Venom x Shishiliza give us the sound for summer with Love Is Pain

September 5, 2022

Venom x Shishiliza’s debut album, LOVE IS PAIN, is finally here and available on all platforms. Following a behind-the-scenes partnership on Venom’s 2021 single U (featuring Le Paris, Daecolm and Tyler ICU), the talented duo reconnected over the pandemic and decided to start working on a project together. 

After their mega-hit collab, SondelaLOVE IS PAIN is the first full-length collaborative project that unites DJ Venom and Sebastian “Shishiliza” Jameson.

While Sondela (featuring Yumbs, Raspy, Blxckie, Riky Rick and Tshego) offered the first hints of the duo’s joint sonic direction, the single took on even more meaning after the untimely death of producer, composer, rapper and collaborator Riky Rick in February 2022, just two weeks after the song’s release. In many respects, LOVE IS PAIN extends Riky Rick’s philosophy of opening doors for new artists. It was born out of a writing camp Venom and Shishiliza hosted to bring together pre-eminent and emerging talents.

“Venom and I were both close with Riky, and he was one of the very few people who took us seriously,” Shishiliza shared. “We’re inspired by how Riky would open doors for a lot of young people and we believe that this is the best way for us to carry on Riky’s legacy.”

Love Is Pain
The talented duo covered a lot of playlists including the highly coveted Africa Rising cover by Apple Music.

Venom and Shishiliza pioneer the Sondela sound

Venom and Shishiliza accomplish that by pioneering a sound that they’ve dubbed “sondela”, they discovered the sound at their #LetsOperate writing camp that took place earlier in the year. It is a slowed-down, soulful sound within the bounds of amapiano, afro-pop, R&B and hip hop. 

“With amapiano, people just take it like, ‘It’s a sound, and we just going to jump on it.’ Whereas there’s a whole culture behind it and different pockets that you need to sit in. It’s not as easy as it looks, and hip-hop and R&B artists have been struggling with it so we wanted to create a path in the middle of what people know. A lot of artists—even international ones—are trying to jump on amapiano, and they can’t keep up with the 112 BPM, it defeats them. So, this is a way of tapping into that space—just in that 95 BPM lane.”

That new lane also creates space for more meaningful stories to emerge. “The name LOVE IS PAIN actually comes from a video of Riky’s, where he said something like, ‘You have to go through the pain to get through to the happiness,'” Venom reveals. “Love is a beautiful thing, but there’s a lot of pain that comes with love and after—but on the other side, there is happiness.”

Essential tracks from LOVE IS PAIN.

Vuka (feat. Aubrey Qwana, Majorsteez, Howard & Paula Sibiya)

“This was where Aubrey really flexed his skills. And with the sample of [Brenda Fassie’s 1989 single] ‘Too Late for Mama’, Herc would leave YouTube running and play old songs for inspiration—from Brenda to Fela to whoever—and it would spark an idea. And I think it was Howard who put down the keys for that. 

Love was on everyone’s minds—I can’t explain it. And people didn’t believe us. On the first day [of the writing camp], they’re like, ‘Oh, this is going to be a party. The baddies are going to come.’ And I’m like, ‘That’s not what we are here for.’ Maybe because it was guys, no one felt the need to flex on people, and we could really open up amongst each other. There was definitely a lot of sad love stories being told at that camp between everyone, so I guess it was a therapy session as well.”

uThando (feat. Blxckie, Jay Sax, 031choppa, S.O.N., Sizwe Alakine & Herc Cut The Lights)

“I have watched people cry listening to this song. The saxophone just adds so much to the song. There’s just so much emotion, so much feel to it. It’s like a roller coaster—just when you think it’s done, another tone comes into it. 

For me, I would say this is the definition of the sound [we were aiming for with this project]: very musical. I’m so glad that there’s a rap in it as well.”

Cold Outside (feat. DBN Gogo & Blxckie)

“It’s talking about wanting someone’s love to keep you warm, trusting someone with your heart: ‘Please don’t do me dirty.’ 

When DBN Gogo came, we were already in studio, with Focalistic downstairs in Howard’s room. And I think Foca and DBN Gogo had just [revealed] in public that they were dating, even though we all knew. When she got there, we thought she would want to chill in the studio with Foca—and then she’s like, ‘Yo, I can get to work. I ain’t trying to be sitting around here in this room listening to these guys record.”

Sondela (feat. Yumbs, Raspy, Blxckie, Riky Rick & Tshego)

“We all knew Sondela was special from when it was just a beat. I had played the beat for Riky, and he hated it. He slammed that space bar and was like, ‘This is not it. This is not it. This is bubblegum. This is not what we do. We make real music.’ 

Because the music Riky was making was super musical. But a week later, he called me [saying], ‘I’m starting to like the song, so let’s work on it.’ And then I brought Raspy in. Again, Riky was in one of his moods. He made Raspy record—I’m not exaggerating—50 times. She was so sick of him by the end of that session. Riky was going through a lot. He wouldn’t answer his phone for two weeks, and we needed to submit it. But he was buying time for himself to record by not giving me those files. And then, a week before [he passed], he recorded. We arranged the song and got it. It took eight months to put that song together.”

Ngiyazifela (feat. S.O.N., Daecolm & Mr. Selwyn)

“This was the last song that we finished on the album. We had a listening session at [our label], and one of the guys was like, ‘We could actually clip this and make it a gospel song.’ We wanted it to sound like you’re talking about a girl, but you’re really talking about the love of God. [Former musician-turned-minister] Mr Selwyn had preached at Riky’s memorial, and he just moved me so much. Initially, we just wanted him to preach on the second verse, but when we got into the studio and he heard the beat, I could see—I cannot stop this man; he wants to rap. And then, from there, I was like, ‘OK, but I still need you preaching,’ which he did [on ‘Love Is Pain (Interlude)’]. 

It was the first time he’d been on the mic in five years. I don’t think it’s going to be the last time we see Mr Selwyn. And as much as we have the young kids [on the album], we also wanted to show respect to the generations before and to educate the younger kids: This is someone who opened the doors for you.”

Packed with rousing anthems that will resonate with everybody, LOVE IS PAIN is guaranteed to be the sound of Summer ’22.

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