Johannesburg based skateboarder, Taylor Sturgess, is known and respected in the South African skate culture and scene. Celebrated for his unique style of skateboarding and great personality, he has built up quite a strong rep in the streets; skating for brands such as now defunct South African skateboarding company FUNISU, Converse South Africa and more. He is no stranger to the world of culture and creativity.
Many people that know him as a dope skateboarder may not know that he is a great house music producer who is passionate about the electronic music. Drawing inspiration his life and passions, he channels all of his influences and inspirations to crack soothing, deep and impressive downtempo house cuts that guarantee head bops. It comes as no surprise that he partnered up with one of the best promoters of underground house music in South Africa, Surreal Sounds Music, to release a song that serves as an official introduction of Taylor Sturgess – the producer.
Cigarettes is the name of the song and it is downtempo burner crafted to grip you from beginning to end. The track is a perfect introduction to the talented producer who is definitely going to continue impress in the game.
South African millennials exist in a time where they can see their ideas grow and live, despite the challenges brought forth by South Africa’s brutal exclusionary past. A past that killed many of the dreams that today’s youth’s parents carried during Apartheid, although the country is still pregnant with societal issues and youth frustration linked to the lack of resources. The country’s youth migrates from small towns in great numbers to fast-paced cities like Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban and Cape Town in hopes to study and better their futures. Most of the youth that migrates to the bigger cities in South Africa ends up staying in those cities because of work opportunities and they find themselves integrating into those urban spaces. It has become a really rare case of finding young people that choose to stay in the lesser known South African provinces due to access of resources, particularly in the creative sphere. The notion that you need to move to the bigger cities to make a name for yourself is slowly fading out and one individual from the small mining town, Evander in the Mpumalanga province, is a great example of how you can build a name for yourself and build a scene at the same time in your home town. The individual goes by the name of Lebo Molepo, a skateboarder, film-maker, creative and just an overall awesome person.
We caught up with him about the creative scene in Mpumalanga and how he is becoming a very important component in building a budding creative scene in Mpumalanga by using skateboarding as starting point for his creativity. Peep our conversation with him below.
We appreciate your time for awarding our team the opportunity to connect with you and find out more about you and the movement that you’re pushing. To kick things off, please let us in on who you are and tell us a little bit about the movement that you are pushing?
Lebo Molepo: I am a youthful creative individual with superior self-beliefs and objectives for my life. I am dedicated, loyal and I will forever respect you until you disrespect me first. I am Lebo Molepo. Formerly known as ‘tallasskid’ but currently more renowned as Digital Rapper TV, since mid 2016 because of my passion, vision and beliefs. I consider myself a rapper, but there is a catch. I ain’t no lyrical rapper just digital. I express my thoughts, visions and life experiences in a digital way. I see myself as rapping digitally and not lyrically, hence I am the digital rapper. It’s only fair that I express myself visually and I need a TV screen to do that. I guess that’s where the Digital Rapper TV productions originated from. Simply stated ‘Doctor TV’ productions. It’s crazy how everything started with me being that tall ass kid carrying a skateboard everywhere I went. I got formally introduced to skateboarding through my older brother Phila Molepo, way back in 2010. Skateboarding became my lifestyle ever since then. I used to be a razor scooter homie back then[laughs]. The skate scene in Secunda used to be very wild and untamed back in the days of Craig Pike, Jay Pateman and Charl ‘Skippy’ Steyn. Those were there prime skateboarding days in MP, producing visual projects like ‘Sticks & Stones‘ which is still fresh and relevant today after so many years. Unfortunately I caught up on skateboarding after all this happened. The skate scene in Secunda started dying. All the skaters either stopped skating, got injured or moved out of town. In a particular case, Jay now lives abroad, pursuing the skate life and getting sponsored in the process. Last time I checked, Craig Pike, was in Cape Town, he is a well known skater. Lastly Charl is now a famous Pretoria shredder and is the co-owner of Plankie skateboards. I was lucky enough to find a few skaters who were active in those prime skateboarding days. We used to have daily street missions and I learnt a lot from skaters like Byron, Jaco, Marcus Myburg, Wian Brown and David Otto.Those were the prime skateboarding days. I took it upon myself to keep MP skateboarding alive, when myself and Phila were the only ones pushing plank. Things became easier for us when we connected with other skaters from Standerton. Cats like Lebohang ‘SteezTheRipper’ Mabele and Mxolisi ‘Shakes’ Luvuno. We started making missions together and became a brotherhood of skaters. Lebohang was the brave one who started the MPSkate Facebook page. Together with myself, Mxolisi and Phila we became the admins of the MPSkate movement. The skate scene started reviving and MPSkate became our movement. I dedicated my life to make it a success. Things took a dark turn when the OG’s of MPSkate, Mxolisi and Lebohang, moved out of Standerton. That’s when all the inspiration kicked in. I became MPSkate. I started filming and trying to gain exposure for MPSkate, that’s when I created the instagram account @mpumalangaskate. I have been progressing ever since. Until this day.
Music often shapes youth sub-cultures and inadvertently becomes the soundtrack to many youth movements. What role does music play in the movement that you’re building up?
Lebo Molepo: It’s actually insane how one trick can literally make your project a success or a failure. Every musical piece has to go hand in hand with the current project I am working on. It’s that deep. The way I see, the importance of music in the skate and film life is far greater than shaping the movement. It’s more like the foundation of everything. It’s that deep.
The one interesting aspect about what you do is how DIY your approach is. You’re not waiting for anyone to give you handouts. Why do you think it is important to have a DIY attitude as soon as you can as a young creative?
Lebo Molepo: I’m actually quite stoked that you took note of my DIY attitude. Creativity has no limits.It should not have boundaries either. It’s just a battle one should conquer with their inner creative nature. Everything about creativity is about doing it yourself. Once you cannot do it yourself, that means you depend on someone or something else. As soon as that happens, your creative objective is under siege and is not a guaranteed success. I believe one’s creativity is at its fullest potential when you are able to achieve an objective by yourself. As a young creative, I cannot stress the importance of a DIY attitude enough. Jump on that steez mate.
You combine skateboarding, music and videography to come with original content. What is the creative process behind your creations?
Lebo Molepo: Those who pursue the skate life will know that inspiration will come from various things within the skate life. From as little as watching someone else do a single trick. That alone can have you hooked for days as a skateboarder. Just try and imagine how it is for every creative who also skates in this movement. It is filled with inspiration from local scenes all the way to highest level of international skateboarding. I normally try to be creative within my boundaries and allows for my originality to shine through. I would find myself filming the other skaters around me and simply watching the raw uncut footage, a creative vision will show up to me. At times I get a mind-block, but as soon as I get inspiration from music, everything becomes smooth again. If you’ve ever tried to make visual project without music on on Adobe Premiere Pro, you will understand the type of inspiration you get from music as an editor. At this point, nothing is solid in my creative process. My ads end up different every time. The process I try to stick to is to be creative every time I try something new.
Let us in on some of the challenges that you face as young creative in Mpumalanga. Too many creatives in Mpumalanga, access to resources that could further their message or art is an identified challenge. What are some of your challenges?
Lebo Molepo: Let me add on the identified challenges. Things like access to production equipment, finances and transport are obvious challenges that we face. As much as these are our challenges, we as the MpSkate brotherhood encounter much deeper problems like keeping all the close skaters on their boards, and keeping the scene alive and kicking. There are no skate shops this side, no skating facilities either, just street. You often find homies who want to buy boards and skate but they have to travel to another province first! On the other hand, you get those homies would hit me up, talking about how they need a spare truck or even a bearing sometimes because they want to skate. That time the homie is in Standerton and I’m in Secunda. It becomes a challenge to the extent where some homies stop skating because it’s hopeless without skate equipment in Mpumalanga. One other thing that would be exposure in MP. Locals are not fully supportive and understanding. We are still seen as Taboo, every time we make town skate missions. We need exposure amongst all the people, whether you skate or not. The one thing that makes me happy is that we ‘MpSkate’ are becoming familiar in the vocabulary of the local rappers and the local skate scene in South Africa. You see your favourite rapper and skater mentioning MpSkate and you then wonder who MpSkate is, until you realise that they are in your town.
What is your process of selecting music for a video part?
Lebo Molepo: I wouldn’t consider my selection as a deep process. I basically get inspiration from life, the scene around me and I try to keep up with what’s good in the hood by all means. Recently I have been switching up the focus to local rappers but we’ll see how that goes.
Let’s talk about creative direction. We recently saw MPSkate ad on Facebook and we were quite impressed with how it was crafted. What was the starting point for the creative direction for that advert?
Lebo Molepo: Documentary Ad! I am pretty stoked about that ad. Yeah, I hit up the Secunda regulars and The Ghost Town homies too. We hooked up an OG MpSkate brotherhood skate session. That session was gnarly. I an bummed that I missed out on most of it as a result of being behind the camera all session long. The ad was crafted by using my favourite scenes from the day. Giving the viewer visual pleasure was what I had in mind. The ad is actually about MpSkate documentary that we are currently working on. It serves to show the true courage and love for Skateboarding that it to keep the skate scene alive in MP.Keep your eyes out for that one.
MPSkate connects skaters from the Gert Sibande region in Mpumalanga and the whole Mpumalanga and the movement is composed of different types of creatives, from photographers to producers and rappers. How do you plan on combining all those different skills?
Lebo Molepo: It’s insane how much you learn from simply living this type of life. I meet professional individuals who admire my creative art and they create a buzz about it.In actual fact, these are individuals that I have been admiring and supporting for a long time now. I am part of a creative production company that is still on the rise to success. Shout out to Excuse Me Sir Official, I am exposed to the creative industry and I plan to stretch my abilities beyond measure when it comes to working with other creative individuals in the scene.
In many cases, a lot of skateboarders are influenced by the music that is played in video parts. What are some of the genres that you got exposed to through watching video parts?
Lebo Molepo: [Laughs]. I actually came across a video part that had Korean and American rock and track music. I later got formally introduced to Jay Park, Cha Cha Malone and some Korean bands through Jaryd Uken aka Proda-J, my homie and music producer. I have already learnt a lot and I am a fan of Jay Park. He is truly something else.
In your opinion, does skateboarding enhance the music experience or does music enhance the skateboarding experience?
Lebo Molepo: I feel like skateboarding enhances the music experience. I have made many music adventures all because of skateboarding and what I want to achieve for the skateboarding life.
What is the bigger goal when it comes to combining skateboarding, music and videography?
Lebo Molepo: The bigger goal is to ultimately be a strong force to be reckoned with and be an influence in every aspect of what I do. Skate, music and videography. When I am skating an MPSkate skateboarding to my music while watching visuals that I have created. I will finally give myself props for getting to start what I am all about. #SkateLove.
Which songs are currently playing in your playlist right now?
Lebo Molepo: Man! Throw in some TDE in there, Bas, J-Cole, The Internet, Miller Mae; my white nigga Larry Fisherman and don’t forget about those blue Anderson .Paak days! As for my local rappers, Revivolution be the clique and the rest can eat a big fat D. On a real note, shout out to my Mp Rappers out there! Pava Gunz and Inspektah Gadget. GK entertainment shout out! Mental Case, Kickz, Mozzy Beats. Massive records shout out. Sean Drums and Jaryd Uken. Shout out to Excuse Me Sir Official! My playlist is a jungle. I have been up there on Nusoulhub’s SoundCloud too. Their station is rad.
In closing, where can people find out more about what you do and the projects that you’re involved in? Do you have any words for people that support what you do and those that will find out about you and what you do?
Lebo Molepo: I’m always around the scene! Email me on: Lebomolepo@icloud.com. I have got Facebook: pages too @MpSkate and @DigitalRapperTv. Instagram: @mpumalangaskate, @digitalrapper_tv and @iam_thedigitalrapper. I’m also on Twitter: @lebo_molepo.
Ultimately you can view my projects on my YouTube channels @DigitalRapperTv and @LeboMolepo. We got that Vimeo just for you too, @MpSkate. Shout out to the MpSkate Brotherhood. Special shout oiut to Phila, Thabang, Mxolisi and Lebohang aka NVDA clothing OG! We out here skating and ain’t stopping anytime soon. Keep up the support and buy us decks, or maybe build us a Skatepark, Lol. Even if you come say; “Hi” and pop an ollie, we still value and appreciate your time and support. Peace out. #MPSkate.
Special mention to the Nusoulhub Radio team for having me. It’s been a great interview and I appreciate your time and effort. One Love.