We chat to Cape Town’s own SimulationRxps on his upbringing and his latest project live from elokshin.
You know that feeling you get when you fully believe in an artist’s trajectory? It’s sort of an indescribable feeling, right? Because it involves a certain level of faith and trust, if you get what we mean. Well, we believe and trust in SimulationRxps right now, because the way that the Cape Town-based rapper is playing this hip hop game we love so much has caught our attention.
Having recently dropped off his debut album called live from elokshin in February, this year SimulationRxps wasted no time claiming a piece of the spotlight, and he continues to do so with each offering he delivers. With an impressive archive of records that will immediately convert you into a fan if you dare to listen, we had to reach out to the man himself to satisfy our curiosity and validate our belief in his aura. It’s time you familiarise yourselves with SimulationRxps.
Now, for those who don’t know where things started off for you and what you’re about, could you briefly share your origin story in terms of how it started out for you?
Growing up, I was always the reserved kid who, at that point, just enjoyed listening to hip hop; I never thought I would be making music. This was around the time Lil Wayne was really running things. Man, I was a huge Wayne fan but, at this point, the hip hop culture wasn’t really big where I’m from, so everyone was either listening to house or R&B. I was friends with the guys who were rapping and that’s how I got into music, but yho! I was terrible when I started, but I was always recording, so that’s how I improved and got better over time. I think, like, late in high school is when I got more comfortable with music, even though I was just doing it for fun.
The energy that you’re bringing into the game right now is pretty exciting and I was banging your ‘Safe’ record and TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN about a week ago, which proves that we were the ones who were sleeping on you all these years. How would you describe your development as an artist thus far?
My development over the years has been pretty obvious, especially for people who have been following my journey since ‘Safe’. TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN was definitely my first baby step into introducing my people to the new sound, as I had transitioned from rapping in English to rapping in isiXhosa where I find myself more comfortable, as the music came out more natural and more based on my day-to-day life.
What were your thoughts on our hip-hop culture before you started operating within it, and what are your current thoughts of it?
Personally, I was feeling like hip hop was starting to sound the same and artists were starting to become less true to themselves just to sell records. I think this was the reason I shifted my sound to something more honest. I always push being yourself and using art as a way to inspire others to believe in their life situations, instead of selling what’s not real.
Okay, let’s get straight into the debut project, #LiveFromElokshin. How was it putting it together, and what is its story all about?
Putting it together was stressful, yho… I can’t even front. I took a break from recording and started mainly listening to L’vovo Derrango’s debut album – super random, I know [laughs] – but, man, that album was so raw and relatable; the stories he was telling on that album still make sense to this day. [K.O’s] Skhanda Republic was also one of the albums I was bumping a lot. The story of the album really created itself, to be honest. I wanted something like GKMC [Good Kid, M.A.A.D City by Kendrick Lamar], but for it to be as local as possible, as I fully believe that relatable music has longevity, and my goal is not to make “hits”, but to make something that my people can play and feel like I’m talking to them individually.
Damn… So, before you dropped the album, you expressed how you were nervous and, at the same time, excited. What made now the right time to drop the album? Clearly, every moment leading up to it meant a lot, right?
I’m a big overthinker… It’s crazy, but one day I realised “yho, this is not about me; it’s about the people; they deserve the music”. I was supposed to drop last year but there were a lot of setbacks and I was starting to become frustrated, as a lot was out of my hands, but I decided to look at the positives, because the setbacks allowed me to create a beautiful roll-out [laughs]. I hope people appreciated that…
And what messages or themes does #LiveFromElokshin carry, and what did you learn about yourself while you were working on it?
Live From Elokshin for me is art/music used to paint how beautiful and how dark the township is. One thing I learnt with this project is how creative I can get under pressure, and how I strive when I tell myself “Sim, work with what you have; wait for no budget”. With Live From Elokshin, I directed the art cover, trailer and had hands in directing the music videos of the project.
That’s crazy…Yo, you deliver hard on the Xhosa rap vibes and besides you, there are, of course, a handful of others who are delivering that authentic Xhosa hip hop interpretation experience. How do you remain true to yourself within a culture that easily changes people?
To genuinely answer that, I’m really always in the township – the soul and life in the “hood” keep my creative juices going. There’s always a story to tell, a kid to inspire and talent to be inspired by, on this side. It’s such a beautiful place to be, especially when you’re focused and not easily distracted.
What is it about music that you’re so passionate about?
Music is really a platform to express myself in ways I can’t through having a simple conversation.
How does SimulationRxps keep himself motivated during the low moments?
I’m a big family guy. When I’m low, family keeps me going. Also, how much impact my music has on others – that has kept me going through the lowest lows, because being a creative can really mess with your mental health, especially when things are just not going your way.
And if it wasn’t for music, where would you be now?
I’ve always been big on sport, so after high school, I had planned to do sport management and then get into coaching soccer. But along the way, I fell in love with music more.
In what way do you think your music makes a difference?
I just want to inspire kids from townships to aim for more and not feel like victims of their surroundings. Through music, I’m telling stories of things that are actually happening in townships – the bad side and the good side. So, I’m showing people how rewarding being true to yourself is, especially in the long run.
How do you see your sound evolving in the coming years?
I really want to get into doing more live shows with bands, so, over time, I can see myself making music that accommodates that type of environment.
What’s SimulationRxps’ ultimate goal with all of this?
Obviously, the end goal is to go international and tour the world, but one of my aims is to be as big as Brenda Fassie. I grew up in the same township as she did, so she has always been an inspiration, not only for me, but everyone in the streets of Langa.