Pheli Makaveli season
This July, fans will finally get to hear 25K’s highly anticipated debut album called Pheli Makaveli, which, at some stage, felt like a myth, considering the stages of hype and mostly silence fans went through prior to this ‘almost there’ moment. By now you should at least know a little bit about the story of the Atteridgeville-born native, who started his rap career at an early age… Conquering his city came first before the inevitable mainstream rise, which was patiently ushered in by his ‘Culture Vulture’ hit single, a song that was clearly ahead of the game’s time before its greatness was finally acknowledged by the rest of us.
Over the years, 25K’s reputation has not only grown, but it has managed to solidify his name amongst those leading hip hop in SA in the right direction and, importantly, authentically… Now, with the Pheli Makaveliseason finally upon us, I managed to immortalise this moment through our new HYPE cover story that found me asking 25K some stuff about the album, himself, his hip hop role and what his ultimate goal is.
I’ve known about you for a minute, especially because I’m from Pretoria myself and your reputation in the city is quite huge. Did you ever imagine that you would reach this level with your music?
‘Culture Vulture’ really opened you up to the mainstream world and that song did a lot for you. Since then, fans have been very supportive in terms of seeing you win. Do you feel a certain type of pressure to not fail those who have been supporting you all these years?
I believe that I’ve always been a talented individual, from a very young age, so I’ve always envisioned my music reaching this level from that young age. I had dreams of my music reaching even more people, not just Pretoria. Pretoria is well known for always supporting people in whatever they do, so I used that to my advantage and started making a name for myself in my hood. It continued spreading to other good hoods, such as Mamelodi and Sosha (Soshanguve), so my music being known now on a national level is quite humbling.
Yeah, I definitely feel the pressure, especially because, where I come from, the chances of someone making it out of the bottom are extremely low, because of that environment. I always carry that with me, and I try not to disappoint a single person who has supported me. The pressure will always be there, because there are people looking up to me. I look at it in a good way though, because them looking up to me pushes me to make sure that I don’t fail. It actually motivates me. ‘Culture Vulture’ was undeniably a good song. People were putting other people on that song and that’s the result of genuine support. I’ll always be thankful to people who showed me love when I was still coming up… Up to the point where I am today.
The year 2019 was one busy year for you but, last year, you slowed things down a bit – but your presence was still felt. Now that you are getting super active again, can you talk about how the last year was for you?
Congratulations on the Sony Music Entertainment Africa deal. It seems as though it’s the right fit for you right now. What happened with the Universal one you had, though?
The last year was extremely crucial, as I had a lot of time to reflect on the decisions I’ve made in the past, which made me wiser. I was able to plan out my next moves, while, on the other side, I was trying to stay active by working with brands and dropping features so that the fans knew I was still active. Last year gave me a lot of time to reflect so, when 2021 started, I was ready. I knew Pheli Makaveli was going to drop in 2021, but I had to wait for the perfect time to drop it.
Thank you so much. I’m quite excited to work with Sony Music Entertainment because they understand my vision. They wanted me to be a part of the family. Even when they approached me, they didn’t have a specific project. We had a long conversation and I played them new music that I was working on, and I think that’s what sealed the deal. They really liked my rap style. The lingo and all that… My deal with Universal was a licensing deal, so I licensed two songs with them, with the hope of a project. I played them some of my tracks from Pheli Makaveli, and the project I was hoping for never happened. It’s still love though; we still communicate over the phone every now and then, because we had a relationship.
Pheli Makaveli is an album that the game has been waiting for for a while from you, and it’s finally here. Can you talk about the making of the album and what it took to bring it all together?
As you expressed, Zoocci Coke Dope played a big role in the album. How did his involvement in the album creation elevate you as an artist?
Pheli Makaveli is a product of a conversation that Zoo (Zoocci Coke Dope) and I had prior to me dropping the visuals for ‘Culture Vulture’. Zoo is one of the realest people who hit me up before my song ‘Culture Vulture’ took off, and he advised me a lot about getting the song on radio and the music video making it to TV. I pulled up to Zoo and played him the music video, and he told me that he was right about me being talented, pure-hearted, unique and 100% Pretoria.
The first time I met up with him, he sent me a bunch of beats and told me that whenever I want to pull up for a session, I can do so. It was a back and forth of me being sent beats, writing lyrics for the beats, going into studio and playing Zoo some of the demos that I was making with his beats. A couple of months down the line, we decided that we were actually on to something. We agreed that this would explain my story fully. It took me getting out of my comfort zone and being in studio with Zooci and forging a whole new sound. I’ve never heard myself sound the way I sound on Zoocci’s beats.
Zoocci Coke Dope is a super talented individual. Even outside the music, he’s a different kind of person. His energy is so positive, and me being around that kind of energy was so humbling. I look up to him so much. When I had dreams of being a successful hip hop artist in SA, he was one of the guys I was listening to. Me working with him was quite challenging, but in a good way, because I actually got out of my comfort zone, and it also matured my sound. This album wouldn’t be what it is if it weren’t for Zoocci Coke Dope pushing me to my limit. We were so free with the creation of the music, while at the same time having fun and working.
And what was the most difficult part of making Pheli Makaveli?
So, what message or story will you be telling with this album?
I’d say the most difficult part was that not all the songs made it to the final cut on the album. We had made a lot more than 12 tracks and, me being sentimental, it was quite hard letting go of the other tracks. As much as the songs weren’t the right fit for this particular Pheli Makaveli project, they would still be dope for a different project or even dropping them as singles. I think that was the most difficult part. I’m glad, though, that I went through all that with a very talented individual such as Zoocci Coke Dope.
Strictly for motivational purposes; the project is basically telling a hood story of coming up with less privilege and also coming up in the streets. It’s dedicated to all the hustlers; people who get the bag by any means. It’s also about when I was in the ‘dope game’. All the challenges I was faced with, the risks I had to take daily and the people I lost. It’s about being in the belly of the hood.
What role are you playing in SA hip hop right now?
I’m curious… What’s 25K’s ultimate goal?
I’m the voice of the streets when it comes to SA hip hop and trap. I’m one of the rare breeds that SA hip hop has to offer. I’m bringing authenticity to the game and what hip hop has always been about – the hustles, struggles and the streets. The role that I think I’m playing is that I’m showing and telling people about the streets and hardships.
My ultimate goal is to put ‘Spitori’ on the map internationally, and to also build a bridge for kids who come from where and what I come from, by opening up and kicking down doors for them, so it’s easier for them to chase their dreams and achieve their goals. I also want to be a business mogul in SA hip hop and build careers.
Lastly, what words of advice can you give to that kid working towards reaching your level?
Don’t listen to the noise. If you have a passion for something, pursue it by all means necessary. Sharpen the skill of the talent you have as soon as possible. Keep going hard, whether you come from nothing, or you’re privileged. You can actually make a name for yourself by working hard and being yourself and telling your story.