Coming from a small town like Mthatha or PMB , where it’s rare for any artist to be on any of the major media platforms or even being based in Durban where we only see one or two rap artists shine roughly every 5 years. Being on the Hype freshman edition & gracing the cover has not only afforded me more opportunities but it has given my people some hope. Hope that nothing is impossible. Among-st everything I also got invited to the Annual KZN music Imbizo where I was a speaker in the Hip Hop panel that consisted of Osmic, Benza , DJ Lab(Gagasi fm) & artist from Kenya if I’m not mistaken. It’s really been a good look & I feel more responsible to take things farther , lift my city & the brand of music/message that I bring to the table. S/O to you for believing & unearthing fresh talent. All the best to this year’s freshman, stay true to yourself , pave your own lane , create a fan base that’s unique & closer to your true self” – Champ
Now here is champion you’ve probably been aware of for some time. Hip hop recording artist and producer, Champ has definitely earned the respect of the game and getting over 10k nods to make it on HYPE’s Freshman list, Champ is clearly set on causing some major destruction in the. The raps, the beats and overall skill can’t be withheld. Now here is his story, so please learn something from our conversation with the Champ himself.
Before we discuss the journey so far, let’s talk about the beginning. How did Champ get into this hip hop culture we love so much?
It started in a town called Pietermaritzburg, in KZN. Which is my mother’s home town, I am originally from Mthatha in the Eastern Cape. The hip hop bug hit me in Primary school when I bought a DMX cassette tape. My uncle, Phila, gave us his old sound system which had a cassette recorder, I’d record rap & kwaito songs playing on the radio & also attempt to record myself [Laughs].
Dope. So when did you realize that life had chosen this path for you to walk on? Because people tend to do hip hop to be part of the “cool kids” in the beginning right? But for the selected few it becomes some much bigger than getting noticed for the coolness.
2004 I’d say I started rapping/writing my own music then I stepped in cyphers & battled a lot, I think it was all just for fun & just enjoying this new found love/hobby that I am so good at, at this point. Fast forward 2008 I moved to Durban just after my initiation (to manhood) back in the Eastern cape. I released a project titled The Manual aka “The Man’yall”. That was the point where I started seeing this as more than just a hobby & realizing I have massive potential. I had already collaborated with a couple of emcees from PMB & Durban, then did a song with Maraza & Zakwe which started making its rounds in the streets & had people asking who is this Xhosa rapper. The project had a very warm reception & I believe had rappers accept who they are more and not be fixated on just what was going on at the time. Through that tape I won the Best Emcee award at the KZN’s Original Material Awards (I pray they bring them back). I Graced a couple of stages too, Back To The City being one of them. Learned how to produce in 2011. Now I also do post production for other artists as well. ByLwansta’s YAR is one of my best works sonically so far in terms of my audio engineering work. I got production credits on both Duncan’s albums. Really looking to be on more mainstream albums & film scoring, so yeah the calling was strong all that’s happened pushes me to take this seriously every year.
You’ve come a long way with the music, from Training Day to those #Winnerzcirclewednesdayz joints. Considering everything that has happened in your journey so far, the good, bad and ugly. What kind of artist would you say Champ is finally emerging into?
That’s a very dope question, I think you meant Practice Makes Perfect because Training Day isn’t out yet [Laughs]
Oh word? Guess we’re ahead of our time huh? No? Jokes on us then…
I am becoming more & more fearless. As artists, especially hip hop artists nowadays, we tend to want to be “cool”, the image is more important than honesty. I’m becoming confident enough to talk about things that will make an impact in my life & those that relate. I’m not hit single driven & I want to build an audience that is here for the whole story. I have also discovered that I care about humanity. My content also addresses some social ills & things I feel strongly about. Even a club song from me will have a psycho analytical approach or some contrasts from my experiences.
Anybody can start something, but it’s keeping up the momentum that truly makes one stand out for real. Where does Champ find his inspiration today?
My background, the dynamics are crazy. I have so much to share in my music. What I experienced growing up eMthatha is totally different to what PMB taught me, all different to what Durban did to me too. I draw inspiration from all these dynamics. I am a very versatile artist/producer, that is just one example of the type of influences these dynamics have on me.
We assume that you must’ve imagined SA hip hop would’ve given you the spotlight you deserve by now. I mean looking at your accolades and consistency, are there certain frustrations that you’ve experienced with regards the cultures reception of your artistry? If so how have you managed to overlook them?
Oh yeah for sure, I have used my music to vent a lot, especially on Practice Makes Perfect, there’s a joint titled “Hold on”, it sums up the dark place I was in. Writing helps me come to terms with a lot of things. My last tape, In All Honesty, you hear a man who understands the world better, accepts reality but still wants to win, still wants to change the world. I’ve met a lot of people I looked up to or respected that have let me down. I feed off rejection. I experienced tribalism as a kid from my mother’s side of the family with remarks & comments that stuck in my mind. That is why I believe in still rapping my lingo even though I can spit in English not only does it set me apart but it makes me authentic & have a flavour the world needs to hear. I believe the SA market is becoming a lot more open minded I imagine a day when I’m finally heard by the masses & they go back to my old sh*t & I’m able to throw amazing shows with a solid catalogue driven by organic music that moves people. So I also believe there’s a reason why it took this long or taking this long & I use the music to overcome & overlook certain obstacles.
Damn. So when we dropped the FRESHMAN link, the people really voted for you and kept you part of the circle. How did the support make you feel and what do you honestly think of the selected? Real Talk.
Yo, it was crazy cause I know people who I think wanted this for me more than I did. I wanted it badly, yes but my people showed up & I think they want to see me win & live up to my full potential as much as I do. I’m grateful & I’m amped up to make every single one of them proud. I don’t really know much about the other acts who won I won’t lie, except ByLwansta obviously, he is an amazing lyricist & a walking media machine, but I salute everyone for the fact that they have a fan base that can push them above & beyond some of the 28 candidates who are already in people’s faces every day. This is a great platform for everyone who won to really show up & prove their fans right. S/O to you guys for recognizing the hard work we are putting in, since high school collecting HYPE mags & trying to get on, God answers those prayer years later [Laughs]
Respect. To conclude, what overall impact does Champ want to have in SA hip hop as a whole?
I want to break down the walls & heal my people. By breaking down walls I mean destroying these many boundaries that we have set amongst each other. Tribalism is closest to me because I experienced it first hand, classism too, music & language boundaries/barriers. I’ve worked hard to achieve being equally good at rapping in my home language & in English & that is one of the reasons. Music knows no commercial, no underground in my world if it moves the soul & has a message to heal that is all the world needs right now. I believe it wasn’t a coincidence that my father gave me this name [Laughs]. I am for the people & I want to see them win in life with this music being their soundtrack. I also understand that money & success gives you a voice these days but I believe in my mission so much that it will happen the other way around for me. When my vision gets out there, money & success will be inevitable & I will be listened to more closely. The Winnerz Circle i.e my friends, fans/supporters, clients, acquaintances, fam etc. will be a real thing, a huge network with endless support not only for me but for each & everyone who is a part of it.