This interview appears in issue 23 of the monthly HYPE ezine available for purchase here.
Durban lyricist Lucasraps is one of the most divisive rappers in SA hip-hop. While he’s gained popularity, he also faces a lot of backlash from fans who feel he’s not living up to his full potential. HYPE contributor ubereatzz sits down with the rapper and gets a different understanding of Lucasraps.
Written by ubereatzz, Photography: Courtesy of Universal Music Group
In his transition from a popular SoundCloud rapper to a Def Jam Africa signee and one of the leaders of South African hip-hop’s new wave since around 2020, Lucasraps left his fan-base severely divided when he dropped his debut album 031 To The World in 2021.
Fans seemed to have difficulty understanding his craft or him as an artist. Many felt that the rapper struggled to give them a story of who he is, where he is from and what made him who he is in his debut offering. Others felt he was struggling to make music although he is a great rapper, while some felt his bars were subpar. Missteps he was expected to rectify on the album’s recently released deluxe, titled 031 To The World 2.0.
This is the type of reception that would’ve broken any new artist down, but Lucasraps uses it as his fuel to drive him forward. “I can’t fast-forward people to understanding my music, and people are gonna talk. They feel like they have a say, but it’s not the final say – I have the final say,” Lucasraps says. “The day I say, ‘I am whack’, then yeah, but n*gga I ain’t whack. All I needed was the people to also understand this is Lucas; this is how Lucas makes his music.”
Shaking up the game
During the interview, I had several “ah ha” moments when Lucas managed to candidly reaffirm his art direction to me. Although it might be too early, he does deserve some kind of recognition for his resilience and being part of the next generation of SA hip-hop’s biggest breakout stars in 2020, alongside Blxckie – the type of hip-hop star we haven’t seen since 2016. “I feel like we restarted and shook up the whole f*cking game, but we’re not getting the creds or whatever for that. I feel like that’s a toxic South African mindset that we have. That’s how I feel; it’s my opinion. But yeah, man, we’ll definitely get the creds at some point, like yo, these guys actually had the hardest hip-hop song in 2020 with no hook.
“The song was on TV and radio with no hook. We often get told that, for your song to be number one or even for labels to be behind you, it needs to be catchy or something. So, that just pretty much f*cked the whole blueprint of what the game is supposed to run on. Just to show that, yo man, there’s no blueprint to music; there’s no blueprint to how your career should be.”
The song he’s referring to is 2020’s ‘Big TimeSh’lappa’ where he’s featured by fellow Durbanite Blxckie. Although one could argue and say Lucasraps’s big break came with his collaboration with Dr Peppa’s 2019 smash hit ‘What It Is’ featuring Chang Cello and the late Riky Rick, or his own hit ‘Ah Ah Ah Ah’ featuring Blxckie, currently at 1.8 million views on YouTube, but the real game changer for his musical career was ‘Big Time Sh’lappa’. “I met Blxckie when he was still part of Clout Internet Boyz with Leo Da Leo. I went to Durban, we linked and we f*cked with each other, he’s a super dope n*gga and he’s my n*gga.”
Soon after, Lucasraps returned to Joburg, while Blxckie stayed in Durban. “I told him, ‘yo, you need to come out here to Joburg’ when I had met 808 Sallie and Shouldbeyuang here,” Lucasraps says. “He came through and then that’s when we got locked down. That’s when level five happened, and we formed the crew called Rona Boys. I have a tattoo that says, “Rona Boys”. That’s when we were dropping almost every day on SoundCloud, just pretty much f*cking up the algorithm completely.”
The 21-year-old, born Lucas Duncan Malong aka the Y.O.G (Young OG), joins the list of Durban’s musical exports alongside the likes of Blxckie, Nasty C, Audiomarc and Nanette, to name just a few. “I was born in Cape Town but raised in Durban because, at the age of one-and-a-half years old, I moved to Greenwood, Durban. So, all my childhood memories are from Durban.”
His love for hip-hop music started at age eight when he heard Nelly’s 2002 album Nellyville for the first time. “That album got taken away from me by my parents ’cause of the swear words, but I just kept listening to all this music, regardless. Then I met a homie – his name is Bongani; he used to rap. One day he was like ‘yo, why don’t you record something?’ and I tried to freestyle on the mic. It was obviously gibberish, but that was my first time falling in love with this whole thing,” Lucasraps says.
Lucas’s family wasn’t initially on board with his career choice. “At first, they obviously weren’t with it because they didn’t understand it. They still don’t understand a few things. I had to forcefully make them understand this thing. And they’ve been patient. I’m blessed to have them on my side also, since they’re my biggest supporters now.”
Like many rappers who start embracing their talent at a young age, Lucas was one of those high school kids who would freestyle constantly at breaktime with his friends. When he started attending North Collage, a high school in Durban, in Grade 8, he was already well known for his rap skills, as he had been performing at parties hosted in some universities/colleges and activations already. “I met another Durban artist – Chris Snakes. He was in Grade 11 or Matric at the time. These n*ggas found out I’m a rapper and they were the rapping squad of the school. From that day, we formed the collective ‘Black Bears’. Looking back, we were the hardest 15- and 16-year-olds, rocking clubs and shows around Durban,” says the rapper.
Like with most crews, a split was inevitable. Theirs was because they were still young and at school, and some left and went to different schools. After that, Lucas went back to rapping by himself. “I met Geekfam around that time when I was discovering myself and my crew split. He’s a producer and also an artist now. That was a young connection that was made.” He vaguely recalls winning a local award for his rap talent, which is a testament that his talent is as raw as he is.
All the above was happening while he had no music out. “I really just started popping off, going everywhere, freestyling at events, just being called to like rap. I didn’t have a song. I didn’t have anything, but they knew when this dude comes on stage and he raps, the crowd’s gonna do something or whatever – they just knew that.”
From SoundCloud rapper to Def Jam Africa signee
When he eventually started dropping music, he dropped it on Soundcloud, which gained popularity in South Africa in the mid-2010s and has launched a lot of musical careers such as that of fellow Durban native and rap superstar, Nasty C, who dropped his popular 2015 mixtape Price City on that platform. “I’d say what kinda pushed me towards dropping on SoundCloud had to be how much I f*ck with XXXtentacion. He pretty much inspired me to rock SoundCloud. I found it easier to use, even to explain to someone who doesn’t know how to use SoundCloud,” Lucas says.
What was inevitable for Lucas after his break into the mainstream music scene was a couple of record labels knocking on his door to scoop him up as their next star. After a stint with DJ Maphorisa’s BlaqBoy Music (you’ve heard the story many times already), he eventually signed with Def Jam Africa in 2021. He mentions he specifically went for the label since it is a subsidiary of Def Jam, a label that holds an important place in hip-hop history. His aim is to have the most influence on the continent.
Through Def Jam Africa, he has found himself on the global edition of Snoop Dogg’s compilation album Algorithm. He appears on the song ‘Make Some Money’, which also features Fabolous and Dave East, making him the first South African hip-hop artist to have a song with the three heavyweights. “I have this voice note on my phone, right, where I’m just talking to myself and I’m saying some goals I’d love to achieve in small details,” Lucasraps reveals. “I put it out there in the universe and the man upstairs was listening. And now it’s like, it’s coming true, I don’t know how. I’m just staying pure; I’m doing what I’m doing. God knows my heart, but everything is coming true, man.”
What impresses me about Lucasraps in person are his confidence, self-awareness, spirituality and his knowledge of how powerful his manifestations about his music career are.
On ‘Without Me’, the song that solidified his growing fanbase at the beginning of his career, Lucas displays his self-awareness, as he acknowledges money will change him, how he values friendship and how he knows he’s an excellent rapper. I tell him I connected with this song and with him a lot. “I feel like I made you connect with yourself, not with me. That’s all I need to do; that’s why I make music. That’s why it’s called ‘Without Me’ and not ‘Without Lucas’. I know you didn’t feel like without Lucasraps, you can’t feel that. I made you realise that,” he says.
Around the same time he signed to Def Jam Africa, he scored an endorsement deal with Sprite, a brand that has a long history with hip-hop. “Sprite came about because of the amazing team I have – Bloc Agency – and they configured the Sprite deal. What’s crazy is, it’s really been a childhood dream to work with Sprite. So when I got the deal, I was like, what the f*ck? I actually got Sprite. I used to drink mostly Sprite growing up. Even my mom was just as shocked; she said, ‘You really did it!’”
031 To The World
But there have also been some hurdles in this journey. His fans almost didn’t get 031 To The World due to some management woes he’s not willing to discuss. “When I was working on 031 To The World, I didn’t have access to the old music because, when I left my old management, they took all my sh*t. That’s why there’s this big gap, when I didn’t drop. There’s so much sh*t that happened,” Lucas says.
He further states that he had to make the album in the shortest amount of time so he could prove himself; 031 To The World was made within a month after he got signed. Another noble characteristic of the Y.O.G is his optimism. “I’m very intricate with my music; that’s why I’m saying the understanding of 031 To The World needs a documentary for you to visually sit there and understand what the f*ck 031 To The World is.”
While you wait for the doccie, here’s a brief breakdown: For the 031 To The World 2.0 artwork, Lucasraps embellished the original artwork with a green filter; the artwork shows Lucasraps in a drop-top Mercedes Benz, all his chains on his chest, leaning back in the seat with his “Y.O.G” tat showing. “The car I’m driving is taking 031 to the world. I’m on my mission, and I’m racing my wheels to the next destination,” he explains. The cover art also matches the carefree nature of the storytelling within the album, which is a young man navigating his life on a road less travelled.
The deluxe comes with seven new songs, all placed at the beginning of the project. This pushed the previous intro ‘Lucas Raps’ to the eighth song and made ‘The Views’, featuring Nasty C, the new intro. “I have no features on my first project and, since I’m going against a lot of people’s fans, I wanted to show that their favourite artists are my bruhs, and I have a song with them. These are the artists who have played a role for me to get me to this position where I can drop this album, so I decided, let me start with that,” he says.
The song ‘The Views’ has the Y.O.G detailing a night with a woman he fancies and some intimate details on how he’d love to spend some quality time with her. Nasty follows a similar storyline. “I went with Nasty first ’cause I got tired of the comparisons between us, not in a bad way, but I just pretty much got tired of this hype around Nasty and Lucas. I wanted to deal with it so everyone can understand he is my bruh,” Lucas says.
A personal favourite among the seven new additions is ‘Misery’, which features Nadia Nakai and AKA. Lucas handles the hook as he raps, “I see you talk like you got knowledge/ I pull up to where you be hidin’/ I let it spray like Aqua Fresh, I’m a problem,” referencing the men’s perfume Aqua Fresh (Pour Homme). “I was at a Def Jam music camp where they had a bunch of us in a mansion, just making music. I was told Nadia was gonna be there and to try my best to lock in with her. I had ‘Misery’ as an open verse and knew she would sound nice on it. When we were working on it, AKA walked in and said, ‘this sh*t too hard,’” he says.
Another impressive aspect of the song is the level of detail on the production by KindlyNxsh, which Lucas worked on with him. “So, I was sitting with Nash and I was like yo, let’s do this thing. I said, for every part that I come back in with the hook, the beat must change. So that’s why the beat changes every time I come back in. That’s why the song keeps picking up.”
He brings his frequent collaborator Blxckie on ‘Out Yo Head’, which is a song that encourages people to live in the moment instead of overthinking everything. Blxckie handles the hook. YoungstaCPT joins him on ‘Pull Up’, a song that speaks about challenging an opponent, and how each rapper would handle fighting anyone who disrespects them. Lucas says, “I sent the joint to Youngsta ’cause I was like yo, he’d be able to lyrically articulate what it means to pull up on somebody. I’m speaking as a young OG, saying this is how young n*ggas should pull up on n*ggas. He’s speaking as an OG, this is how they pull up on n*ggas.”
He sends a shoutout to KindlyNxsh who is the producer with the most songs done on the album, and Dr Peppa on ‘One Shot From The Choppa’, as he opens up his song with, “One shot from the choppa/ Call my boy up, he a doctor.” He details the financial struggles he faced initially in his career and how it feels for him to be able to afford the lifestyle he has now. He states his life is as unbelievable as a movie as he continues to rap, “Superstar, do what I wanna/ I ain’t into acting, I ain’t for the drama…” Dope wordplay on the film genre – “drama”, “characters” and “act”.
Ironically, he plays a character on the song that follows, ‘Yeh Dunno’. “That is my alter ego, Lean. He is Jamaican,” he says. “But Lean only comes out on [special] occasions. He was telling you from another perspective. So, if you’re in front of a mirror, Lean is talking from the mirror and he’s telling you about Lucas. He’s telling you, ‘don’t you know about the Y.O.G?’” Lucas says. “Then I say, give her life, I give her more than D, ’cause a lot of the times when I’m with ladies, I really barely sleep with them. I show them a different side; I show them a different way to take yourself seriously. So that’s why I’m that type of person. I don’t know why I care so much, but I do care. So I give her life, I give her more than D.”
On ‘Over Me’, he features his childhood friend, producer and musician Geek Fam, who is also a Durban native. Geek Fam handles the hook while Lucas talks about the end of the relationship he has with the girl he gave life to on ‘Yeh Dunno’, who has since moved on. He raps: “Seng’khathele manje girl, you know I’ve had enough of it/ Finessing the majitas thinking that you is innocent/ You’re too smooth, I never know how you move/ You can tell me he your homie, but who really that dude?”
Lucasraps has the ability to reflect on sombre moments without sounding gloomy; there’s always a light-heartedness in the songs of this self-confessed extrovert. Perhaps his mood is what confuses his critics. Lucas always finds a way to balance his vulnerability with his character as an optimist. As a listener, all you need to do is read between the lines.
‘South’ is a recollection of a phase in Lucas’s career where he was doing so well but had nothing to show for it; how he got kicked out and had to crash at his friend’s place, just to have a safe place to sleep. “I don’t even know how the f*ck to explain that sh*t. It’s crazy, ’cause ‘Big Time Sh’lappa’ was out, the music video [had] just dropped and ‘Ah Ah Ah Ah’ [had] just hit 100K; it was like sh*t’s moving but I got left with nothing. And when I got kicked out of my previous place I went to Yanga’s crib, figured it out, and Yanga stayed in the south.”
He describes his childhood on ‘Mud’, explaining where he is from, the living conditions he was exposed to and how all that never made him doubt his inevitable success, as he raps on the hook: “I’m from the mud where my dawgs remain filthy/ I got a lotta gold, it shines in me/ I never hit a low, the Lord with me/ I gotta keep it rollin’, you with me?”
Overall, 031 To The World and the deluxe do go in-depth about who the young rapper is. But not everyone is impressed, and Lucas feels that’s okay. “You just have to choose which side you’re looking on, and me, I choose to look on the good,” he says. “’Cause there’s gonna be people saying, ‘yo, you’re whack’ or whatever and, under that whack comment, there’s someone saying, ‘yo, this song changed my life.’ There’s 50,000 comments there saying you’re amazing – are you gonna focus on them or the ones saying you’re not? Nah, you must focus on what you have that you can build from, so that’s pretty much what I’ve been doing.”
This interview appears in issue 23 of the monthly HYPE ezine available for purchase here.