Jägermeister have supported local bands for years, officially launching their BACK THE ARTIST competition in 2013 in association with MK. They searched for the next big single and the winner would receive a recording contract worth R75,000. With over 100 bands submitting tracks, fans voted for their favourite – and this year the ultimate track belonged to Durban rapper Sheen Skaiz who’s now in studio with one of the biggest producers in Africa, Justin de Nobrega. We got to chatting to the musician on his future plans.
How did winning the Back The Artist competition change everything for you in terms of your career?
Winning the Jagermeister ‘Back The Artist Competition’ caught me off guard. I was having thoughts off giving up this music shit. I had been constantly pushing my music for years, filming and editing my own videos, designing my own artwork, becoming a social media whore, performing and promoting my sound but I just wasn’t seeing the results I wanted. The winning track “Drangz & Brangz” had been giving people eargasms across the motherland, being the official song for Durban’s Color Festival. Having gained 30,000 views in total with fans from as far as Russia, the UK and US, you could call it a success, but it wasn’t where I wanted or expected it to be with regards to music, respect and recognition. At the same time my Rands where low, I needed bands to fund my obsession, things where getting tight and working a kak average 9-5 day job was becoming an impending reality. Being a musician, especially one in South Africa, is a fucking hard road to take and you will never be successful if you do things halfheartedly. If you’re an up and coming musician and think you can release a couple of songs and be an overnight success well then you’re in for a treat. The exact opposite is the brutal truth, you have to sacrifice everything and dedicate your life to your art. A friend once told me, the first step to becoming a musician is “losing your god damn mind”. Opportunities like the Back the Artist Competition don’t come by easily. People just don’t say “hello here’s R75,000 to invest into your life’s work”. So when I got the news that I’d won, I felt totally blessed and decided to tell all the people who doubted me [laughs]. Knowing that I was going to be working with the biggest producer in Africa, and that he’d chosen my work over a hundred other talented artists was a damn good feeling. I wont lie, at that moment I knew that this is what I’m meant to be doing and finally I’m getting the results I always hoped for. Just when I was about to give up the universe had given me my answer… She said “Don’t be a pussy, music is the answer”. R75 000 is a nice number to splash on your career, but it wasn’t even about the money, its more about the experience and the art that’s going to be created whilst we work on these records. Knowing that my reality is gonna be to eat sleep and shit music… I can’t think of anything better. Justin is the mastermind behind the production on Jack Parrow, Toya Delazy and Die Antwoord! Just spending time talking to him and being in his creative presence has taught me a lot and changed my perception of the industry. Alot of us don’t have major opportunities and everything we do is independent. We live on a constant hustle and grind, so its nice to chill for a bit and have people help me out. Winning the Jagermeister ‘Back The Artist’ competition is a huge opportunity to boost my career to the next level and there’s no telling how far I could take it from here.
How important is it for corporate’s to back the entertainment industry- and do you think government is doing enough for the arts in this country?
What many people as well as corporate’s fail to realise is that art and music influence culture and marketing is dependent on culture. Successful marketing in turn is a basic pillar of any corporate company. Celebrities especially musicians are endorsed because of their influence on culture and society. Take the 1967 VW Vanagon kombi for example… half a loaf of bread ugly ass van… But because of the dagga smoking hippie era of the 60’s and its association with Woodstock and the Beatles, it has become iconic made VW the cool car for young people even today all because of music. The music and entertainment industry in SA is growing rapidly, There’s this misconception in our country that there is no money in music. Every advert on TV, YouTube, the internet and on radio needs music and sound production so there is a lot of money that is being made by an elite few in the industry. I think the misconception is slowly starting to change. People are breaking away and allowing themselves to create and be true to who they are, this is why we are suddenly seeing a surge of talent in SA. It’s just that record labels seem to be thinking on an old ass wavelength, they seem to want to only sign and promote commercial bullshit that’s generic and all sound the same – rappers that mimic Eminem and Lil Wayne, rock bands that mimic Kings Of Leon, pop stars that mimic Rihanna and so on. I understand that it is about making money but it just takes the right team to invest in the right artists and boom! An African Icon is born! We have an untapped sound. If Kanye can look to Africa for inspiration, why can’t we? Every day I meet more and more actors, singers, musicians and creatives, people that are passionate about the arts and are all hungry out there! The corporate’s have to invest in more than just “Mnet’s South African Idols”. Our diversity and culture needs to be respected, moulded and promoted. If our government can see this and invest more in the Arts, I think we can take over the world musically. They just need to back us like the Obama’s back Jay-Z.
How far are you in the recording process with Justin de Nobrega? And when can we expect your EP?
We had been going H.A.M in the studio in March, chopping, changing, editing, smoking, arguing, getting drunk then editing some more, and are now just adding the final touches before the tracks get mixed and mastered. Talks of the debut album have been circulating but I’m not going to reveal too much right now. Its all going to depend on how bad the people want it, so lets wait and see what kind of noise my debut “EP” makes first which should be out soon.
You did a remix called ‘Gusheshe’ over the Migos ‘Versace’ instrumental. With over 10,000 hits on YouTube, how far do you still need to go to be able to have a career as lucrative as Cassper or Migos himself? Are you hoping to come up in the ranks in a relatively /short amount of time – and how would you like to be perceived in the industry?
10,000 is a good start but 10 million is the aim. I have a lot of hard work ahead of me. Even when I’m rich I’ll hustle like I’m broke. My mission is to take my sound to the moon and back and my main aim is to p0ump as much art as I can in to the world before i die. I hope after I release all these banger records that I will move up the ranks, but that’s out of my control, we will just have to see what the people think. I would like to be perceived as a “Creative being” in the industry. I don’t want to be defined by terms or genres, I consider myself to be more of an all rounded artist than just a rapper.
You play the keys – how important is it for musicians to be multi-skilled? In this era of music, doing just one thing is not going to cut it, I produce, rap and sing. If I feel a certain emotion, I’ll express it with my weapon of choice. I think all musicians should be multi-skilled. I think as human beings we have to constantly expand our minds and grow. We should never place a limit over any thing we do when it comes to positive creativity. Sticking to just one thing creates a box, and gives you the feeling of being stagnant or stifled, nobody wants to be boring in the music industry.
How important do you rate the ability to freestyle?
For me freestyling is used as a method of idea generation but honestly the term has lost its credibility. Nowadays a “freestyle” on YouTube is a lyrical showcase where a rapper “freestyles” in regard to his content but that doesn’t mean he is rapping the verse straight from his head. Rap stars like King Los and Kendrick all have pre-written freestyles. It all depends on what you want to be. You can be a true freestyle rapper, a battle rapper or a recording artist. Freestyle rapping is a dope skill and shows talent in terms of wit and quick thinking, but I feel my focus is more towards creating art, and art can never be rushed. It takes time, endless hours on your craft, perfection and sounding flawless in regards to the standards you have set for your self.
What’s in store for the rest of 2014
Right now I’m focusing on the launch of my 6 track EP, produced by Justin De Nobrega, Sketchy Bongo and myself, and then my aim is to go on a three city tour, performing in CT, JOZI & DBN – and hopefully make some power moves in the midst of all of the madness. I’m on a journey right? I’m on an adventure, so who know’s where the fuck I’ll be in a couple months? Maybe in SA maybe in LA, maybe in Tibet.
How involved are you with the Durban hip hop scene?
I have been busting my arse performing in and around Durban for years now and featuring with many Durban born artists such as Sketchy Bongo, Aewon Wolf, Witness The Funk, Kyle Deustch , HBK and Plastic Shadows. It’s not really the “Hip Hop scene” it’s more the “artist/musician scene”. I have been pushing music culture in Durban, influencing and stirring people to liberate themselves in regards to self-expression. People often ask why do I do what I do and really it’s all about passion so why not.
Lastly – why the name Sheen Skaiz?
Well, “Sheen” is because I like shiny Bugatti’s [laughs]. Nah, Sheen is actually half of my real name and “Skaiz” came about from my curiosity with the unknown; whether it be something spiritual, beautiful, alien, god-like or something we don’t understand. There will always be a curiosity with “the skies”. When you want to self-reflect or forget the world you look toward the skies and get lost in it. So for me the name “Sheen Skaiz” represents infinite possibilities, mystery and a curiosity within my self.