South African hip hop has come a long way despite all the difficulties and challenges that had to be overcome to dive up a deep social ocean and heroically emerge as the remarkable force it has always intended to be. From imitator to cultural influencer, our community is at a stage where anything is ideally possible. In a biblical sense, the significance of it all (at times) seems so prophetic, as if this is all part of one giant global hip hop plan and we (South Africa) are the key factor of the blueprint. With that said, the origin of any artist has always been an important stage in their quest to fame or freedom. From the origin comes the establishment and after that comes the development (and so forth). But here’s the tricky part through it all; the human’s (dis)ability to overlook, especially within a hip hop perspective, is kind of a definite outcome any artist on the come-up can expect throughout his/her journey. Let’s not front here and pretend as if we have never, at some point, neglected or doubted one or two artists that are probably major today and have quickly earned the attention of the public. If that hasn’t happened to you then congratulations on being so damn perfect. 2016 has been so giving with the music and by now you’ve probably pinpointed who’s ahead of the game. Either way, HYPE has always maintained the importance of keeping an ear on the streets to find artists that we consider got next. Check out this edition’s pick of SA Hip Hop’s Best Kept Secrets that you need to know about.
5. KING CHIKWA
NOTABLE RELEASES: IDES tape
Now here is one rare talent that the game definitely needs to take note of. From the moment you borrow you ear to some King Chikwa sonics, you might get glimpses of Chance The Rapper mixed with a little bit of Kendrick, well whatever your comparisons the skill and masterful execution of Chikwa’s music will leave you wanting more.
4. KID TINI
REPPING: Eastern Cape
NOTABLE RELEASES: Coming Of Age (tape),Shay’wei (single), If The Shoe Fits (single), Ice In My Cup (single)
Kid Tini, real name Phiwe Unam Tini, is one aspiring young artist that is a combination of hunger, drive and basically pure passion. From the bars to the overall focus in delivery, Kid Tini is steadily building himself up to compete with the SA’s best. Watch out.
NOTABLE RELEASES: 5AM in The East (single), KLYMAX (EP), Soul Touch (single), Real Mjita (single)
Singer/songwriter, KLY (real name Siyabonga Mkhize), is a voice you would want to know about. Using those Drake, PartyNextDoor & Bryson Tiller type of vocals, KLY (which is an acronym for Keep Love Young) is easily capturing those that dare to listen with lyrics that are said to resonate with the modern young men. Having joined the entertainment industry at an early age, this is one talent that you need to know about.
2. REFI SINGS
NOTABLE RELEASES: What’s Real (single), YDKMY (feature)
We are not going to even pretend that Refi Sings isn’t one dynamic entity. Probably one artist that SA hip hop is definitely overlooking, the bars, voice and overall attitude is beyond our expectations and reasoning.
17 year old musician, Espacio Dios, is one unique soul that is bound to change the rules of this whole music game. Having been releasing soundtracks online for about 2 years now, Espacio has managed to grab an audience of listeners from all over the world with his unfiltered approach to his songs.
We tend to overlook the different and audibly abstract because of the level of conformity we have sublimely convinced ourselves to surrender to. When HYPE first heard of Espacio Dios, we doubted the possibility of having yet another breakthrough individual. We doubted the reality that South Africa could birth a space god. We doubted our very own reason for existing in the first place and we’re ashamed.
To be open is a rare (but basic) human ability and Espacio has managed to resist the urge to be enclosed. Just after debuting his latest Backseat Glaxaxy EP, HYPE had a chat with the rising star to get a picture of what the hell is coming.
We remember the first time we heard one of your tracks (Amen), but at the time we couldn’t necessarily put a foot on what we had stumbled on although we were aware of your presence online. It is really interesting to imagine the kind of impact you are going to have in the game. And with that said we would just like to find out how this whole music thing began for you.
Espacio: It began a long time ago, since the days of the first Lion King. I used to be the craziest fan of the Lion King. And with beats and actually producing I started when I was like 11, that’s when I started recording and making my own stuff. I was always passionate about not trying to get someone to teach me, because I felt like it had to come from me. Music is a personal thing so when I do it by myself I’m giving people me. Usually I’m not that comfortable jumping on someone else’s beat, because I feel like it would be half me. To elaborate on when it began, whenever I would make a beat I would always write to it. I can’t just jump on any beat, even when my own beat is not done I just start with the main melody, then I would write to the melody and continue from there. I guess that’s just how I grew with my music and vibed with it.
Word. What seems to stand out is your creativity and you just seem to have this sort of abstract approach to music. During your creative process, what mental state do you need to be in for you to be satisfied with a song?
OK, well I’m never satisfied and I don’t think anyone can truly be satisfied with what they have. But the point where I’m actually really satisfied comes when I just listen to it over & over again until I say OK, there’s nothing more I can do to it and if I change it then I’m going to mess it up. Before that point, I change the song like a million times. It depends on me and it just comes to me. When I find that point, I tend to drop my songs immediately because I know I’m going to reflect and try to change it again.
How would one be able to describe you? Because you not necessarily (or directly) part of the whole hip hop sound. What actual genre of music would you categorize yourself in or what lane are you on right now musically?
You see the thing is I always say to myself; I don’t have a genre. Because even when I listen to music, I listen to any type of music as long as it’s good. If I like it then I will listen to it. I just make what I like, I don’t say OK I’m going to make this or I have this track. No. If I feel like a snare has to come in here, it’s going to come in. If I feel like some classical violin needs to come in here then it’s going to come in. I don’t really think about any genre, it’s about the music and how I feel at that point.
“I’m just doing me and if the people catch on then they catch on.” – Espacio Dios
We’ve just been asking ourselves, how did a kid from Mafikeng become a space god? In other words, your presence & influence is starting to gradually resonate now but prior to the EP (Backseat Galaxy) dropping you’ve been maintaining your online popularity. How has the waiting matured your artistry? Was this roll out always part of the plan? Do you plan to be in the spotlight or “Frontline”? Or are you just doing you and if the people catch on then they catch on.
Yes that there, I’m just doing me and if the people catch on then they catch on. But what I like about the growing part is that I just don’t learn about the music, I learn about the industry as well and unfortunately the industry isn’t a happy place. Right now, even though I’ve learnt about it (the industry), I don’t want to focus too much on it. I just want to focus on the music.
Now let’s talk about the Backseat Galaxy EP that you recently dropped. What was the overall approach with it when you created it? Was that your intro to the game or is there some deep thought provoking reason behind it?
OK, so I planned on dropping Backseat Galaxy since last year September and I’ve always had the name of my first mixtape or whatever album/EP. Backseat Galaxy comes from me just being me and wanting everyone to come into my life. So when I started with Backseat Galaxy, it’s kind of a love story you know? It’s all about my past relationships and the heartbreaks that came up, so when I was recording Backseat Galaxy I just wanted everyone to feel my past. With songs like ‘Amen’, that was me talking about letting go of someone I really dig and Backseat Galaxy isn’t just about one female you know? [Laughs] It’s about different people and that’s why I’m saying its different parts.
“Right now I’m just trying to be that artist that’s pure, an artist that anyone can just listen to and say they understand” – Espacio Dios
We guess that right now it would be safe to say that you in an introductory stage, especially in SA. The people are starting to catch on, so how do you see yourself being positioned in the industry as whole?
Right now I’m just trying to be that artist that’s pure, an artist that anyone can just listen to and say they understand what I’m saying you know? Especially with teenagers because every teenager finds his first love by being a teen. And by me making songs that are in Backseat Galaxy, I just want teenagers to relate to this and feel what I’m feeling because I’m going to grow now, I’m going to be 20 soon and I’ll be giving different experiences. Right now I just want kids that are my age to feel this and not only people my age actually, I want adults to remember what happened when they were 17.