A true diamond that’s up & coming is an artist who goes by the name Drago Lo. Real name Xolani Lwazi Kubheka, who’s all about sick flows & punchlines, he’s repping the east hard. HYPE had a Q & A with the independent artist as he broke down how he got into the game, his thoughts on what it takes to be a successful indie artist & his upcoming album Grand Entrance.
Firstly..why the name Drago Lo?
Drago was my late father’s nickname, his friends called me by that name (Drago omncane). I’ve been Drago since age 6. I was one of the most popular dancers around my hood, so the name stuck. It became impossible for me to use a different stage name, everyone knows me as Drago where I’m from (Thokoza). So it made sense for me to keep the name.Drago Lo simply means “This is Drago”, I used to shoutout “uDrago Lo” as I introduced myself to my audience. My friends used to tease me about it, they’d yell that whenever they saw me, it sounded cool & different so I decided to keep the “Lo” too and I became Drago Lo.
Take us through your beginnings…why and how did you get into the Hip Hop game?
Funny enough I’ve never thought I’d be a rapper. Although I loved music and dancing to it, I’ve never seen myself being involved in music in any way. I was a poet, I got introduced to the art of rapping through my cousin Thulani (Twice), he had a couple of tunes he & his producer friend wanted me to hear. I lent an ear, they sounded nice, they also played me some beats. There was this one particular beat that brought out the writer in me, I felt I’d do justice to it and that was the birth of my first song. I wrote 3 paged exercise books jammed with songs. In July 2010 Hip Hop caught me, I was infected and I’ve been sick ever since.
You seem to know what you want to achieve with your music. What kind of sound do you produce? What kind of stories do your songs tell?
Well I don’t restrict myself to a specific sound, I try hard not to box myself or put limitations into my thoughts and what I can be able to do as an artist & as a musician. I just want my music to scream innovation, versatility & future. I want to create music and do things that haven’t been done before in our country. I plan to conquer Africa with my raps, so I want to produce quality music that appeals to the international market yet not confusing the local market. My music is mostly about me, how I perceive everything around me and how I make sense of it. I tell stories that every rapper dude from the burbs & every Kasi boy can relate to. I talk a lot about my dreams and what I can offer for the game.
Where do you get the inspiration to make the music you make? From the selection of the beats you jump on to the rhymes you write…
Man it just comes… I don’t go looking for it. It just comes to me; hits any time of the day or night. I can be up at 3am writing a song. For every song I write, I have a mental picture of how I want it to sound. Luckily I have someone who understands my work, who can keep up with my train of thought, my friend, producer & engineer “Play”. He’s been very instrumental in making sure that I sound the way I want to sound, tell the stories I want to tell the way I want to tell them. He’s been supplying the paint & the canvas, so I can paint beautiful works of art. I try by all means to sound different on every song without losing myself or the listener. Different flows, different rhyme patterns & easy-to-understand punchlines.
You an independent artist, what do you think it takes for one to make a successful independent career? What challenges do you face?
It takes huge balls, great talent, innovation, good quality product, hard work, patience and lots of prayer. God is everything. As an independent artist starting out cash injection is problem and getting play-listed ain’t easy. You can really handle your PR proper, you could be sitting on gold but nobody will know it. But all shall be well, by God’s grace Slikour, Ms Cosmo and DJ Zan-D have been looking out. We gonna make this work.
You also manage a mixture of artists, from vocalists to rappers, shed some light on that for us…how different is it from focusing on yourself?
I’m blessed to work with these amazing musicians. I manage 4 artists, a street Rnb artist/rapper by the name Prodigy November, he’s in his own lane, he makes Rnb for the clubs, something nobody in South Africa is doing. I have B.O, a very talented rapper & producer, he’s dropping an EP on the 31st of August 2014 #FreshSoundAlert. Nonie is a jazz vocalist with a huge angelic voice coming out of a petite frame. Well as for Miss Cee…they ain’t ready for her. She’s something else. With me it’s easy, I know what I want for my career and what means to use to achieve it. With other artists, you have to understand their sound, their target market for you to know how to sell them and I have to make sure they hungry & motivated to work hard for what they think they deserve. It’s always tricky.
What’s your opinion on our local Hip Hop industry? You think it really is as positive/glorious & mature as we constantly say it is? If you were to change anything about our music industry, what would it be?
It’s in a healthy state but I still feel it could be better. The direction and the shape it’s been taking is looking proper but I feel most people are playing it safe. Little risk-takers, everyone is gunning for the same sound. We’ve found our identity but we need to build on that & grow, not do something similar to what so and so is doing. Even DJs are coming out to party now, having their own records, I like that. Growth. I wouldn’t change much in SA hip hop, but encourage innovation and unity. Together we stand.
Who would you say is leading our local Hip Hop game right now?
A lot of guys are doing good for themselves. Da Les with that “Fire” tune (that’s my jam), K.O, KidX stays stundee (although it would be nice to see him work on a solo project), Kwesta has been making history & Reason (this lame is underrated but really, really good). However, Cassper Nvovest is really caking it, especially for an independent artist. The music he’s making is working for him right now, he has everybody turning up on that “Doc Shebeleza” tune. You can’t ignore his success whether you like him or not.
Tell us more about your Grand Entrance project.
Grand Entrance is me tryna make a grand entrance basically. It’s an album for almost everyone. Fresh sounds you ain’t never heard before. It’s me trying to break boundaries and defying all ways of making rap music in the country. It’s mostly a party album, have more than a few club anthems. I have something for the streets & something for the ladies as well. Its me trying to make that “Grand Entrance” for Ekurhuleni. At the moment I’m pushing my single “Saka”. Next it will be the title track for the album. It’s produced & engineered by Play, except the Outro which was produced by Stok Swit. A total of 13 tracks plus the Outro. I’m hoping to release the album later on this year.
Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
I see myself as a big brand and hopefully be that dude who won a couple of accolades both locally & internationally. I see myself doing good for SA Hip Hop, having a few talents signed under me and pursuing other interests outside entertainment.