Ace of Bass

DJ Doowap's second life is lived in distinctive style

Words: Dylan Muhlenberg | Photographs: Chisanga Mubanga

In her earlier life, Khetsiwe Morgan was a Springbok springboard diver, so whenever she wasn’t in swimwear she was wearing shorts, T-shirts and team tracksuits. And it’s a shame to think of Kay like this, having to cover up her head of epic hair with a swimming cap, and devoting her life to performing acrobatics at dive meets.

“I never had the chance to really dress up because of the daily intensive training,” explains Kay. “But with this second life as a creative, I’m not holding back. I think that’s why I'm really going all out in expressing myself through my fashion and hairstyles. My hair is forever changing. It’s my crown and source of inspiration. I match my mood and clothes to my hair. After years of not being able to express myself because of diving, school and shitty jobs I’ve created a huge database of hairstyles I’d still like to do.”

Kay credits her Boom Shaka braids to the late Lebo Mathosa, and this influence isn’t just a fan girl thing, the artist would often stay over at Kay’s parents’ house after performing at their clubs Insomnia and Morgan’s. 

“Boom Shaka is a major influence in my craft and hairstyles. They use to perform and party at the nightclubs my parents owned and would sometimes come over to my house to chill with my older cousins. I would always be in awe of Lebo Mathosa and her incredible self confidence. She was proud of who she was and shined so bright. I am forever grateful to have been in her presence.” 

Her parents owning nightclubs was a huge contributing factor to Kay’s transformation into DJ Doowap, and she believes that their being exposed to that environment helped them to understand the path that she’s chosen today. Apparently what we’ve seen so far is just the beginning, and if you consider that the way Kay dressed for our shoot is her typical everyday style, not some fancy-dress thing, then we’re pretty excited to see what’s next.

“A lot of people like to ask ‘What’s the occasion?’ but it’s nothing more than me just being me,” says Kay, whose old-school take on crop tops, high-waisted pants, platform shoes and colourful palette reference 90s acts like Salt-N-Pepa, TLC and Boom Shaka. In fact her look is so unique that it’s got her jobs, gigs and huge exposure. 

“I think brands that I’ve been involved can distinguish between a trendsetter and a follower, so being true to myself and letting my creative juices flow through my fashion is attractive to them and opens all the doors.”

Likewise the local Brixton residents, who were only too happy to welcome Kay into their neighborhood. Our photographer, Chisanga Mubanga, looked further than a particular garage door in Braamfontein, choosing to shoot his subject amongst colourful workshops and spaza shops instead. 

“Everyone living there who noticed me shooting was friendly and welcoming. They stood and watched with a smile on their face. It might have been the nipple slips that kept them entertained.” 

With style icons that include FKA Twigs, Rihanna and Grace Jones and peers like Tarryn TNT, NoMoozlie, Manthe Ribane, Pu$h Pu$h and the Boyznbucks keeping her inspired, Kay’s wild style was broken down into four looks for our shoot. 

Pink Power Ranger

“My power ranger outfit was designed by me last year and made by Moonchild. I went out, bought the fabric and everything fell into place. I feel like I can take on the world when wearing it. The Nike Blazers went perfectly with my hair, which in turn complemented the one-piece.”

Sexy Tsotsi

“I love that idea of a “sexy tsotsi”. I'm definitely going to push that style more. I received a couple of Samson overalls as a little gift from the brand, as well as the Dickies bucket hat. Since I'm a shorty, I needed the heels to bring life to the overall or else I would have looked like I was drowning.” 

Wolf Woman

“The fierce Wolf Woman look is mostly made up of vintage pieces… but it really portrays my daily style. I love wearing Nike Football socks with most of my outfits.” 

African Queen

“The African skirt is something I wear when performing with Lex LaFoy, the rapper I went on tour with around Europe last year. We dance and shake our hips around in the skirt called a Mamdindi. I love my Zulu beads that were given to me by my late grandmother a few years back. My name Khetsiwe means 'Chosen One' and I feel like dressing like an African queen is a huge part of who she is.”

Born in Swaziland to a Swati mother and British father, Kay spent her formative years in Sandton, where she attended a French school in Morningside. Her diving took her to Canada where she lived for two years and then London – which proved to be the catalyst for what she calls her ‘second life’.

“I missed out on the 2008 Olympics because of my lack of self discipline that year. I had trained intensely leading up to it and unfortunately slacked off at the last stretch. Throughout my teenage years that was my goal and when I didn't make the team I decided to quit and start a new life. I call my creative musical career my second life, and I refuse to let myself down this time round. I have a huge goal of building an empire and leaving my mark, which I shall fulfill now that I am older and wiser.”

Embedded in the London Underground between 2009 and 2012, Kay used this time to learn everything she needed to know about garage, grime and bass, skanking hard every weekend and losing herself in a bass trance.

“It’s known that bass music cleanses your root chakra and I wanted to create that music and have that same feeling transcend to my audience.”

But first she needed to get schooled and so Kay studied music production in Germany before enrolling at the Academy of Sound Engineering at the SABC, where she obtained her diploma in Sound Engineering. While DJing a gig at Roxy’s in Melville, Kay was hit up by someone from YFM and DJ Doowap is now the face of dubstep there. 

Having returned from a stint playing Europe’s summer festivals where she was mixing hip-hop, trap and bass tunes live for Lex LaFoy, Kay is now waiting for confirmation on SA gigs.

“Everything is always last minute. Please check out my Facebook page, “DJ Doowap”, for all my gig info.”

We’ll be sure to stay tuned, and look forward to seeing what twists and turns this artist throws herself into next. Always creating a splash. Always dropping the bass.