ByLwansta has by far reached a certain peak of pure acceptance, and if you’ve ever considered his art as some sort of fly-by-night method that you thought would’ve faded away by now, then clearly you must feel pretty whack right now. Transcendence isn’t a lie nor a game; transcendence is a revelation and a blessing at the same time. Thank the culture for birthing artists such as ByLwansta, because managing to score over 10,000 votes to make it onto our first HYPE Freshman print issue is no gimmick, but it’s purpose fulfilled.
By now people are aware of ByLwansta, and it’s interesting how you are creeping in regardless of anyone’s acceptance of your artistry. And as always, we just want to kick-start this by asking how ByLwansta is feeling right now?
I’m actually so conflicted right now, hey, just thinking about life as we know it or at least think we know it. I have a question for you quick, you obviously won’t be able to answer it right now, but doesn’t it bother you how everything is predetermined? Everything is planned, every step we take, everything we do had a thought behind it, everything we say, particularly on social media, it’s predetermined, everything is planned, nothing is natural and everybody gives a sh*t, even those who claim not to. I’ve almost already imagined the reader reading this answer, I’ve already ‘prepared’ myself and my stance for someone else. It’s so crazy, and it’s driving me crazy because I’ve read through this answer five times already and that’s really bothering me. We aren’t acting on our nature anymore, we don’t do things ‘naturally’ anymore, we are all manufactured products now, we’re in a queue right now on the conveyor belt of life. What if we’re meant to be smoking marijuana? What if everything we’re not allowed to do, everything that’s illegal, is actually what could save us, but it’s made illegal to keep us at bay? What does ‘at bay’ even mean and why did I use it? ByLwansta is feeling very conflicted. Apparently I’m supposed to use this interview to market myself to the corporates, and say all sorts of smart and constructive things about myself. I don’t understand, everybody’s just trying too hard and it’s upsetting me so much.
2016 has actually been a good year for you, especially with the levelling up of your presence and evident focus. In your words, how would you describe the gifts (good and bad) that this year has given?
I feel like people have been sleeping on me a lot less this year, which is great, but I hate that I’ve invested so much of my focus and effort on actually ‘trying’ to wake these people up, because sometimes us as artists lose so much of ourselves in attempts to make people notice, so much that it settles and hardens in us and we confuse our next move for something natural. I feel like, this year in particular, I became a lot more aware of things and myself. I could pick up every ‘unnatural’ movement I’d make; sometimes my being aware stops it and sometimes it doesn’t. 2016 ‘gave me’ that gift, and that’s why I’m so unshakeable in my choice of music, and that’s why I’m rooted in the fact that I won’t be bullied to make music I don’t want to make at this point. There are people who will really respect that, and some who will think I’m just really stubborn. This year gave me a more vivid image and idea of what I need and want to do. I got closer to myself. I have a lot of answers to some ‘whys’ I’ve had for a long time, so my next body of music is going to be my most refined and my most Lwandile-fied.
When you dropped YAR that kind of proved how threatening you are. How has the reception of the project been since the drop?
I’m actually genuinely curious about how I’m seen by the industry, hey. I wonder what the artists who are already ‘in’ the industry and happened to have heard of me think; what do they say when someone brings my name up? Do they like me? Do they think I’m too opinionated? Do they think I’m a threat? Do they think I need some PR training? Sometimes I wonder, because the people I get the most accurate feedback from are the normal (normvl) people, the people who are interested in the music instead of how they could benefit financially or socially from it/me. But to properly answer the question, humans really loved YAR; the ones who were already familiar with my music seemed quite blown away, because they were aware of where I left off on the NORMVL mixtape. It actually caught me off guard, mostly because I had spent so much time focusing on it and playing it back that I didn’t imagine the kind of response it would receive, but I like to believe that every bit of feedback was genuine, don’t ask how I know, but I think I’m a good judge of character and the words people would use, the effort to say it, I could smell genuine all over it.
Word. The culture’s progression is moving faster and faster; please give us a ByLwansta insight on how SA hip hop has functioned in 2016.
To be honest, ByLwansta would be really surprised at most of the insight I’d be giving, because he doesn’t really pay attentive attention to what’s really happening in the scene musically, just as an artist and music maker. He doesn’t really let the hockey and soccer players all around him influence the way he kicks a rugby ball; I hope that makes sense. For as long as I’ve known ByLwansta, I know he often looks within for inspiration rather than outside, and/or over people’s shoulder. I don’t think he likes being influenced by the wave, but as a listener of music, though, he’s aware. In terms of progression, the culture is more of a force now. House music artists/DJs/producers actually shake and get goosebumps now when it’s time to decide on which song closes the year, because we’re a force now. I say ‘we’ because as much as some of us aren’t doing the same music, we are hip hop. Our full capabilities might not be represented to the T, but we all fell from the same tree of hip hop, some people are apples, some are acorns, some are just leaves and just go with the wind, but same tree.
Interesting. Now when the Freshman link was dropped, the people supported you until the end. How did witnessing that support make you feel and what are your thoughts on the rest of the selected Freshmen?
For a long time, I’ve always just wanted it to be easier for the people who support me to win those debates about who’s better than who. These days, in order to even qualify for consideration, you have to be making huge strides, despite the fact that the debate is about who’s ‘better’ skill wise. It’s so weird. Realistically we’re judged on our visibility before our actual skill, which makes a lot and absolutely zero sense. So with that said, I feel like all the support they were giving me was for me and for them. They’re tired of me not ‘winning’, they’re fed up of me being overlooked, they really want me to win, and sometimes there’s no better feeling than that. I feel like the 28 candidates were an almost 100% accurate representation of the artists who are actually putting in work and making strides, and obviously those who make great music. I was especially happy to see seven of my collaborators on there too. I do, however, wish the top seven was made up of my collaborators [laughs]. I haven’t met a lot of them, so it would’ve been really perfect to meet in the name of HYPE.
Would you say SA hip hop has lost its fundamentals in terms of shining a light on the new wave of artists who are hungry to take over?
YES, particularly if that new wave of artists are mostly independent (not unsigned) artists. I’ve recently started feeling like the industry doesn’t care too much about independent artists because of the absence of that really ‘important’ co-sign from a record label, big names or the industry gatekeepers. There isn’t anyone to ‘validate’ you, because essentially that’s all one really needs, a co-sign, unfortunately. That’s why you find young artists constantly tagging the more established artists in tweets and posts with their song links, because they know that much about how the game works. I don’t get why I could get 12 likes on a post about how I just had a song playlisted on a major radio station, but get 209 likes on a post about meeting Khuli Chana. We shouldn’t need to be validated by things we have no control over, but that’s just the way things are, I guess. There are industry gatekeepers who can’t stand the current state of hip hop, but give huge platforms and opportunities to those advocating that state, and almost intentionally ignore those making the music that they loved. It’s so strange, but it only really bothers you if you’re constantly seeking validation. Sometimes I do and sometimes I couldn’t give a sh*t.
To conclude, let’s imagine you’re in some time in the near future on stage receiving a major HYPE Awards trophy. You are about to give one short, deep speech to everybody who didn’t believe in you. What would you say?
I’d probably get on stage and start laughing uncontrollably first, then say “Thank you so much, from the bottom of my heart, for not believing in me, because as cliché as it sounds, you gave me more room to believe in ByLwansta more than I ever could. Thank you for overlooking me, because it made me uncomfortable about my reach. Thank you for thinking my video doesn’t live up to your standard, because that made me sour and want to make work that makes your standard look like sh*t. Thank you for not making things easy for me, because all I know what to do now is go hard. Thank you for not letting me be comfortable, because it allowed me to get to that place on my own, and lastly,” then a beat starts playing and I go into a surprise performance and then it rains Easter eggs at the end and everyone goes home happy. FIN.