You can’t really go anywhere without your ears catching a Sketchy Bongo produced song. Whether you like it or not, Sketchy Bongo’s music is as unavoidable as a biblical plague. Things will never be the same again; rather things have never been the same again since Sketchy jumped onto the scene. It’s no surprise that this super producer has evolved to an unmissable level. Turn your Saiyan Scouter towards the Durban-based producer and you will clearly understand the power level in motion here.
It’s amazing to witness how impactful you’ve become in what seems to be a short period of time. The majority of people have only now been exposed to your presence through your ‘mainstream’ records. Although you’ve been doing this music thing for a while, the question still remains: when did it all become clear that you wanted to pursue this dream?
Man, we’ve been working since like high school. I’ve been wanting to do this thing for a while and this has always been the number one plan. Since when I was like 10 years old, that’s when we decided to do this.
Damn. That’s a long time. You make this music thing seem so effortless and it’s as if you had one smooth ride to the top.
No, it hasn’t …
Was there ever a time when you just felt like throwing in the towel?
You see, the thing is when you’ve been working for a long time, you’ll have a lot of ups and downs in between. We were kids, you know? We had a lot of stuff that didn’t work out and I think it was around 2013 or so when Aewon and I decided that if it didn’t work that year then we would be calling it quits. Aewon had a law degree and he was going to carry on with that, so that’s what we were going to do. But we worked really hard that year and we focused completely on the music; we didn’t do anything else and it worked out. That’s what it really took.
It just seems like it was predestined to build up this way; like it had to happen. You’ve worked with a number of artists across a variety of genres, usually producers just stick to just one lane of sound. Was venturing into other types of sounds always part of the plan?
Yes, you see for me I don’t believe in genres. I believe in making music. When I start making something with an artist, it would be very different. Like when Bigstar Johnson reached out to me to make a single with him, and obviously he was a fan of hip hop because he was a hip hop artist during The Hustle and the like. He is also very soulful and I could see that, so I just started making a whole lot of soulful stuff that ended up being a song called ‘My Year’, which is doing pretty well. I could’ve given that beat to whoever, Kyle Deutsch; I could’ve given it to a singer like Shekinah and it would’ve been an RnB or pop record. That’s how I work; I like working out of what’s been used to.
“I don’t believe in genres. I believe in making music.” – Sketchy Bongo
We know that the Wolfpack is part of your identity, but how do you want to be perceived as an individual? We imagine that there is some sort of level or status that you’re trying to reach right now.
My whole thing is that I just keep working and I don’t do long-term goals. I like to take short-terms goals; I like to set a lot of short-term goals that I can achieve quickly and achieve in a set amount of time. Once I’ve achieved something, I‘ve already set the next goal. I don’t really like to say, okay in certain years I want to have a Ferrari and huge house and the like. I want to work consistently, so I say okay in the next two months I want to do this or I need to have this done. I feel like if you work consistently, then the goals that you have will get bigger and bigger and you’ll keep achieving more.
That’s true. Now the evolution of SA producers, rather hip hop producers, has been interesting to witness. I mean let’s be real, without producers we wouldn’t have the hits that we have today. We’ve seen the frustrations, we’ve seen the lack of appreciation producers go through and now you guys are becoming your own artists. You dropped your single ‘Let You Know’ with Shekinah, which did amazingly and even managed to help score you that Ultra Music deal. Has it become more than the music now? Are you more dependent on yourself than anybody else?
I always depend on myself more than anybody else. I think right now it’s about building a brand. For me it’s a business and this is my business as an owner of Sketchy Bongo. Every move that I make is to make more money [laughs], grow the brand and make more money.
Real talk …
And another thing I’ve notice with the producers as well is that I know all the big producers in South Africa: Gemini, Tweezy and Lunatic… Unlike all the rappers, we all get along [laughs]. We like to work together and we like to grow together because we understand that we have issues like artists not inviting producers to award ceremonies; Tweezy did that whole thing with #ProducersMustRise. I like to see myself as a producer and an artist at the same time. So whatever I do, I do everything completely and don’t currently differentiate producer and artist too much.
Word. Going back to the music a little bit. It’s quite evident that you value collaborations and that you tend to work with prominent artists/musicians. Are the collaborations that you do strategic or is it like open season with how you approach them?
I work with people I get along with, not like being good or anything, but people I get along with in studio. I work with certain people I wouldn’t normally work with to have your non-typical features. Especially in South African hip hop, everybody we’ve been working with, I get along with personally. I can go into studio and make a record; I start producing from scratch. So if the artist can’t vibe, it doesn’t really work for me.
Damn, so what are your thoughts on how SA hip hop has developed over the years? Would you say that we’ve finally reached the point that our culture has always been striving for? Anyone can get a piece of the pie if willing …
We used to have this thing in Durban called Run Dbn and you have to understand there weren’t things going on like Jozi and the like. So we would have like half an hour of hip hop in a club compared to the house category, you know? So we kept doing our own parties, our own things, bringing down artists and since then hip hop has grown so much (especially in Durban).