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Keeping Bad Company: These are Joburg's spinning pioneers

2018-05-20 00:00

Phumlani S Langa

Agile trio: three members of the crew perform a breathtaking stunt Pictures: sweet life media

Brad is better known as Skopas. He grew up in the Kasi and is fluent in isiZulu. I can’t believe he’s a white guy and he chuckles at the look on my face when he introduces himself. He’s the leader and main driver of Bad Company, a foursome of spinners who are regarded as a benchmark in this sport.

Skopas is a married man and father, as are the rest of Bad Company. He has tattoos on his hands and neck, and looks like a street racer. The stuntman Muzi has dreads and an artsy air about him as he sits in the corner of the room puffing on a hubbly. Mckeenan, the second driver, arrives in a V8 Mafia sweater, just like the one worn by co-pilot Riaaz.

Image: Sweet life media 

Bad Company are pioneers of the four-man crew, which is quite common these days. Traditionally, spinning involves one or two people in the box-shaped beamer aggressively doing doughnuts or burnouts. This progressed to the driver stepping out of the car while it spins, or perhaps his passenger does a few stunts on the car. Now picture something like that, but with four guys.

The crew talks me through some of their moments of glory and near misses. None of the tales would make sense if we didn’t start with the fifth member of their crew, a car.

Meeting Popeye

The four speak about their car with great love and tenderness. They named it Popeye, a cheeky reference to its cartoon artwork. Recently, they had to replace Popeye’s entire engine block in one day.“Some people take three of four days to do that,” boasts Skopas.Time is one thing, the expense another. Skopas reckons they have invested at least R300 000 in Popeye, the car’s upkeep and the bakkie that tows it to shows.Popeye’s artwork is done by a graffiti artist friend, giving it a distinct look.

Popeye even has an alter ego, Charlotte, who is painted on the bonnet. The car is rather rugged and built solely for the purpose of spinning on a dry surface. Sprayed on the back of the boot are the words ‘Noma yini boza yami’, meaning anything goes, boss. The crew, who say they don’t even practice their daredevil routines, live up to the motto.

Skopas drives, Riaaz co-pilots, Muzi’s speciality is roof stunts (emerging through the sun roof) and Mckeenan, the second driver, is taking the wheel more often these days.“We can do much more that way,” says Skopas with pride. “He hasn’t been spinning for that long, but he’s at the top of his game.”The crew say they don’t practise their stunts.“We’ll speak to each other briefly in the car and, depending on where you’re seated, we’ll come up with something from there,” says Riaaz.

                                                      Image: Sweet life media 

Skidding sangomas

I’m particularly interested in finding out how they do their traditional healing stunt. In a segment of their performance, Mckeenan, dressed like a sangoma, will exit the car while it’s moving and summon the spirits, which take control of the car and it carries on with nobody inside. You know, like when you’re calling your pet to come to you. It coasts over to him and stops obediently.

Now, showmanship aside, obviously something fairly higher grade is going on in terms of remote control capabilities. The crew don’t say too much for fear of giving away their secret.

“We weren’t the first to incorporate this element and that is all I will say about that,” Skopas says with a grin.

Muzi looks up from his hubbly and says: “Impepho [incense muti], bra. We call the spirits and they drive.”

They all laugh.

Skopas shares some of the methods behind the madness: “When we do stunts, all of our roles are interchangeable. If someone falls, one of us will stop the car.”

It’s a Thursday night and we’re at a Wheelz N Smoke event in Edenvale – which takes place every week. Thanks to the cold weather the crowd is small, but they’re oozing with energy. Watching the car spin at a rapid rate while the crew hop in and out of it with a cocky finesse, I wonder what the hell these guys are actually thinking.

Skopas explains how he’s drawn to the sport by the collision of calm and power.

“It’s controlled chaos. The car is roaring and there’s smoke, but in there we’re operating and thinking clearly. If I fall, I know that someone’s got my back.”

Committing suicide

Their favourite trick is called Suicide.

“This trick was invented many years ago in Durban,” says Skopas. “I asked the guy who did it if I could name it and, of course, use it.”

The car is locked into a spin while the whole crew sticks half of their torsoes out of the window with their arms flailing about, roller coaster style. It’s honestly suicidal, but always a crowd-pleaser.

Injuries are part of the deal and everyone in Bad Company has felt the sting of miscalculation. Skopas says he once got caught under a car when he was running with a different crew. He shows me the scars on his back. Riaaz broke his left arm after he came off the car.

These guys defy death every weekend. They spend the week preparing to spin in places like Swaziland, Namibia and East London. This is a full-time gig for everybody involved and they take it seriously.“When the car isn’t in good shape or has issues, then I have issues. I don’t sleep at night,” Riaaz says. Mckeenan teasingly affirms this: “It’s rough bru, I can’t even make love or nothing. Just car stress.”

Coolest kids in Africa

Bad Company are all car freaks, but they’re also very much entertainers. They take care to showcase all their best stunts as quickly as possible and then improvise. They don’t take added risks or spin at unsanctioned events.

Riaaz says: “We don’t promote drinking and spinning.”He briefly outlines exactly what conditions are acceptable. For starters, they don’t spin in the rain because their engine is particularly aggressive. Skopas says: “The pitch [designated arena for spinning] needs to have a barrier and fence between the vehicles and the crowd, and, of course, an ambulance needs to be present at all events of this nature.”You have to be a thrill-seeker to live this lifestyle, but a great amount of caution also needs to be taken.

These chilled homies are not too bothered by the issues of fame. Their talents have been used by local rapper Nasty C in his video with Davido, Coolest Kid in Africa. They will also feature in a documentary that is scheduled to be released later this year.

“We hope the people feel happy after seeing us,” Muzi says.Mckeenan adds: “A lot of people will ask us if we smoke nyaope because we’re so happy when we’re on the pitch. My smile is always so big, it’s almost a spiritual thing, man.”Riaaz says: “If the audience can feel what we feel, then we know we’ve done well.”

Read more on:    nasty c  |  davido  |  soweto  |  motorsport  |  spinning  |  local music

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