Amapiano, the South African club strain that’s equal parts slick and thunderous, finds itself at an inflection point—its third in as many years. Having solidified in 2019 around the thunk of its log-drum basslines (rather than the more amorphous, bordering-on-corny piano licks that gave the genre its name in the early 2010s), the sound filtered across Africa and then further afield during COVID -19 lockdowns. Since clubs reopened, amapiano has gone from underground buzzword to its own category on Beatport. In 2022, it’s been sprinkled across albums from stage acts including Burna Boy and Stormzy, and in Asake’s “Peace Be Unto You (PBUY)” it gained a definitive pop anthem.
Vigro Deep, the cherub-faced producer out of Atteridgeville, west of Pretoria, has been there at each shift, helping to cement the log drum with his 2019 viral hit “Untold Stories” and then touring relentlessly and adding a mainstream sheen to the sound with his vocal experiments (including at least one extraordinary nu-metal flip). Now, with My House My Ruleshe reckons with the sound’s future, picking from a slate of more established club genres to see what sticks.
Vigro Deep’s DJ sets are snappy, tune-juggling affairs, and they offer plenty of payoff for amapiano’s lengthy and titillating intros. This album is languorous by comparison, but with no less opportunity for intrigue as he takes a mixologist’s approach to combining sweet, salty, and sour. The rough rhythmic edges of bacardi house rub up against saccharine vocals on “Ngizokulinda,” while the whistles and grainy synths of gqom and latter-day dubstep cut through a clatter of snares on “My World.” With an approach this expansive, there are bound to be misfires—the Ibiza-lite beach-club sounds of “5am Set” are unforgettable, and “Beats of No Nation” is more aimless wander than global odyssey—but Vigro’s willingness to try on new styles, and to execute with such exactness, is impressive. It also sets him apart in a scene that’s risked settling on a single binding identity.
With that said, the album’s standout moments still come soundtracked by amapiano’s established components. The “yay” and “yo” of “Shukushuku” are paced for meditation, but the rattling drums tell a different story. “My Rules” is seemingly lab-tested to turn heads: Whirling, syncopated synths twist in on each other like a shoal of fish evading shark attacks; the thwacking, thrumming log drums provide one of the year’s most devastating and understated choruses. The appeal here lies in just how physically these songs arrive, be that in the belly—where the bassline churns—or the ever-present shakers and off-kilter snare hits that keep all four limbs jangling, as if on strings. Vigro Deep’s grip remains firmly on the marionette’s cross.