With close to a decade in the game, South African rapper and TV presenter Moozlie embodies the 'Spirit of an OG'.
Nomuzi "Moozlie" Mabena is playing the long game and it's chess, not checkers. "Yeah, you got some bars, but are you a star? Yeah, you got some gas, but will it get you far?" she raps on "Boom Bap Intro", the opening track of her latest album Spirit of an OG.
The intro serves as a swift address to naysayers. On any given day on Twitter, one can simply search Moozlie's name and be ushered into a compact community of individuals who not only deny her successes but also refute her talent and imply her longevity in the entertainment industry is some sort of fluke.
Since winning the MTV Base VJ Search in 2012, she's worked alongside the biggest names and brands as a presenter, MC, voice-over artist, rapper, brand consultant and influencer.
As we stand in 2021, the young girl from Ben City (Benoni) has, in just under a decade, forged herself into a force to be reckoned with. Moozlie owns a record label Nomuzi Mabena Music, a lucrative brand partnership deal with Cruz Vodka for their cherry blossom flavour. "I signed an alcohol deal during an alcohol ban," she enthused in an episode of Riky Rick's Lab Live in which she was a guest, and currently hosts Nasty C's Zulu Man With Some Power web series/podcast over and above the consistent Viacom voice-over gigs and everything else in between.
To have entered the entertainment industry and navigated it this well, by mostly keeping her wits, is no small feat in an industry that cannibalises its young female talent — and in Joburg, a city whose crevices and dangers she explores in the song "Goli (Movie)" on Spirit of an OG.
The album weaves together cultural references and sounds from kwaito to hip-hop, with a hint of R&B. Spirit of an OG ultimately stands as an audible enmeshment of her hometown Benoni and Jozi, where she is currently based — and marries genres, sounds and narrated experiences.
"Dangerous", featuring AKA, Da Les and Pambo, and "Ang'zanga", featuring Maggz, are perfect for yacht vibes. "LaLaLa" and "Ingoma" lean heavily on the kwaito side, while "Fourways Freestyle", featuring Reason, samples one of the late Prokid's most notable songs "Wozobona".
Other features on the album include Jae Little on "Keep the Faith", and 25K on a particularly hard slapper of a tune called "Asibasabi", where Moozlie delivers a self-assured, braggadocious verse that's worthy of a training montage in a fight film.
So, what does it mean to embody the spirit of an OG? The following interview, in which the slashie speaks about her music, career trajectory, lessons learned and other topics, provides answers.
NB: This interview has been slightly edited for clarity and length.
What professional achievements have you reached that are proof of your devotion to your vocation?
I think every full body of musical work that I've released is big for me. Victory was my first album, so it will always be special. Spirit of an OG, on the other hand, is definitely my most favourite thing I've ever created. The fact that I was able to work on this album during a worldwide pandemic really makes me love it even more. Being an independent artist, writing all my music and just fighting through every single obstacle and closed-door is something I'm really proud of. I often say that independence and being a boss have been glamourised because it takes so much work — both externally and internally. I think, because of my swag, the finesse and experience I've been able to keep it going. People think it comes easy, but it really doesn't. If you're not fighting, you're waiting — and both those things require more energy, honesty and vulnerability than people really talk about.
On Lab Live with Riky Rick you mentioned how your manager and partner Sbuda was an integral part of you starting your own record label. What would you say are the top three lessons you've learned through working with him?
1. You have to hold tight to the vision and never tire when things don't happen exactly the way you want them to. Ultimately they always work out exactly the way they're supposed to.
2. Play your own game. Play the long game. Don't worry about what other people are doing.
3. Ultimately, my success is my own responsibility.
Has running your own label changed your approach to making music?
Once you start understanding that music is not just a passion, but also a business you start wanting to make music that will resonate with people commercially so you can book shows and make money. I often ask myself, "Is this Metro FM drive time worthy?" or "Could this rock on Ukhozi FM?" The answer doesn't have to be yes for every song I make but if I'm investing so much time, money and effort into something, of course, I want it to be a success.
What character traits have you honed or maintained to ensure that you reach or surpass milestones consistently?
I always look like I'm drippin' and coolin' but I have a profound understanding of the fact that I'm working. Working and building, ultimately. You cannot build on a weak foundation so taking my formative years seriously was essential. From the very beginning, I knew I had a unique perspective, and was deeply aware that no one could do it like me. So, I felt a sense of responsibility for that calling and knowledge.
As someone who has bagged lucrative influencer and brand partnership deals, what advice can you share on negotiating or establishing your worth — especially for those seeking these same opportunities?
Sometimes you have to do the small deals, in order to get to the big deals — but most times, you have to sit them out. If you sign one deal, know that you're not going to sign about five other deals. Don't just think about now, think about how things play into the bigger picture. Remember that brands are actually just people, so there's a human element to all these things. That said, don't take anything personally. That will frustrate you.
How did you end up hosting Nasty C's Zulu Man With Some Power podcast and how has the experience been?
My team has quite a good rapport with Nasty C's team. I think they have an appreciation for how I do things and they wanted to have a reputable voice attached to the podcast because of Nasty's impact globally. The whole thing really does represent him, his network and will be a part of his legacy. I'm really happy and feel blessed to be part of that. The partnership he has with AMPD Studios by Old Mutual is really important for aspiring creatives and working with the production team to bring it together was cool.
AMPD x Nasty C - Zulu Man With Some Power Podcast | Rowlene, Tellaman & Moozlie (Episode 6) www.youtube.com
How do you handle the fear society so often tries to instill in us, as ambitious Black women? What propels you to keep pushing back, and subsequently breaking new frontiers?
I wish I had a deep and profound answer to this question. I think I'm gonna have to work on one. The truth is, I just don't know how to do anything else. I got my first job on MTV Base at 19, and beat thousands of people for it. I'm still that girl, but with way more work and life experience, which gives me confidence. If I was that dope then, I must be even more fire now with all this experience. I get scared, anxious and frustrated all the time. And in those times, I just take a li'l time out to do me but when I feel better, all I know how to do is be Moozlie. It's not always easy but you gotta keep fighting.
When all is said and done, what would you like your legacy to be?
I'd like to be remembered as a pioneer of the slashie generation.