In conversation with fast-rising South African hip-hop artist Blxckie about his come-up, breakout year, collaborations and his debut album 'B4Now'.
Blxckie's arrival has made the game a little more exciting. The Durban-born rapper, singer and producer first sprout into the spotlight last October with his single "Big Time Sh'lappa" alongside LucasRaps. The track instantly caught everyone's attention and grew Blxckie's dedicated fan base, while also earning him new believers. The music video for "Big Time Sh'lappa" recently reached a million views.
Sharpening his prowess, and making a name for himself, with the Durban collective Clout Internet Boyz over the past three years, Blxckie eventually had to make the move to Joburg in pursuit of his music dream and its advancement.
Being on lockdown at his producer 808Sallie's house would prove to be a blessing to the rapper and his friends LucasRaps, Shouldbeyaung and Yung Seruno. Throughout this period, Blxckie recorded and dropped loosies almost religiously. He also used this time to acquaint himself with the inner workings of the industry. It's through all that background work and his recently released debut album B4Now that Blxckie's the most talked-about South African hip-hop artist right now.
The 21-year-old multi-faceted artist has brought an energy and level of excitement that both casual listeners, and enthusiasts, may argue has been missing from South African hip-hop lately. As a result, many have banked on him to be somewhat of a saviour, and some are proclaiming that he's on path to be this year's rookie of the year — or perhaps the rightful leader of his generation of rappers.
B4Now is a collection of songs that Blxckie has been working on over the past year and a few months. On the album, Somnyama showcases his melodic approach and enthralling, multi-layered harmonies, which allow him to buoy over different styles of productions, from 808-laden trap to mellow R&B/soul and, even, amapiano. He glides on the diverse productions with ease and smoothly switches between flows, all while maintaining a gripping cadence and sharp lyricism – which ranges between evocative, introspective, boastful and sometimes playful.
Below, Blxckie opens up about his journey up the local hip hop ladder, collaborations and what he hopes to achieve with his debut offering B4Now.
This interview has been slightly edited for length and clarity.
How did growing up in Durban influence your music?
Durban is big on house music — deep house, gqom and more of that dance sound. A kid that listens to hip-hop is mostly into the American scene. But through listening to people like Nasty C, you realise that his stuff correlates with what is happening in America. There was a whole culture of just being a cool kid. There were a lot of events organised just for that particular section of the culture. There were also a lot of people who were tryna grow the culture of the youth that was into modern hip-hop and fashion. It was dope to grow up in that space and in the company of fellow young people willing to listen to something outside of house music or gqom. It really helped me grow and work on the craft a bit more 'cause I knew I was a part of the youth listening to that music. and this is what I wanna make, so that's how I approached the music.
This past year alone, you did a whole lot of collabs. How do you choose who to work with, and who would you still like to do a song with?
I had a list when I got to Joburg and within a month, I had already cleared it. I used to stay with Lucas[Raps] and [Dr] Peppa, and they already knew a lot of people, so all the features that I wanted to do were through them. But I've never been afraid to jump on anyone's song. If it makes sense to do a feature, I'll probably do it. There's some stuff I did with Foca, Zingah and Riky. Some tracks are yet to come out, and some are already out. But the main collaboration that I look forward to is with Tshego. I also have Lira and Monique Bingham on my wishlist.
For someone who's been doing a lot of features, you've kept the feature count on the album low. What was the reason behind that?
Most of the songs that I dropped on Soundcloud featured other people. I figured, if I'm to use this album as an introduction, I can't have a lot of features. People need to hear what I wanna say. The features on the album are on songs that are already out, like "Big Time Sh'lappa" and "Stripes". I wanted to keep the album simple and very me.
Blxckie & Nasty C - Ye x4 (Official Audio) www.youtube.com
How did you get Nasty C on the anthemic "Yex4", and what's the story behind it?
The first time I ever saw or been close to Nasty was when he was doing the Ivyson Tour in 2019. It was in Durban, and Clout Internet Boyz was also booked at that gig. The day before the show, Nasty was doing rehearsals and we lived close to the venue. We rocked up at the venue and met up with him. He didn't know though, it wasn't like an artist to artist encounter. He probably thought we were a bunch of kids that somehow found out about the rehearsals.
The second time was last year during his Zulu Man With Some Power tour. By then "Big Time Sh'lappa" had already dropped, and I had been working for a while. We had a conversation about how we're both from Durban, Nasty said he was happy to see that there was someone else doing what he had intended, that's in terms of opening doors for younger kids wanting to get into music. We've been chatting on Instagram ever since and he's witnessed my growth. "Ye x4" was the sixth song I sent to him that he liked. He hit me back with a, 'this is a crazy song, send it to me'! He returned it to me the next day. I didn't wanna think too much of the fact that Nasty had just bumped on my song because it was a bit too early. I hadn't done much yet so I didn't wanna broadcast it yet! I wanted to chill with the song, and see what I could do for myself before dropping the song. The album was the perfect opportunity to be like, 'Okay, now it's time!'
"Sika" is a catchy song with amapiano-kwaito influences, and "Hold" is a straight-up R&B/Soul ballad. What do you have to say to the hip-hop purists who often criticise rappers for infusing amapiano and R&B elements into their songs?
I've never seen hip-hop as just rapping. I've always seen it more as a culture, and part of being a musician and artist. I'm working on building a very broad idea of Blxckie and having [different outlets] to express myself. There's a lot going on, it's not just [about] being a rapper or being a singer. It's about being able to make music.
Having said all of that, what are you hoping to achieve with B4Now?
It's an introduction. There are a lot of people who know me from my SoundCloud days, but I also feel like there are some who don't. So, I wanted to put the new fans and the old ones together and have a restart, basically. After the album, a lot's gonna happen but it's like a good way to start, and be like, 'yo, this is what I was doing before and this is what I'm doing right now'. I'm just tryna put all the songs together. That's the whole idea of it and also to tell people my story.