T.U.R.K ‘S $tar freestyle got the HYPE

Freestyling has been a part of hip-hop culture for many years. In South Africa, we’ve seen artists like Stogie T with his freestyle Fridays, SpeekaRSA with Sotra Cyphers, and HipHopLiveSA hosting freestyles and cyphers. Many rappers participate in weekly freestyles to showcase their skills off the record. It’s inspiring to see rappers improvising unwritten verses over instrumental beats. Ginger Trill deserves credit for keeping the culture alive and providing a platform for talented rappers. An elite rapper from Lesotho who has impressed the hip-hop community is T.U.R.K. He is a notable lyricist, complete musician, and songwriter with an extensive catalog. His recent lyric videos for “BETTER LATE THAN NEVER” on YouTube and the album release in October 2023 showcase his artistry and intelligence. T.U.R.K. has been knocking on doors for over a decade, and I believe he will establish himself as one of Africa’s best rappers. I recently had the opportunity to interview him, and I’m excited to share his story.

First, welcome to Hype Magazine, how has the journey been like?

Thank you for having me. My journey has been that of an independent act who has not been afforded the luxury of taking the elevator but has resolved to take the stairs, all the while understanding that the destination remains the same either way.  My career as a rapper/singer/songwriter span over a decade and since then I’ve released 2 mixtapes, 3 EPs, a compilation, a slew of singles and feature verses, and most recently, my debut album dubbed “Better Late Than Never”. These releases and having performed on numerous stages, both in Lesotho and South Africa, have positively contributed to the artist that I am today thus having made the journey both educational and worthwhile.

You have been doing this hip-hop thing of ours for a while now, what are some of the huddles you faced as an MC?

When you pursue a dream like this for as long as I have, you’re bound to come across a number of hurdles, particularly as a Hip-Hop artist that comes from a small land-locked country like Lesotho where music is generally considered as a hobby and opportunities to grow as creatives are insignificant, for the most part. The music industry is generally saturated from a global perspective, therefore that also poses a hurdle in terms of one’s ability to cut through the noise and achieve success – which has proven to be quite the task. Lastly, I’ve come to understand that my use of the English language as a primary means to convey messages through my music, as opposed to relying on the Sesotho language which has seemingly caught on thanks to prominent acts from this region, makes it hard for my own people to relate and doesn’t give the general public insight into who I am as a Mosotho man; however, I firmly believe that music itself is a language and for the most part, the feeling(s) an artist expresses to his/her/their listeners is above all else. With that said, I truly believe that hurdles are far from being finite and a consistent effort to better oneself, along with their craft, can yield the necessary results to help you get over the said obstacles. Trial and error are the name of the game.

How did the name “ThatUnf***WithTherapperkidd” come about?

ThatUnf***withableRapperKidd came about during a transitional phase in my formative years as a budding rapper when I’d made a firm decision to pursue a career as a recording artist and was looking for a pseudonym that would not only make a statement but define who I am at the core. It is a phase that I have always wanted and continue to live up to as an emcee that finds reverence in their pen and general ability to rap. Although quite lengthy, it also makes for a palatable acronym, T.U.R.K, and can be stylized in several ways that are easier to digest like “The Kidd”.

 

How would you describe the music that you create?

I’d describe the music I make as being eclectic, considering how diverse the range of topics I have touched are. It is self-explanatory and comes from a place of truth as I write from my own perspective and from that of those around me or what I see on a day-to-day basis. My bodies of work seek to take the listener through a rollercoaster of emotions with braggadocious raps, self-introspection and intentional wordplay. I’m always looking to find ways to create music that can be viewed as impactful, while also understanding that sometimes music lovers are looking for an escape or may be interested in simply listening to music that suits the vibe they are currently in.

Do you think as a hip-hop we still value the importance of freestyling and how do you define freestyling in your own words?

I think that the importance of freestyling and its value is subjective, depending on who you ask. I do, however, know that it is an art that will never die and will continue to have a role in Hip-Hop. See, freestyling is a way for an emcee to showcase an array of skillsets, unlike in music production where you may be confined to specific tools that will aid in the creation of a particular song for its intended purpose. It also helps to sharpen one’s sword and keep the creative juices flowing.

 

I’d define freestyling as rap that does not follow structure and is borderless. This allows the artist to bend their mind in all sorts of creative ways and challenges the limits to their pen. It may be written or can come straight off the dome, there are no rules!

 

What’s the role of improvisation or freestyling in your creative process?

Improvisation and freestyling play an integral role in the foundational phase of my creative process as that’s how all ideas begin. Whether the idea is sparked by a word, a thought and/or memory, an action and/or experience, emotions, a melody or simply the direction in which the production or beat sways you, that initial starting point is spontaneous and in the moment. Improvisation is the driving force that eventually leads to a finished product. It may begin with a word or a simple hum, you never know.

How do you think your hometown or upbringings has influenced your music and lyrics?

My hometown of Maseru and upbringing, both here and abroad, heavily influences my music and lyrics as they form the basis of it all. I seek to tell true stories and what better way to do so than to speak about the things that I know and have seen or heard. I speak on the past, present, and often express my outlook on the future. If I’m unable to relate to a Mosotho through language, then I’ll do so through the context of my music and what it is I speak on.

How has the evolution of hip-hop over the years influenced your approach to music and where do you fit in that narrative?

The evolution of Hip-Hop over the years influenced my approach to music both positively and negatively. Negatively in the sense that, like most creatives, there is an internal struggle or desire to fit in and go with the times from a sonic standpoint. And although this struggle is constant, I believe that it is only human and can pertain to other aspects of life as one chases their dreams and a means to establish a lofty life. With that said, I find comfort in knowing and understanding the fact that there will always be change in a volatile industry such as that which I operate in but there is one constant through it all, and that is the fact that good and honest music outlasts all microwavable trends. THAT is where I fit in. I’m just sharing my story with the hopes that someone out there will listen and that it will resonate, all the while making music that I believe to be of great quality.

As an elite rapper you are, are there any hidden references in your songs that you think may have gone unnoticed?

Of course, there are hidden references in my lyrics that may go unnoticed, and they are all intentional because I treat them as nuggets for the listeners to look forward to and find. Words, whether explained or not, will always be open to the interpretation of the individual on the other end and that is what makes music and lyrics so special. There are people who listen passively and there are those who finely comb through every line and word, and I make music for both. There is no greater feeling than having someone break down a bar you took the time to craft to the T and it is equally just as satisfying to come across someone who shares their own perspective or thought process regarding words you have pieced together as an artist, only for them to derive new meaning from them.

 

Can you share a defining moment in your career that shaped your path to be where you at today?

A defining moment in my career that has shaped my path to date was when a long-term collaborator by the name of Katleho Tshola aka Kat-Law and I went on to win a nationwide competition known as Vodacom (Lesotho) Superstars in 2012. Aside from the R50,000.00 cash prize which was more than I’d ever seen at the time as a teenager, winning reaffirmed the belief I had/have in myself as an artist and it ultimately changed how I was viewed by people who saw this passion of mine as a mere hobby, my family included. Since then, I’ve achieved a wide range of accolades which include but are not limited to performing on big stages such as Vodacom Summa Feva, Cleketseng and Black Affluence here at home, performing on the Powerplay stage at Back to the City in 2018, having a SOTRA Cyphers Exclusive debut, participating in the Homecoming Events Artist on the Rise 2023 initiative and recently having released my debut studio album, “Better Late Than Never”. All of these feats have contributed to my being a staple in the Lesotho Hip-Hop scene and are a testament to my upward trajectory, which will soon lead me to even greater and borderless heights.

Looking ahead, are there any new creative avenues or styles you’re excited to explore in your future?

In closing, I look forward to exploring all that the Hip-Hop genre has to offer from a musical standpoint and from a business perspective. I’m constantly pursuing ways to challenge myself as a recording artist, writer, and performer, all the while looking for effective ways to expand the T.U.R.K brand. Longevity and the ability to pivot into other fields is the goal.

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