With less than a week to go to the premiere of Spinners, Showmax has just released a 31-track Spotify playlist from its soundtrack, curated by music supervisor DJ Ready D. This includes bangers from the likes of Onesimus, Early B, YoungstaCPT, DJ Vitoto, Ishmael, Isaac Mutant and the gone-too-soon Angie Oeh, among others.
Premiering on Showmax next Wednesday, 8 November 2023, Spinners follows Ethan (Cantona James), a 17-year-old driver working for a gang on the Cape Flats. Needing to support his younger brother but increasingly disgusted by gang life, Ethan discovers a possible way out via spinning, an extreme motorsport where he can put his driving skills to better use. With a gang war looming, can he turn his life around fast enough?
A co-production between Showmax and CANAL+, Spinners became the first African series selected in competition at Canneseries; won three awards at Dakar Series, including Best TV Series; received standing ovations from its sold-out premieres in Paris and Cape Town; and was the opening night screening at MIP Africa, generating rave reviews.
As Fortress of Solitude says, “Marrying elements of gritty gang tales with the thrills of a sports drama, Spinners is a masterclass in storytelling. It’s got all the right ingredients: a fire cast, visuals that are on-point, and writing that’s sharper than a blade. This is what local TV should be like — every shot and every scene crafted for cinematic magic… Spinners is the real deal, and it’s telling Mzansi’s stories like they deserve to be told.”
In addition to being the music supervisor on Spinners, DJ Ready D has a cameo as an announcer at the pitch, and also composed tracks for the eight-part series, alongside 2023 SAFTA winner Pierre-Henri Wicomb (Gaia).
We caught up with the hip hop legend, also known as Deon Daniels, to find out more about spinning and Spinners:
Why did you want to be part of Spinners?
When I was first approached by the French team and they broke down the story, the first thing they said was, “Cars.” I was like, “Okay, I’m in.”
Apparently, they miked-up the cars in Spinners, because they’re characters in themselves.
A lot of the culture is based on the sound of these cars. When you’re spinning, these guys and these ladies are throwing these cars all over the place and there’s a very distinctive sound that a spin car makes because you’re in the rev limits all the time. And it’s like people know, the culture knows, kids know that sound and when it starts climbing, it really gets people very, very excited. Especially when it’s the E30 BMW you know; they call it the Gusheshe elsewhere in the country. They’re very, very distinctive. So when you come from this community, that’s fully aware, you’re able to connect with that sound emotionally as well. So I think that was a brilliant call to make.
What did spinning mean to you growing up?
Through the dark days of apartheid, spinning was probably one of the greatest forms of defiance. It was an opportunity for people to come together socially as well. When I was a little boy, I used to go to places like Strandfontein Pavilion, and another place out in Athlone. In Cape Town, we used to call it ‘Pop-a-wheelie’. Right in the heart of apartheid, 1 000 to 3 000 people came together to buy Gatsby’s, with all these cars busy spinning and pumping the wheelies and all these things. Not even the cops could break up the ‘Pop-a-wheelie’ gathering. The cops would rock up, but you’re not going to move the people, you know…
I don’t think that we ever knew that it would reach this point: where people will actually be interested in turning it into a series and big commercial brands like Red Bull would latch onto it, with their Shay’Imoto spinning battles. With youth culture, on a grassroots level, spinning is one of the biggest movements right now – not just in Cape Town, but across the country as well,
Is spinning still an act of defiance?
Ja, you know, spinners are always in trouble with the law, all the time. The way you drive a spinning car is everything that you’re not supposed to do in a car. The driver jumps out of the driver’s seat, he or she is hanging out of the door, she’s standing outside the car, while the car spinning, then she jumps on top of the car, and opens up the bonnet, standing inside the bonnet, where there’s such a lot of moving parts. For those that don’t understand it, it’s complete madness. It’s chaos. And there’s so many people that criticise that.
Motorsport is still something that is seen as being reserved for the elite. But on the grassroots, there are kids and community members that’re going, ‘We can’t get access to the tracks; the city hasn’t got a dedicated space for us. So we’re going to spin. We’ll take it to the streets, we’ll take it here, we’ll take it there.’
So it’s just defiance, defiance, defiance. This is a generation of young people that’s even more defiant, because there’s way more spinning cars and the drivers are becoming younger.
What did you think when you read the scripts for Spinners?
I grew up in Mitchells Plain; I grew up on the Cape Flats. I’ve been in situations, you know, where guns were blazing. I’ve seen people shot in front of me. We had to run from the guns going off. I’ve seen many people laid out to them, right in front of my mother’s door. So I understand all of that. I understand all the tricky and challenging situations that pop up when people get rowdy and the crowds are out of control. Spinners reminded me of those experiences.
How did you choose the soundtrack for Spinners?
When I read the scripts, I’m already sitting and I’m mapping out the beats in my head as I read. I think of it in music, I think of it in beats. I’m not sure what the outcome’s gonna be, but I know this is the energy that’s needed. So to find the correct artists that will sync with the scenes, that was the one thing.
I also needed to get the most relevant artists, from the young ones to the established ones. They all have something to say, and it all plays a very, very important part in terms of where we are culturally. With spinning, if you look at the culture, this series is as current as it gets at the moment.
It was very, very important for the music to be authentic, and, to a certain degree, it’s extremely challenging as well, because it’s a story that was filmed in Cape Town city on the Cape Flats. To get that right, you have to understand the culture and you have to understand the history as well. At certain points, I had to make the team understand: ‘This music you’re asking for: it’s cool but that’s not what people are listening to on the Cape Flats.’
There’s so many different genres and styles of music that’s quite popular, that makes the community tick. The staple of the Cape Flats is yaadt music but the Cape Flats is also listening to amapiano and hip hop and then they have a huge community that’s into dancehall and reggae music as well. And the youth, they’re into trap and this new drill sound, that’s the new-school vibe.
You also composed some new tracks for the series?
Oh gosh ja, I even had to rip out the microphone and start rapping again.
I was actually telling my wife, I probably recorded the hardest hip hop song ever to be released in this city, if not the country: Wie Maak Die Jol Vol by Agro. It is so gritty, dirty, grimy, in your face; the thing just comes with these balls.
What surprised you about the recording process?
It’s funny how low-fi and low quality actually sometimes means authenticity.
Sometimes, it’s like, ‘Why are the vocals not sounding right? Because they’re not recorded through a phone on WhatsApp.’
I kinda had to discipline myself and pull myself back and go, ‘DJ Ready D, you can’t get too nerdy, you can’t get too technical on the production.’
I tried to get the sound as close as possible to the way a kid would share it on Whatsapp groups, and keep in mind how it’s going to sound in the taxi or somebody’s boombox or through someone’s phone.
Why are you excited about Spinners?
There’s so many artists that a lot of people do not know about, so just to enable them to get another level of exposure, it’s very important. This series is doing that; it’s groundbreaking.
In terms of what Cape Town city, and specifically the Cape Flats, have to offer, I think movies, series, and documentaries have barely scratched the surface. There’s so much more to unpack.
Spinners is like a gateway into that world and it just goes to show how broad culture is, and how it’s constantly evolving.
Image Courtesy: Supplied