Tag Archives: rap

Reason Interview

Reason

Up-and-coming South African hip hop artist Reason, aged 23, has been building a solid foundation in the music industry for a long while. Hailing from Jozi’s East Rand, the rapper whose real name is Sizwe Moeketsi, made his debut on the local scene around ’99 as a fierce contestant on the Jozi battle rap circuit, he would go on to release a slew of singles and highly anticipated mixtapes, acquiring an impressive repertoire of collaborations alongside many well-seasoned SA rap veterans along the way.

Reason is definitely shaking up the local industry after the release of his sophomore album Audio3D. Backed by Motif Records, a label founded by internationally- acclaimed rapper Tumi Molekane, the young artist takes full advantage of his opportunity to showcase his gift for rhyme and metre. We got the chance to chat about his latest offering, signing with Motif, working with Tumi and challenging hip hop conventions.

Would you say it’s a good time to be an up-and-coming rapper in South Africa?

I think it’s always good to be “up & coming” because you have a lot to prove, so you have a lot more to talk about. After that, you have to maintain entertaining people instead of promising to. “You can only be the new guy once” they say.

When did you start rapping and what made you get into it?

98. I saw my cousin do it. He rapped and did poetry a lot. It looked and sounded cool. So I tried it.
How would you define your music? Who are you aiming it at?
I’d definitely define my music as Audio 3D. Sonically, it’s a forward thinking approach to hip hop music. So it’s aimed at forward thinking people who like hip hop music.

You signed with Tumi’s label Motif Records last year. How has being taken under the wing of one of SA’s most talented rappers been for you?

It’s been too smooth I think. I expected to be working with the Twitter “A**hole” I see telling people off every day on Twitter. I ended up with a cool big brother that has a wealth of artistic knowledge to share. Bradley’s also made it very educational for me on the business side of things cause I needed to learn how to make sense of the numbers in order to understand how serious this is. I’m working, learning, growing and having fun basically.

You’ve garnered much recognition with your latest album, Audio 3D, especially with the hit single “Do it like I can”. Is it a triumph for you? And what are going to do with this recognition now that you’ve rightfully earned it?

The aim was always to gain recognition, because with recognition comes an audience, and with an audience could become a relationship. A long standing relationship of beautiful music, productions and plain old entertainment.

There seems to be this real spirit of adventure in how you chose your beats for Audio 3D. As part of the new generation of hip hop do you think it’s necessary to challenge hip hop conventions?

I think it’s always necessary to change music conventions. It’s how we evolve as musicians and keep moving. Otherwise you get stuck.

You’ve featured alongside some of SA’s most high-profile rappers such as Proverb, Tumi, Zubz, HHP, Amu and AKA. How important are collaborations to you?

Very. I learn through them. My work with other artists is educating and inspiring because we share ideas. I enjoy it.

What are some of the everyday challenges you face as a young emcee?

Groupies, tweets, misquotes, misunderstanding, misconception. Generalization, ignorance and questions. Lots of questions!

What is it about Joburg city that inspires you?

The people. How we survive so many differences, is inspiring.

What can we expect from Reason in the future? Have you got aspirations for what you want to do with the next album, any seeds of ideas yet?

Music. Music. And more music.

Can you achieve everything you want to achieve in SA or would you look elsewhere too if given the opportunity?

Opportunities are everywhere. The world is ours. I may. Or maybe not. Who knows?

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There Will Be Blood

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We sat down with Isaac Mutant, the no-holds-barred rapper/frontman of a groundbreaking collaborative hip hop crew called Dookoom who are dropping their self-titled debut album at Blitzkroeg in Harrington Street, Cape Town this evening.

Please explain what Dookoom means for those who don’t know and why did you choose that name for the album?

Dookoom is a ghetto thing, it’s a Cape Town thing basically. It’s not a coloured or a black thing or whatever, it’s a ghetto thing. It’s a myth and whatnot. It’s almost like the Tokoloshe. Everything negative is associated with dookoom. That’s kind of how I felt from Sideshow Freak (earlier album) like all the time, you know. I kind of felt like something similar to that, yet at the same time I’m doing something fucking magic and I don’t get credit for that kak and basically all of us, the whole Dookoom squad felt the same way. And we’re pissed. So that’s the bottom line. We’re going to fucking dookoom the fuck out of people.

Who do you want to dookoom?

Everybody. Why not? How can you be South African and be happy about anything. I don’t give a fuck about anyone in this country, bra. I do give a fuck about my daughter, though I don’t give a fuck about anybody, not even about me. I wanna dookoom everybody.

Could you run down who is all involved in the project?

It’s myself Isaac Mutant, DJ Roach, Spooky and Human waste (Dplanet). Yusif how do you say that?

Sayigh from The Great Apes.

Ja daai dude. We do a few features with him. ‘Strange Love’, somehow somebody leaked that track. I don’t know who the fuck that is? I’ll find that naai. And then ‘Elke Hol’, Yusif features on there as well and Jaak from Pioneer Unit features on Ak-47. Fucking genius, daai bra. And Pussyring. She’s sexy. I’m gonna get her phone number, dookoom the shit out of her ass. She gives me such vibes. It’s probably because she’s European, I don’t know. Bradley (from 2Bop) is drunk on’ Elke Hol’. I don’t know if he gets a credit for that. He fits us out though. Naai, 2Bop is broese.

‘Strange Love’ is a very different sound from what we’ve come to expect from Isaac Mutant. Going back to our first interview where you said you were tired of being expected to make boom bap, socially conscious rap and wanted to shake things up- is this the sound you had in mind?

Look, I just wanted to do something different. Dookoom actually turned out much fucking better than I imagined. But this is kind of what I had in mind. I was just jas with the industry. I haven’t changed yet, I will never change. I’m jas with the industry because everybody is then fokken dumb fokken tunnel vision in Cape Town. Every MC, fuck you. I’m not an MC. Put that in. I’m not an MC, I don’t give a fuck about rap.

Just to answer your question on ‘Strange Love’, Depeche Mode. That’s one of the tracks I always wanted to do. If you’re a coloured, my bru, and you grew up in the ghetto. You can be a punk rocker, you can be hip hop, you can be whatever, if that track comes up you have to do something, you just have to jol or something. It’s just automatic, I always wanted to do something with that. And the Pet Shop Boys.

Pet Shop Boys and Depeche Mode; do gangsters love that shit?

Human Waste lag sy poes pap nou die dag ek het hom daai vertel. He’s like ‘Whaaat’. I’m like ‘Ja, bru, it’s fucking classy shit’. But there’s some more kak that’s gonna fucking come out. I just had to fuck with Judy Boucher, I just had to fuck with her. I’m fucking with everybody. We’re fucking with Michael Jackson next.

How does it work when collaborating with Human Waste. Did you sit down and plan the overall sound or you just lace the beats he sends you?

Ja, he makes some kak ‘see what you can do with it’ and I come back with kak. There’s no planning on this we’re actually trying to create something for once emotionally, if you wanna say spiritually, with no planning, instinctively. Whatever emotion guides you. And then art without all that other dynamics bullshit – guidlines and rules. There’s no planning to it, just here’s a beat do with it what the fuck you wanna do with it. If it sounds gehard, then it’s gehard. That’s why I’m kak proud of this project. For the first time in my life I feel free. I can say what the fuck I wanna say, but now luckily I’m actually a dope artist so I can utilise all those other tools and shit. You know, the wordplay and concepts. The dude just gave me two cds full of beats and I was like okay this is actually nogal what I was looking for godamnit.

Dookoom shakes your brain around in your skull. But in a good way.

That is what hip hop did in the first place. To me it’s like everybody forgot about that kak. It was like “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” what the fuck is this? Yo this is dope shit. All this old school kak. “Whoop whoop, that’s the sound of the police!”, what the fuck is this? Everybody is all metaphorical and oracle. That’s why I don’t even fucking go to Long Street anymore. Fuck the Long Street hip hop, fuck Cape Town hip hop man. Quote that, I want that. Metaphorical bullshit. Is hulle jas?

Do you forsee Dookoom to become a crew or is it a once-off project?

No, we’re a crew.

Oh, so we will be hearing more?

Definitely, Dookoom is not going anywhere, I promise you that one. The bra (Human Waste) fucking floods me with beats and it’s exciting. It’s something new for me, mos. We’re a bunch of fucking pissed off motherfuckers that don’t give a fuck. So we’re going there, that’s basically what we touch on. There are brasse, I’m not gonna mention their names because it’s all about Dookoom in this interview, that have touched on those things. Naai, Die Antwoord, I have to give credit to the broese. They introduced this kind of feel to South African hip hop I think.

So would you say it’s largely influenced by Die Antwoord?

Naai I wouldn’t nogal lie about it. Lyrically Ninja taught me a lot my bru. Like rounding off shit and stylising punchlines, attitude. Basically he taught me ‘be yourself’ bra and Human Waste just came and ripped out the fuck who I am. It’s cool to be an angry motherfucker. So in all honesty it’s a moerse influence by Die Antwoord. And if it hadn’t been for Scally (Scallywag), me and Scally have been talking about this kak for probably like 10 years or some kak. We were just pissed at what the Cape Town sound is.

Why isn’t Scally rapping on it?

Because Scally got a job and he’s a grey ass, fucking dreadlock, fucking alcoholic motherfucker, working at CTV. But he’s still my bru. Me and him was gonna do Dookoom. That was initially the idea and we were drunk at that time when we were talking and then we got sober. Scally is always gonna be there and Bai Kuruption is a KAK (Koloured Ass Krooks) member. They’re always gonna be there. Everybody is just doing their thing right now and I’m doing my thing right now.

As I was saying, Dookoom is really different stuff. Did you have a different audience in mind when you went into this project?

Ja, I actually did. People with money and angry people. I’m tired of being tight and broke. Why can’t I make music that everybody digs and be progressive about kak? It’s a difficult question actually. But my first and foremost is: Aim for these rich motherfuckers. Piss them off and make them give you their money. They must just like it. The rich motherfuckers are fucking business people they just gonna have to invest in this kak because it’s too jits, but at home they’re gonna curse the shit out of this fucking coloured from the Cape Flats.

Has there been talk about you signing to Pioneer Unit?

That’s a bit personal. I don’t wanna answer that. The conversation me and Dplanet had is personal.

Also going back to our first interview, you said you were going to dumb down your lyrics as a way of getting across to more people. Your track ‘Kak Sturvy’ its quite catchy and it’s like kak talk in a way. Is that what you’re doing there? No disrespect intended, if I’m wrong.

No doubt, that’s kind of what I was aiming at, but it’s kak difficult to answer. Technical people will hear the technicalities on the album. Layered is a better word. ‘Kak Sturvy’ has double, triple meanings, but it sounds easy on the ear though. This is the most skilful I’ve ever been in my life. If you can make a bra from the street understand and get jiggy to what you just said…

You’ve just shot a video for ‘Kak Sturvy’ in Heinz Park, Mitchells Plein. What’s the significance of choosing that location?

Heinz Park is the most honest fucking place that I know. That I know of personally, it’s not the ultimate truth. That place is kak small and there’s like 8 gangs living there. These naaiers gang fight and then they live in peace as well. There has to be an equilibrium. There’s blacks, whites, coloureds. I know about a white couple that moved in there. That’s like the Cape Flats compressed, bra. Ironically, the leader of The Americans fucking pushed me to go record. It’s because of that bra. People are not who you think they are in Heinz Park. There’s no time to be depressed. You just have to be on a pluk the whole time. There’s food to be eaten, bru and a button when you need to calm the fuck down as well. That’s the one spot that’s a fucking jol. People don’t know about this kak. People got nothing there, it’s just like a wasteland and they just had to make that spot work. You can survive for a whole day with R10 for food bra, cheaper than that even. That place has a bunch of McGuyvers. The system don’t give a fuck about us. No one give a fuck about us. We skill ourselves. There’s mechanics. Scrapyards are a fucking industry in Heinz Park. That’s the shit that keeps Heinz Park alive. How can you not? It’s so rich with kak, how can you not take note of that kak? People need to know about this shit. And that’s just one out of the million fucking spots in South Africa that’s actually funky. It’s kak dookoom. Plus in the ghetto, usually the lowest ones on the ladder, usually looks after you. It’s just out of you being human. Go back to them and share the spoils or whatever. Nobody really puts the gutter on the map or make it look funky. You don’t have to make it look anything, just show the world what the fuck is up here. Nobody does that. Everybody is just ‘I’m gonna get outta the ghetto, I’m gonna get out of the ghetto’. Then nobody comes back and show the world what the fuck this is about.

Do you get a lot of love from the ghetto? Are people following your shit a lot there?

I grew up in Mitchells Plain. I lived there 27 years. Now Heinz Park is just over the bridge, like 20 steps from Mitchell’s Plain. Those people kept me alive and for me that’s the safest place to walk, I can walk 3 o’clock or 4 o’clock. Those people are proud of me. When I come from Lyrical Warfare and all these battles and whatnot I need to go to these broese. And the 28s stand there, and the 26s stand there and they like ‘Salute Mutant!’. Ok, obviously it’s ‘give a R5, give a R10, give a entjie.’ I would give, they’re broese. They’re on their hustle as I’m on my hustle.

When we first met, you were frustrated, your shit wasn’t going anywhere in terms of putting out material like music, photography, videos. That’s all starting to happen now? Are you happy? Do you feel like you’ve got momentum now?

For me personally I just understand ‘work hard’ better. If you want something go for it bra, fucking just work. I just understand it better now than I did then. I’ve still got fokol. It’s mos the age old thing. What you reap is mos what you sow, man. It’s cool to be at the bottom of the barrel, bra, because you really got nowhere else to go. And it’s cool to also go through all this personal kak, there’s a reason for that kak. I’m really just fighting for something kak personal. I’ve got no other fucking avenue, I just have to fucking blow the fuck up, I just have to.

You got some shit you need to sort out with money?

Money is gonna be a key. I’m not gonna mention what it is, because it’s kak personal. Look, this is South Africa, we’re musicians, the government don’t give a fuck about musicians. So, look, we don’t have a pension fund and shit. We can’t fucking hustle another 25 years. We’ve got vocal chords and we’ve got our bodies to look after so basically now is the time to fucking do something. I wanna work with Nataniel my bru. That would be fucking interesting. I’m gonna get that naai, I wanna do something with him. Just imagine that kak.

Name me some guys you would enlist for your next album.

I would definitely like to work wth Judy Boucher. Rerig, godse waarheid, I want to work with her. It’s like she understands the ghetto. I don’t know how I get to that. And Nataniel, you have to be a fucking gangster to be him. You know how much balls you must have to be him in Sout Africa, in this tight ass fucking country. It would be kak interesting to work with him, I really wanna work with him. I really wanna work with Steve Hofmeyer just to fuck with everybody. I really want to work with Scally. Scally is one of the most talented mense in the world ever, he don’t even know it. Who else would I really like to work with? I’d like to do something with Malema, I don’t know how far-fetched that is. Even if it’s just him saying some shit. That would be kak interesting. I don’t have time for boring anymore. Boring is so fucking boring. I wanna work with people that have balls.

Do you get excited by the Cape Town scene anymore?

No, that’s exactly the motivation for this thing. I don’t know, Cape Town hip hop has become boring as fuck. Everybody is metaphorical, if you’re not metaphorical then you’re bling or you try to be me.

Why do you think it’s so kak?

I really think a lot of Cape Town hip hoppers don’t have balls. They’re too afraid to try something new so they’re just followers, you know. They’re too afraid to say ‘yo, I like rock music’ or ‘yo, I dig fat chicks’ or ‘I wank a lot’. Anybody fucking wanks. If you’re a man, you’ve got a dick, you’ve got a hand, how can you not want to wank. Nobody has got balls, they’re like what is my crew gonna think? Fuck you crew, bra. Why don’t you just be a man and say what the fuck you want to say. That’s personally what I think about Cape Town hip hop.

So the shows going down on Friday (tonight), what can we expect and how do you feel about it?

The details is 103 A Harrington Street in town. It’s called Blitzkroeg. It’s from 7-10. We’re gonna be on stage from 8-9. It’s a private party, bring your own booze. It’s for free. We will be selling CDs, R50. There will be strippers, live tjappies and gangsters, definitely. And there will be blood.

Check out the published version over at Mahala.

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Still Incarcerated

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Local filmmaker Dylan Valley’s documentary, Incarcerated Knowledge, was well received at this year’s Encounters Festival. It follows the story of MC Pote from the day he was released from Pollsmoor Prison after serving a six year jail sentence for the murder of his stepfather, to the everyday struggles he faces on the outside attempting to earn a decent wage while striving to fulfil his dream of becoming a successful musician at the same time.

In the doccie MC Pote is charismatic and mostly forthright in discussing the hardcore circumstances of his upbringing and former life of crime. His will to turn his life around and leave the 28s gang while in jail is admirable and his message gives hope to those sucked into a quagmire of gangsterism and drugs who think there’s no way out.

However, when we meet up with him at his home in Fisanterkraal, a sprawling township in the farmlands just outside of Durbanville, he’s not willing to touch on any of those subjects. Awaiting us in an armchair in the corner of his room, his demeanour looks grim and his stare drills straight through my skull onto the wall behind me. He’s visibly frustrated and my nerves immediately start to kick in. As we take our seats MC Pote suggests we get a beer. It turns out to be the most expensive quart I’ve ever had because I receive no change from the R50 I handed his brother Sidney (who also features considerably in Incarcerated Knowledge). I’m too nervous to enquire further about it though. While Sidney and Mads, our photographer, were out grabbing the brews MC Pote lays down the law. He will not discuss his past at all – this includes Incarcerated Knowledge, which is also the name of the album he recorded after his release from prison.

As my shaky hands fumble with the pages of my notebook trying to find my questions I try break the ice with a staple journalism question: “So what’s the story behind your name?” He refuses to answer, simply saying that it’s too sentimental. Many more questions I pose are met with tense silence, one word answers or are simply evaded by talking about some entirely different topic.

I sense MC Pote’s disdain toward the media which is why he’s initially a little frosty towards me too. After a three year process of sharing the most sensitive and personal facts of his life, Incarcerated Knowledge goes on to garner critical acclaim (Encounters Film Festival added it to the Joburg line-up after its success with the Cape Town audience), yet still no opportunities have arisen for him to gain any material benefits from the film. Even from this interview, he wants something more tangible than just exposure. While planning our meeting on Facebook chat he says, “Well, you better bring some chicken along from Primis or something, cause fame is nothing if I don’t have fortune to share with my neighbours.”

Here in Fisanterkraal, it’s obvious that MC Pote is running the show and he will steer this interview to suit his agenda which is mainly to make clear that he has tons of new material and he needs a record label to get him into a recording booth ASAP. “Rome wasn’t built in a day. As you can see we are still building, still working, still writing, never quit. So I would just now love to get an opportunity to get into a facility where I can get it out there. I mean Incarcerated Knowledge, the album, came out in 2010 and a lot has happened since then,” he tells me.

In the course of shooting the documentary, MC Pote earned a record deal from a label called Jamsync Records after being scouted at a talent show in Westgate Mall, Mitchells Plein. He dove in head first, borrowed R3000 to place as a deposit for the studio and quit his job at a paint store to follow his dream of becoming a rap star. Then unexpectedly the label went kaput and was unable to fulfil its obligation to distribute the album. Pote subsequently had to buy back the rights to his music and has been faced with the problem of trying to distribute it on his own, with scant resources. He claims to have sold around 700 copies over the last few years, printing up batches when he can afford to and slanging them out of the hand. But that’s not enough to bring home the bacon and now he’s starting to get despondent. “No one knows everything. I’m just an artist and a rapper. That’s what I do. If there’s a manager out there who has got the balls, a record label that’s got the balls, a marketing whatever you call it that’s got the balls. You know where I stay and I’ll do what I have to do and you do what you do,” he says.

It’s sad, because if there was any justice in the world, MC Pote would have reached his dreams by now. While Waddy Jones jumps around on stage at Coachella pretending to be a coloured rapper called Ninja, this guy is the real deal. A rap label A&R’s wet dream. A killer turned MC, with a troubled family background, who nurtured and perfected his craft in the cells. “What don’t kill you makes you stronger. It can also become an upliftment, an ispiration, a solution. We need to make the best of what life throws for us… No one will understand what an inspiration it was for me to be at Pollsmoor Maximum,” he tells me.

Elaborating on how he began writing rhymes he says, “it was while serving my sentence in Pollsmoor and I just started writing. I’m a lover of music since forever, you know, it resonates with me. I went through a bit of depression while serving my sentence. I got a bit of a nervous breakdown or whatever they call it, but someone gave me very good advice. He said just take time out and forget about everything around you and try figure out what you love doing. So I took some time out and ja… you saw the documentary.”

At the end of our interview, MC Pote steps outside for some fresh air which allows Sidney to share the most revealing evidence of his music we’ve heard all day. “Just to put everything in a nutshell, most of his work comes from the domestic violence that we went through. In a way my father was very religious but behind closed doors he was another man, you know? He was hitting my mother, smacking her around, accusing us of using drugs. But at the same time we were not actually doing that stuff.” He says matter of factly. “But from the way I listen to his lyrics, most of his experience comes from the jail and the domestic violence we went through.” He reiterates. “Because why? The message that he sent out is that you can be a better person if you must listen to his CD. You can be a better person no matter what circumstances you come from.”

Check the published version over at Mahala here.

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Feature: Youngsta- Rising Rap Star

Fans hail Youngsta’s versatile songwriting skills and ability for laying rhymes over different genres of music. On stage he displays a genuine sense of ease, oozing a focused and fearless charisma. His passionate blend of Mother City slang and expressive, crystal-clear vocal delivery have proved to be a winning formula, while his American-tinged accent has garnered much comment and criticism from music journalists. One thing is for sure though: when discussions turn to Youngsta’s work ethic, the verdict is unanimous: he has what it takes to become Mzansi’s next rap star. But who is this young Capetonian who seemingly came out of nowhere?

Youngsta is unmistakably a child of his times. As part of the new generation of hip-hop stars, he understands the ever-evolving sound of this style of music and knows that if he wants to stay alive in today’s market – in which fans have an insatiable need for daily access to new songs at their fingertips – artists simply have to stay ahead of the curve.

Equipped with this understanding, the young MC burst onto the music scene in 2010 and went to work tirelessly, releasing no fewer than 24 mix tapes in 24 months. He soon dubbed himself the “million-in-one-rapper”, describing his experimental approach to laying down rhymes on various productions in the subgenres of the hip-hop and bass music styles, such as dubstep and trap.

He explains his winning strategy: “It’s because I put out so much music and made myself so available to the public all the time. I don’t think I can stop. Music is a part of Youngsta. You must know, if you’re gonna be a fan of Youngsta, you have to take him and everything that comes with it.”

Criticised at times for his genre-hopping style, he nevertheless refuses to be pigeonholed and stays true to his principles. “I’ve managed to always make the kind of music I like. I haven’t compromised my sound for anyone. I’ve just expanded the kind of music I make.”

Fans will agree that this approach seems to have paid off. At the end of 2011, Youngsta won an online voting competition held on social networking sites to become one of the opening acts for the Cape Town leg of superstar Lil Wayne’s SA tour. Sounds nerve-wracking for a relative newcomer, right? Unaffected by the pressure and limelight, Youngsta captivated his audience with an engaging performance.

In 2012 his name became a fixture on almost all major hip-hop event line-ups. He warmed up the crowd for legendary New York rapper Talib Kweli, but admits his most rewarding performance was at the Rocking the Daisies festival last October, where thousands raised their hands to the anthemic track ‘Salute Ya’, which has graced the charts on GoodHope FM and 5FM.

Youngsta strives to retain full control of his own creations. Together with a four-man team of close-knit friends whose sole purpose is “getting Youngsta to the top”, he has launched his official website and dropped clothing sponsors Circa and 2Bop to start his own clothing label, Y Generation.

“I’m finally doing what I’ve always wanted to, and that’s being entirely independent. Now that I have the attention of the big players in the game – artists, brands and other influential people – they’re actually paying attention to me. So, now is the time to really drop the bomb,” he explains.

Thanks to his hard-working attitude and exceptional talent, Youngsta has won the support of veteran colleagues including DJs Ready D, Codax and Hamma. He collaborated on a highly-acclaimed EP with the latter, called ‘Dollars and White Pipes’, early last year. Youngsta has decided not to focus as much on mix tapes in 2013, trading his makeshift home studio for Cape Town’s Red Bull Studios. This has opened up doors for some great collaborations with beat maestros Audiophile 021 and J-Beats.

Youngsta’s collaborative single ‘What Have You Done’, with well-established Jozi rappers Tumi and Reason, hints at his substantial musical development. Despite his young age, he is carving his own identity.

“I’m opening up, letting you inside my mind. I’m also more focused because now I see there’s a finish line. Every person has their time when they’re gonna win the race. You can’t last forever and I’m realising that. It’s like I’m going in the direction I’m planning for, so I know it’s gonna pay off soon.”

Link: http://www.mblife.co.za/Passion/20130118_youngsta/

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Tribute To Miss Versy

Three weeks ago, on October 14, Jo Anne Petersen AKA Miss Contro’Versy, a Capetonian-bred emcee with an international acclaim passed away at the age of 34. She had suffered a two-year long battle with cancer. While the name may not be immediately recognisable by many of the younger generation, she was a figure who was embedded deep in the core of the Kaapse hip hop movement. In her short career she was a renowned mc/poet, journalist, events co-ordinator, radio show host and TV presenter. In 2010, after being diagnosed with cancer the previous year, she returned home from New York and became the force behind an all-female group, SiStar Cypher, whose purpose was the empowerment of women through hip hop.

DJ Real Rozanno, a long-time friend and collaborator will tell you how Versy submerged herself passionately into the culture from the word go. According to him, one of the lessons which can be learned by her legacy is the sheer resolution with which she strived to reach her goals, emphatically shunning the 9-5 grind eventuality of “growing up” to remain a major player in the hip hop culture, whether it paid or not.

In ’97 Versy was writing for underground publication, Mob Shop Magazine, a hip hop rag put together by heads with illustrations done by local graffiti artists like Falko and Gogga. Later, in 2005, she became a contributor to one of Africa’s largest online hip hop magazines, Africasgateway.com. She would also move on to becoming a TV presenter on MK for a show called Hip Hop and then Woelag, showcasing hip hop culture and souped up rides which took her to see the famous West Coast Customs.

Like many local pioneers, such as Isaac Mutant and Rozanno, Versy’s introduction to the hip hop scene began at a young age at the legendary club, The Base. Later she became inspired by the 90s conscious party raps with a feminist inclination, (think Queen Latifa and Left Eye), which would shape her career. “She did party lyrics, she did it consciously, she did it with passion and energy, you walked away you were entertained, you were uplifted by it and you had a gedagte, you know, somehow you were opened up to something else,” explains Natasha Tafari, a member of SiStar Cypher.

As an MC she got on the map in countries such as America, the UK and Germany. Around 2006/7 she relocated to New York where she immersed herself into the scene performing shows at venues such as the Karma Lounge in Brooklyn, still repping her Kaapse roots by spitting rhymes in English and Afrikaaps. Notably, she was the first Mzansi-raised performer to appear on the venerable Lyricist Lounge stage. In this time she made close ties with Chip Fu of Fu Schnickens and John Robinson (Li’l Sci from Scienz of Life), who produced tracks for her as well.

Versy also brought her skills back home to create platforms for other up and coming artists. Drawing from her experiences abroad, she played an essential role in orchestrating stage productions such as Under the Poet Tree in 2004 and Hip Hop Connected which ran annually for a few years from 2005.

Versy’s passion and dedication to hip hop is undoubtedly evident in the final track she recorded called “Miracles”. 5% Nation consciousness-touting rapper, Wise Intelligent from the old school New Jersey outfit, Poor Righteous Teachers, originally wrote the song as a tribute to Versy and sent it to her asking if she would feature on it. At this point her health had deteriorated to the point of being bed-ridden. She accepted. A mic stand was placed next to her bed and what we are blessed with is a song of positivity with the same intensity as always.

“She’s left legacies behind and she’s only 34. That’s what makes superstars… the inspiration that she leaves behind. There’s dry eyes, because people are in a mode. We wanna do something,” attests Natasha Tafari. After the funeral, on October 22, a celebration of Miss Contro’Versy’s life was held at the Platinum Lounge in Shortmarket Street, formerly The Base. The place where Jo Anne Petersen would forge her own identity as the electric-blue rocking afro-chic Contro’Versy. Rest in peace.

Link: http://www.mahala.co.za/culture/tribute-to-miss-versy/

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Interview: Youngsta

Not many Mzansi rappers can say they’ve achieved what 20 year-old Youngsta has in the two short years of his music career. Since his first appearance on the scene in 2010 he’s dropped 23 mixtapes, a full-length album, occupied charts on Goodhope and 5FM and rocked big shows in Cape Town and Jozi. He has generated a lot of hype with his self-proclaimed “million-in-one rapper” approach, showing that he isn’t scared to prove that he can flex on any beat that comes his way (check out his Soundcloud page). At the end of last year he opened up for Lil Wayne; we caught up with him at a gatsby joint down the way from where he lives in Wynberg shortly afterwards.

How did you feel when you got the opportunity to open up for Lil Wayne?

Youngsta: I didn’t believe it. Literally, I didn’t. My manager, Steady Lee, told me that I was gonna open for Lil Wayne. I asked him, “how sure are you?” He said we hadn’t got confirmation yet. I said when you get confirmation phone me back and tell me. I swear to you, not even a minute later, literally in 30 seconds he phoned me back and told me “I just got the e-mail now, you doing it.” For at least 5 minutes, I just sat and to be honest with you I planned the set in my head. I’m young I got the youth, I need to use it. The first thing that went through my mind was, what songs am I gonna do, I didn’t even care about anything else, I didn’t care what I was gonna wear, I didn’t care what time they were gonna put me on, I didn’t care for how long. All I thought was what songs am I gonna do. How am I gonna do it? Is it gonna be big? First thing that comes to my mind is my music.

Was that the biggest show you’ve ever done, crowd wise, and were there any nerves?

No nerves at all. I get anxious before I go on stage like I can’t wait because once I get on stage I’m not me anymore. Riyadh is somewhere else. Youngsta is now the guy you looking at. I don’t get nerves. There could have been 20 000 people. Like the same crowd that was there for Lil Wayne could have been there for me; it would have just been another crowd, because there are certain times when I’m on stage where I feel like I’m just rapping in my room again. I do it without thinking. Sometimes I forget that I’m rapping on stage. There are no nerves and I think this could be the biggest one we did crowd-wise. The buzz around it, people were anticipating this thing. It’s sad that there were people in the queue still.

Full Story: http://www.mahala.co.za/culture/my-mouth-works/

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Interview: J-Zone

Here’s an interview I did with J-Zone, a producer and ex-rapper from Queens, NY….

I learnt that J-Zone had quit the music biz after his last album sold only 47 copies in the last month, and he signed them off at Fat Beats to be destroyed. At the same time his digital distributor informed him that they were removing his songs from iTunes as well. In true J-Zone style he hit back with a humorous take on being a “failed” musician by penning a book called Root for the Villain: Rap, Bullshit and Celebrating Failure; part memoirs from his rap days and part cantankerous social commentary.

Root for the Villain… so what’s in a title? And could you briefly explain what readers can expect?

J-Zone: The title is really about being anathema to what’s respected in our society. The hero never really makes his faults visible and he does whatever it takes to play the game and be successful. The villain is usually the guy going against the status quo and what’s considered right. He’s known for his faults and character flaws. In our world, it takes a lot of balls to be an iconoclast and go against a lot of what is valued by the masses. That’s why sometimes it’s good to root for someone like that!

I don’t know if you believe in all that hippie shit like “words manifest destiny”, but you’ve always kinda been a self-deprecating rapper do you think this could have been one of your downfalls?

Probably. I think any downfalls I had as a recording artist could be attributed to a number of different factors, but self-deprecation is not a winning formula in rap. Hip-hop is alpha male, selling the people an image shit, and it always has been. Nothing wrong with that, but I’ve always been an underdog in my life and I wear the badge proudly. I don’t feel ashamed when things don’t go my way, so I’ll always be honest about my reality. People always complain about rap not being real anymore, but when you’re honest and blunt in a way that makes you look less than heroic, all of a sudden that approach doesn’t work. It doesn’t equate with success. I would’ve done better with a Curb Your Enthusiasm type of crowd than a hip-hop crowd.

Full Story:http://www.mahala.co.za/culture/root-for-the-villain/

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Interview: Blitz The Ambassador

This interviewappeared in Issue 23 of One Small Seed (2011)…

Hip-hop artist Blitz ‘The Ambassador’s’ musical journey led him under the shadow of Lady Liberty to New York a decade ago. He was imbued with the sounds of afrobeat and the highlife music indigenous to his native Ghana, and inspired by the brazen voices of ’90s afrocentric rap. Since then he has garnered respect with the blend of African music and hip-hop that he calls ‘afrohop’, and has worked with artists like The Roots, Mos Def and Talib Kweli, even getting a shoutout from legendary rapper Chuck D of Public Enemy on his latest album Native Sun.

So you grew up in Ghana; could you tell us a bit about your first experiences with music, and how you ended up in the States?

My dad collected a whole lot of records in his travels, so we had a household full of music. That was a positive thing, because we got a chance to be exposed to a lot of very, very great soul music, jazz music, sometimes blues music. Those were really important for me growing up. Later down the line I got put onto hip-hop and that made the most sense to me as a young person growing up and looking for music that was more indicative of my own kind. That’s kind of where hip-hop came in. I got an opportunity to travel to the States for college, after I completed high school, and because making music was something I always wanted to do, I continued doing so even through college and after I graduated. I have been making music full-time ever since.

Full Story: http://www.onesmallseed.com/2011/09/blitz-the-ambassador-the-full-interview/

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Review: Lil Wayne Concert

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Lil Weezy Comes To Bellville

Telling my friends that I was covering the Lil Wayne concert was a touchy subject. “Fuck that. I wouldn’t even go if I got a free ticket. Any rapper with Lil or Young in their name is wack,” one of them told me. That’s a shame, because tonight’s opening act is Youngsta, a local mc from Wynberg who won an online voting contest to open up for Weezy. At 19 years-old, Youngsta boasts a 23 mixtape repertoire, has released a full-length album and rocked big boy stage shows all over Cape Town. He may catch flak for a put on American-tinged accent, but I think his determination and level-headed self-confidence, easily misconstrued as rapper egotism, places him deservedly up on that stage and he earned my vote.

I’m not really a fan of Lil Wayne, but before being quarantined to the hater section of this polarised real vs fake, east vs west, commercial vs underground subculture, I’d say it’s just not for me. From the little I have heard, his rhymes are punchline-driven PG 13 pop-gangsta-rap, but you’ve got to pay respect for the way his catchy lyrics have popularised puns with which he ends every second line. The purists will tell you that he’s not “conscious” enough and how he mercilessly flaunts his wealth, misogyny and senseless violence, which is true, but since I don’t take hip hop as seriously these days I’m actually kinda looking forward to a little rap ‘ignance’.

We arrive at the Bellville Velodrome to a swarm of people mainly in their young teens to early twenties. This is where you begin to understand the purists’ plight. The kids are a mirror-image of the rapper’s consumer-driven rhymes. This must be Lil Wayne’s “Young Money Militia”. Everywhere you look is a cap, t-shirt and sweatshirt boldly emblazoned with the letters YMCMB, which stands for the grossly redundant string of words that is Lil Wayne’s record label, Young Money Cash Money Billionaires. Since tickets cost up to R 750 a pop I’m thinking Pocket Money best befits these young’uns. The high-end sneakers are squeaky clean. A popular garment worn by the girls to cover their nether regions are hoochie-style cut-off jeans that allow for just a little butt cheek to peek out the back. You can see the self-conscious ones trying to pull them up a little, realising it was a big mistake. We hang around the entrance till the floodgates open up and a rabble of stampeding teens whoop and cheer their way into the stadium.

It’s about an hour later that Youngsta steps out on stage. The crowd is filtering in steadily. Golden circle is half full and there’s a large grouping of people on the other side of the fence in general standing. This must be the largest audience Youngsta has ever faced, but he pulls it off seemingly without nerves. His rhymes are intelligible and engaging with throwback choruses to boot that incorporate even those who clearly haven’t heard him before and he freestyles about the YMCMB clothing people in front of the stage are wearing. One of the notable attributes of a Youngsta set is his choice to rock over a variety of beats that appeal to multiple audiences. Tonight’s pick is nu-skool, mostly commercial, and the odd 90s boom bap flavour that sits well with the audience.

There’s an overwhelming clamminess in the air, so after the set I decide to spend the next hour strolling outside for fresh air and getting toe-up while taking advantage of the free refreshments in the media room. Another hour goes by and I’m getting anxious, like if I don’t get back down immediately I’m going to miss something big. You can tell the crowd feels the same; even though the stadium is lit up bright and there’s only a Drake CD being pumped through the sound system, their eyes stay transfixed on the stage like Lil Wayne might pop up any second. I join the melée and do the same.

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The lights are dimmed and the place resonates with thunderous bass. High pitched screams added to the mix make for ear-splitting decibel levels. Weezy has arrived with skateboard in hand. He starts rapping straight off the bat and gives us some high-energy showmanship, bouncing along to either ends of the stage. The feeling is infectious and the crowd is losing their shit well into the greetings after the song. Then he breaks off into “A Milli” and although his nasal tone struggles to break through the booming bass I’m more impressed that he is backed up by a 4-piece band and maintains the buckwild intensity of a bona fide rock star. Later on, during “Drop the World” he even grabs a guitar and strums along, albeit like an awkward kid playing Guitar Hero. One thing about Weezy is that he has hits for days. He churns them out one after the other. And almost everyone in that sold-out show could recite them word for word. To them he’s the greatest rapper in the world, but they can be forgiven because they have never heard the likes of Sean Price or Elzhi.

The great moment of rap ‘ignance’ arrives after the heart-rending “How to love”, a song about a girl-turned-stripper after being hardened by the ugly ways of the world. Weezy feigns holding back tears and gives us a shpiel about how the song gets him teary-eyed because he has a 13 year-old daughter. Then he fucks it all up by dedicating the next song to all the ladies who are each “the single most important thing in the world”. It’s” Every Girl” which has him air-humping and singing the mantra “I wish I could fuck every girl in the world, I wish I could fuck every girl in the world, I wish I could fuck every girl in the world.” That classic moment will remain in my memory for a very long time.

But Lil Wayne’s engaging stage presence and eccentric personality are enough to disarm even the staunchest hater and I enjoyed the entire hour and a half set. The crowd have their hands in the air up until the end of the encore as I edge toward the periphery and get ready to jog back to the car before they all pour out.

Link: http://www.mahala.co.za/music/lil-weezy-comes-to-bellville/

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Interview: Isaac Mutant

Who is Isaac Mutant?

This is a candid interview I did with one of Cape Town’s realest gangsta rappers. Caution: Not for sensitive eyes.

In your raps you’re gun clapping, getting fucked up on drink and drugs, basically a menace to society. What is the real Isaac Mutant like? How much of that is reality and how much of it is just for fun? What’s your poison?

Isaac Mutant is an emotional motherfucker my bru, a very impulsive naai from the ghetto. I cry when a chick dumps me, then I get pissed when maphuza fucking looks at me fucking skew. Isaac Mutant is a loose cannon. Nobody controls Isaac Mutant, I don’t give a fuck my bru, Isaac Mutant is not one scared motherfucker I do what the fuck I want to do when I wanna fucking do it. If I wanna smoke a button now then I’m gonna do it. I don’t have parents, I don’t have a wife so I don’t give a fuck my bru. I buy me a fucking zip gun right now because it shoots better than a 38. And I’m quite educated so I can make my own bullets. That’s Isaac Mutant.

What my poison is? Anything, everthing, anytime, anywhere, whatever I can afford. I’ve got two lungs, two kidneys, I’m gonna use that kak to the fullest my bru. I’m gonna go out with a bang. That’s Isaac Mutant.

Full Story: http://www.mahala.co.za/culture/who-is-isaac-mutant/

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