TrustedSLK is making the transition from a battle rapper to a recording artist. We caught up with her to find out more about her journey, what drives her and the creation of her latest EP ‘Meaningful Hustle’.
Written by ON
Photographs courtesy of artist
Born in Mthatha in the Eastern Cape, Sivuyisiwe Lwazikazi Khonjiswa Silinga became TrustedSLK in Cape Town. A fearless hustler, seemingly since birth, TrustedSLK built a name for herself by entering competitions at school, and later at varsity while studying law at the University of the Western Cape (UWC).
After making it to the top 25 of Vuzu’s The Hustle Season 2 and becoming a top-eight finalist on SABC 1’s One Mic Season 3, one of the recent graduate’s most notable achievements was winning the 2020 Sportscene Put Me On competition, which led to her getting in the studio with Tweezy.
One of the songs recorded during that session was ‘Uyathetha’, which became the lead single of her recently released debut EP, Meaningful Hustle.
The track record speaks for itself; TrustedSLK has covered good ground, but she knows the road ahead is still long. We caught up with her to find out more about her journey, what drives her and the creation of her latest EP.
Born in Mthatha, Eastern Cape (my hometown), and raised in Cape Town, paint us a picture of what a typical day was like in your childhood – what was Sivuyisiwe like?
I do not really remember, but it does involve my older brothers taking me to and from creche. I left Mthatha at the age of five.
In Grade 9, you saw this group of “cool” rappers in your neighbourhood, and you decided: “I wanna be like that!” How did the journey to recording your first rap – and eventually starting your own all-women rap crew – go?
Well, first I made it my mission to get affiliated with them. I later found out that they were recording on a PC with those call-centre headsets with the mouthpiece – there were no pop filters for us that time [laughs]. After I got affiliated with them, my fellow femcee Rayah B and I asked them to record us. The first-ever song we made was called ‘What Comes First’.
Let’s talk competitions. You’ve been entering and WINNING a lot of competitions, since before you started rapping even. You won dance competitions at school (even gumboot dance, surprisingly enough), right through to winning the 2020 Sportscene Put Me On competition. Where does this consistent competitive spirit come from?
The competitive spirit came from the music I grew up listening to. It was the gangsta rap era – from Biggie to Pac, Eminem and Benzino; Jay Z to Nas. The 50 Cent and Ja Rule beef also promoted my fighting spirit. They taught me to be the alpha in every sphere.
You’ve mentioned that your influences ranged from Eminem and D12 to Nas, who all come from the days of battle rap and sparring with fellow emcees. Which translates into your career as well, because you’ve entered plenty of rap contests, one, in particular, being the UWC talent show during your first year there. Please tell us how that went down.
So, that was my first year at varsity; literally the first month, I saw the competition poster and went to go audition. They were impressed, as my confidence was already high, due to the competitions I was already winning during high school. The gumboot dance competition even took me to Asia, so I knew I had something special in me.
Now, your parents sent you to university to further your studies, you got accepted to study law, and then you came back from your first day and told them you won a rap competition and wanted to continue pursuing this thing. What was their reaction to that?
[Laughs] I will not lie; my mom was very supportive, but she made me promise to finish school first, as a plan B. Which, looking back now, was the best advice I ever got.
How did you navigate an intense course such as law and being a rapper? What made you decide to do both and not pick one, like some of your peers in the game?
Studying law and being a musician was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do; however, I had already made the promise to my mother to finish law and a promise to myself to see music through, so I just pushed and pushed and never allowed myself to give up. I would fail modules and my peers would pass, and I would know exactly why I had failed; I was at a gig the night before.
You went from competing with fellow students, to sparring with rappers from all around the country on Vuzu’s The Hustle Season 2, and made it to the top 25. Thereafter, you became a top-eight finalist on SABC 1’s One Mic Season 3. How was that experience for you, thriving on national competition with the whole country watching?
Yho, this was also very hectic ’cause it meant I was facing rejection in front of the masses but, for a competitive person like me, it just motivated me to come back harder and harder. One Mic was the craziest, as it is shot live, so if you choke on stage, no take-backs. It was battle rap, so my competitors used to diss me straight on national TV but, trust me, I dissed them back!
Fast forward… You’re crowned the 2020 Sportscene Put Me On winner, beating more than 4,000 rivals. Your tenacity and perseverance to compete through everything are commendable. Through that, you got the opportunity to work with chart-topping producer – Tweezy – and dropped ‘Uyathetha’. Tell us about that experience and what that song means to you?
Man, oh man, that was an amazing day. It changed my life in a lot of ways. I got to get a peek at the entertainment industry, and I was blessed because I was guided by a PR company called AtHandle, which is owned by the amazing Phindile Matroshe. Tweezy is a god; I learned so much from him; he gave me so many industry hacks, and he was present in every session. We ended up making three joints instead of one. ‘Uyathetha’ showed me that I am capable of making a hit – Trace Africa offered me a sync deal for the song, which shows that it’s a hit.
Your EP Meaningful Hustle is a mélange of hunger, bravado, diverse sounds, and just raps on raps on raps. What are/were you hoping for people to get out of the project? Like, what was your direction with it?
My direction with the EP was to give the masses a piece of myself, but, at the same time, it was a project to remind the listeners that they are champs, too, and that whatever I have done, they can do in their respective spheres, too.
What’s next for TrustedSLK? Who is she working with? What does the rest of 2022 look like for her?
I have been in studio with amazing artists like Champagne 69 and the likes of PDOT O, with whom I will be releasing a song soon. I won’t lie, I was on album mode, but I have a feeling I might drop another EP – I mean, the road is long. I just hope the masses will keep supporting me to the death. I aim to be a household name one day.