.
Being in the place that is called marginal does not mean being in a nice place. More so if the stakes are high and when everything depends on what is done in the name of culture. The culture of deep-dub-techno is what is not mainstream and, as such, what can be claimed to be relevant in so far as the mainstream sensibilities are concerned. It is unfortunate that the emphasis on having to saturate things and putting things in confined frames is what makes culture not to be enriched. If familiarity is a concern and that being the staple, this will mean no growth at all. This will, in fact, mean conformity too. This will, in unproductive ways, intensify competition and saturate what must be offered, and thus breeding enough room for banality. It is where there is nothing in so far as energy and generativity are concerned. Yes, these are all the consequences of conformity.
Okay, one question: What kind of a DJ is 2SMan? The answer to this question will not be sufficient. Suffice it to say that he is all things deep. Again, this deep means being out there and doing what is not within the confines of the mainstream. He does something to the ear, mind, body, and soul. He puts them deep in the underground, and it is clear that the nocturnal workshop troubles what stands in the name of the mainstream taste. It is in the nocturnal workshop where he freely gives his sonic inscription, prescriptions even, to heal the sensorium and align everything not to be in place but, as always, out of place.
Telling a story, for sure, is what 2SMan does. And, to add, telling a story is the expression of who he is, and he notes: “In my sets, I am narrating a story. Taking one into a journey is what I do. Always, I prepare in order to tell a story. I believe that as DJ you are there to tell a story.” There is a narrative told and its place, as it is just expounded, is in the nocturnal workshop. This is the story in the dark amidst city lights and the sound of the music system. The sound system should be that of high quality and it must be a well-serviced machine. All there is to sound is that it should be powerful. Since the sound that 2SMan delivers is the sound of the city, it must be industrial noise. “Deep and underground, this sound needs to be played on the higher scale.” This is the story that is told in the underground sphere, this is the story that goes with the night, dancing it away. And, if the sound continues, the day, too, will be danced away.
It is in the underground that time is brought to a halt.
The free creative process is what does not thrive in any form of confinement. The attitude of the will and the latitude of imagination, makes possible what is deemed impossible. In having to make the sound different, again, referring to the amplification of the bass, and it as the sphere of sense, 2SMan fleshes out the combination of what he listens to and doing so without filtering. It this absorption, he will then filter by way of what he terms “low pulse filter,” and making the art of being a DJ something that is, in this current digitised age, as analogue as possible. It is here that he sets to challenge his art of fabricating sound and making sure that the bass is the base.
“I live in the bassline.”
It is in this site of dwelling that the groove is made, and it is the encounter where the exploration of sound begins. This is what leads to the very intention and act of sharing music and by being a DJ, the function of sharing becomes a generous gift where 2SMan wants to be one with those who get to hear the music that he has found. For the fact that this is the music that is different, and which does not get the mainstream airplay, whatever opportunity he gets, he shares this music. It is known that the genre of deep-dub-techno finds its expression in the sphere of the underground.
Or, if anything, as he usually says, “Something Out of the Norm,” 2Sman is already at work in the time that is not receptive of his artistry. Just like all DJs who stay true to the art and for the matter of being different, he refuses to conform. This nonconformity is clear in the manner that he is deeply rooted in deep-dub-techno, and, without any sense of confinement, it is known that he is in deep house, the latter which is the root of his art. In pursuing the deep sense of study, 2SMan always makes it his task to play other genres and sub-genres and most notably in addition to the aforementioned, they include dub minimalism, deep tech, house, and minimal tech. Also, to note, he is, in his private realm, a hip-hop junkie, a deep lover of funk and disco, too. This mapping clearly shows that in his study, he is exploratory and surgically deep. That is why, in dealing with sets, he is engaged in slow surgical operation. Then, again, cutting deep, making incisions as a way of a path, “Something Out of the Norm” shows the result of what comes after a deliberate form of study. This, of course, runs parallel with “It Won’t Make Sense With No BASS.” Not only is it deep, what is in the curriculum of 2SMan is underground. The movement, Deep Under KG, serve as the sanctuary where experiments are conducted, and the deep-dub-techno emerges. With his debut album Misconception (November 2021), in a form of a two track “What’s New” and “Misconception,” this Extended Play, is what 2SMan has to offer and what is yet to come, a whole lot to watch out for, is already at production stage. Truly, there is a lot that 2Sman is working on and working out, and these are, beyond albums, a bunch of different projects that attest to the industrious spirit he embodies.
The lived experience of 2SMan cannot be divorced from his socio-historical sphere. The story of Kagiso is told, and that also includes of other worlds that 2SMan inhabited. If Kagiso is subjected to the extractive logics that have to do with the economy which takes essence from the livelihood, 2SMan’s Deep Under KG does something altogether by restoring this essence. This act of repair might not seem as impactful, nor significant in having been noticed because the world that is inhabited is underground. The extraction continues and the damage done is at the unprecedented scale which then invents nihilism and pathology. The vibe and vibration happen in the township that is subjected to the extraction that are at its underground. It is in this sphere of the underground that the sound of 2SMan is directed to. It is in this sphere which, by being out of sight from the surface, the unseen, the unlocatable, where there are serious operations at work.
Not that this is the exclusive fetish and its perpetual cultish cultivation, but the daring spirit that says, “no to conformity” and whatever that has to do with the cliché of staying relevant and moving with the trends. In refusing to be a trend-setter, 2SMan believes in being a pathfinder. That is what Deep Under KG is. 2SMan is emphatic to state: “It is not an easy field to be in. This movement is a cult. Field of passion.” This is doing it for the sound and sharing it. Passion-driven, money is lost, but the experience is everything. Making an impact is what 2SMan’s Deep Under KG. “This is our heritage. It is all those who love it. It is all about culture,” says 2SMan. It is here where the alienated of the city come together. They are there to congregate in the name of the sound that cultivates the forms of lives that have to do with the movement of this culture—Deep Under KG. It is, in short, the mapping of the soundscape in the underground by the culture that will continue to give without end. What comes in the name of this culture is what should create other soundscapes, widening the spectrum without any form of singularity’s specificity.
Being in the conduit of the cultural movement, all things underground, there is the intensification of the gathering of souls which are devoted to sound. There is a constellation of sounds to all those who gather in the name of Deep Under KG, and as the main conduit, what 2Sman offers is a curriculum. By the whole sense of having to prepare a set, and playing it, what unfolds in the deepest sense of things, is what should make the body, mind, and soul to be elevated elsewhere. This is where things are taken to, elsewhere.
Here is the stage name and its origin is in order. “I wanted the number plate of my dream car to be 025 Man GP,” says 2SMan. Of course, this is the name that comes to what it is through some fabrications and their resultant mutations. This number plate was key in that the early and mid-2000s was the era of personalised number plates, the style, the in thing—status. This is how he wanted his car to be branded, and that, for sure, was his brand. Back to the radical changes, it is worth noting that 025 Man GP, which was in line with the number plate system of Gauteng then, three digits and three letters before the provincial code, would be the personalisation of the number plate which will come hard to notice. This is the mystery of it all. This is the number plate that would be known by those who know him. But, just to digress, those who do not know him will be hit by the sound of this mysterious number plate. Still on the name, again, 2SMan came from ThusMan. The name is Thuso, and it is turned into a nickname that goes ThusMan. Thuso, in Sesotho or Kasi nicknaming, is what is easily turned ThusMan. But there is a catch to this. Outside this framing, and if the English one is the frame, “Thus” will be pronounced in a way that is far from Thuso. The word with just be a pronunciation slide, it will sound bad, yes, intonation off the mark. Dropping ThusMan, going back to the number plate is an interesting site. So, 025 Man GP will call for the stage name of the DJ and what emerged was having to drop “0,” “5,” and “GP.” It is as the result of this dropping that the name 2SMan came into being. This is what the brand of the DJ is.
There is the subject and the scene and this, through deep-dub-techno, is narrating multiple stories. It means that his sets are covering different regions. With the interpretation of sound, the experience is not expensive. “I am all about enjoying the sound,” 2SMan says this attesting that it is “about the ear.” There is something about it because it is the primary site where sound exists. Engineering the sound and it being for the ear, is something 2SMan remarks as seamless. In sound, he says, there are bit rates and frequencies which need to be worked on. The sound must be engineered in such a way that the beauty of its delivery does not betray the experience that it is entwined with. This is the sound of all things considered “life”—a natural rhythm, untainted.
Deep-dub-techno, deep house, minimal techno, and deep techno tracks are laid down in one set as a way of not determining which genre, specifically, 2SMan is working on. What is study accompanies the practice of what is done in the actual DJing and going through the track list, which 2SMan calls a “library,” and what comes out of the channels is the bass blast. Let it be explicitly stated that 2SMan makes the role of being a DJ to be a pedagogical imperative which, in its communal spirit, those who are in the underground should be bound by culture.
This is study and all things done underground. The integration of sound is what 2SMan does with his alchemical method. What the bass does and when it comes to down-tempo, 2SMan likes things slow, he is going on it slow, a set on a go slow—deep.
In terms of study, 2SMan dwells on sound, and he simply blasts the bass, the bursts, the bubble of enclosure and the experiment with making the down-tempo to be the feel, the groove. In all things deep and deliberately grounded on down tempo, the mark of difference is what makes the music to be, in its intensity, to be an experience that is shared.
In 2SMan’s duty, he is there in teaching the right thing. This is what he fulfills in his act of curating and bringing music to those who are in the underground. By leading the underground sound, he states that this sound is all about being conscious. All in the name of love, and the culture that carries and dishes out this love. Going all out in making sure that this is realised in the times of wants and scarcity in terms of that deep thing, that thing which has many sub-genres, 2SMan is right there making sure and working hard at it to make sure that there is nothing wrong with being deep, abstract even. He insists that a DJ should fulfill the following: quality music, new and current music, a good track selection, and quality mixing.
Going down, and being in the downtempo mood, the groove goes on and that is, in itself, a journey to elsewhere. Having to approach things from their deeper essence, what is sought after is the creative energy that makes the soundscape as the possible place where many other worlds can be born.
The sphere of the underground is what 2SMan is at. That, too, is a place where there is the origination of what is yet to come. The spectrality of this sound is yet to become the lived presence. Since the city is present, definitely the realisation to come will be the sphere of 2SMan’s living presence, his sound getting down to things to be heard, sensed, and felt.