Underdog of the Month: VenusRaps’ road to self-discovery

This month, in our Underdog of the Month feature, we shine the light on Newcastle rapper VenusRaps, who’s been hard on the grind, building her name in the Joburg rap scene over the last few years. 

Written by ubereatzz, Photography by Cindy Leah 

Vanessa Ndlovu, stage name VenusRaps, is one lyricist to keep an eye on in SA hip-hop. Her raw raps act as a vehicle for heartfelt storytelling, as heard on her 2021 tape HEIR and, more recently, her verse on ‘Amamenemene’ from Kay Faith’s debut album, Antithesis.

“Kay Faith and I met at the Sportscene x Puma Put Me On finale,” says VenusRaps. “She was a judge and I was one of the top five contestants. After the show was over, a bunch of people came up to me saying they would love to work, and what’s crazy is that she is the only person who followed through and actually sent me something to hop on. She is definitely someone I look up to and am grateful to have worked with within the hip-hop sorority.”

VenusRaps has had plenty career highlights that include winning the Studio 88 Podium Moment in partnership with Adidas and being announced as Adidas Women Artist of The Month and SlikourOnLife’s Hot On the Streets. She has spat her raw raps on platforms such as Zakwe’s KZN Freestyle, MTV BASE’s Yo! and MTV RAPS cyphers, just to mention a few.

VenusRaps was born and raised in New Castle, KwaZulu-Natal, but is currently in Johannesburg, where she’s steadily building her name in the game. “I came to Johannesburg to better my craft and to achieve my music career goals. It hasn’t been easy, but the dream to be the best rapper on the continent fuels my hustle tank,” says VenusRaps.

At the age of 12, VenusRaps was inspired by Eve’s ‘Love Is Blind’ to start rapping. “I took my time to learn how to write. I knew that I had to get better at it, and I did not want anyone writing my stuff. The first song I ever made was called ‘I’m the Best’, which was a crowd favourite in my hood.” She further lists A-Reece, Nasty C, Kendrick Lamar, Lauryn Hill and Foxy Brown as her inspirations.

Orisha

One thing VenusRaps got right is the identity of her brand. It’s not hard for one to see the colour green and associate it with the rapper. She often has green braids on as her signature hairstyle, and her covers always have the colour on them. On the HEIR cover art, the white text spelling out the album title is outlined in green, and the top half of her face is immersed in water, diverting all the focus on her green braids and green eyebrows. One would think this is an opposing concept of the birth of an heir through water.

“The cover art was inspired by Yemaya, a Yoruba orisha/deity. She is essentially known as a mermaid goddess and she is also associated with the moon,” says VenusRaps.

“The reason I drew inspiration from her is because of my star sign – Cancer. So, seeing as Cancerians are ruled by the moon and Cancer is a water sign, plus considering the fact that Cancerians are considered the mothers of the zodiac, it just made sense. However, I think what sealed the deal was the fact that she [Yemaya] is believed to help with matters relating to self-love, trauma, healing, and emotional wounds, and I really wanted all those elements to be reflected in the music as well as the artwork.”

On the title track, featuring Spartz, VenusRaps touches on her life and career as it picks up. She raps about how record labels tend to be opposed to her making the type of rap music she does as she raps, “Labels say I’m sounding too angry, I should sing some more.”

“I honestly would not classify what that label said to me as my rap style, because I do not feel that I have fully found my sound,” VenusRaps says, explaining the song. “I think I just gravitated more towards the storytelling, boom bap and conscious rap type when I first started writing for myself. I grew to love it.”

With ‘Foreigns’, she makes a stance to take ownership of her craft and details what she went through in the beginning of her career while trying to solidify her place in the music industry.

She bears it all while speaking out about the dangers of signing to a label as she raps, “So I took the pen and paper signed my young life over/ Took an L and didn’t realise till I got sober/ And, even when I left I’d wasted nine months over.”

VenusRaps learnt a valuable lesson the hard way. “I am legally not permitted to discuss the label or name them; however, I can say now that even though I felt as though my needs were not being met, I genuinely had a part in the misunderstanding as well,” she says. “And, honestly looking back, I now know that my expectations were far higher than what my reality was. The label really meant well; however, we all were on different pages and different journeys at the time. No love lost, though.”

In the third song ‘Earned’, the rapper expresses gratitude for her musical gift and her family. She also states why she will continue to make music as she raps: “My lungs fiend for the ciggy, my heart for the beat/ I try to manage my habit, I live for the fix/ ’Cause every time I hold a mic all my problems decease.”

“When I made ‘Earned’, it was when I used to smoke cigarettes. Heavily. I drew inspiration from my bad habit,” says VenusRaps. “I am currently on my third month off cigarettes.”

Storytelling

Her storytelling abilities shine through on the album, especially on the track ‘P.S’, where she details a story between a boyfriend and girlfriend who seem to be experiencing relationship troubles. VenusRaps manages to paint a beautiful POV picture from both parties as they address one another about the state of their union.

“When I wrote ‘P.S’, it was during a time when I felt like I am always the girl that guys hurt. I wrote it wishing, for once, to be the one who hurts them and I drew inspiration from my past relationships to write it. The last eight bars of the second verse are very true. That part I took from just my experience with two of my exes and all the stuff I had ever wanted to say to them. I think more than anything, ‘P.S’ was me saying that I will no longer carry how those men treated me and make it the standard for romantic interactions in my life.”

What I enjoy most about her kind of rap is the way she can convey the mood using words. For instance, on ‘Brave’, she raps about going on an amazing date, with a crazy twist to it as she raps, “Now we dating, he taking me out on date nights/ Such a perfect gentleman, I bagged myself a great guy…” before an immaculate beat switch. VenusRaps’ pen is really lethal.

The next track, ‘Goated’, is a little more upbeat than most of the songs on the tape. VenusRaps raps on the chorus, “Don’t come to my city unless you goated,” letting everyone know her city births greats only.

She flexes her wordplay on ‘Dime’ featuring the rapper Khenji: “I want that money, that moola, that chankura/ Want that Erykah Badoula rack to ease up my medulla.”

Khenji is one of only three features on the tape alongside amazing, talented artists like vocalist Spartz who has worked with Kabza De Small and R&B and neo-soul artist RHEA BLEK. “Every single person on the tape is someone whose work I enjoy and listen to,” says VenusRaps. “With RHEA and Khenji, I sent them the songs and asked them to do specific parts and they sent the songs back with their parts. With Spartz, I asked her to hop on the intro of the project and she actually pulled up and recorded it in like 15 minutes.”

‘Drew BuryMore’ and ‘Special’ are hardcore rap and show she’s a battle rapper and, probably, an excellent freestyler.

She ends her tape off with a beautiful manifestation anthem ‘11 11’ featuring RHEA BLEK, where she raps, “I write this in the past tense like I’m really looking back/ ’Cause I don’t see my future being worse off than my past.”

Neither do I. Given her impressive track record, work ethic and drive, she embodies the heat one associates with the planet she named herself after. And, she has great plans for the future. “What’s next for me is definitely the top. This year I am focused on dropping more visuals, more music, more bags and maybe a new venture or two. I don’t want to let too much of the cat out the bag, but I will definitely be stressing my enemies fully this year,” she says.

Join the Hype fam and sign-up today

Newsletters • competitions • events