Category Archives: Interviews

Hakesy the Fat Cat

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We chat to Hayden Manuel AKA Hakesy the Fat Cat. Sneakerhead, Streetwear Afficianado, Blogger and Radio Host at Assembly Radio.

What influences your style and the way you choose to dress?

I’m a bit older now so I think my style is a bit settled and consistent. I’m a sneakerhead so it starts there and I base my outfits around that. Also, I’m a cozy boy, which means I’m big into comfort. I basically look like a thugged out pro athlete everyday.

Who are your personal style icons?

Kanye West, Rick Owens, Marc Jacobs, Pharrel and Nigo.

What are your favourite local and international brands?

2Bop, They Know (obviously), Bape, Vandal A, 10Deep, Diamond Supply Co and Supreme.

What are your thoughts on the street wear/ fashion coming out of South Africa at the moment?

I think it’s bubbling. There are a lot of kids trying to make it and doing it DIY style and those kids are the future. We also have brands doing it big like 2Bop & Sol-Sol who are putting out product of the highest standard. The passion to create and the drive to actually do it are really the only things you need and we have it in abundance.

Following street style trends can easily open one up to becoming a hypebeast. What are the signs that you’re doing it wrong?

If you’re a dude who buys clothes and shoes to impress other dudes then you’re a hypebeast. Wear what you wanna to wear.

What is the worst trend you’ve followed or style choice you’ve made?

The ridiculous belt buckle trend. Hurts just typing this. I had one that had a stack of $100 bills. So stupid!

What is your most prized piece of clothing or accessory you own?

My Nike Air Yeezy collection…easy. They go for about 30k a pair these days.

What is the biggest mission you’ve made to get hold of a particular item of clothing or pair of kicks?

Police be lurking online these days haha.

What are 5 essentials that any man should have in their winter wardrobe?

Invest in good denim.
Headwear is essential.
Well crafted work boots are a good look. Timbs and Red Wings all day.
High end track suits are popping. The more structured the better.
A solid beard game!
As a host of the BMK rap show on Assembly Radio you stay abreast of all the latest rap coming out. 2015 has seen an amazing list of releases. What have been your 5 favourite releases this year alone?

2015 has been a great year for music!
Action Bronson – Mr. Wonderful
Boyzn Bucks – Mswenkofontein
Curren$y – Pilot Talk III
Mashayabhuqe – The Black Excellence EP
Petite Noir – King Of Anxiety EP

You’re a blogger for ‘They Know’ and your personal blog ‘Hakesy The Fat Cat.’ How did you get into it and what keeps you at it?

I’ve always been fascinated with all things digital, I got into online shopping earlier than my friends and peers. People would ask me where I’d get my things and influences so I decided to start a blog where I could “put people on” so to speak. The idea was to expand tastes and open up the door to people who weren’t that familiar with the internet. That blog is still going strong hakesythefatcat.

Published on Axecess.com here.

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Andile Mbete on personal style – from beards to bucket hats

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Andile Mbete is a youth engagement strategist at the Johannesburg-based creative agency, AndPeople. Known in both Jozi and Cape Town as a man with a standout personal style; he has been covered in GQ’s Style Diary. He has also co-founded a pop culture blog called Andile’s Bored Company.

What influences your personal style the most?

Music has played a really big role in my life and my dress sense is mainly influenced by the music I listen to. I’ve spent most of my life obsessed with Hip Hop, post punk and No-wave so my fashion choices kind of reflect that in a way. Essentially I spent half my time trying to dress like Beans from Anti-Pop Consortium who was my favourite rapper in my late teens.

What are your favourite brands locally and internationally?

Locally, I’d have to say Punk and IvySol-Sol and this brand Soigne’ that make some really rad shirts.
My favourite brand has always been Adidas. I’ve always associated that brand with my favourite era of Hip Hop and I’ve had a very romanticized perception of the brand – I even worked at the Originals store at varsity.
Other international brands I like are Kitsune and Brooklyn Circus. Too bad I can’t afford them.

What is the worst trend/ style choice you’ve made?

Cornrows, without a doubt. I thought I looked like Larenz Tate but I actually looked like a frightened deer for two months with the itchiest scalp.

What are your thoughts on the street wear fashion coming out of South Africa at the moment?

I think SA fashion is in a really interesting place. The street wear explosion has really democratised fashion and made it more accessible to some amazing young talent. I love the entrepreneurial aspect to it. Like RHTC which is an online store started by this young kid who saw a gap in the market and created something quite unique.

What are your thoughts on bucket hats? A lasting style item or are they played out?

Bucket hats are rad. The hype around them is really, really dumb. The bucket hat trend is what I hate the most about hypebeasts. Ruining a perfectly simple thing because the internet told you it was cool. I can’t speak too much on it because it makes me angry.

Is there a fine line between being trendy and being a hypebeast/ fashion victim? 

Well, yeah. Street wear and street style really opens itself to inauthenticity by some individuals. It’s a “buy in culture” really. Wearing Supreme doesn’t immediately make you street but some people really think it does. Having said that, I started out like that. I thought I was super cool in my Boys of London denim even though I looked silly. It was only when I kind of got a greater sense of who I am did my style choices change and develop.
I think the best kind of street style guys are the ones who really use brands and clothing as a facilitator for individuality rather than, like, a statement or because it’s cool.

What is your most prized piece of clothing/ accessory you own?

I guess that would have to be a black denim jacket from Topman. Not so much the jacket itself, but it’s become an unofficial showroom for my patch collection. I really love patches.

What are 5 essentials that any man should have in their winter wardrobe?

1) Beanies.
2) Bad ass boots.
3) Long-johns (for real).
4) Sweatshirts for days.
5) Bold ass knits.

You’ve been known to rock a big manly beard. Give us some tips on how to maintain it. Do you go el naturelle or do you have to regularly groom it and shape it up?

Shampoo and condition on the reg! Like, the beard hype is a bit dull but girls only started taking interest in me once I grew one so it has it uses. Shampoo and condition and regular trimming is the biggest difference between a fly beard and a Vietnam war veteran beard.

Published on Axecess.com here.

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Catch Up with Keetz

kita profile

Cape Town-based rapper  Kita Keetz has been making moves this year. The hardworking Rude World Records signee dropped a slew of killer singles and videos, collaborated far and wide and also resurrected his rap crew, Part Phunk, with long-time friend and collaborator Tahir Khan. Together they are set to drop their debut album in early 2015. We catch up with Keetz to get the lowdown on the project and find out about his takeover plans for next year.

Q: You seemingly came out of nowhere and then dropped a bunch of dope singles and videos already signed to Rude World Records. Could you tell us a bit about your background in the rap game and your original crew, Part Phunk?

A: Well, originally we ( Part Phunk) were a drum n bass/dubstep DJ duo. At some point in 2010, I think, we ended up trying to spit bars for shits and giggles, and realized that we got more fulfillment from rapping than behind the decks. I then pretty much spent the better part of the next two years developing the skills and trying to make sure that I can make music that I can be proud of. I spent a lot of time just going to events and observing. Hip Hop was the first genre of music I ever really listened to so I guess it was only right that I would end up going full circle and ending up back in it.

Q: Part Phunk is back together and there is an album on the way. Could you tell us more about it?

A: Firstly, Part Phunk never separated. We have been silently putting the pieces together behind the scenes. The dynamic of being all grown up and having to manage real life meant that we had to work on music less regularly but more intensely. The album is still in infant stages and we don’t want to rush anything. I don’t think at this point in the SA hip hop industry any rapper, or rap crew, can afford to put out a sub-par body of work. We are working on another Part Phunk project that will drop probably early 2015, most probably an EP of about 8-10 songs of which “Faded” featuring Ameen Harron will most likely be one. The response to “Faded” so far has been awesome. Not a single bad review so far, so that’s always a blessing.

Hopefully once the video is released its impact will exponentially increase and give us a chance to get our music to the masses of people who have never heard of us before.

Q: Do you find you have a different approach when working in a crew as opposed to your solo work?

A: I think when we work as a crew things tend to be a little more planned out, as opposed to when I work alone it’s usually a spur of the moment, run to studio and lay this shit down quick type of thing. Generally I think my sound is pretty similar to our crew sound with the exception that when we rap as a crew I think there is a vibe that is hard to replicate when you are in studio alone.

Q: Your debut on Rude World, the ‘Call Me Keetz EP’ was released for free download. How do you manage to put out free music while making a living off rap?

A: Performances, odds jobs, smart saving and I’ve also been a qualified photographer for a couple years now, so I do that too. It’s always good to have a plan B and C. Cohabitation also helps.

The EP has a dope list of features. It can’t hurt having some of the best up-and-comers in various genres as label mates. Collabs are always an amazing thing. Sometimes just being in studio with a whole bunch of artists reminds you why you love what you do. It also gives you a chance to sit back and learn from your peers. I think the session that we recorded “Next On” was like the most fun I’ve had making music in a long time. The cats on the come-up in CPT are also bringing top quality constantly and I think it wont be long before the mainstream starts to realize the work these guys put in. Shout out to Youngsta, E-Jay, Tahir Khan, Ben Caesar, Copa, Jerain, Ruby, Black Vulcanite, Ill Skillz, Camo, Boolz and every other come-up kid in CPT. Its just a matter of time.

Q: Other than rapping do you have any other musical talents we should know of?

A: Yeah, I actually started producing just over a year ago and I’m finally getting to a point where about 60 percent of my music I make completely myself. I also used to sing and play keys, but I wouldn’t say I’m a singer or a pianist. They serve as helpful skills when it comes to song creation though.

Q: How would you describe your sound ultimately?

A: I would probably describe it as mildly alternative hip hop. At times there are noticeable influences from the EDM genre and at other times it loosely resembles “JazzHop”. Yes, I just made up a genre there. Also, I think my music is an ever evolving thing and to try and put it all under a single title would be foolish and naïve.

Q: You’ve gained a large fan base in Cape Town where you’re based. Has your music made traction in other parts of the country as well?

A: Well, I lived up in Gauteng for a large chunk of my life so I think a lot of those connections I made back in the day are mainly where my music is circulating from outside of CPT. But I definitely have a countrywide takeover plan in the works so you are welcome to ask me this question again a year from now.

Q: If not rapping for a living, what else would you be doing?

A: I would probably a product tester for Southern Comfort. That would be dope as hell. Or a Ferrari test driver. That’s a pretty sweet gig. Couldn’t do them both, though. Pity.

Published on Axecess here.

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Profile: Rent a Mercedes, Cape Town

When brothers George (42) and Nick Acker (37) bought Rent a Mercedes over it had only 7 cars left to it’s name, all of which were all in really bad cosmetic shape. With experience as established owners of a rental car company they knew what needed to be done. They sold all the existing cars or scrapped them for parts and replaced them with neater vehicles, rebuilt the booking website and spread the word. The concept of long-term rentals was not an immediate hit and it took 3 months for them to receive their first enquiry. Now a decade later, they have a fleet of over 40 vehicles and have found their niche client base who share their passion for classic 80’s Mercedes-Benz’s.

When did the idea for Rent a Mercedes come about?

Rent a Mercedes was established in 2003 when we found a need for safe, reliable and affordable transport in and around Cape Town.

Renting a vehicle long-term is a very cost effective option for tourists. Rent a Mercedes is a budget car rental company with high standards and supply a much needed niche market.

I see a lot of 230E’s there. What is the reason for mainly stocking this model?

We hire out 230E’s as well as the 200’s and 280’s. All these W23 models are very safe, run high mileage and are spacious with big lockable boots for surfing gear, kiting equipment and luggage. They have power steering and are available with automatic and manual transmissions.

Who is your main clientele?

We specialise in renting to European and American students, interns and tourists from abroad visiting Cape Town. Europeans love the Mercedes-Benz, as they are comfortable, reliable and well built cars.

We also have a lot of kiters, surfers and windsurfers in the past and have been honoured to have a few celebs renting like Gregory Smith from TV series Everwood, Lewis Crathern ex UK kiteboard Champion as well as UK wavesailing champion Jamie Hancock to mention a few.

Are there any challenges with maintaining these vintage models?

We have very good, experienced mechanics onsite maintaining our cars. Mercedes parts are unfortunately expensive and some are becoming hard to get. We have built up a large stock of parts over the years, and have had to start importing some parts. We have a good relationship with all our suppliers, and they keep us well supplied.

We love these cars and are very passionate about our business so we will do whatever it takes to keep them on the road.

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Rub A Dub

7ft

We’ve been on 7Ft Soundsystem’s case for ages trying to get him to produce this mix. Well, the badgering has finally worked and today he’s dropped the second instalment of his Honey, I shrunk the dancehall series. Since we’re getting these self-confessed ‘PROcrastinating’ musicians to put out more dope tunes then surely we’re doing something right and we’re taking some of the credit. So stream and enjoy today’s Mahala Friday Mix/ Honey, I shrunk the dancehall Vol. II and find out a little bit more about the man who blessed us with these riddims.

MAHALA: Can you tell us a bit about the mix you put together for us today?

7FT SOUNDSYSTEM: Well, I guess it’s a short preview of the stuff I’ve been working on of late, predominantly unreleased tunes that showcase the different sounds I’m playing with that incorporate my love for digital tunes as well as incorporates the more organic tones of traditional dubs.

So how did a Jewish kid from the southern suburbs of Cape Town become a dub master?

My dad hates reggae and my mom is completely tone deaf, bless her soul. I’m like the King Tubby of my congregation… haha. To be honest I’m not exactly sure how to explain my gravitation towards Jamaican music over the years. All I can say is that since I got the reggae fever, it’s been tough for me to listen to anything else.

But in the 90’s I was strictly hip hop and I discovered “reggae” music as any other white suburban would – through the sounds of bands like Sublime and, of course, Mr Marley himself. But as a bass player, I started appreciating instrumental music more and more and eventually I was listening to obscure digital dub records from the early 80’s. It’s been a very natural progression.

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You’re staying in Antwerp, Belgium at the moment. How come you made the move there? Has it been a sound decision for your music career?

Well, as much as I love Cape Town, I needed to be surrounded by sound system culture in order to truly understand it and learn from the people and crews that paved the way for me. I thought I knew about soundsystem until I stepped into my first proper reggae dance. You just can’t understand these beats until you’ve heard them in the correct environment on a traditional, highly optimised soundsystem. As far as my career goes, I definitely had to step up my game in a big way. I went from playing to people that had no idea of the refernce points of my music to people that lived and breathed the culture so it definitely helped me to raise the bar.

What’s the digital dub scene like over there compared to Cape Town? I assume there’s a bigger scene there. What’s it like having more ‘competition’ for lack of a better word?

When I started 7FT in’09, there wasn’t really a digital dub scene per say and by the time I left Cape Town I noticed a drastic growth in the sound and people in the city were picking up on the producers and sounds that inspired me. The “competition” thing is actually a blessing. It’s easy being the “best” soundsystem when you’re the only soundsystem. Europe has a deep, rich history with the culture and there are crews that have been living and breathing soundsystem since before I even knew what it was. It’s been quite humbling.

What are your thoughts on the modern Jamaican scene? Any ambitions to pursue further links with other contemporary Jamaican artists?

I think today, the older the artist the more prestigious the accolade. The golden era of Jamaican music for people like me was the 70’s and 80’s, so linking with artists from that time is truly humbling and very rewarding. I look forward to what I refer to as a rub a dub revival in Jamaica, where we see new, young artists aspiring to capture the tone and energy of the original dancehall days and step away from the “dancehall” mentality. But it’s happening slowly I think.

I wouldn’t go to Jamaica myself until I had hard drives full of very heavy riddims.

It seems a lot of the digital dub stuff is coming from Europe. Are producers pushing the boundaries more in that scene?

Well, Europe has the resources and the external influences, so yes I think producers are pushing the genre forward in a big way. I think since its conception reggae music has been severely affecting producers on a global scale.

Has being based in Europe allowed you to meet and collaborate easier with the kinds of artists you’d like to work with?

Most definitely. Three years ago I was listening to records that inspired my whole sound and now I’m gigging with them and even having the honour of collaborating with and remixing some of my musical role models. The reggae community is very welcoming. If you are making a postive contribution to the culture you will be well received.

How do you see the dub movement in general, is it growing or becoming increasingly niche?

The genre isn’t mainstream enough to inspire that fame and fortune mentality which I like. People make dub music because they genuinely love it, there’s no pot of gold involved. Touring, pressing vinyl and linking with like-minded people is pretty much the vibe. But I think there is a growing understanding of the reference points to the real culture due to producers like Major Lazer and a lot of dubsteppers have converted as well. But the genre remains constant and predominatly unchanged, it doesn’t flucuate like other music “fads” (no diss). A dub listener won’t stop listening to dub after a few years so it’s timeless like that.

Do you play live sets as opposed to DJing your music?

Yeah, I make a point to play live at every show. Plus I’ve never DJ’ed, it’s not my strongest point and traditional dub is always done on the fly so I wanted to pay homage to that style.

Who are the biggest influences on your sound?

Coming from a hip hop background I think it still has a strong influence on how I hear music. I love loop based grooves and I think you can hear that in my drums from example. As for other sounds, there are so many names but if I had to name a few: King Jammy, Stand High Patrol, Mungos HIFI, Jahtari, Maffi, Ernest Ranglin, Roots Manuva, I could go on…

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What phases and stages did you go through before your sound become what we’re hearing now? How has your style evolved over the years?

Here it is in a nutshell: My first CD was The Simpson’s Sing The Blues, then Monster Hits 3 or something like that. When the grunge thing came about I was deep in that, played guitar, raged against the machine, etc. ’96 was when I discovered hip hop on a trip to New York to visit my cousins. I smoked my first joint and got given a CD single of Puff Daddy’s “Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down” which led to Busta, Tribe, Wu, stuff like that. And in ‘99 I was introduced to Sublime which was really the catalyst for the reggae seed being planted. From there I went into new roots, dancehall, followed by dub and the love for instrumental music which led to soundsystem culture as I know it today. I like to bring the rawness and melodic vocals of hip hop into the dub sphere. My sound today is just how I want to hear music. I try not to follow any rules which dub allows me to do. If I want to put my kick and bass abnormally loud, I can.

Your debut in 2009 had quite a long list of collabs, from Denver Turner to Zolani Mahola and Indiginus. How did you go about making those connects when you were still quite new?

That’s the “beauty” of Cape Town – everybody knows everybody

You collaborated with Riddim Tuffa from Edinburgh on your latest EP. Tell us about the process of putting it together.

Since the early 7FT days, Riddim Tuffa and I were communicating via the internet and when I moved to Europe they invited me over to Scotland. I spent the weekend there and tasted every beer Scotland had to offer, wrote four tunes and named each tune after the beer we were drinking at the time. The version on the B-side of the vinyl for example is called “Crabbies Riddim” after Crabbies, the alchohlic ginger beer.It was real cool, Shout out to Tuffa crew.

7FT started as a crew if I’m not mistaken. When did you decide to go the solo route and do you prefer having complete creative control on the beats you put out?

Ha, yeah, I’m a control freak. Honestly I do prefer working on my own, however, when the vibe in the studio is right and you work with the right people, shit is golden!

Tell us about your record label Bombaada. Where is it at now since forming in 2011? Who is involved in it? How do you decide which producers and artists to work with?

Fletcher (African Dope) warned me when I told him I wanted to start a label “DON’T DO IT” he said, followed by “ADMIN ADMIN ADMIN”. Haha wise words in hindsight. There’s nothing like giving a stoner, PROcrastinator more admin to do. However after two years and the launch of a new site, I feel that we are finally getting there. Josiah (co-founder of Cold Turkey event) and I run the label together and have been doing things at our own pace to create a place local producers would be proud to be associated with as well as use our international links to push SA’s sounds. To be honest after one year of being functional it feels like we only starting now. Exciting times.

What’s coming up in the world of 7FT Soundsystem in terms of releases and upcoming gigs?

I’ve got some killer gigs lined up for the end of the year. Unfortunately I can’t give away to much on request of the promoters, but three of the names I mentioned earlier on my biggest influences list are involved. And I’ll be in Glasgow again in Feb to play at Mungos HIFI weekly night Walk n Skank.

Big Up all my Cape Town people who I keep in my mind everyday during my pilgrimage here in Europe. #SApontop. Bless.

Click here to see the published version on Mahala.

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On Fire

muzi

We chat to 23 year-old up-and-coming producer Muzi who describes his sound as ‘mutant trap, hyper bass and African soca’ hot on the heels of his latest release entitled Fire Up The Bong EP. He’s got big dreams and mad steez to match. Keep your eyes peeled for this cat because he’s definitely going places.

What has the response to Fire Up The Bongo been like so far?

First of all, thank you for the interview 🙂 , now to answer your question …
The response has been great. This EP has got more plays in a few days than my last one, Bundu FX, did in 6 months. There is definitely progress.

Tell us about the making of this EP. Why did these six tracks make the cut?

I started making this EP around the same time I dropped the Bundu FX EP. The last track I made was actually the title track Fire Up The Bongo. I wanted to work with my favourite rapper as well, a guy called Moshine Magnif who is part of Witness The Funk. He’s also from Empangeni. I got to work with him on the track ‘Hit the Floor’ and it’s one of my favourite tracks. Just like the first one, this one was also based solely on the tracks feeling right. A lot of tracks didn’t make the cut because they weren’t as good as the tracks chosen plus they weren’t as solid as a body of work.

Put us on the game. What sounds/artists have you been listening to around the time of making this EP that may have infiltrated into your beats?

This is a hard one. I rarely listen to other people’s music. I hear stuff here and there but I never really focus on it. With that said my musical heroes put out some really dope stuff during the time. Wolfgang Gartner always kills it. Deadmau5 is insane. Linkin Park did this track with Steve aoki and it was just awesome in my eyes. Also got a bit into contemporary and world music which you can hear in some of the tracks, like ‘Fire Up The Bongo’.

Mostly though it’s all subconscious I guess. As a kid I heard all types of music from rock ‘n roll, to reggae to kwaito to hip hop to eastern music on Eastern Mosaic. So all these influences come popping up when I create.

You released Fire Up The Bongo through UK/ Dutch label and blog Generation Bass. How did the link up come about? How important do you think it is to extend ties internationally while you’re still building a fan base here in Mzansi?

On the first EP we worked with a promo company in SA called RedFlag. They got Generation Bass to feature us on their site. That’s how it started. Then we started talking to them about the possibility of us dropping an EP because of the support they continued to show us after the 1st EP had dropped. That’s how this EP got dropped on their label.

I think it is very important and that’s exactly what we’re doing. Building one Muzi fanbase, here and abroad, no matter where the people might be. Music is universal. A language we all understand. No point in just doing it for people here when there’s 7 billion people on earth. I am putting no border whatsoever on the music I’m doing and how far I can go with it.

You’ve done some dope remixes of tunes by rappers like Riky Rick’s Amantombazane and Casper Nyovest’s Doc Shebeleza recently. Are you interested in producing for rappers sort of how trap producers like TNGHT have been doing for the likes of Jay-Z and Kanye West? Who would you like to work with?

Thank you for the compliment. Of course I am interested in working with other artists. The challenge is always an exciting one. Obviously, whoever I work with has to be at a level to match up the dark bass I put in all my beats LOL. Jokes aside though, I’m keen to do stuff in the near future. I’d love to work with Wolfgang Gartner, Flux Pavilion, The Prodigy, MoodyGood, and Skrillex just to name a few. Already talking with a few of these people on a possibility of something popping off. In terms of artists , M.I.A would be awesome . Anyone really who can bring something fresh that will make sense to both of us musically and artistically. If I ever do something with someone, that track has to be next level for the both of us.

This is the second EP you’ve released in succession for free download. What considerations do you have to take into account when balancing the need to get your tunes out there and make a name for yourself, but also needing to make loot at the same time?

Awesome question. Right now I’m at a level of investing in myself. If I do this properly, the loot will start coming. No one knows who I am so I can’t start selling stuff immediately. I’m in the process of finding my crowd and even though not much has been made in return, it is slowly growing. Investment is the same everywhere, you risk, you make nothing initially and if the investment is good, you start cashing in. Let’s hope I’m a good investment LOL.

Your name is becoming a fixture on line-ups of big parties and festivals these days. Could you share with us a story of your craziest gig of late?
Ha ha! Was late last year. Was doing a gig in Cape Town at a place called the Side Show. I’m talking +2000 kids jamming to my tunes. When I mixed in the last track, something was wrong with it. It just sounded uber slow and shit. Now imagine, I just had the crowd going nuts for an hour then on my last track my laptop fails me. So instead of being sad, I stop the music, jump into the crowd and yell, “YO!! I DONT KNOW WHAT HAPPENED WITH THAT LAST TRACK BUT I PLAYED MY FUCKIN HEART OUT. THANKS FOR SHOWING ME LOVE. MY NAME IS MUZI ” … and the crowd goes insane. Girls grabbing me, guys shaking my hand . I felt like a Skrillex or something. Was definitely a glimpse into the future LOL. I could’ve used the microphone but screaming just felt more natural.

Where can fans catch you live in the near future?

Playing at Arcade Empire birthday (PTA) on the 12th of April (Sat) ; Have an Ultimix on the Freshdrive 5Fm on the 7th of April (Mon) at 6PM ; and a few very cool upcoming shows that are yet to be announced.

We know you stay grinding. Can you let us in any upcoming projects we can expect in 2014? Full-length album, maybe?

Currently talking with a few big names in the electronic scene here and internationally on a possible collab. Also have a few artists that I’ve produced for. Nothing is set as yet though so I can’t really say.

I’m probably going to drop a few tracks for free like every month LOL and maybe another EP in the second half of the year. I’m growing as a producer so I always have this urge to share my music. Too early for a full length album I think.

Are you big into social media? Where can peeps stay in touch with Muzi?
Facebook : http://www.facebook.com/muzifanpage
Twitter : @muziou
Soundcloud : http://www.soundcloud.com/muziofficial
Im not on instagram. Unless if y’all want to see a 1000 pictures of an elephant logo , LOL
http://www.muzi.co.za/

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Interview: Ben Caesar

We catch up with up-and-coming rapper Ben Caesar who was instrumental in the making of ‘Follow Us Home’, a campaign to create more unity in the Mzansi rap industry.

‘Follow Us Home’ is not just a song with a really cool music video. Please tell us why you call it a campaign and what that entails.

We wanted the people of CPT to see their artists in different capacities and see us link and chill together. So we did interviews with the artists, shoots at the studio session and music video sets. I figure if people see their artists hanging and supporting each other, they’ll be more likely to support them themselves. But there is a bigger vision to Follow Us Home with collaboration at the heart of it all.

Why the need to make a concerted effort to bring CPT musicians together specifically? Is this happening less in CPT than, say, in Jozi in your opinion?

We started it in CPT so we wanted to rep it. There’s actually a lot of collaboration in CPT, I think you hear about more Jozi collabos because that’s where the media hub is, so whatever happens is more likely to get broadcasted. But I wouldn’t say Jozi does more.

For me a part of this campaign was about taking our culture and media in our own hands, CPT music struggles to get TV and radio so we wanted to take it and push it on our own terms without relying on tv/radio.

Tell us how the project came together.

Initially Azuhl approached me, Youngsta and Ill Skillz to do a song. I thought why not take it further, get a bigger diverse mix and shoot the whole process. I spoke to Diego, my manager, and we fleshed it out more. We went back to Azuhl and he was down with it, we pooled our resources and connections. I brought Stanley John Films on board, they composed the beat and shot the interviews and music video. Azuhl got us a session at SAE and Metalloid Studio and organised the video screening at Classics, we got Ross Gabriel to edit and master the song and it was on. There was a lot of thought and strategy actually.

SJ Films, Azuhl and myself selected artists that have made a name for themselves and who could show some of the diversity of CPT. Shout out to all of them for seeing the vision, they rocked it.

Do you think the project may kickstart something that get local cats to collaborate more? What are some of the reasons for hip hop artists not wanting to reach out or sticking to their own cliques?

Hopefully yes! That’s a big part of the project- to inspire more collabos. To show what can be done when we ‘gather’ (S/O Youngsta). We didn’t have a budget for this but we pooled our resources and made it happen in 3 months, that says a lot about the power of unity. I think fear and a scarcity mentality is what prevents people reaching beyond their own cliques, its just sad.

How important do you think collaboration is for the growth of the Mzansi hip hop industry?

It’s essential. I personally have learnt through this that if you work with like minded, inspired people, together you can achieve what you couldn’t alone.

You’re well-travelled. Tell us where you’ve been and if any of the places you’ve been to have made an impact on your music.

I’m blessed to have travelled so much. It’s been my best education. From New York, Paris, St Lucia, Holland and all the other places I’ve been to, I learnt how diverse and alike we all are. That has fed my music, music has the power to bring people from two different worlds together.
To be specific, I love the London music scene. Being there when I was young kinda sewed it into the fabric of my artistry, I guess it figures as a lot of music in the UK has been influenced by the Caribbean so dubstep, garage, bass music I understand on a level. But the SA music scene is incredible as is the Caribbean……Ah there’s too much to even start on.

Tell us about your love affair with CPT.

My mother being an activist moved down here to work so I finished my schooling here, and pretty much started my music career here. Cape Town is my Godmother she has sheltered and challenged me. I have many homes but CPT is one that fate has brought me to start my music career in. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Where did it all start out for you? Tell us how you laid the foundation in the industry before making a name for yourself.

Lol, I don’t know if I’ve made a name for myself yet, man. I learnt early that good music markets itself. So you don’t need a label or a rich family to get out there. Make music that people will talk about and connect with. That’s been my strategy from the start.

With popular tracks like Yummy Yummy and Sunday Times, it seems like a strong visual component to your tracks is always very important to you. Are you working on any new video material at the moment?

Visual has always been important for me, it’s a form of communication. The visuals add to the experience of the music they’re an extension of it. I see it as a part of the storytelling. I often work with Stanley John Films because they understand this. Dale Fortune of Stanley John Films, he’s my boy, we came up together, he produced beats on my first album! We saw it as mutually beneficial to work together so we did.

Recently we’ve been editing a lot of footage from gigs and doing interviews so more interactive visual content to come.

You’ve expressed a love for cooking in your track Yummy Yummy, what are other interests you have outside of rap that people may not know?

Honestly I love talking and engaging with people, people are amazing. I love producing actually, I’m that cat that will sit in studio all night picking out the snare. I love going outdoors, I draw, I meditate.

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Culture Is Not Your Friend

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Since his career began in 1998, DJ Raiko has established himself as one of Mzansi’s top hip hop DJs. He’s also been producing on the low-key and has helped up-and-coming artists gain recognition through his events company, Kool Out Entertainment. We enlisted him to drop this week’s Mahala Friday Mix and he gave us a rundown of his career thus far. Stream or download the mix below while reading the important insights Raiko has to offer on the history of Mzansi hip hop culture.

MAHALA: What kind of vibe did you put together with this mix?

DJ RAIKO: Basically, just a hip hop mix. I had been doing soul mixes and so on for so long, thought I’d mix some tunes that been lying around. It’s pretty much just rap and beats.

Tell us the process you took to learning how to become a DJ and turntablist and how did you get your name out there?

Well, I started in the 90s. There used to be a Tuesday night hip hop throw down at Johannesburg’s 208 (the legendary 206’s side room). We used to go there round about the same time I started DJ’n. I used to practice while the barmen stocked the fridges. Then the gigs would start round 9pm and I’d just sit there and watch the DJs that played. I met Hamma round that time. He was doing BVK as a rapper, but was branching out into DJ’n and running his parties Boogie Down Knights. That enticed me to move back to Cape Town. I was a fucked up kid before then, off my head a bit, that Cape Town move got me grounded. I stopped drinking and everything else and sobered up, became an unofficial type roadie for BVK, so I got to tour a little with them and helping out Hamma with the running of Boogie Down parties. Those two years were spent just DJ’n and getting a better understanding of the music and the scene. I didn’t drink or even get laid for 2 years. Fuck, what a kak two years.

Anyway, round the same time I started getting some DJ gigs as an opener at Boogie Down and that led to me getting a name and more gigs. Hamma was a dope reference point to how to run gigs, which helped me later on, as well as being the key link to me learning how to play a decent set. Azuhl and Dre helped me realise that I didn’t have to just play hits. In fact, I think Dre had the biggest influence on me sound wise. The guy’s an encyclopaedia when it comes to hip hop. He made me want to find those dope songs and reveal that to people for the first time through my sets.

I first saw you DJing at The Lounge. Those were the best hip hop parties I’ve ever been to. What do you think made it such a dope vibe?

I think the timing was perfect. Cape Town was on the verge of its third generation of hip hop heads. The BASE being the first, then the younger kids from that era, now older, started being the most active on the scene and formed the second generation. I was one of the younger kids in that scene that were trying to build on top of an established movement. Boogie Down Knights introduced all the town kids to hip hop and built a great following with them. When Boogie Knights finished The Lounge just fell into place.

The crowd was a group of regulars that used the night to network and stay in touch with the scene. It was a perfect mix of everyone, complimented by all types of hip hop music. I played the independent rap vibe as an opener, Hamma then did the party set and anthems and Dre smashed the classics sets. It was also R5 to get in. Cape Town was starting to somewhat integrate a little more and I strongly feel The Lounge helped some kids find themselves especially through a musical standpoint. The active hip hop scene in Cape Town between 2000 and now came up through that party. It was a special place.

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A lot of classics were played at The Lounge, but also a lot of us were going there to be put onto all the newest stuff coming out at the time. Nowadays most hip-hop parties mainly just focus on playing classic golden era joints. What are your thoughts on that? Are most heads just stuck in a time warp?

Those sets still only form a small part of the whole market. Also, only certain people get recognition for doing it justice. I think there is a large entity just bandwagoning the movement. I mean 90s era is just in at the moment, the clothes, the vibe, etc. I guess the music is brought along with that. I mean we were playing that vibe with the KOL parties and getting labeled as ‘DJs that can’t move on’. I even had new DJs tell me that ‘things have changed, you can’t play Illmatic in the club no more Raiko’. Now they 90s hip hop connoisseurs, preaching the gospel with Illmatic as their bible. These are the same cunts that jump through genres to stay relevant to hide the fact that they struggle with identity as a DJ. Personally I love that era’s music, so if I get to hear it when I’m out more than this new music, then all good, regardless if it’s some hypebeast rocking the Jodeci scuba suit and Givenchy snapback. I could give two fucks about being stuck in a time warp. That era is what shaped me and that will always resonate through my sets as much as I can.

You got your first break through Pioneer Unit as the touring DJ for Ben Sharpa. What was your first taste of performing internationally like? And are you still affiliated to P-Unit?

To be honest, I lost my mind on those tours. I had never been out the country before (ok I went to Lesotho once) so going overseas was exciting as fuck. Those tours upped my game by like 100%. The growing points of it were life-changing. Our first gig was in Reunion Island; I thought I was Rick James jumping on Eddie Murphy’s couch. After that we were lucky enough to do four more tours to France and then around Europe. I learned a whole lot about putting a live show together, studio sessions and just the tons of artists we met, from Bronx Hip hopheads to Austrian gypsy bands. The dynamic of it all and the open attitude is what stuck with me the most. Most South African music lovers are sheltered in their genre. I learnt to appreciate all types of music and the effort that goes into making each genre.

How did you become Khuli Chana’s full-time DJ and what does the job entail?

PH, the guy who produced ‘Tswa Daar’ asked me to come lace some cuts for him (the track ‘PINA’ on Khuli’s album). Khuli was there and I guess he liked what I put down. He asked if I’d be interested in doing another track, I agreed and that track became ‘Tswa Daar’. None of us guessed the success of that joint. A few months later Khuli’s manager hit me up to be part of his new band as the DJ. We did a few gigs last year. Then this year they offered me the full time slot. It’s been great, Khuli is at the top of his game and the shows speak for themselves. Basically it entails being on top of your game as well, I mean all eyes are on Khuli this year, so one has to adapt and make sure they make those eyes stay focused. I handle the edits of the shows like intros, breakdowns and re-workings of his music and then run the music on the shows accompanied by cuts and some effects. The schedule is nuts, my life has 360’d since joining. But I’m really enjoying the headspace it provides.

Was the goal always to become a live performance DJ rather than doing DJ sets?
Not really, there weren’t options like there are today. I’d DJ for acts that couldn’t even afford to pay me for any show, so it made more sense to just concentrate on the DJ sets side. Although I’ve been doing performance DJ’n since the early 2000’s with Abnormal Detail (Hymphatic Thabs + Gin Grimes), just bout every rapper CPT had back then too, and I did some shows with Zaki Ibrahim as well. At this stage of my life, I prefer the performance aspect of DJ’n. Firstly, there isn’t as many active DJ’s with live hip hop acts than the clubs and doing original music feels more appropriate. I feel old in clubs where twerking runs the night and button pushing DJ’s drop the same songs several times throughout the gig. I’m happy here, I nearly quit DJ’n last year and went and got a 9-5, so I’m grateful I’m able to still do it.

You did weekly soul mixes for the Phat Joe Show until you recently got booted. What happened there?

The whole Phat Joe thing is confusing to me. He called me out of the blue one day and asks to meet me. We met and he offered me the slot on the spot. I was very excited at first, there was a buzz around Joe coming back to radio and to be part of that was humbling. It allowed me to bring my vibe to a whole new audience, even if it was counter balanced with radio hits (something I’ve never been known for). The response was good and I never got hate for it from disgruntled heads, so I was at peace with it and enjoying it.

Then I got an email saying they were going to try new DJ’s. No reason or anything, with a hint that they might use me again sometime. It’s been a month, I haven’t heard from anyone and I see that he has a new “official” DJ – DJ Robben Island which I’m convinced is him. I did hear from a friend that Joe may or may not have mentioned that I didn’t grasp the radio thing or what he was trying to achieve, so maybe he felt I didn’t fit in their scheme of things, which is fair enough, I guess.

What’s your opinion on SA rappers with American accents?

I don’t mind it; sometimes it’s easier to listen to. Like some rock guys or pop artists, they sing with US accents then when they talk, they sound like Nataniel after a night out. I guess the same happens to the rappers.

If you were to record a posse cut who would you enlist?

Locally – I would grab some of those Scrambles for Money kids, seeing as cyphers are just about bars. Gin Grimes, Cerebro, Illite etc…

Internationally – Smoothe tha Hustler, Saafir, Jamal, Ras Kass and Vince Staples.

How do you deal with drunkards coming up to you with song requests while you’re playing?

I just act like I can’t hear them, or tell them to just hold a few while I ignore them for the next 3 songs. The pressure of standing up there looking like a fool gets them off eventually. Once, Angolan kids offered me R100 for every Tupac song I played, so I went through all the Pac I had and made a little more cash than that shithole could pay. I’ve been offered blowjobs by women and men (Cape Town tourists will try fuck anything) at Marvel for playing their songs. A German thought it would be cool to chop up a line of cocaine next to the turntables one night and offered me the rest while they threw his ass outside. Other than that the random white girls asking me “when you going to play some hip hop?” keep me entertained.

90% of hip hop coverage in this country is American cliché kak. How important do you think proper media coverage is in terms of creating our own identity of the scene rather than being sold some image shit?

I think that lies with the artists as well as the media. The media knew fuckall about hip hop just 7 years ago; now all of a sudden The You magazine is telling us “Do you know Afrika Bambaataa started this culture?” Fuck out of here! We’re to blame though, cause we let them jump on the wagon in exchange for a little spotlight. The scene is buzzing locally. The content, language from all regions and musicality, is more representative of South Africa than ever, both mainstream and independently.

Tell us about Kool Out Lounge. What’s the concept behind it? How do you go about choosing acts for shows?

KOL was running before I joined it four years ago. I aligned to it because it was the closest gig to the vibe I play, so it made perfect sense to join. Basically it started as a group of DJ’s and an MC that put on gigs to accommodate for them not getting gigs outside of KOL. Basically we provide a platform for up-and-coming artists and DJs. We give preference to those that support the movement through our gigs. We’ve grown a lot from a grassroots movement to a company that offers work to larger brands. We still do a free gig every month in Cape Town at the Waiting Room, as that’s were we started. We’re focusing on doing more production work with brands and next year developing KOL into a mature events company.

KOL throws parties in Cape Town and Jozi. Is there much difference between the two scenes?

There was at first. Cape Town was always closer to the culture and at some gigs you’ll still find all the elements gathered in one space. But these days the lure of popping bottles in the club and showing off designer threads is the main focus. KOL started 5 years ago, both in CPT and JHB, there wasn’t a regular night like that in either city. It’s a no frills party and we focus on the music.

The element of turntabilism doesn’t feature nearly as much in new hip hop tracks. What are your thoughts on this? Do you think that element is beginning to be phased out or become even more niche?

Turntablism, I think, reached its pinnacle. It’s not ever going to go beyond what the greats like Q-Bert, have done with it. The sound of mainstream hip hop has changed so much, I don’t think there is a place for turntablism anymore. I still hear mad tracks with DJs on them though, they’re just not in plain sight anymore. DJs have also branched off in to becoming artists and producers themselves, so the need to align with an act as a DJ is not the only option anymore.

Your top 3 hip hop albums of all-time?

Dare iz a Dark side – Redman
Ras Kass – Soul on Ice
Saafir – Box Car Sessions

Who is being slept on at the moment? Anyone whose music we should be seeking out?

Locally, I stopped taking in new music as acts thought I had the power to break their careers, so I’m out of touch at the moment. I like a few independent acts like Zetina Mosia (she’s not hip hop, but is affiliated to Iapetus in JHB) and the JHB + CPT beat scene is nuts, especially the acts affiliated to *GRAVY*.

What is your long-term goal for your career? Anything you really want to achieve?

I really want to release music when I’m comfortable with it being out there and the quality is decent enough to be recognised. Other than that, maybe some development things to help future acts get to their dreams. I would love a complex that houses a live performance area, a studio to record and resource center to help package any music that come out of it.

Stream/download the mix here.

Check out the published version over at Mahala here.

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Afrotronical

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This week’s mixtape comes from Jumping Backslash, a foul mouthed, chain smoking dude who, if it weren’t for his limey accent, you would think grew up in a really rough part of Goodwood. He’s the progenitor of really hard music to describe which he likes to call ‘afrotronical space music’. We chat to him about his love of Mzansi house and kwaito and why, weirdly, South Africans don’t tend to support music that sounds like it comes from their own country. Plus you can listen to this special Mahala Friday mix while you’re reading.

I heard you got into 90s SA house and kwaito music while living in England. How did you get put onto it? What were you listening to at the time?

I didn’t really get properly into SA house and kwaito until I got here actually. I knew some kwaito when I was in the UK, the obvious stuff, Trompies, Chiskop but not much, it was a lot harder to find back then. I think when ‘Township Funk’ blew up in the UK a lot changed but I was already here when that happened.

Tell us about your musical background.

I was in a band called One Inch Punch when I was in my late teens, I think until my early twenties. We recorded an LP but before it got released another group with the same name released a tune via Virgin and fucked up our plans. For a couple of years after that we got caught up in legal issues with Virgin and it never got resolved. Shame really. So the band kinda fizzled out. After that I didn’t make music for a long time, I think I was a bit depressed about it. I had been fucking around with Cubase and samplers when I was in the band and that came back in my mid-twenties. After that, I was making odd electronica and all kinds of kak. It wasn’t til I came here that everything coalesced and the music I make now was born.

What ultimately made you decide to settle on house?

Don’t know. Just ended up that way. Although I wouldn’t necessarily describe my music as straight up house. I don’t know how I would describe it actually.

What styles/ sounds/genres are you experimenting with these days?
I’ve been fucking about with 160bpm vibes. I have a 12″ of that stuff coming out next year. I’ve also been listening to a lot of Gqom which I think has had an influence.

What sort of vibe did you go for with the mixtape?

Just a representation of my sound I guess. When I play out I only play out my own tunes. I suppose the mix is an idea of what a show of mine sounds like.

You’ve been gigging a lot recently. At clubs and festivals. Which gig was the highlight of the year so far?

I really enjoyed Oppikoppi. That was a good crowd and they were open to my stuff and into it. I managed to clear the area at Earthdance within three tunes which is also an achievement I think. It goes without saying that the EDM/Psy-Trance boytjies ain’t so keen on my vibes.

I played a Cold Turkey this year alongside my mates BIG FKN GUN when they were down here on tour and that gig was a lot of fun.

With Cape Town being so small and there being so many producers/djs it must be hard for a new DJ to get their slot and make a name for themselves out here. Did you find it hard at first to get your music heard out here?

Yeah, that’s interesting. For a long time the majority of interest in my music was coming from overseas. I think there is a weird reticence and ignorance from South Africans when it comes to local music that actually sounds like it comes from this country. Spoek, Yannick, John Wizards, Nozinja and others have all had the same issue. The local stuff that does well over here with the punters tends to sound international. It’s like you are rewarded for being an imitator. The irony is that those artists tend to have very little or no interest from the international media.

I didn’t really get much attention over here until Spoek had tweeted about a 12″ I did called Kwaai Sneakers and all of a sudden it all gained some traction.

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Which musicians are inspiring you right now in Mzansi?

Rudeboyz, Roman Rodney, DJ Matsawu-Dlala, DJ Lag, Illumination Boys. A lot of Gqom producers. Gqom is a more broken, minimal and darkly deep SA sound. It’s almost like a South African techno. People should visit http://www.kasimp3.co.za and go listen to what is coming out the loxions and townships. It’s incredibly contemporary, very forward thinking and just like Kwaito, utterly unique to this country.

Whats more fulfilling? Creating the beats in your garage studio or playing them out?

There is nothing like that moment where you get a kwaai tune rolling. It’s just you and the tune and an all too brief moment of feeling that you are, regardless of what anyone could say about you, a fucking genius. After that it’s always downhill.

Watching a bunch of people vibe to my tunes is also befok, it’s a massive buzz but I reckon I have to go with the studio. Ultimately I make music for myself, if other people enjoy it too then it’s a bonus. If they don’t, I can’t say I give a fuck cos I don’t and I certainly wouldn’t change anything I do to make people like it more.

Is the party scene all that appealing to you? You don’t even drink.

The party scene doesn’t really appeal to me at all because I am a father now and I only tend to be out when I have a gig. I don’t drink or do class A stuff anymore mainly because I had a few issues with both of those things, particularly coke. I don’t feel moralistic about my abstinence, I understand why people do it and everyone is free to fuck their own body and brain up if they see fit. That said, I get gatvol with nonsensical conversations with gesuip/coked up cretins. At Rocking The Daisies a geezer came up to me, fucked out of his mind and said “I love your T-shirt but I hate everyone here. I’m sure you feel the same…” He then swatted at imaginary flies for a bit and fell over. I struggle to converse with such people.

Tell us about your group with Big Space, Manyoba Boy$. And what plans have you got for that?

Manyoba Boy$ is a live act ostensibly. We play live improvised techno/house sets with a heavy SA flavour. We have written a few tunes and are sitting on them for now. I do think however, that we work best as a live act.

Do you have any other affiliates?

I’m not part of a crew or anything like that. There’s a few vocalists I enjoy working with Spoek, Okmalumkoolkat, Eve Rakow. All cool people.

Did you record ‘Night Time Business’ with Spoek? You’ve remixed Okmalumkoolkat, Petite Noir, etc. Who would you like to collaborate with vocally?

‘Night Time Business’ is a tune on my next 12″. I produced the music and he created the words. We’ve done a few tunes together but it’s always via the internet. The odd time we stiek uit together we mostly smoke zol and talk bollocks. I’ve not remixed Smiso’s stuff by the way, I did however remix a tune we did together.

I’d like to work with Camagwini, Big Nuz, Jaak, Professor, the list could go on…

You’ve bootlegged a lot of RnB from the likes of Justin Timberlake, Robin Thicke, Mario et al. Are you a real fan of RnB, you’re not just being ironic?

I love RnB. Particularly the 90s era Dru Hill, En Vogue, SWV, TLC etc etc. RnB is often very forward thinking and progressive musically. Far more than people give it credit for.

I don’t subscribe to that ironic thing in music appreciation. I find it odd. If you like it then who gives a shit what anyone thinks.

What do you do other than producing and DJing?

I work in post production, mostly post supervision or management.

Are you working on anything at the moment?

Not swearing around the kids. Not fucking easy.

Musically, I got some 12″s coming out next year on various labels. It should all be quite exciting.

Stream/download the mix here.
Check out the published version over at Mahala here.

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Made In Africa

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Brad Ogbonna is Nigerian-American travel, lifestyle, fashion and portraiture photographer currently based in Brooklyn, New York. He has worked for publications such as Vice, Spin and GOOD magazines. After releasing his first book entitled ‘Jislike’ which covered his customary return to Nigeria after his father’s funeral, he was asked to be part of the Studio Africa project in which he filmed music videos for Nigerian music producer Olubenga, Somalian pop duo Faarow and Mzansi’s Spoek Mathambo. The trip also culminated in a dope photographic series which forms part of a larger collection of travel works called ‘Places’. We got a chance to chat to him about his connection to Nigeria, poverty porn and his stop in Johannesburg.

Please tell us a bit about your background and what got you into photography. When did you realise you wanted to pursue it as a career?

I grew up in the Twin Cities of Minnesota—raised by Nigerian parents. I went to college at the University of Wisconsin – River Falls for International Studies & Political Science. I became interested in photography during my time in college—I think it was around 2008-2009. That was when blogs and blogging were at its zenith. I happened to be studying abroad in Europe so I started taking photos of the new places and people that I met basically to keep a record of my travels. When I returned to Wisconsin/Minnesota I kept on taking photos and developing my own style.

When I moved to NYC in the summer of 2011, I had trouble finding a job or paid internship in my field, but I started getting approached to shoot for different clients. Once I got my first “big” paycheque the prospect of an actual career in photography, at least for the time being, seemed a lot more plausible.

Give us a brief introduction as to how you got involved in the Studio Africa project and the process of filming music videos for Spoek Mathambo, Faarrow and Olubenga.

The good people at VICE contacted me over the summer to see if I’d be interested in working on the Studio Africa project. I wasn’t familiar with the project prior, and so when I was told that they planned to travel to South Africa, Kenya, and Nigeria to work on 3 music videos it felt like a dream gig had been realized. I thought the trip was a “maybe” and would be planned for the fall, so I was really surprised when they got back to me the day after we initially spoke and said I’d be traveling less than a week later.

What stands out in your memory from your stop in Johannesburg where you filmed Spoek? The good and the bad.

I had the pleasure of meeting up with Justice and Fhatuwani Mukheli—the guys from I See A Different You. They were really genuine, down-to-earth dudes, and we hit it off right away. They took me out to some of their favourite places in Johannesburg, and after the bars died down we drove around Downtown and I got a chance to see the different parts of the city at their most serene.

I can’t recall anything bad about the trip, besides the fact that I totally underestimated what winter time in Africa was truly capable of. I remember being cold a lot and kicking myself for not checking the weather before I left.

Do you feel that having Nigerian roots makes it necessary to document and share work of other artists in the Diaspora?

Not really.

Do you believe you have accomplished more being based in the USA than you would have if you were based in Nigeria?

Being based in the USA has allowed me a lot more access to resources and attention than the average person living in Nigeria. I haven’t had any financial backing from my parents or any “oga at the top” either. It’d be hard to accomplish the same in Nigeria. Things aren’t easy there for creatives, and especially ones who do not come from money. Honestly, I don’t think people there would be as receptive to my work.

Do you actively challenge the negative stereotyping of Africa through your photography?

I suppose so. When I shoot, I’m not fixated on challenging a negative stereotype, but I’m definitely shooting what I find to be interesting or appealing. I don’t find the appeal in shooting the very sad and bleak conditions of poverty in Africa just because. However, there have been times when I’ve found something or someone within that poverty that has caught my interest and made me want to pick up my camera.

For instance, I photographed the students, faculty, and campus of my father’s former secondary school in the village that he and my mom grew up in. The conditions of the school were abysmal, and I imagine it’s what a lot of people imagine a school might look like in the small villages of Africa. My intention for taking those photos was not to proliferate the negative stereotype of Africa, but rather to show a contrast between my father’s background versus mine. Secondly, I wanted to express that despite the conditions that the students and teachers were learning/teaching in, they were very resilient and hopeful. Not the “hopeless individuals in dire need of help” many Africans have been depicted as in the past. The photos were apart of a larger narrative that I was trying to convey.

A lot of creatives who live outside of Africa, whether photographers, filmmakers, musicians, are often accused of ‘poverty porn’ when depicting Africa (think the Solange video shot in a township in Cape Town). Does the possibility of attracting that kind of criticism cross your mind?

It’s definitely something that I’ve been mindful about. Even though I was raised by Nigerian parents and have many ties to Nigeria and Africa in general, I don’t live there and any depiction that I have of the places I visit are as an outsider. Since that’s the case, it’s hard not to attract some type of criticism.

When I worked on the Studio Africa project, I was asked to keep the same aesthetic as my ongoing series “Places”. My approach to shooting “Places” has always been to shoot in a broad sense, so I was photographing both people and locations and anything that felt unique to the cities and countries that I was visiting. Being Nigerian definitely makes me more conscious and gives me a duty to be honest about my work. When I’m shooting I’m not focused on just poverty so I feel pretty confident that what I’m creating is not poverty porn.

Do you feel you still have a connection to Nigeria? Do you still call it home?

I definitely still have a connection to Nigeria and it continues to grow. Much of my family still resides there and I’m in better contact with them now that I’ve been traveling there more often and as access to the internet and cellular phones in Nigeria has grown. I still call it home even though I wasn’t born there. It’s where my family is from.

As a freelance photographer you shoot everything from fashion to lifestyle and travel. What’s your favourite kind of photography? If you didn’t have to worry about paying the bills what would you ultimately focus on?

Definitely portraiture and travel photography. Those two things pique my interest the most. I’ve started to dabble in different photographic styles like still-life and studio, and as I learn more about them I’m starting to enjoy it more; but if I could continue to travel and meet and photograph new people I’d be satisfied.

What is your favourite camera and medium?

I really love shooting medium format with the Mamiya 645 and using color film and natural light. That’s my ideal.

Why do you tend to make use of a very shallow depth of field instead of everything being in focus?

I’ve always been into portraits of people. If I were to have everything in focus, the focus wouldn’t be so much on the person. I also have pretty bad eyesight and that makes it hard to manually focus when I’m shooting film, so it’s always been easier for me to shoot subjects in my comfortable range of sight at a low aperture.

Please tell us about your fashion label Ikoyi NYC. What is the meaning behind the name and what does the label stand for?

IKOYI NYC is a pet project between my friend Elise Diebel and I. Ikoyi is an elite neighborhood in Lagos and I dig its aesthetic. It’s a mix of wealth, coolness and progression, and it’s one of those places that are often overlooked when people think of Nigeria and Africa in general. I want to bring that same type of African chicness to the really dark and moody New York fashion scene.

Which fashion labels are you into from around Africa?

LaurenceAirline and Maki Oh.

How’s your social media game? Where can people connect with you?

I am an unabashed lover of social media. I’m on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Tumblr.

What’s your take on platforms like Tumblr and Instagram? Have they done anything to raise the bar of photography?

They have both raised the bar of competition and inspiration among creators and have made it easier for people to find a solid following, but they have also made it a lot easier for ideas to be stolen and they’ve become another place for pretenders and imitators to join in on the fun.

What are you currently working on and what have you got planned for the future?

I’m currently learning how to use strobes, different lighting techniques, and develop a style in the studio that still retains my aesthetic. So I’m definitely doing a lot of experimenting in my free time. I’m also trying to learn more about video—both directing and filming. In the near future I have a few more books planned and different video projects.

*Brad Ogbonna travelled to Africa to capture the behind-the-scenes look at Diesel’s Studio Africa initiative. For more information about the campaign please visit http://www.diesel.com/diesel+edun.*

Check out the published version here.

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