Young vicious hip hop artist Dee Koala is a force that many have gotten familiar with. The Cape Town-based Rapper is literally at the helm of leading a new wave of fierce & hungry rappers within SA that can rival anyone willing. Within almost two years, Dee Koala has solidified her presence within the game. Having already revealed her potential to become a great, this 21-year-old is clearly climbing her own ladder to the top in her own way, at her own pace… End of October she released her debut album titled 4 The Khaltsha which has become a further extension to her reach. With that said HYPE got that opportunity to have our first sit-down with the limitless, rebellious Dee Koala to talk about a variety of things ranging from her start in music, the hate, the love, music her relationship with adidas and many more.
So first of all, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us because it’s the first time that we as HYPE are speaking to you in this way. I know that we have been following your career and we have been checking out your music since the first video (Whuzet) that we saw of yours… I remember I was at the office when I saw that video and I was like, “yo, look at what’s going on with this girl!”. And then that’s when we started putting our eyes & ears on you. Now, most artists that I have spoken to I’ve always asked about their “defining moment”. The moment that convinced them to make music. Most of the time you find that a person creates music as a hobby or something but for a selected few that moment comes to solidify things. When was that moment for you?
To be honest, I never thought I was going to do music, I don’t know if that sounds cliche, but I didn’t at all… Because in grade twelve I started wanting to make music which was a very odd time, So it went on to the extent of me writing poetry. I used to write poetry in grade seven, but I was like, it’s poetry… And then I got to grade twelve… I wanted to be a pediatrician or a vet because I like animals & kids. I like helping. Yeah. So I was like, eish the school part of what I like doing, you know…
But then, whenever there were things related to music, arts, and culture or whatnot, people were pointing fingers at me. Like, okay, that’s the one, that’s the person that’s going to come through with that project, that verse or whatnot. And then I recorded 2016 which was when I finished Matric, I recorded my first song with this guy called Flack. Um, I still didn’t take it seriously after that but then I did my own single called ‘Koala’ came through which was like a sing-along song to know my name then after that it was ‘Whuzet’ and on and on…
And its quite interesting to know that you worked at a thrift shop, right?
I used to work at a thrift shop yeah.
So you used to work at a thrift shop and a situation happened there but then the fact that two or even less than two years, you’ve been at the forefront of hip hop, you know what I mean? You come from Cape Town, but in Joburg, your name is really at the top. So how did you getting that recognition from all of these guys make you feel?
Make me feel? Thing is, I already felt it in Cape Town because I had like gang friends, that were male and they were rapping. So I kind of fed off from them because I was like okay, they’re doing this… “Guys let me drop bars quickly what do you think?” They were like “yo you should actually do this”. Then I actually did it then they disappeared.
They disappeared to where?
They disappeared because they were like she’s taking everything. She’s taking people. And are people who were in my circle… Not in my circle per SE but the people that I know rapped, the people that I went to go support when they were rapping. People my age, the up and comers… Because they used to do boom-bap and then I came with the vernac and everyone was just like “OMG, we feel like spaza rap is back but in an updated way, not like the way spaza rap”. I think they got intimidated at some point and they didn’t show love. As time went by and they thought my career was going to fade out, that’s when they started showing love again because they were like okay, “she’s actually doing these things now. Now she’s going to Major League Gardens with Ricky on stage. Now she’s doing this, now she’s doing that… You know what we need to keep Dee here, we need to protect her”. That is when they were acknowledging and accepting my gift because they were being b*tchy about it at first, but then now they’re just like, yeah, that’s our girl and I’m happy that happened because I don’t like that energy. I like it if someone learns from their mistakes and whether it’s fake that’s from you, but it doesn’t affect me if it is because I don’t take it out on you. You’re not my best friend and my family you know? You’re someone who’s acknowledging me and saying I’m doing good. I even appreciate critiques. But there’s a difference between critiquing and hating… People mix up the two.
I think that there’s a difference between getting hate from someone close & just getting hate. And I’m trying to imagine where you find the strength to keep yourself moving forward. Most of the time we see the good stuff that the artists have going on but everybody’s human, right? We know that the bad stuff also happens and that can also hinder creative processes that an artist goes through.
Or inspire… Where is your inspiration source from?
It has to be from myself first because I see what I’m doing. I’m proud of what I’m doing. So it makes me want to do more. But here’s the catch. I don’t accept that I’ve done much, which is what keeps me wanting to do more. You know, when people are saying “yoh you living a lot now you coming through you yoh” and I’m just like Nah, I’m trying man… I’m trying bro” because it makes me feel like I’m not doing enough, which makes me want to do more than what I’m doing. But if I just sat back and was like “yeah, I am doing enough”then It’s not going to make me hungry. It’s going to make me accept and be comfortable. When there could be another me that comes through. Then I’m in the shade now and because I chose to chill… Yeah, even I know that I’m the King or whatever. That’s okay. Think that in your head but don’t show it because you mustn’t play all your cards. You don’t know who’s your enemy. You don’t know who’s your friend. You don’t know who’s your competition.
How do you stay so different? I’m pretty much just asking you to define how different you are from the rest. There are so many kids out there Dee that are trying to do what you’re doing.
There are a lot and we have seen a lot, but I know I always go with the saying “many are called, few are chosen’ you know what I mean? What makes your energy so different from the other people? Can you describe it? Is it something that you can break down?
I just think it’s authenticity because this is the thing, I’m going, to be honest. In the music industry, a lot of people sound the same right now. So people get shocked when they see someone who doesn’t look like what they rap. Because I’ve gotten it a lot like “oh is she the person… it’s this little girl” You know, type of thing? I think it’s like when people can’t expect what will come from you, that’s what keeps them on their toes. And that’s what keeps me being me because when I get my content from home, I got my content from friends and I get my content from family. The stories that my friends are going through, it doesn’t have to be me. I can depict it because I want him/her to have something to relate to and be a fan of my music too. So if I create that for them, they’re going to love what I’m doing. They’re going to support it fully because they have related to what I’ve done. I can’t sing my cars, my hoes, my boobs, and stuff.
I mean I don’t know because I don’t have a car, I’m hungry, you know? So I can’t be like throwing bags in the club, I really can’t’ because I’m not throwing bags in the club. Maybe when I do have those things, I can create content out of that life but when I create content, it’s the life that I’m living at the moment.
So the album is coming (and it’s here) 4THEKHALTSHA, right?
Where is that content coming from? The same thing that you described right now?
This is the catch. the title is the number four and culture is an abbreviation from Khayelitsha. But that culture also stands for the culture, English word. So in terms of “this is for the culture”, it means this is for the up and coming, this is for the those that are already there. This is for the kasi or this is for the burbs. This is for the concerts. This for the street bashers. It’s for that, its for the girls & its for the boys. it’s for the real-life stories, even the Uyinene situation that happened, I depict that in music. I try and make it like I’m the one who’s going through that. So it feels more real. I put myself in the shoe of a story that I’ve seen or heard or had experienced for me to be able to put realness into it.
Are you strategic with regards to the people that you work with because the people that are around you and people that you affiliate yourself with, like the Ricky’s, you do work with Ricky jumping on stage with him etc. I’ve heard you on a track with Moonchild. Everybody’s talking about the ‘uTatako Remix’. So are you strategic with the people that you work with or is it more of just like a vibe?
This is the thing, I don’t approach… Let’s talk about collaboration.
I don’t approach people in terms… Like for example, if I go to Anatii or someone, start crying and be like “oh I want to make a song with you. I want to make a song with you”. I want my talent to draw that attention. I want my talent to draw attention, you know? Because that’s when I’ll be like, okay, you came through Dee, you did the most in whatever caused that person to see. So when that altercation happens, it determines the conversation, it determines what you want to do, what you want to work on. It’s like if you’re going to say something and I’m like, “um, yeah, okay, well I charge but if you’re down to work lets work”… And if you haven’t even asked me about how much I charge and you’re going to start crying already and be like “ah she charged me”. That time I even had said no numbers… But what people forget is that when you’re that artist who went to that artist, you must also know why you went to that artist. You went to the artist because of what she has, what she did with what she accomplished with, whatever you know of her, you went there convinced that yeah this is the one … And heard me saying “okay, I charge” and then you’re quickly telling everybody that she charged me, she charged me. I don’t see no wrong in that because you could’ve said, “um, well I work like this is what I’m trying to do”. Okay, let’s do it and I’m down with it. You understand? Because you have to understand my mom can’t see me hanging out with these people, these famous people but I come back home and I can’t buy bread or I can’t put in electricity or I can’t finesse her something too, you know? Because my parents don’t work, so now imagine if I come home, I look good but I can’t even be like, okay “where were you? I was with that person in Joburg. Okay so…” Not that they ask, but I mean your parents have been paying for sh*t for you, so you would want to give back. But I’m like you can’t because you working with images…
Final question… In terms of the impact that you want to make in SA, in the world… What impact is Dee trying to have on people?
As cliche as it sounds, be you and don’t be afraid to go back to where you came from to get content yourself. Don’t try and look for content where you’re not comfortable and yeah. Yeah. I’m not saying you, you cannot make content out of the club scene. You can do that. It’s going to create a bigger audience for you, but don’t do something that you’re not. Don’t do something because authority or whoever that you’re signed with or whatnot is telling you to do, in your heart if you feel like “I don’t feel this it’s not me”, it’s not you. Because that is when you’re going to lose yourself. You lose yourself, then you can’t come back. Music is like this. You’re relevant now. You can be irrelevant tomorrow. If you stay you, everything is going go the way you want it to go because you’re going to stay within your mindset.