Have you ever had that feeling of genuine excitement when witnessing an artist blow up right in front of you? I mean, you probably have at some stage in your life, but if we’re keeping it 100%, it’s been a while within our hip hop community since we’ve felt that. This isn’t to say that there hasn’t been a selection of emerging artists out there who have evoked that level of affection but, what I’m trying to say is that it’s rare and, sometimes, when it does come, it doesn’t last very long.
There have been times when I would reminisce about ‘blow-up moments’ that did enough to push the game towards some sort of progression and, off the top of my head, names such as Emtee, Nasty C, Cassper Nyovest, Kwesta and even Frank Casino (just to name a few, because I know that there are definitely more, so don’t @ me) come to me, because they’re prime examples of what I’m probably failing to express… Blxckie is evoking that feeling in me at the moment and I’m loving it because, not only is he considered to be a spearhead for the game right now, but he is keeping up with the momentum, which is key… 2020 was the year I got word of him and that is based on seeing his name being a part of a series of records being released, almost daily, during a time when such consistency was a difficult thing to adopt, especially in hip hop, because the COVID sh*t had hit the fan, and we were all trying to figure it out. Long story short, in 2021, Blxckie is surely having a good time building up his name, and this is all thanks to his distinctiveness.
This new cover story came out of a recent conversation I had with the breakout artist, which had him ultimately painting a clearer picture of how he views himself, what his goals are, his thoughts on the current stance of our culture, and more. These are the different colours of Blxckie…
I wanted to come into this conversation with as little information about you as possible, but I know you’re from Durban, and I know that around the year 2017 is when you made the decision to take music seriously. But do you recall the first time you jumped on a mic?
Yeah, I do. I was like in grade one – that’s when I did my first few songs. My friends and I used to download beats from YouTube and just make music… And yeah, that’s when it all started.
I usually ask artists about their reasons for making music. Many do it for a variety of reasons, be it money or fame, etc. What convinced you to go down this path? When did you realise that this was what you wanted to do?
It’s when I realised that making music for myself would make people like it too, you know what I mean? And I figured out that, if I can do something like that (make music) and use it to generate some sort of income, or something like that, then that’s cool. I only realised that in my third year of university because it’s a simple thing, but once you realise it then it’s crazy, like this is what I have to be doing.
Hmm… Did you go through some sort of mental preparation before reaching this new level of celebrity, or have you just been winging it the whole time?
Yeah, I did prepare for it when I realised that I had to go to Joburg to, like, do everything. So, I had to link up with my parents, speak to them and also have some time for myself to just think about everything… The moves and all that type of stuff, before I actually took the bus down to Jozi to do what I had to do; you know what I mean? So yeah, that was part of it for me because, when I met with the parents, they said “Yo, we need to do a little ceremony; a little prayer” and just get everything balanced before leaving to do something that’s going to be hectic in terms of just, like, not being sure if it’s going to work out or not, you know?
Yeah, I know. When you dropped ‘BIG TIME SH’LAPPA’, that for me was a pivotal moment in your career but, even before that release, you were consistent with dropping records. Where does this drive come from?
With me, dawg, I record a lot… Every day, it’s like at least one song, especially if I’m around Jozi, but even when I’m in Durban, I make time to go to the studio. So, like in terms of social media and stuff, I have too many songs and I can’t be waiting to drop these songs. I have to, like, post snippets and stuff like that and, sometimes, that gets me into trouble, because I would drop a snippet, then forget that it’s there (on social media) and people still want it. Even songs from like two years ago – people are still asking about them. So yeah, that’s the whole social media thing and ‘BIG TIME SH’LAPPA’ was one of those songs, you know what I mean? We just didn’t decide to do the snippet thing, we just did it (released it) same time, out on SoundCloud, and then we met up with Ntando (Butho) for the first time ever, and he was the one that shot the video on the same day and dropped it like two days after. It was very quick.
Damn… did you expect that record to blow up as it did?
I mean, at the time the traction wasn’t at the most, but we were basically running the whole SoundCloud… During the lockdown, we were the ones who were dropping, like, every day, well not every day but, you know, on the regular on SoundCloud – dropping tapes, even singles, on a regular. So, we knew that, on SoundCloud, it would do something but then we didn’t expect it to, like, do what it did, especially with the video. It was just something that we tried, like “Yo, let’s see what this video does”, because we’ve just been dropping audio for the longest of times and we decided to do video and see how people receive it, how things would work out, and the rest is history, I guess.
I was listening to that ‘Rain Cover’ song you have with Belo Salo, and it’s honestly one of my best Blxckie performances, because you were ‘singing singing’ there…
Can you talk about that versatile side of you, because the majority of people know you for your raps?
Yeah, I listen to a lot of Deep House, Neo Soul, you know? Lira, Thandiswa and even The Weeknd, so I have that in me, it’s just that I’m finding the perfect time or pockets to put it out, but I’ve been singing, dawg. There are plenty of songs that I have where it’s just me singing, probably like an album’s worth, or something like that… So, I sing too – that’s just one of the many bags.
The music is dope forever; it’s never going to lack – Blxckie
And how does that side feed into the currently known version of Blxckie, who is the rapper?
It’s just, like, in terms of melodies and stuff like that, especially if the beat that I’m rapping on has a more melodic side or a progression to it, then it helps, because then I have different melodies to add onto it. And then, when it comes to rapping, I think it helps with structure because, with singing, it’s like a very structured sort of performance and, with the rapping, I can put the singing structure into it, and then it just sounds better to the ear.
Oh, I see. So, is there a difference between Blxckie and Sihle? In other words, how do you manage to maintain your individuality within a culture that’s honestly full of egos? Do you separate the two?
Yeah, I have to because, at home, I’m a whole different person who has to be with the family and has to do basic day-to-day things. I can’t be Blxckie all the time and Blxckie is like a very, I dunno… up-tempo and high-energy sort of person, you know what I mean? He is very ‘all over the place’. So, I try to separate it as much as possible, because I don’t like not having control of myself and, the only way I can have control over things, is by being conscious about everything.
Do know what story you’re narrating with your music? The mainstream attention you’re currently getting is indeed fairly new, but surely there’s a picture being painted, right?
I don’t know. I feel like right now, at this stage, it’s more just proving myself as an artist. The stories are within the music; every song has its own story and, whether it’s true to me or not, it’s still something that I feel needs to be said, or something like that… But, at the end of the day, it’s all about being truthful and honest – when people listen to the music, they notice that it’s true, and they can relate to it.
You briefly spoke about proving yourself there. Are you aware of the pressure you’re applying to the game right now? [Laughs]
Bro, you have to, you have to… I watched one Cassper (Nyovest) interview where he was like “Yo, Nasty C came into the game and made us switch up; everyone started rapping” and I noticed that. When Nasty dropped ‘Juice Back’, a lot of other songs after that were people trying to rap, and all that type of stuff. So, I was like “Dawg, that’s the only way the game is going to be exciting”; that’s the only way you can put eyes and focus on you – if you give rappers pressure and get them stressing, so that they can be like “Yo, this guy is actually coming”. It makes everything a lot more interesting and competitive, and people get the best music out of it.
It’s interesting hearing you mention Nasty C, because he has sort of been my comparison to you, in terms of the hype and feel of an anticipated blow-up. Do you feel a certain responsibility to constantly release better records, or at least ones that are on the same level?
Yeah, that’s where I’m at, dawg… With a lot of things, that’s how I feel it should be, like, as you go forward things should improve, and everything should be better. So, I put a lot of pressure on myself to do that, but that’s the only way things are going to work out because, if I don’t do that, then people are going to ask, “What’s the next big thing?” I have to come with the heat every time. Even on features, I make sure that, once I do one, that it drops within a month or two, because I don’t want someone dropping a feature I did, like, last year and it’s, like, not even the correct sound no more, you know what I mean? [Laughs]
[Laughs] When you work on a feature, do you have that mindset of delivering the best performance?
Definitely, dawg, I might act like it’s not like that [laughs] but you can’t be on a feature trying to relax; you’ve got to show up… Even if it’s not to outshine the other person, just show up as yourself, just boss the f**k up and do what you have to do. I don’t care what everyone else is doing. Even on a feature, I don’t care when ninjas put my verses and sh*t for a sec or whatever, as long as I’m killing it, then that’s it. It’s not even to outshine the other person, but it always ends up like that at the end, when people listen to it.
Even if it’s not to outshine the other person, just show up as yourself, just boss the f**k up – Blxckie
Man, I’m sure you’ve noticed the conversations people have about you that mention how Blxckie is saving SA hip hop, or at least breathing new life into it. How do you feel about that?
I feel like it’s true, dawg. I feel like that’s what any artist coming wants to do – they want to be a revelation to the game; you know what I mean? It mustn’t be just, like, another guy in the game, because a lot of people are doing this thing; a lot of people are rapping and singing, so if you come through with a vibe that says that there’s something going on; gears are switching – then that’s a good thing. I appreciate it, and I feel like they’re telling the truth.
Let’s just reflect a little bit more on the past here. What kind of conversations were you having with the likes of Lucasraps, 808 Sallie and Shouldbeyuang (to list a few) before reaching this stage of your career?
We always knew that we are the hottest. I feel like we’re the hottest in all aspects, because Sallie is, like, the best producer. I don’t feel like anyone else produces like him. Yuang is just a great artist – he’s dope – and Lucas is, like, one of the best rappers. We’re the best, and we just needed to find ways to just show that to people, but we took so long to do it and, when it finally happened, it was crazy, but we already knew… The next level is where we’re at right now, with trying to change the game and trying to put it on a whole new level. We’re trying to blur the lines of rapping and singing, and making it a whole universal thing.
So, what would you say, then, is the biggest misconception about you?
I dunno, bro [laughs]. People think I am, like, a chilled brother but, when it comes to music and stuff like that, it gets very cutthroat – in my head, though, not like… [laughs] In my head, it’s a serious thing and people take that lightly sometimes, and I understand that’s the energy I portray.
Oh, and that goes back to you separating Blxckie from Sihle, as we talked about.
What are your honest thoughts on SA hip hop right now?
I dunno, bro… It’s lacking something. Like the hottest ninjas in SA hip hop decided to switch up and try some other stuff, and that’s cool, as long as you keep the base of hip hop in it. So yeah, they just made that gap for me and my ninjas to do what we have to do.
What’s your ultimate goal here? Are you gunning for an African or global takeover? How are you working towards reaching those next levels?
I feel like it’s a global thing, dawg. The only way to achieve global status – and this is what we’re aiming for: legendary status – is to just show people that this sh*t doesn’t stop, dawg. It’s, like, forever. The music is dope forever; it’s never going to lack; it’s always going to be different – better – and that’s the focus.
Okay, I’m done. So, you dropping an EP/project this month, or soon? What do you have in store?