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The Story of William Last KRM’s Ascent is One of Purpose Meeting Preparation

The rise of Botswana comedian and rapper William Last KRM, whose music video for 'Tinto' recently broke the internet, is what happens when purpose meets preparation.

The past three weeks have been a bit of a wild ride for Botswana artist and comedian William Last KRM. Upon the release of his latest visuals for his track "Tinto", off of his debut album Willian, a brief clip posted by a Twitter user went viral and thrust William into the view of South Africa's biggest and brightest names in entertainment.

Thandiswa Mazwai wants to collaborate, Busiswa and Maps Maponyane showed love. DJ Vigilante tweeted that the "Tinto" music video as "one of the best" he's seen this year, and, in the thousands of quote tweets, one would be hard pressed to find a negative comment on the very social media platform whose users call a Hell Site.


The crisp camera quality and editing, pantsula aesthetics, superb choreography and William's comedic timing and hijinks came together and gave those who saw the brief two-and-a-half-minute-long video enough incentive to head over to YouTube and have "Tinto" currently sitting on 690 000 views and counting in a matter of two weeks.

Perhaps it was the '90s nostalgia that tugged at the heartstrings of viewers and stretched them as taut as the shoelaces of the Chuck Taylors on the feet of the small army of men behind William as he stood front and centre shaking a box of Chibuku (a commercially sold traditional beer). Tapping into the perpetually warm feelings '90s kids seem to have for that era has worked for many custodians of cool. Think South African rapper Focalistic, who's spoken candidly about how he gets most of his style inspiration from kwaito legend Mandla Spikiri and the township cool guys of the '90s. The direction Riky Rick's personal style has taken over the past few weeks, shown in the "Ungazincishi" video, points in the same direction; nostalgia makes both new and old memories sweeter.

Read: Interview: Focalistic's Blend of Hip-Hop and Amapiano Is Working

On the other hand, it might have been curiosity about what "the meme guy", as some referred to him in the replies, was up to. See, William is no stranger to virality. There's a plethora of memes with his numerous exaggerated facial expressions in circulation, siphoned from his steady stream of custom content which includes parodies, original sketches and ads.


Mo Ke Botswana Mo (This is America cover) youtu.be


There was also that time earlier this year when Chris Brown posted a clip of William screeching "Don't Wake Me Up" to his 64 million Instagram followers with the caption, "If you don't sing my sh*t like this we are not homies!" and caused cross border tension based on just who William belonged to.

It seemed to be a widespread assumption that William was a South African comedian, for reasons yet to be discerned. One can theorise that it's the frequency of his face being used as a meme in the sect commonly referred to as CBD Twitter (If Twitter was a society, CBD Twitter would be the general, non-politically correct, prone to violence, "devil's advocate" people). What ensued was a tug of war in Chris Brown's Instagram comments which eventually led him to simply delete the post. Closer to home, the likes of Cassper Nyovest and Khuli Chana have shared his work, and the latter, been a part of it as well—he features on "Tsholofelo" from Last KRM's album Willian.

On the album, William treads on the border of this cultural divide, peppering lyrics with common Xhosa and Zulu words and phrases while also making a point to deliver most of the really important stuff in plain Setswana. When he speaks on the most common points mentioned in his verses, the foremost things on his mind being his strained relationship with his father, the grounding he's personally found in becoming a father himself, his desire to support his mother and his repulsion with slovenliness and complacency.

In the song "Aah", he references a song of the same name by Mapetla," one of Botswana's first cross-country pseudo kwaito hits. (Fun fact: Dato Seiko, featured on "How it Feels" is Mapetla's younger sibling). On "Eita Ola", he references one of Vee Mampeezy's earlier hits "Ola Kasi". Circa 15 years ago, "Aah" and "Ola Kasi" would have been featured in deejay sets with the likes of Mshoza's "Kortes", TKZee's "Dlala Mapantsula" and M'du's "Chomi Ya Bana" as Botswana's contribution to kwaito.

Botswana has its own steadfast and thriving community of individuals who love bopantsola as a lifestyle. In Mahalapye, one of the major towns, about two hours out of the capital city Gaborone, there's an annual Pantsula Parade hosted by the Botswana Pantsula Association.

(Videographer and cultural archivist Tebo K covered that event and produced a mini-documentary which can be viewed below:)

Pantsula Parade youtu.be


William has been hard at work for the past couple of years figuring out the formula to his Midas touch. If fairy tales have taught us one thing, it's that all great miracles require a divine exchange. William has put up his time, resources and, on occasion, his insecurities and vulnerabilities, in exchange for a life characterised by rapid acceleration through milestones, first as a comedian, and now as a musician. One of his earliest releases "Pimpin" set the precedent for his approach to visuals—open with a strong skit, keep it engaging throughout by doing what he's best known for, while using the viewer's focus on his Kevin Hartesque school of exaggerated storytelling as comedy to reel you in and feed you an earworm of a tune. Two years later, that formula is paying off with "Tinto".

Legend has it that facing bleak academic prospects and an uncertain future, William turned his attention to social media. There, he has been known by many names—"Skgakga", "Tshasa", "Motsetserepa" and now Rragwe Willian—as tales of his glory spread far and wide, rivalled only by the shrieks of laughter he tends to illicit, in reach, and currently, the applause of just over a million collective fans, followers and watchers across his social media platforms.

TSHASA! youtu.be

Within a year of posting his first mini skit, William had a cross country one-man stand-up comedy show, fast-selling merch and was already well on the way to establishing himself as a lone wolf to be contended with. Where his peers in the entertainment industry perpetually pushed the narrative that collaboration was the key to financial emancipation and industry upliftment, William just faced his front and did what he came into the industry to do—make a living. On his song "Didi It By Myself", he speaks candidly about his upbringing and how the difficulties he's previously faced work to keep him focused.

William can't relate to DMX's musing on the third verse of "What These Bitches Want" when he said women didn't laugh at his jokes because he was broke. For William, they laughed precisely because of it. Then in spite of it. And now, many are saying the only truly funny thing is life, as they witness his meteoric ascent. William has been both the tortoise and the hare; he has become the magic trick itself.

Part of the act has been Director Mo. In the telling of the tale, Mo has been the counterpart that's been an integral part of William's journey, the Darwin to his Gumball—molting, moulding and making memorable visuals, most notably William's parody of Samthing Soweto's "Akulaleki", called "Gao Romantic". By no means was William the first to work with Director Mo nor was he given any sort of special treatment. A quick perusal of his showreel will show that Mo visuals are always impeccably edited, crisp on the visual quality and carefully packaged to the world. In the case of his work with William, one can't help but feel that what has opened doors for the duo is the synergy between their friendship and partnership as creatives and their work ethics.

William Last KRM_Tinto (Official Music Video) Director Mo www.youtube.com

By the time William's daughter Amara Willian was born about a year ago, he was already fairly rooted in his conviction to make himself a success story. As he mentions on basically every track on the album, her arrival compelled him to extend himself and work much harder than he already was, which was already harder than everyone else if you let him tell it. On "Tsholofelo", he muses on the loss of gigs and brand partnerships he had planned for this year, but continues to stress and maintain that he has hope.

It's ironic that he'd go viral from a song title ("Tinto") that seems to be a nod to a classic song of the same name about a guy called Tinto who's a bum in the truest sense of the word—a penny-pinching father offended by responsibility and yet demanding of accolades. The song is by one of Botswana's greatest musical exports, the traditional group Matsieng.

William's "Tinto" is a declaration of his prowess and what compels him—a desire to succeed, a daughter and memories of being at the bottom and being treated accordingly.

As with every career move he's made thus far, the consumer will have to wait to hear how William adapts and leverages this moment in time. One thing's for certain though; he will. If nothing else, the story of William Last KRM's ascent is one of purpose meeting preparation, and a young man learning that diligence and adaptability is the only way to maintain what one gains.

Stream William Last KRM's latest album William on Apple Music and Spotify. Buy it on BEMA STORES.


Follow William Last KRM on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

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This article was originally published on OkayAfrica in March, 2017. We're republishing it here for our Crossroads series.

It's 2000 something. I'm holed up in my bedroom searching for samples to chop up on Fruity Loops. While deep into the free-market jungle of Amazon's suggested music section, I stumble across a compilation of Ethiopian music with faded pictures of nine guys jamming in white suit jackets. I press play on the 30 second sample.

My mind races with the opportunities these breakbeats offered a budding beat maker. Catchy organs, swinging horns, funky guitar riffs, soulful melodies and grainy and pained vocalists swoon over love lost and gained. Sung in my mother tongue—Amharic—this was a far cry from the corny synthesizer music of the 1990s that my parents played on Saturday mornings. I could actually sample this shit.

The next day, I burn a CD and pop it into my dad's car. His eyes light up when the first notes ooze out of the speakers. “Where did you get this?" He asks puzzlingly. “The internet," I respond smiling.

In the 1970s my dad was one of thousands of high school students in Addis Ababa protesting the monarchy. The protests eventually created instability which lead to a coup d'état. The monarchy was overthrown and a Marxist styled military junta composed of low ranking officers called the Derg came to power. The new regime subsequently banned music they deemed to be counter revolutionary. When the Derg came into power, Amha Eshete, a pioneering record producer and founder of Ahma Records, fled to the US and the master recordings of his label's tracks somehow ended up in a warehouse in Greece.

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