For our November issue we delve into the story of burgeoning rapper Mochen, a young stalwart of the game who is quickly taking the Pretoria rap scene by storm.
Words: Boitumelo Molamu
Images: Godfather The President & Percy Kanon
It comes with no argument that Pretoria has been flexing its dominance when it comes to giving birth to talent, especially when it comes to rap. At some point, the capital city was associated with the ’piano sound; however, after the successful rap career of 25k, rapping in vernacular, the floodgates were opened, as more creative talents found their way into the mainstream. One such talent is Mochen. Armed with an ethereal pen, he documents the realities of growing up in Pretoria. His authentic story-telling is what has turned the burgeoning rapper into a young stalwart of the game, gaining critical acclaim from his peers and critics alike.
A new wave – “wave” might be an understatement; it’s been more like a tsunami – of young rappers have come into the light. These young rappers have merged vernacular rap with hard-hitting trap that represents the city. “With Pretoria, it’s not just about the music; it’s not just Pretoria rap, it is the culture,” says Mochen, over a 6pm Zoom call. “If you come to Pretoria, we have our language, our way of doing things; we have our homegrown brands like GalXBoy, we have homebrewed sounds like Bacardi and, most importantly, we have stories that are unique to us,” he continues. After winning Artist on the Rise 2023 by Homecoming Events, a Pretoria-grown events agency, Mochen has been on the explosive rise, securing features on the Wordz album People Forget to be People, as well as Tyson Sybateli’s mixtape, Present. With all of this in just a year, the Pretoria-bred rapper seems to be an industry favourite. “I feel like with what’s happening this year, the conversation has changed. Right now, it’s no longer just about being worried about tapping into the industry or making good music to just keep the momentum going, but the conversation this year has been about the music business,” he explains.
Despite not having a major project out, the young rapper has managed to receive co-signs from some of the biggest artists in the industry, while cultivating a niche audience on social media. With that being said, it is hard to imagine the dopamine that could rush through one’s head. After almost missing out on the Homecoming Artist on the Rise competition, the rapper had to put his pride aside. “Let me just say ego played a huge role in me initially thinking I was at a level where I didn’t need to be competing against other people, because I have a young cult following on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, as well as being friends with big artists in the industry and already having features in songs with them,” explains Mochen.
He would later come to his senses, not for the money or even for the clout that would come with winning, but because of something else: “I knew that this thing was going to help me because they made it clear what we were getting from the win, such as legal services. I did not even think a lot about the cash price – free legal services was top of my mind because who else is going to give you that for free? And I need that, especially while I’m getting deeper in the game.”
Despite not having a catalogue of music, Mochen has maintained consistency when it comes to producing exquisite features and freestyles and, like for most Pretoria rappers rapping in vernacular, the content can feel repetitive and not necessarily from Mochen’s catalogue but from the city’s output. Never mind it being a culture, a substantial amount of Pretoria rap contains graphic descriptions of environments and situations that young black men of the city find themselves in on a regular. “As I said, these are stories unique to us,” he explains. “Most of us are rapping from what we know, what we’ve seen and what we’ve experienced, and it’s unfortunate that most of our stories have those tones,” he clarifies. As the Pretoria rap scene expands and more artists get to experience success, the switch in content is inevitable. “Eventually, more and more of us will grow and live beyond our areas where we grew up, and we’ll tell the stories of how life has changed.” Mochen adds. He then continues to acknowledge the theatrics of the content, saying: “I think, right now, the gangster stories are fascinating to people; it’s entertaining for those who are listening, especially coming from the point of view of people from Pretoria.”
Most would feel the urge and pressure to take advantage of the success of winning the Artist on the Rise competition and a feature on ‘Barker Haines’, alongside Wordz and Maglera Doe Boy, in a short space of time. Despite there being a substantial amount of hype from winning the competition, Mochen carries a sense of calm and remains focused on honing his craft. There is a strategy behind his reluctance to flood the market with verses, singles and projects. “One thing about me is that I’ve always known that I have something that provokes people and, when I put out music, I make it appeal to people so that it evokes something in them,” Mochen explains. “I want people to hear and see my work, especially when I put out something that I hold close to my heart, that I feel is my best work,” he continues. This dedication, focus and obsession with perfection, and overall wholesome energy of Mochen, have made him a favourite to collaborate with, appearing on songs and projects with the likes of G-TECH 2bit, Tyson Sybateli and Wordz. There is a sense of unity when looking at how Pretoria artists move and collaborate in a larger context. “I’ve always been about building community, especially having been around amapiano guys,” he continues. “The way they move and the collaborative spirit they possess are things I want,” says Mochen. For him, a lot has changed in the space of a year; however, the essence of what makes him a phenomenal artist is still prominent, and it wouldn’t be far-fetched to assume or predict anything but success in his career in the coming years.