A look back at our September 2021 cover story featuring our first Maglera Doe Boy cover in celebration of 50 years of Hip-Hop.
I’ve always wondered about Maglera Doe Boy’s story – how it all began and where it’s all going. Having been a witness to his strides over the years, sometimes I get surprised by how many people are only “seeing” him now, when he’s always been there. In other words, it’s quite clear that Maglera Doe Boy is currently amongst the most looked-at hip hop artists in the game right now, and you can blame that on the high level of execution, whether it comes to features or song releases. Some of you have probably noticed his dynamic mentor/mentee-like relationship with Khuli Chana, and even that could be blamed for the sudden interest the culture has in the Klerksdorp representative. Either way, Maglera Doe Boy seems to be the guy you want to place your bets on at the moment and, in this lengthy two-part conversation I had with him, I explore certain details that start from the beginning and focus on the middle, until it leads to the current version of Maglera we’re all experiencing. As mentioned, this interview has been broken down into two parts, and so, what you’re about to read is just one half of an intriguing and inspiring story.
I wanted to come into this conversation with as little information as I could get. This is obviously my first time speaking to you like this, even though I have been aware of your presence in the game, and I recall seeing some of your images in HYPE back in the day…
Yeah, since like high school actually…
Yeah, because every time I’m in a conversation about you, it always feels as if you just came out of the blue, or are emerging, but that’s not the case.
I was messing with Fred (Kayembe) on a personal level for a really long time, so we had a little relationship that was obviously big bro/little bro, and he would give me insight on things that were about to come through in the music. He is actually one of the reasons I even started going to Joburg because he and Jay (Kayembe) put me up… Like, I would crash on their couch and go to their pop-ups with Masters of Rhythm but, at that time, the sound was in between a lot of spaces and I had, like, an in-and-out relationship with the game, because I was still a bit shaky about the fact that we were really going to do this rap thing. I went home thinking “Yo, I’m probably going to be a Maglera (Klerksdorp) ninja”; the boys are selling dope, so we’re selling dope. They (Fred and Jay) showed me how to move and where to start. They didn’t even try managing me or anything. Jay was actually the big bro.
Damn, I didn’t know it was that deep… I mean, I know Fred put me on to you.
He’s still big bro, dawg – they’re a big reason for me actually taking it up as a business, you know? But, when we started recording, we were going through it properly; it just depended on how much I needed to bring out of that, in terms of my presence in the game.
When I reflect on the types of sounds you were bringing back then, there definitely was a distinctiveness to it. You still have that differentiating “something” today, and that makes me wonder about the process it took for you to get here. Can you define your growth?
Before we go into that in depth, it was an intentional decision from a young age, you know? When people at home didn’t mess with the music and I got introduced to motswako, which was around the time I really started rapping… For me to decide: “Yo, let me rap in vernac,” so that people at home would understand, because the demographic at home – and just the social standard – needed me to speak like that, for more of the people I was speaking for and to… And, at that time, I wasn’t thinking of South Africa. And it was like, “Yo I’m hearing Morafe,” – they had just come out and we were big on Jabba, so it was a great time for motswako. A kid like me already knew how to rap in English but, if I could do it in vernac, I was going to kill it. By the time I got to high school, everyone used to call me “HHP” because I was also a chubby kid, you know? Even when I got arrested, ninjas would say, “Ah HHP, what are you doing now?!’… [Laughs]
But, over the years, I got deeper into the street culture in Maglera, hanging out there, but still being the day-to-day kid who grew up in Tswana, Sotho, Xhosa and a mixed-language environment… When I thought about it like that, that’s when the new sound (strata) came from, which is what you guys started hearing when I started sending it to HYPE… Over the years, I wanted to make it more consumable for even the kid, but still saying we come from this and still have these layers in us.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but there was a period when your presence wasn’t quite as strong in hip hop, at least from a commercial spotlight point of view, because in the streets, people knew who you were, but mainstream-wise, it was different. What was going on around that time?
I mean, if we are talking timeframe, are we talking just before Khuli, or after Khuli?
Just before Khuli…
So, just before Khuli, a lot of things were happening at home, you know? Any dude coming of age in between two places, two lifestyles… When I’m in Joburg, I’m having fun, dawg – I’m a black kid who’s about to get to fully being a star – but when I’m home, it’s like this bravado sh*t because home is one of those places where ninjas are always stepping on dudes, especially if you’re a chilled dude who’s doing things differently, like how we were… We’re like second-generation real, in terms of hip hop, you know? First generation, is dudes like Towdee (Mac) and friends from our side who started motswako with the guys in Mafikeng, because it wasn’t just dudes from Mafikeng, you know? It was actually dudes from the North West, one spot in Mafikeng, and then predominantly, it was Maftown and the surrounds – maybe two people from Maglera, I could say, because it’s Towdee and my OG Gomz… So Gomz is more of like my influencers mixed with Apu Sebekedi, who started the strata sound with me after we decided we were motswako but still wanted to be a sub-genre of ourselves… So, from that time when that was happening, the lifestyle at home, dawg – alcohol, sex, drugs, money, witnessing people die, getting used to money – was crazy, without having to do the stuff we did for it and having access to it the way Khuli spoilt me at the beginning of our link-up. When he (Khuli) started saying, “Yo, you need to be smarter about your decisions and what you want to do with your money because of the hype you’ll get from this link-up, and what we’re about to do with the launch is going to force you to either focus or you’re going to be part of a lifestyle that is new to you in Joburg, even though you’ve popped off…” but Joburg is just its own thing, you get me?
Right, I see…
In terms of business, it’s been dope, because he put me out on stage and he would tell promoters, “Yo, I need you to cut my boy off with a young bag; he’s not going to do too much on stage, but trust me, he’s the one.” So, he really vouched for me and merged his brand with mine, so much so that, if we did not have a good run, it would’ve been hand in hand. It would’ve been me obviously saying, “Oh sh*t, maybe I’m not the guy,” but, even in between f*cking out, not making music, not being okay (my boys died), there was a year when I didn’t even want to touch this tape that I leaked – the one that we’re about to put up (DSP 2Player) – and, in all those decisions, even when we chatted about the leak, if I’m giving you an exclusive, I actually told him: “Yo, dawg, I’m going to do something crazy,” and he was like “Yo, you know I have to deal with the heat that side,” but there is a certain way I always dropped music because of who I was producing it for.
I was telling the boys, even when we put it (2Player) on DSP, even if it hits a number one, it’s not a big deal for me. That project had to go a certain way because we were trying to shift pop culture and bring EDM, drum and bass, and all those sonics that I came hearing because I was trapping, going to rage parties, etc. and really saying, “We’re from the hood, but we can make international music and we can give it to the game for free if we shift the level of what people call albums, and what people see in this country.”
And, if we’re going to talk about the benefit I gave him, I was there with the production telling him, “I don’t like these sounds.” Even with the trap and stuff, I was like: “Dawg, don’t ride the wave and when the ship sinks, you’re the person that sinks with it.” And, because of that, he put me on in terms of curation and he basically mentored me and kept it minimalistic in terms of business, because he understood how good of an investment this was.
Damn, it kind of feels like there’s this inheritance you’ve gotten…
In terms of motswako?
Yeah, because when I think about Khuli, he’s not doing the music he did five or six years ago, but everything was in preparation for him to pass that baton to you. That must weigh heavy on your shoulders…
Yeah, it’s intentional… It wasn’t just him; Jabba did it before he passed away, you know? He hit me up directly to say, “Yo, you’re the one.” He made sure to put me in the spaces to make sure people knew that this is the next up for the family, because it’s a very tight-knit family (motswako family), even though we don’t know each other too personally. Dudes are still in their circles but, at the same time, there’s a general understanding that you’re for the movement and sound, and where we’re from, “We gotchu.” There’s no “motswakolista” you can think about, who had an era, who hasn’t come through. Even me and Cass (Cassper Nyovest) – it happened at the perfect moment, like okay, he’s the one who got that now, but he pulled me to say, “Yo, pull for a video cameo so they know your face here, you know?” He’s one of the first people to post ‘Bodega’ to tell people that this sh*t is crazy. He actually wanted to jump on it but, because of me wanting to have a remix with just young dudes, not wanting to have him on a song with Emtee when I wasn’t sure if they were cool or not, I kept it transparent…
With the album out already – sitting at number one – we are only just past the middle of the year. What should we look out for in the remainder of 2023?
If you’ve been following me, you’ll see I’ve been engaging more on social media, which is not in my nature. I want to be more engaging with my fans. I’m planning to do more interviews and gang visuals, and the music is not stopping. Trust me, the music is not stopping. I’m in a different mode – I want ‘Barker Haines’ to be one of the biggest songs in this country, and I’m gonna make that happen. I’m independent, and it won’t be easy; however, we’re changing the narrative. I’m not joking.
Then let’s talk about the responsibility that puts on you.
It happened at that time; during that era you’re talking about. Every time I would see an artist who is top tier and would see a tweet saying Maglera Doe Boy should feature etc. or this should feature Maglera, I would always just go back to the drawing board. I would always go back to my OGs and say, “Yo, sh*t is crazy.”
But, besides you having the “baton”, when we focus on you as an individual within this culture we call hip hop, as mentioned earlier, mainstream-wise your presence isn’t as strong. But, if you go down to the streets, your reputation is quite high. Did that situation frustrate you a bit?
What can we say? It’s what comes with warfare, you understand? With those moments I was having, the one thing I always had was the emotional intelligence to understand that up until I give what I should give to the listeners and the consumer. And up until I try to make the music accessible in a certain way or certain level of execution. I was fine because I was popping at home; I won’t lie, dawg. Maglera was a “New York” for us, dawg. I’m literally first-generation hip hop. Who’s gotten the type of bookings I get at home, besides Towdee? We do our thing here so much and that’s why I kept the sound so “home”, so that I could have a place to come back to in the North West, just like Tira and them can go to Durban when piano comes and maybe gqom is not having as high of a presence as it was having. That’s why I feel like this era of identification is dope – 25K can do that too; when the rest of South Africa isn’t losing their minds about his slang, he can go back to PTA and home will show love.
But obviously, you still have the desire to grow beyond home?
So, I’ll always go back to how I said that it was intentional in terms of the music, features, the number of projects I have right now… When 2Player gets to the platform where I say we’re trying to get to number one just to show how much the streets are with us… I love how that project was moving in between all of the top-tier circles of the artists I always wanted to move with, because they are the youth. A lot of people who are holding sub-genres of music in South Africa are either five years old than me, or younger than, or as old as me. They are a part of the people I’m trying to touch with the music.
Just to sidetrack a bit, do you remember the first time you rapped?
I started rapping in 2004, bruh. I’m going to send you a picture I always post. It’s me and my boys, three of us; I’m like throwing up gang sign. And we started a rap crew called “All Gangsters” wang’thola? And then there were seven of us, and we rapped until ninjas started doing sports, etc. But, by the time I got to high school, I was the one doing it. The first time I recorded, I was 10 years old. I was in the hood; ninjas didn’t have a mic stand, so the mic was on the ceiling of the shack, but it was hung, so they had to put like two buckets on top of each other, so that I could reach the mic! But you can ask dudes – I killed everyone on that song.