Kimosabe (Formerly Sixfo) Talks 'La Dolce Vita'

South Africa's Kimosabe (formerly the rapper Sixfo) talks his new album 'La Dolce Vita' in an interview with Okayafrica.

It’s one thing for an artist to make a great album. It’s another to repeat that feat over and over again. Jo’burg-based Kokstad muso, Kimosabe (formerly known as Sixfo) is one of those select few artists. The 21-year-old vocalist, producer, and rapper has released countless projects– five of which were released in the last three years. La Dolce Vita, the second project he's released under the new moniker Kimosabe, sees him master the sound he’s been flirting with alongside some conventional hip-hop production styles. Frank Ocean, Kanye West, Drake, and 80s’ pop, rock and reggae all lend influences on the 10-track album that transcends genre and pokes fun at criticism. It's a release characterised by oft-morphed electric guitar riffs and eerie keys accompanied by subtly enhanced melancholic vocals over varied drum patterns. Kimosabe is an honest writer, an adept singer, and a great producer. He muses on such issues as relationships, love, and success, in an emotion-arousing and relatable simplistic eloquence. We caught up with the young musician and asked him a few questions about the new album, which you can download here. Read on for our full Q&A with Kimosabe below.

Sabelo Mkhabela for Okayafrica: Let's start with the name change. You went from being Sixfo to being Kimosabe. What's that about?

Kimosabe: The name change was prompted by a desire for a new start, both artistically and personally. I wanted to get away from all the negative people and things that were linked to the Sixfo name. And I've been wanting to change that name 'cause, honestly, I hated it.

OKA: The new project, La Dolce Vita, can you take us through it?

Kimosabe: So, I was in Cape Town for a while – clearing my head and then the title La Dolce Vita kinda just found its way into my thought process. The album is a labour of love, a musical gift to those who are willing to listen – I was getting tired of my crappy luck with hip hop and trying to break into the industry so I just thought fuck it, I stand a better chance as a singer anyway.

OKA: You've released at least one project every year in the past three or four years. You've released two so far this year. How do you manage to churn out this much music and still maintain the quality?

Kimosabe: I blame it on all this free time I've had since taking my gap year. Mix that with frustration and party drugs. It takes me a month to make a full project and I've got 12 months – unlimited ideas. Every project I release, I try to up the ante everytime in terms of mixing, mastering, beats, and lyrical content.

OKA: Sometime last year, you announced your deal with Universal. But up until today, it doesn't seem like anything has come out of that. What's the story?

Kimosabe: Right, it was a misunderstanding. True, I was gonna sign with Universal Music but the people involved in the whole deal were questionable and I didn't wanna get in like that. If I do end up signing a deal, it'll be on my own terms, no third parties.

OKA: You're in a love-hate relationship with the music industry yet you seem very passionate about the music itself. Do you see yourself ever quitting music because of the nature of the industry?

Kimosabe: Sadly, the industry in South Africa places very little emphasis on what matters most in music – talent. Truth is you can't quit something you were born to do and that's my curse. I'm stuck with this shit.

OKA: What has producing iFani's hit single “Ingom’ezimnadi” done for you as a producer? Any more big name credits in the pipelines?

Kimosabe: Not necessarily. I mean it's not like anybody knew I produced the joint unless they checked the credits. But yeah, there's some stuff I'm producing for a bunch of blokes and there are certain blokes who I'm never working with again.

OKA: You’ve released two projects this year. Any videos? Any tours? What are you looking to do next?

Kimosabe: Need to film some videos for La Dolce Vita, do some intimate shows for my biggest fans and there's a collaborative EP I'm finna do with Fonzo. Might move into merchandise and stuff, I don't know.

OKA: Any last words?

Kimosabe: Yeah, my brother Lwansta's about to mess things up with his new mix tape #NORMVL and La Dolce Vita here. Let love reign.

Collage by Ta'Ron Joyner

I Would Rather Breathe Than Think Outside the Box

South African artists were already working for little to no pay, but the pandemic has unleashed a flood of exploitative work requests right when we need money the most.

This essay is part of OkayAfrica's SA Reframed series, featuring personal writing from some of South Africa's best young writers edited by Verashni Pillay.

On the radio the other day, I heard a small business owner of a costume design company being interviewed and asked how they have managed to:

a. Reinvent themselves during this period, and

b. Think outside the box while doing so.

Their conversation made me think about how I have not managed to wrap my head around any sort of future, or reinvention outside any kind of box—beyond the one that wraps itself around my immediate reality. When the lockdown was announced, three friends and I withdrew to a remote area where internet access was dubious and, most times, simply not available. I would need to walk a bit of a distance to locate a spot under a tree or up a mountain to be connected for thirty minutes, or so.

Then I would do a basic comb through my emails and respond to work or requests that were already underway pre-lockdown. I only responded to new requests that either afforded me the opportunity to earn an income or those that allowed me to be productive on my own terms.

I was tired, lowkey grateful for the global pause, and no longer interested in the overly productive, overloaded nature of my previous normal. Something about the forced halt made me realise that I was on the edge of everything—myself included. I turned down anything that required me to join the endless online festivals, zoom panel discussions, Instagram takeovers and live readings. I refused all opportunities that needed me to grapple with any sort of forced normalcy. The ones that offered data or airtime or solidarity as compensation or assumed that I had gone pro bono. I needed a moment. I needed the space and time to re-bargain with the point of it all.

The pause was both useful and scary. It brought to the surface fears and revelations about the shortfalls of our industry and how creatives are positioned within the productivity machinery and economy of South Africa, or rather all the ways we fall outside of it.

As Minister of employment and labour Thulas Nxesi mentioned in a briefing two months ago, "On the issue of freelance workers—unfortunately with the current legislation they fall outside. Maybe what we are going to do is that after this we will have to re-look at it in terms of our legislative amendments and start a debate about that." Why are there laws that have gone unchallenged? Who should be challenging them? Why are artists hearing, out loud for the first time, of convenient loopholes that render us outside of an economy that taxes us like everyone else, and consumes us and our work. Yet, in times of crisis, this same economy engages with our art and our productivity and our products, but still deems us on the margin, outside, and non-essential. If we are not assisted financially, how can we be productive, how can we acquire the resources to produce? How can we apply our minds to anything else outside of survival and scrambling to stay afloat.

Pandemics do not mean that artists have gone pro bono

When you approach an artist with the assumption that they have gone pro bono during this time, when you draft an email to request a collaboration, a commission, a participation, a productivity of any kind, please bear in mind that artists are up against an unconcerned and corrupt government that has failed to provide aid and assistance to their sector during this time.

Theatre critic Sara Holdren says "Art is hard and most of it fails—either in small ways or catastrophic ones." In South Africa, the process of making art is hard, sure, but more than that, the conditions and the context in which we make work fails us in catastrophic ways that will require more than a debate and amended legislation. It will need, for starters, a minister who cares about the arts and understands its soul and mechanisms. This pause has brought about more questions and concerns for me than inspiration to reinvent or think outside the box. I have questions about the box itself and why I feel asphyxiated and trapped by its design.

I would rather breathe than think outside of the box

This pandemic has made me question what my career, livelihood and stability have been built on; what has been propping them up all this time, and what has been allowing me to appear valued and valuable in this economy? What does and will the spectrum of value look like in a normal that has been disrupted and now sits in a near distant future that may or may not be near?

Then I find myself vacillating between hope and concern. My hope is that when the pandemic is no longer with us, artists can have a come-to-jesus conversation about what has contributed and exacerbated this attitude and disrespect toward our practice and industry, I hope we can challenge the legislations that we have been dared to challenge, I hope we can be productive in ways that serve us and make sense for our well-being, that we will be paid our worth and that our society will realize that without the artist producing, there will be no art, or music, or films, or books and things that have kept people entertained and creatively nourished during this time.

My concern is that the "free"content artists are currently creating and the free access to art or performances, will not make this realisation possible, and that this kind of access, that was already undervalued and exploited, will be irreversible. The exploitation dialogue is tiring. Being treated as non-essential is tiring and terrifying too, and while most of the world can slowly start going back to work, most artists will probably have to hang tight until 2021, maybe even 2022.

While artists deal with a hoax of an arts and culture department that is dead to us and a minister who tweets more than he does his job, in an ideal world, I wish that artists could afford to indulge uncertainty, and fear, and pause, in ways that allow them to heed the call made by Nicholas Berger in his piece The Forgotten Art of Assembly [Or, Why Theatre Makers Should Stop Making] "We must lean into this pain. We must feel the grief. We must mourn. Mourn the loss of work, the loss of jobs, the loss of money, the loss of life. Mourn the temporary loss of an art form that demands assembly. Lean into the grief. Lean in. Lean in. Lean in. We must remind ourselves that mourning is a human act, not a digital one."

Koleka Putuma is an award-winning poet, playwright and theatre director. Her bestselling debut collection of poems Collective Amnesia is in its 10th print run and her play No Easter Sunday for Queers Sunday for Queers won several awards.

get okayafrica in your inbox


Interview: Omah Lay Is Nigeria's New Young Act to W​atch

We sit down with the rising Port Harcourt-born musician to talk about his latest EP, Get Layd.