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Meet Thato Saul: A young artist from Pretoria giving life to the Cap City Rap City

Pretoria was once known to be one of the strongholds in South African Hip Hop, boasting South African Hip Hop pioneering groups like Ba4za, The Anvils and acts like Damola, Thir[13]Teen, just to name a few. The legendary sessions at the State Theater were known to be producers of some great talent in Pretoria. Unfortunately, the last few years Pretoria has seen the music scene slow down compared to its neighbouring city, Johannesburg. While the music scene in  Johannesburg  has changed and moved with the times, the scene in Pretoria has experienced the opposite.

But we don’t have to despair, because acts like A-Reece have reminded people of the Cap City Rap City’s glory and talent. The one thing that one cannot take away from Pretoria is the amount of talent the city has and one of those talents is 20 year-old Thato Saul who is one of the new proponents taking Pretoria to new heights. We had the privilege to talk to the rising talent and got to find out more about him and his future prospects.

Before we kick off everything, we need to extend our appreciation and gratitude for having an opportunity to speak to you and have you share your story. We always get motivated when we get a chance to connect with the artists/creatives that create the work we love so much. Tell us a little more about yourself? We only have a glimpse of who Thato Saul may be from a musical point of view, we are certain that you embody more than that.

Thato Saul: I appreciate the opportunity to speak on myself and what it is I do. I’m Thato Matlebyane and I’m 20 years old, 21 in December. I was born and raised in Pheli, a township in Pretoria West in a household that consisted of both parents, my sister and great grandmother. The ‘Saul’ in my name is short for Saulsville, which is the part of Pheli where I grew up and I chose that name as a representation of my upbringing. I’m currently in my 2nd year of studying Management in the Tshwane University of Technology in Pretoria West.

We came across your music on Soundcloud, we were immediately blown away by the song ‘The Genesis’ where you’re go back and forth rhyming with Jah Level. We then realized that you are from Pretoria, which is dope because we’re also based in Pretoria. Can you tell us how being based in the Capital city shapes the person or the artist that you are?

Thato Saul: Being from Pretoria has inspired so much of my writing. The bulk of my content is based on what goes on in my neighbourhood which is a fairly rough place and I reflect that through my words. Growing up we were exposed to crime, violence and drug use on a regular basis, done by people we consider as friends and neighbours so you learn a lot about it from an early age. Through the years it has gotten worse and after some incidents, my parents moved us south to Centurion to a more safer environment. We still spend so much time back in the neighbourhood because that’s home and my family has always been involved in church. Everyone from my mother and fathers side lived in Pheli so visiting family was just 15 minutes of traveling. That’s why I take so much pride in being from Pretoria West and express it through my lifestyle and music because it has made me who I am and for a long time it was all I knew. Being from Pretoria also pushes me musically because we aren’t known for the musical talents we have and for the most part it isn’t expected from Pretoria as many of our talents, not only from Pretoria but other cities, move to Joburg to pursue their dreams. Now we have good artists and producers coming up in the city and I feel its important we make it known that not only are we as talented, but we’re from Pretoria. Many artists around my age left the city to go to Joburg and when things started to fall in place for them they somewhat forgot where they came from so its down to us who are based in Pretoria to compose the best sounds as we’re in a position of having to prove ourselves.

Tell us about more your journey in music. Has music always been a part of your life?

Thato Saul: I live music and its been so since a very young age. My father is the reason why I fell in love with music because his love for it made it something that was constantly around me. Being raised by someone who owns around thousands of CD’s and old vinyls exposed me to a wide range of sounds, mostly it was jazz and soul. Most of my favourite music composed by the likes of Donald Byrd and Anita Baker where introduced to me by my father. My father is also the reason I found hip hop. Around 2003-2004, my father bought the 50 Cent Get Rich or Die Tryin’ copy and its cover art caught my attention and I started playing it. It got to a point where me and my friend listened to it almost everyday after school. He had Tupac records too so I’d listen to him, too. I started writing lyrics in 2009 and stuck to it without releasing music until this year. So music, not only hip hop, has been with me since a young age.

Your sound is quite unique, fresh and a breath of fresh air, particularly in the South African music scene. Who are some of your influences?

Thato Saul: I’ve taken influence from 50 Cent, The Game and Lil Wayne in the early stages of my writing as I grew up on them. They made me love hip hop and influenced much of the type of content I would produce. At that time they were doing hard street records and I stumbled across J Cole and through him, Kendrick Lamar. Kendrick Lamar not only has the most heavy influence on me, but also I view him as a role model. My friend Jah Level introduced me to The Heart Pt. 3 when it came out it became how I wanted to structure my schemes and use different techniques. Kendrick Lamar and J Cole made me develop a more lyrical approach and smoother sonics, compared to those of my earlier influences and they are the catalysts to the way I approach my lyrics and sonics today.

Tell us about your creative process, how do you channel your creative energy to create your work? The songs that we’ve listened to are filled with powerful lyricism and an uncharacteristic cadence which is amazing to witness.

Thato Saul: It’s important that I find a topic that triggers an immediate emotional and mental response from me or something I stumble across casually like watching tv or listening to music. I find it difficult to write about something I cannot be honest about. I focus heavily on the topic at hand so I can find numerous ways of speaking on it so that I don’t walk away with something else to say about it. It is mentally exhausting because most themes I touch on aren’t the most positive themes so I have to channel negative thoughts constantly and it affects you during and after concluding the piece, but that’s what comes with using raw emotions and thoughts as the backbone of your writing. After the piece is done everything gets easier as it goes through polishing and minor edits like the using different words and moving the placement of words to create new schemes and patterns so the whole piece wont just be truthful in terms of content and thought provoking, but sound good when reciting it. Lately I’ve become big on vocal projection which is an important part of the whole creative process. Come up with different textures, tones and tempos of saying the lines I’ve written.

What does your normal day entail? We all have little rituals that are integral parts of our days. Do you have certain daily rituals that you need to get out of your way so your day can kick off?

Thato Saul:  It’s very basic at the beginning. I wake up and brush my teeth, wash up and have breakfast and I go to campus or not if there’s no lecture or general importance to be there. This is where things change because inspiration can hit you at any moment. I still have books and papers from high school where I wrote rhymes at the back while the teacher was giving a lesson and it happened very often. It used to hit me in Afrikaans class where I used the translation dictionary often and I ended up writing small rhymes in them, too. These days I just open my phones memo if inspiration hits me during a lecture. After my lectures I spend time on the WiFi watching videos then go home. Once I’m home I attend to whatever rap I started writing during the day or I watch a football match with my father while having our dinner then wash up and go to sleep. Throughout all of this I somehow spend much of the day with my earphones plugged in because if I’m not in a lecture of talking to someone, listening to music is what I do. That’s my normal day. No real major rituals.

t-saulPhoto credit: Faces_SA

Are there any projects that you are working on that people should look out for?

Thato Saul: Work on my debut project has already begun and I’m working closely with Zarro, my producer and engineer who’s based in Pretoria. Much work will be done this December and I’m hoping everything goes well so it can be released in early 2017.

Where do you want your creative efforts to take you? What are some of your goals when it comes to your creative efforts?

Thato Saul: My overall goal is to be a great. That’s what I keep telling people. I always say I want to be seen as a form of Rakim in my own way. Obviously I also wish to make a comfortable life for myself through my work as everyone does in whatever field they operate in. The sad thing with SA hip hop is that it blew up and become a real industry that’s taken serious at a time where really rapping isn’t considered as important anymore.

Do you feel that there are enough platforms that house the music that you create or maybe the music that you love listening to? The South African indie, underground and alternative music scene is very small and it is not connected. You get pockets of little scenes all over the country and it would be great if more spaces where created which become enablers for dope collaborations? What is your take on collaboration?

Thato Saul: There aren’t enough platforms. In SA the mainstream music is completely cut off from the indie whereas you look at other countries like America, there’s a lot mainstream music that has elements that you’d get from their indie music. This has to do with time and audience. The amount of time that the popular genres in South Africa have had hasn’t been much. What the masses are hearing and have accepted right now as the high level and the proper standard is in actual fact far from the standard we will reach because the industry is yet to begin developing. In the case of SA hip hop, it hasn’t been big in this country long enough for a number indie artists to make a transition into the mainsteam, which is the only way mainstream and indie can end up sharing common elements. That’s why when Nasty C broke into the industry the masses, including hip hop artists, were shocked that he is rapping when that’s nothing to be shocked about since this is hip hop and you’re required to actually rap in the first place. If our hip hop stays big for a longer period then more artists, like in Nasty C’s case, will bring in something new and develop it to the kind we see in America, where audiences now accept different types of hip hop artists because they’ve had time to be exposed to different hip hip approaches to the point that hip hop started having sub-genres and radio stations. So with that being said, only the ones in mainstream hip hop in SA will have much of the platforms for the time being. Collaboration between indie and underground artists are important because the artists have a common goal and that’ll make the artists push harder and feed off each other and another way forward is also the collaboration between indie and mainstream artists as that’s the most effective and efficient way of exposing the masses to different kinds of hip hop and artists. I view collaboration as the most important key to the development of SA hip hop, but not everyone at the top of the chain wants new faces as their seen as competitors so we have to create our own ways and platforms to make it into the industry. Whether its our own labels or events that give those similar to us platforms.

How would you describe your style and music to someone that may be coming across your work for the first time?

Thato Saul: That’s actually something I’ve never thought about. I would describe it as rap music with a 90’s hip hop approach as it was lyrical orientated because rapping or what they call “bars” is very important to me, something that’s unusual in the 2010’s in SA hip hop. I’d describe it as relateable music because more people can actually relate to it in one form or another.

What are some of the struggles that you face as a young musician residing in South Africa? Do you want your music to be easily accessible to the masses? Do you have a target listener?

Thato Saul: The struggle is platforms like I spoke about and also financing. Hip hop is still young in this country so there aren’t many people who are willing to put money into it as yet. Investments such as hip hop events and hip hop record labels. When Mabala Noise came into the scene it was something new to the masses because most people, including myself, cant name 10 labels that generally recruit hip hop talents and when those entities do come about, it benefits the most popular handful artists. So that’s an opportunity you miss as a young upcoming artist. For me specifically its hard to be accepted quick because I’m more of a textbook rapper. A kind that isn’t accepted quick and welcomed with open arms as that kind hasn’t been experienced by the people long enough yet especially coming from within the country.

We live in a digital age, where more and more people are starting to realize the power that social media and other avenues have when it comes to storytelling. The storytelling power has been given to the people through the internet, how do you use the internet to tell your stories and to document your life? How important is delivering quality content to you?

Thato Saul: The internet is very important. You don’t have to be on the street corner selling out mixtapes from the back of your car anymore. In the last couple of years you will see that physical copies don’t sell much anymore and artists actually make more digital sales than physical. That’s the route everyone has to take now. You have to give your music out through social media to be recognised rather than handing your demo to radio stations and record executives. Personally my content has to be of high quality because I normally release on Twitter and there is whats called “Twitter rappers”, a term used to belittle rappers who release their music through Twitter because people have been exposed to a lot of local work released on Twitter that’s of low quality, sound and content. It means for people like me who release music through Twitter, the music has to come at high quality because you’re already facing a negative perception from the get go.

In closing, where can people find you and your work? Do you have any words for people that are going to be following your work or the fan base that you have already built?

Thato Saul: My music can be found on Soundcloud as Thato Saul and on Twitter and IG as @groovyrico. For the people who will start following my work I can promise that there will be nothing but good quality sounds and content being put out as I don’t start for anything less myself. For the people who are already listening to the music, thank you very much

Thato Saul has fearlessly taken the task to resurrect Pretoria Hip Hop and bring it back to its glory and we’re fully behind him. Follow him on social media and be apart of his journey in music and what he intends to bring to the masses. 

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Interviews Music

Connecting the African diaspora through creativity with brother portrait

Not so long ago we had an opportunity to chop it up with the brother portrait and we discussed topics such as the black British experience, London’s creative scene and its collaborative energy, his upbringing and his music and poetry.

We first caught wind of brother portrait through an unusual sequence of events which followed after crate digging at a local record shop in Brooklyn, Pretoria. We got 5 records namely, Nat King Cole’s Greatest hits, Gloria Gaynor’s Love Tracks and a compilation album called ‘Black Is Beautiful’ which included hits by Gladys Knight. Out of intrigue, we were quite curious about what the ‘Black Is Beautiful’ album was about because at the time, we did not have a record player so we chose to go on an online search for the compilation album and the first platform we used for searching was Youtube and we typed in the name of the compilation of the album and to our surprise the results of the search came up with Windmills by the Black/Other. After a few plays of the song, the Nusoulhub Radio team was compelled to find out more about these three amazing artists. The first thing we did was to do research about the members of the group and we didn’t know that the universe was plotting something that we weren’t aware of, a week or two after finding out Black/Other, brother portrait released a video which combined two of his songs called Seeview and Rearview to create a powerful cinematic story. The video was directed by Nadira Amrani and it was effort to depict the dual experience of being a migrant in Britain.

Talking about his upbringing and whether he, like most creatives and artists, has struggled to strike a balance between his work life and creative life he said the following “ I try not to separate the two too much, because I need those two aspects of my life to work together”. One’s upbringing shapes how one makes sense of the world and brother portrait, real name Hadiru Mahdi, has always had the avenues to include art in his life as he has parents who had been active in art.“Being involved in art has never been a problem, even in school and my academics I made sure that I made an effort and I did quite well. My dad was involved in the arts and music back in the day in various musical outfits and they played around the UK”.

“I try not to separate the two too much, because I need those two aspects of my life to work together” – brother portrait touching on how he balances his work life and his creative life.

We unpacked some of the experiences of being a young and black British individual in an attempt to understand some of the experiences that the diaspora face in the first world. Drawing parallels between the black British experience and the black Southern African experience and how we evidently express ourselves. Interestingly enough, most of the content that brother portrait raps about and the music that he makes can easily become a soundtrack to movements like FeesMustFall in South Africa, where black bodies are continually experiencing violence as they call for free education. Understanding the experiences of the African diaspora is crucial and it is important to document the narratives that we have as a people. Touching on the topic of the creative experiences that are seen in the diaspora, brother portrait said the following “There are guys in France that are doing amazing work, artists predominantly from the Congo are finding interesting ways to express themselves and tell their stories.”

Expression lies at the core of most things that brother portrait involves himself in and through his own personal expression and his interactions with other creatives in South East London, a creative movement was born.

One of the things that brother portrait stressed was the importance of owning and sharing our own stories. With the rise of de-colonial rhetoric in black movements in various parts of the world, the stance that brother portrait chooses to take with his music comes at a time where conversations about black identity are taking the forefront and his music aids, strengthens and furthers the conversations about the ownership of one’s blackness and black narratives. Brother portrait is relentless with his depictions of his experiences as being a black artist in the first world.

“Being involved in art has never been a problem, even in school and my academics I made sure that I made an effort and I did quite well. My dad was involved in the arts and music back in the day in various musical outfits and they played around the UK”

“I am fortunate and blessed to be surrounded by really amazing artists and I am blessed to call most of them my friends. Most of what we come up with is a result of jam sessions with friends” he said. Beyond the music, brother portrait is really good friends with Theo and Josh who are the other members Black/Other and this friendships shows in the creative chemistry that we witness in their work. Brother portrait is able to draw inspiration from his Sierra Leonean background and Theo and Josh are able to draw from their Mauritian and Sierra Leonean backgrounds respectively.

Nadira Amrani_BROTHER PORTRAIT_1.jpgPhoto credit: Nadira Amrani

It is evident that the creative scene in South London has a great collaborative energy as the creative efforts of some of the active participants in the scene are producing amazing work. “I honestly didn’t think that our work would reach this far and that it would have such an impact” he said. What is more interesting is the level of independence that artists in London have and how they are able to come together and create amazing work. “Collaboration is very important, I would like to work with other artists in Europe, West Africa and even South Africa “. The model that is used in the South London music scene to get things happening independently is fuelled by the willingness of artists to work together.

“Collaboration is very important, I would like to work with other artists in Europe, West Africa and even South Africa “.

Every great artist is influenced by great artists that came before them and this is also the case with brother portrait as he mentioned growing up listening to African musical pioneers like Lucky Dube and Fela Kuti. When it comes to producing creative work, we cannot limit brother portrait to just spoken word poetry and Hip Hop as he also expresses his creativity using other creative mediums such as photography and other visual aids. The bigger goal is keep working and delivering quality work for the masses to enjoy and judging by the successes of the work that he has put out, it is without doubt that brother portrait is soon to be a landmark in British creative scenes.

Nadira Amrani_BROTHER PORTRAIT-8 (1).jpgPhoto credit: Nadira Amrani

His ability to create work that transcends borders and work that has a positive impact on people which also allows them to relate and connect his work with their own experiences is quite amazing. From the look of things, 2017 is set out to be a year of great things for brother portrait and we will surely be following up on his movements.

From random jam sessions with friends and other like-minded individuals, work that proves to have a replay-effect is created. When it comes to the work created, expect no compromise in the content as you are geared to hear sincerity, genuineness and an unrivalled honesty.

Brother portrait is cut from a different cloth when it comes to creativity, particularly in music and spoken word poetry. The angles he chooses to take up in his writing act as windows into his life and his experiences.

We’re looking forward to all the projects that he will be involved in and releasing as time goes.

Being surrounded by and having access to great artists like Shabaka Hutchings, Yussef Kamaal and James Massiah, just to name a few, can result in interesting collaborations which me might get to hear in the mixtape dropping later on this year or the other projects brother portrait is working on.

A positive individual who stands for self-love, creativity, truth, sincerity and unbounded expression is needed in a time where a lot of crazy and confusing things are happening in the world. Brother portrait is one of those individuals and he is spearheading a rise in honest expression within the greater black body.

Keep your eyes locked on his movement as he is sure to be delivering work that will grip whoever gets to come across it. The Nusoulhub Radio team will be constantly engaging with brother portrait to keep you updated on new releases from the South East London creative.

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Categories
Interviews Music

Lo Kee Dot’s mission to change Canadian Hip Hop.

Bars, schemes and sharing knowledge are some of the things that modern Hip Hop lacks and if you’re a sucker for all those aspects of Hip Hop music, you have no need to despair because there are individuals out there that are spearheading and defying popular culture by staying true to themselves. One can argue that ‘staying true to yourself’ is a loose phrase in the Hip Hop context considering how open Hip Hop has been in terms of expression. As the culture evolves and changes, there has been an increase in the disconnection between the old generation and the new generation and the root cause of the disconnection sits in how participants in Hip Hop nowadays are choosing to do things.

With the rift between the old and the new generation, there are proponents within the culture who attempt to mend the disconnection and provide work that can possibly satisfy the old and the new generation. A strong voice is needed to break down the barriers which are causing the disconnect and Lo Kee Dot may be the one individual who has a voice strong enough to bring about change.

We had a chance to speak with Lo Kee Dot, the Toronto based MC about his music, his upbringing, influences and his love for skateboarding. Peep the conversation below.

Firstly, we would like to thank you for your time. It is highly important that we extend our gratitude. To kick things off, we would like to get to know who Lo Kee Dot is. Where are you originally from and where are you currently based?

Lo Kee Dot: The name is Lo Kee Dot is just a name for social media because somehow lo kee is already taken so I added The Dot just to represent my city, Toronto.

Tell us a little about your upbringing and how it shaped the artist that you are or is continually shaping the one you’re becoming?

Lo Kee Dot: I was Born in the Democratic Republic Of Congo, home original man, the sun people, Bantu for real. So ya there are traces of African pride elements in my art. I think good art has something to say about the environment that produces it, so i usually rap about the world around me, what’s going on and what I see on the daily. Also i mean growing up in the Congo maybe i got exposed to a world that most people will never understand so i try paint pictures with my words for all to see.

We know that you’re also quite passionate about skateboarding, tell us more about that? Skateboarding has a certain aesthetic and its shear power to influence culture is quite evident in society, especially in music and unfortunately popular culture. How do you marry making music and skateboarding?

Lo Kee Dot: Personally skateboarding has always gone along with music. Even as a kid playing Tony Hawk’s pro skater and being introduced to new music, musicians and genres through a video game was cool. I mean a kid could buy a skate video just cause he likes skating but end up a hip hop head because of the music selection in the video game. Ultimately i think globalization and cross media ownership has a lot to do with how these cultures spread. More recently we have seen famous musicians and celebrities rocking thrasher t shirts just to ride a wave they think they can be a part of, so ya thats kinda whack. For me I was a skateboarder before I ever even considered doing art/music. I can’t imagine trying to join a culture or pretend to be part of it just because it’s the cool or fashionable/trendy thing to do now cause when we was coming up society was hating on us as skaters or even worse black skaters on the streets of Jozi where I lived and skated for years. Shout out VEG crew and Soweto Skate Society I see they still keeping the culture alive.

LoKeeSkateNusoulhub.jpg

Talk us through the music scene in Canada, are people receptive of the style of music that you make?

Lo Kee Dot: The music scene in Canada in growing still. I mean there is enough money out here for mans to be eating off of lyrics. I Am currently an independent artist, part of a rap duo group called Asiatic Buddha Gang with King Chino. Ya the people are mad receptive nah mean they always tryna find out where to cop the tape but we haven’t pressed any yet so ya the streets demand that. It’s gonna take some time for the industry to give us the proper credits and respect that we deserve but we ain’t too worried about that cause Asiatic Buddha Gang stay getting money and respect wherever we go ya nah mean. Especially at the shows, the people love the live shows, they come out and show mad love and to that we say Peace God.

What are you trying to achieve with your music, particularly with the messages that you choose to include in your music?

Lo Kee Dot: I just wanna make good music that is true to the art form. Music that people can feel. Music they can feel because they ain’t got no choice but to feel it and they ain’t just pretending to feel it cause that’s the trendy thing to do. I wanna create music that reaches the youth in that part of the brain where they parents can’t reach them, the school teachers can’t and they just tryna make sense of the world cause that was me listening to my favorite artists. Like Listening to Dead Prez as a kid, they put a lot of world issues into a context that made sense to me. More sense than any library or four year university degree could ever make to me, and that’s real.

In a recent clip that you shared through Asiatics Facebook page, you said “Randburg taxi rank, y’all niggas wasn’t there” which is interesting because Randburg is an area in Johannesburg? That line hit home, mind telling us how you experienced Jo’burg in your time in South Africa?

Lo Kee Dot: Man Jozi is my home. I grew up right by the Randburg taxi rank and we used to go street skating in that area and just being the wild kids we were meant to be. That line was actually freestyled and just came to me so I expressed it honestly. It’s like trying to convey the energy and spirit that lives around that taxi rank area, it’s more of a feeling than something you can describe with words. I personally like how chaotic that area could get while at the same time you could meet the most interesting and genuine people you will ever come across. That randburg taxi rank line is connected to the line before it where i say dear hunter flinch I can smell the fear, randburg taxi rank yall niggas wasn’t there. I vividly remember how sometimes the rank was a place where if you didn’t belong people could smell it on you (the Tsotsi’s were pro at this). Hence the line i can smell the fear, y’all niggas wasn’t there, my niggas never scared boy. Cause we really wasnt scared, ever, never show fear, especially in the jungle with the animals. I will always have love for Jozi.

2016 is almost over, do you think that you’ve met all your music goals? How does 2017 look to you? Can we expect a solo project from you or something from your group, the Asiatics?

Lo Kee Dot: Ya as a group Asiatic Buddha Gang has surpassed the goals we set for 2016, we recorded more material than we planned to, we did more collaborations and have a buzz on the city streets. 2017 is the take over years yall can expect a project out in hard copy, some Asiatic Buddha Gang merch and more shows across Canada the U.S and anywhere the fans want it. We really wanna hit up London, Tokyo and South Africa. Yes you can expect all that a group project, a solo tape and more collaborations with select artist.

What are some of the challenges that you face when it comes to getting people to listen to your music because you take a stance which entails talking about being black and proud and going against some of the messages pushed out by popular culture?

Lo Kee Dot: Asiatic Buddha Gang we set trends they follow. So ya I mean you gone see people mention black lives cause that shits popular now or every time an innocent black youth gets gunned down we might hear something from the mainstream but that’s mostly artists who are faking the funk and creating content to follow trends but what we do is different. When I get in the booth or when King Chino makes a beat first and foremost we focus on the musicality after all we do make music and not documentaries. I have songs that are recorded and unreleased because we as a group are not sure about the level of musicality, if it’s at the level we require our art to be before we release it. Asiatics Buddha Gang we bring you that musicality and the message that is true to the art form of hip hop. Like I said I rap about what’s happening in the world around me so if all I see is a black struggle then that’s what I’m gonna rap about. I have no issues with trying to get people to listen to my music because my style of music is not for everyone. The people that fuck with it, already know what the fuck it is.(shout out you know what the fuck it is krew) I mean I usually don’t even tell people I do this music thing although I should, we could all use some shameless self promotion. Hip Hop is black music so you think that the message of the black struggle would be more prominent in this genre but most mainstream artists are owned by labels that do not care about the true essence of the culture, they just see dollar sign and coons that they can exploit to get that 100k a year and a white picket fence somewhere in a gated community. Crazy how the exploitation of hip hop culture almost mirrors the exploitation of black people all over the world. Cause here we have something created by black people but somehow black people are profiting the least from the culture Just like the congo has the greatest raw mineral deposit of Coltan but the children of the Congo still starve to death as they slave away at these mines that the Europeans set up. Just like Hip Hop is the raw mineral that came from a history of jazz and blues in America we have White owned record labels and distribution companies than exploit the raw material or cultural commodity known as hip hop. Different game same exploitation tactics perpetrated on the black conscious.

When it comes to music and skateboarding, who are your biggest influences?

Lo Kee Dot: In Music, Rakim, Elzhi, Roc Marciano, Ka, King Chino, Khamca, Dead Prez, Big L, B.I.G, Pac, Lauryn Hill, Nas, Conway and Westside Gun. In skateboarding I am mostly influenced by the people I get to skate with, the squad, you know who you are, but for the sake of name drops let’s go with Wade Desarmo.

We’re currently living in a digital age which entails the heavy usage of technology and this also has an influence on how artists these days create music and how people consume music? Are you embracing the digital, if you are how does it simply your life as a rapper?

Lo Kee Dot: I embrace the digital age but it’s like a double edge sword. All technological advances come with a down side so ya we live in an age where it has never been easier to make music and disseminate it. That is a good and bad thing because not everyone should be making music but with how easily accessible the technology is we have a new artist everyday who thinks they are next up but they wrong cause Asiatic Buddha Gang, we next for real and we gonna take over the city and they can’t stop it. I mean Also We live in that instant gratification generation where people wanna make music fast, fans wanna hear it fast and artists wanna get rich quick. My music takes time and ages like wine while they shit just get thrown out with last season’s trends. I want Longevity like De La Soul.

Given a chance, where would you ideally want to perform in Africa or the rest of the world?

Lo Kee Dot: I wanna Perform In Jozi, you know sell out the Coca Cola dome, then Cape Town cause hip hop Lives there and always has and always will, for the rest of the world we wanna do Tokyo Japan and London in 2017.

How important is collaboration to you?

Lo Kee Dot: Collaboration is important, but I feel like ideally the artists collaborating have to connect on a level where they both understand what is happening and what they are trying to achieve. The styles have to match and the chemistry has to marry the melody and you will have one harmonious experience. Personally I charge money to collaborate with other artist unless the project is mutually beneficial or in the interests of the Asiatic Buddha Gang.

In closing, where can people find you on the internet? Where can people find your music? Any last words that you would love to share to your fans and potential fans that will be reading this?

Facebook pages:
Asiatic Buddha Gang
lokee
King Chino (producer)

Instagram:
@lokee_it
@kingchinos

Follow Lo Kee Dot on social media and most importantly on Soundcloud so you can get updated on new releases and projects.


Categories
Interviews Music

Disrupting South Africa’s music landscape with Obe Bomaye

Difference and innovation are two feats that are hard to come by these days and with the increased amount of monotony and lack of uniqueness in music and art, it is becoming difficult to find curators that can put out work that is captivating. One may easily find oneself stuck in conundrums which entail questions of where to find young artists that are going against the grain by refusing to compromise who they are for the sake of popularity and fame. Although in many ways art is subjective, but it is always great to filter the bad out to ensure quality. How often do you find a talent that gets you excited about creating and the work that results from creative releases? It is without doubt that we are spoilt for choice when it comes to music, but the big question is: Can the artists that flood playlists globally create work that stands the test of time? Only a few can manage to do that and Obe Bomaye is easily an artist that has the potential to be a landmark in South African music.

Obe Bomaye embodies everything that it takes to create work that is timeless and work that will stand the test of time. With only one track on Soundcloud and a few features, Obe has managed get his song featured on The African Hip Hop Blog, which is arguably one of the biggest Hip Hop blogs in Africa. We need to stress the fact that some artists only get to achieve this after having released a lot of musical work. Well thought-out raps and expertly executed flows separate the men from the boys. We had an opportunity to chop it up with Obe Bomaye and we got into his mind and got to understand who he is.

We have an interesting story about how we came across your music and the story is rooted in the power of the digital age and the ease with which connections are formed online. We were on a quest on finding South African music online which was alternative with respect to the music landscape in South Africa, we found you through a friend on Facebook and we had to find out more about you. Please introduce yourself and tell us more about how you got create music?

Obe Bomaye: First of all, big thanks for reaching out! It’s always great working with a platform that recognises and encourages independent movements that aren’t just on the mainstream wave. I’m an artist who is currently based in Cape Town. I am from Port Elizabeth originally but I spent most of my childhood in Pretoria. As a rapper and graphic designer I express myself best through these two art forms. I’ve always loved language and painting vivid ass pictures with my words so Hip-Hop just happened to be the best way for me to release all the wild thoughts I had stuck in my head.

How has your upbringing shaped the person that you are right now or rather the artist/creative that you are? The places that we inhabit and visit have a way of shaping how we think and how we perceive the world. Where are you currently based?

Obe Bomaye: I’m currently in CPT but I’m moving back to Gauteng next year. I have moved around quite a bit in my short life and I feel like me being in all of these different spaces has really given me a broad outlook on everything. I absorb quite a lot in whatever I do so everything that I have learned has had a great impact on my creative process.

Who are some of your influences? One cannot simply box you in a particular category. We can see that from the stark musical differences on the songs that you have been featured on?

Obe Bomaye: Some of my biggest influences are rap acts from the late 90’s and early millennium. Black Star, Slum Village, Method Man & Redman… and local emcees like The Anvils, Zubs and Tumi. That’s what I grew up on. My older sister is quite the Hip Hop head so she passed on a lot of her knowledge and music taste on to me as a young’n. As I grew older I then began to draw inspiration from more alternative artists/bands like Kid Cudi, Fela Kuti, 340 ml, M.I.A and such. That really started to shape my sound and it pushed me to go beyond the safer and more traditional form of Hip Hop.

Tell us about your creative process and how your song 40 000 Hitmen came about? What were some of the motivations and inspirations which lead to the creation of that song?

Obe Bomaye: I recorded 40 000 Hitmen about 2 years ago with a close friend of mine, iamx. We are part of a duo called @parallelworldz but that project is sorta on hold at the moment. I was going through some things at the time so the song speaks of the challenges and demons that I was facing. I only decided to release it recently because I went through a similar slump again and I felt like it was the best time to let the track go.

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Do you think that South Africa is ready for the style of music that you make? This question could easily tie into what you’re trying to achieve with your music. Are there any gaps that you’re trying to fill which you have identified?

Obe Bomaye: I believe that there is definitely a market for the type of music that I make in SA. Whether the masses are ready to invest in it or not? I’m not quite sure. I know a lot of people who are hungry for my type of sound. I really love trap but I feel that it is quickly becoming saturated in the local scene. Everyone is gunning for the same crowd. I’m pushing to reach beyond S.A borders and tap into foreign markets as well so I try not to worry too much about only appealing to the South African audience. I believe it’s bigger than that.

The South African alternative, underground and beat scene has seen a steady increase in the last few years. These days, you can find talented people which could be placed within those categories from all corners of South Africa and this is due to the increased realization of the power of the internet. Are there any South African artists that you would like work with?

Obe Bomaye: There are quite a few artists that I admire in the mentioned scenes/sub-genres. I generally gravitate towards artists who have a different style to mine and who really embrace the unique aspect in their respective arts. To name a few Mashayabhuqe KaMamba, Beat Sampras, Moonchild Sanelly, Petite Noir, Ganja Beatz, Nonku Phiri… I really feel like we (South Africans) have a lot to offer to the world in the “alternative, underground and beat scenes” therefore I could go on forever about the local artists that I would like to collaborate with.

Do you feel that there are enough platforms in South Africa that give artists like you that create the music that you create? What are some of the things that you would like to see?

Obe Bomaye: I feel like these platforms have been popping up everywhere in recent times and that there has been a lot of progression in that regard. I don’t think we should be wait to be handed anything and that we should rather create these spaces ourselves. If we do that then we also get to retain some ownership of the movement rather than just letting the corporates come in and scoop everything up. I’d love to see more Black/African-contemporary-artist focused festivals though, events based on concepts that are similar to the AFROPUNK and Camp Flog Gnaw festivals.

What is your opinion on collaboration? Do you think that South African artists/creatives need it more now than ever?

Obe Bomaye: I believe collaboration is extremely important in any context. South African artists need to come together now more than ever because all eyes are on Africa. The culture vultures will try their best to conquer and divide us in order to maximise profits, so we need to be very strong as a unit.

Where would you like your music or any other creative efforts that you’re involved with take you?

Obe Bomaye: I would like my music to take me all over the world. I want my creativity to be a vessel that carries everything that I hold dear to my heart.

What are some of the challenges that you face as a young artist residing in South Africa?

Obe bomaye: One of the biggest challenges is trying to remain as authentic as possible without letting the styles of America and the West influence your work too much. It’s also quite difficult to pursue your passion on an empty stomach, so juggling work makes it tricky as hell.

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Given a chance to perform anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

Obe Bomaye: I would really love to perform in Kenya. Almost every Kenyan person that I’ve met has a really cool aura about them, their taste in music is also quite diverse. What’s brewing in the London scene is also very dope and I feel like my style would be received quite well over there.

How are you using social media and the power of the internet to share your music and your other creative work?

Obe Bomaye: I try my best to engage with people who share similar interests. Whether it be art, politics or even sports. Sparking conversation in these kinds of circles makes it easier to attract people to my music pages, links and what not.

In closing, where can people find you on the internet? Any words for your followers and potential followers?

Facebook: Obe Bomaye

Twitter: Obe Bomaye

Instagram: @blk_shepp

Follow Obe Bomaye on Soundcloud

I would tell my followers to be patient and please keep their ears to the streets. I’m working on some really gravy stuff at the moment and I feel like I’m going to shake things up! Word.

Obe Bomaye is someone to definitely to look out for. The Nusoulhub Radio team will keep following Obe and updating the masses about the work that he will be putting out in future.

 

Categories
Interviews Music

Finger Trips’ rise in the East European beat scene

Instrumental Hip Hop is a sub-genre of Hip Hop and it is basically beats that an MC or rapper would typically rap on. It is important to note that due to Hip Hop’s ever-increasing segmentation and categorization, more genres are born. Gone are the days where beat-based beats and the producers of those beats only served purpose of solely supplying beats to rappers or MC’s. Producers all around the globe have taken a step forward by creating and pioneering a new genre that has grown to be respected and valued in music.

One individual that is particularly championing Instrumental Hip Hop is Finger Trips, who hails from Poltava, Ukraine. Being in East Europe should prove to be quite interesting as the Instrumental Hip Hop scene is still small, connected and the ones who participate in it act as a family or brotherhood. The Nusoulhub Radio team had an opportunity to speak to Finger Trips and find more about him, his philosophy when it comes to music, his upbringing and more.

Greetings, brother. We would like to thank you for responding to our call for an interview. We recently got to know of you through connections on Soundcloud and on a music note, we have a little idea of who you are. Mind letting us in on who you are and where you’re from?

Finger Trips: Peace everyone! My name is Maksym Dudka. I’m a beatmaker from Poltava, Ukraine. Nowadays I’m releasing Instrumental Hip-Hop music under the name Finger Trips. Nusoulhub:How does your upbringing and where you come from play a role when creating the sounds that you’re known to produce? Finger Trips: My journey began in 2002 when my parents took me to music school. They did not do that in hopes that I would become a musician, they wanted their son to spend less time wandering the streets. I studied there playing trumpet for 5 years. I finished music school but music was not part of my life until 2013. This year was the time I dived deep into the history of hip-hop and exactly in its golden era that inspired me to start learning writing a beat.

Tell us more about the music scene in Ukraine, particularly when it comes to instrumental Hip hop and beat music. Is there a more dominant genre of music that is popular in Ukraine and can one, if possible, see some stylistic similarities with that particular genre and your productions?

Finger Trips: I’m not really delved into the history of Instrumental Hip Hop in Ukraine, but I think that for the most part it is seen as an individual genre, this genre has been around for sabout 10-15 years, and ofcourse back then there were benchmarks which appeared in the music in the early 90s. As for me, nowadays in Ukraine this genre has become really popular. I can distinguish most famous beatmakers that have similarities in their genre with mine for example Klim Beats, The Cancel and Smuff tha Quiz, they all have their own style.

When did your musical journey start?

Finger Trips: I started building my network and putting out my work from the beginning of 2014 under the nickname Sweet So Weed, and the first EP was entitled “Catch Funky”.It had a blast among the B-Boys with the title track “Be YOng”. An Eastern Europe music party called “More Than Dope” from the neighboring country Belarus, was inspired my track and they used it in their movie.

Every artist has a philosophy when it comes to creating, mind letting us know what yours is? This philosophy often sits as the core reason as to why artists create artwork.

Finger Trips: My view consists in dreams that I can leave my originality and a mark in the Hip-Hop music and culture in general, and bring my own style and rhythms to it. I want to collaborate with some rap artists who have been inspired by my beats and create what would turn out to be a good product.

As much as your core focus is beat production, do you have a particular message that you always try to push out in your music? The messages attached to your beats could be conveyed in maybe how you choose to title your beats?

Finger Trips: In my mind, making instrumental music making is for a person who has a passion and an ear for it and someone who, in his or her mind, understands some political history or situation, possibly inventing or remembered with real life. The name of my tracks are often taken from the name of old records from which samples are basic cut. But often I just twisted it into some words that is closer to the subject of the track.

What is your creative process? We would not want to know what your trade secrets are when it comes to creating your beats, because we respect the process. Is there a piece of equipment that has to be in your setup when making beats?

Finger Trips: It’s all just my little wonder and the buttons from a company called AKAI. Until recently, the album “Funky Weekend” I used the AKAI MPD 32, then changed the MIDI keyboard into a full-fledged AKAI MPC1000. I like playing on a drum machine samples complete live without play buttons,at the same time I play drum samples and samples that are cut from the old tracks on vinyl. So I just can get almost full track playing on buttons and thinking through all the new combinations in the sampling.

How important is collaboration to you? Have you collaborated with any artists that are beyond Ukrainian borders?

Finger Trips: So far, I’ve only worked with local artists and artists from neighbouring countries, but I am open to all of the world. Maybe some of your rap artists hear my beats and want to make a track, it will be cool.

Who are some of your major influences when it comes to music, art and life in general? We know you’ve tagged yourself as someone who primarily produces Instrumental Hip Hop and beat music and we assume that your interests in music are probably beyond those genres.

Finger Trips: I don’t limit myself to instrumental Hip-Hop or beats. I think if you listen to one style music in the style of you doing, then you will repeat for those who you listen, maybe not consciously but it’s true. I’ve always liked Reggie and Dramenbeys and Ragga Jungle I just really excited. Also, like in the old school house sound this is closer to the disco. But the most favorite for me is always Funk, its really inspires me. Jazz and Soul also be loved and I sampled its old records too.

Given a chance to perform anywhere in the world, where would you ideally want to perform?

Finger Trips: Perhaps in France, and especially Marseille, my dream is to go there. It would really be great if I have a chance to play in every city in the world, because each is individual and would have inspired me. And now I know that I should come to play in South Africa, because there are people who have heard or will hear my tracks. It’s cool.

We are currently in a time where we are probably experiencing some ground-breaking advancements in technology which have an effect on how we make and consume music and art. Think about how technology made it possible for us to connect online to carry out this interview, are you embracing the digital age and does the advancements in technology affect your creative process in a positive or negative way?

Finger Trips: Only in a positive way, because now I can quietly have my own collection of movies, audio, pictures that inspire me to collaborate with other artists from all over the world. And now it’s not necessary to have all music tools at home, you can simply download drum sounds in a drum machine, put it in your backpack and go have a great journey.

How important is it to you to stay true to yourself in a world that is constantly trying to tell you who you should be?

Finger Trips: This is an important part for every person, especially for individual who writes music in it’s authentic style, not like what the majority is enjoying.

In conclusion, where can people find you on the internet? Where can people buy your music?

Finger Trips: My lastest work can be heard on my page Soundcloud – soundcloud.com/fingertrips – and if you are interested in my early albums, you can go to BandCamp – fingertrips.bandcamep.com. Last EP will appear there later.

Are there any shout outs you would like give out, any words for your fans or potential fans?

Finger Trips: Create To Enjoy!

Finger Trips released an EP called Funky Weekend this year, which you can stream below.

Categories
Interviews Music

Getting into the mind, music and art of King Callis

So we recently chopped it up with the young North Carolina based MC, King Callis. The 23 year old stood out to us because he is relentlessly championing a style of Hip Hop music that is unpopular in the times that we live in. We got to find more about him. Peep the conversation below.

First things first, we would like to extend our gratitude and appreciation for hitting us up after reaching out to you. We would like to know about you, please let us in on who King Callis is and where you’re from.

King Callis: Peace, King callis is just a regular everyday Black man in America, trying to stay alive provide for my family and express my life in my art. I’m originally from Akron, Ohio now I’m residing in Charlotte North Carolina.

The places that we are from often have an evident effect on our world view, perspective and if you’re a creative, they have an effect on your creativity. How has your upbringing shaped you and how do take what you were brought up on and express it in your musical work?

King Callis: I grew up in a lower class society majority of my time in Akron we lived in the projects, living in the projects made me the person who I am today I experienced everything early that most people don’t see until their 20’s. So when I make my music everything is a reflection of the environment I grew up in so I try to give that feeling to the listeners who never been to where I’m from.

You seem very connected to your African ancestry and this is evident in some of your lyrics and we see some glimpses of African symbolism in some of your videos, notably “Me dopawaa” where you’re wearing an ankh. Can you tell us why you think it is important to champion one’s identity and ancestry?

King Callis: I feel it’s important for me to include my African ancestry in everything I do because we’ve been cut from our roots we barley know who we are as African Americans. So my whole objective is to return back to Africa pretty soon and my agenda is to push that same idea of returning to my supporters.

The world has its eyes on America, especially the recent violence against black bodies all over the States and the presidential elections. What stands out for us, particularly in South Africa, is how black American artists are using their art and music to voice out their opinions and frustrations. What’s your take on using music to be a mouthpiece for social change and awakening the masses about some of the issues that we face?

King Callis: Well with the hip hop culture that’s why it was started for us to express ourselves for everything we’ve been going through. I feel if you’re gonna get on the mic say something that has a purpose, plant the seed that can be the change for tomorrow. So for me my whole objective with my music is to inform and reform.

Let’s get into some of your work. We know that your last project, Brunch, was released last year in March and also featured on the scratchtheblock blog. Can you tell us about that project and what inspired its creation?

King Callis: Around the time or maybe a year before I start writing brunch I found knowledge of self I found out who I really am as a black man so I wanted my sistren and bredren who’s blind to also have this information. So the whole meaning of brunch is pretty much food for thought, displaying knowledge for my family.

Is there any follow up project that people that support your work can look out for?

King Callis: Yes my follow up project for brunch is titled SELF LOVE + MELANIN and the concept is just exactly what the title says it’s gonna be a two side album the first side is all about embracing and loving thy self and the second side is more of a celebration among blacks for having melanin.

One of your recent song releases on Soundcloud caught our eye and sort of hit home. The song in particular is “Bambani abathakathi” which, in Zulu, translates to catch the witches/evil doers, can you tell us more about that song and the motivations behind it?

King Callis: When I made the record I made it with the mindset that I wanted to make a new song to put a silence to all the ignorant violence promoting artist that’s out so that title bambani abathakathi fit perfectly and it also was a chance for me to including African culture into my art.

On most of your profiles and bios online, you mention that your style mirrors Slum Village and Common, who are some of your other influences?

King Callis: Fela Kuti, No Name, Zev Love X, Nina Simone, Toni Morrison, Solange Knowles, Brand Nubians.

What can people expect from a King Callis project?

King Callis: When it comes to my music you can expect a lot of pride in being black, ancient kemet knowledge and unconditional love.

How are you embracing the digital age and the shift from analogue to digital is quite evident and the fact that we were able to connect online is testament to the power of technology. Do you think that the digital age is bringing in more good or bad change? What’s your take?

King Callis: I’m not that into the digital age I still like to burn my music on CDs and give them out, a lot of people don’t even listen to CDs anymore just Spotify, iTunes and etc. Besides the fact that I can reach out to people over the world for music reasons I’m not into the digital switch I still value face to face contacts.

How important is collaboration, particularly in the underground and indie Hip Hop scene? Keeping in mind the fact that in most cases the artists find themselves having to counter what the mainstream media pushes out?

King Callis: I think collaborations are important especially if you’re trying to get your name out in a different country or state, I made a song with this guy in Tokyo and now I have a few Japanese fans and producers who send me beats so yeah I feel it’s very important to collab with the right people.

Given a chance to perform in Africa, which country or city would you like to perform at?

King Callis: It would be between Ghana, Cape Town or Soweto that’s where I would like to visit and perform the most.

In closing, we would like to thank you for your time and getting to know you. Are there words that you have for people that support your work or the people that are going to be introduced to your artistry and music in the near future? Where can people find your music and where can they follow you on social media?

King Callis: I would like to peace & light to all my supporters who’ve been following me on my journey I know sometimes we may seem off track but keep your faith in Yahweh and stay positive and find true knowledge of self. You can find all my music and social media on Kingcallis.com

Follow King Callis by visiting his website and join him as he moves and grows in his journey in music.