Welcome to Parowdise

Come to Camps Bay and CY Jack Parow is living the good life

Words: Dylan Muhlenberg | Photography: Nick Gordon

While studying to be a mechanic Jack Parow did things like pack fish in the Cape Town harbour and allocate graves for the City of Cape Town’s Cemetery Division in order to support his rap habit. Rapping with crews from the Cape Flats, the dangerously romantic Afrikaans rapper was relatively unknown, until he dropped his self-titled, full-length album, which struck gold in a fortnight and went platinum that year. Since then nothing was ever the same.   

Today Parow is so rich that he keeps a back-up bakkie in his garage, “In case the other one is f**ked,” as he so eloquently puts it, and has all the other trappings of the newly moneyed. He recently invited us to visit him at his latest acquisition, a triple-storey Clifton mansion, perched on top of what’s widely regarded as the most expensive street in South Africa. The neighbours here include the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio and blow their noses into R200 notes because they love the smell of money so much. Despite all this, we’re happy to report that Parow is as zef as ever. 

Instead of demolishing the 1950s-style home and commissioning Stefan Antoni to build a bigger and better sky-stealing structure, Parow has eschewed an ultra-luxurious contemporary glass and steel masterpiece and simply moved in as is. In fact, despite a few clues of habitation you’d be forgiven for thinking that the home was standing empty and he’s squatting. Let's just say Top Billing won’t be knocking on Parow’s door for a feature anytime soon.

The funicular was last serviced in the late 80s and so we have to walk a very steep incline to get to the front door. We knock. Then we ring the doorbell. Then we try phoning and it goes straight to voicemail. We’re just about to give up when we hear a click behind the front door.

Parow opens the door a crack, mumbles something, then closes it again, after which he removes the chain and welcomes us in, saying:  

“Fokkit, I forgot you were coming today. Aweh. Come in.”

Parow’s wearing a robe and a black eye. He looks hungover.

“I wish I had a better story, but Karl A. Hari gave this to me the other day in this celebrity boxing match we did.” 

There’s a massive hunk of igneous rock at the entrance and Parow tells us that the entire house has been built around the boulder. Other than that there’s not much else in the way of decoration. We’d use the words “zen” or “minimalist” to describe the aesthetic, but after we get to the top of two flights of stairs, (the elevator needs servicing, too) we see that pushed into a corner of the lounge there’s a chair in front of a TV and a rug that really ties the room together. Otherwise there are boxes of pizza and a cooler box full of beer, which Parow carries with him from room to room.  

“Sorry brah, I just want to finish this guy,” says Parow, as he zones out on the game in front of him for the next ten minutes. Finishing up and snapping out of his trance, he apologises: “Sorry, I take my gaming pretty seriously.”

The self-confessed geek’s rise to success is the result of the ever-changing South African subculture known as zef. His growing popularity has resulted in Parow turning into a brand with platinum-selling albums, his own music label, international tours and some very lucrative endorsement deals. He’s a very busy boy, Jack Parow, and so when he does get some time off from touring and recording in studio, he likes to do the type of things that he used to do pre-fame. Like gaming.

“Wait, let me just go and get dressed quickly and then I’ll show you the rest of the house.”

Parow’s room seems slightly more lived-in than the rest of the house, and yes, 'lived-in' is a euphemism for 'pigsty'. There’s a mattress on the floor, above which is a line of the Parow caps that milliner Crystal Birch makes for him. Otherwise, there is a lot of clothing and sneakers and gift bags and freebies.

“I’m sponsored by Cipla now. I’m on the same stuff that Joost is on.”

An awkward silence is broken by Parow offering us something to eat and drink. “Here have a beer. Let’s go down stairs and I’ll make us some wors.”

There’s not much in Parow’s kitchen, besides takeaway menus, bottles of Jagermeister, Red Bulls and plenty of Parow Sauce. There’s a Weber in the middle of the kitchen.

“I don’t really do a lot of cooking,” says Parow, pulling on a bloodstained apron. “I’m not much of a cook. I didn’t even bother wasting anyone’s time on Celebrity MasterChef. Let Alex Jay have his time in the sun. No, you can keep all that Jamie Fokking Oliver kak. I just like to braai.”

And with that, Parow flicks a match into the middle of the Weber, “Boom, mother**er!” and sparks a mushroom cloud of flame and smoke that licks at the ceiling.

“Out at the back, I built my own braai from rocks I dug up out of the ground. Jan Braai gave me the idea. I did it all by myself, though. Carried the rocks up by myself. Everything. Nobody helped me. Obviously I tell everyone about it. Lekker windgat.”

We eat our boerewors, which is delicious and so juicy that Parow spills grease all over his shirt. He insists on changing, and it’s interesting to note that Parow will change outfits several times during the course of our interview, popping tags on fresh gear every time, and tossing the previously worn stuff to the ground.

“Sorry, but I’m not used to having people here. I don’t actually have much to show you guys. I’m never here long enough to do anything. The only room that really has anything in it is my studio. You want to go check it out?”

We walk down a flight of stairs and into Parow’s office-slash-studio.

“Come in. Let me show you around. Right, okay, this is how I get to live in a house like this. Y’know? This is where the magic happens.”

The room is filled with the fruits of some of that magic: MK and other awards; a framed 30 Seconds card with 'Jack Parow' sitting beneath 'Easter', 'Formula One', 'Hercules' and 'The Great Lakes'; a newspaper cartoon of Parow; Jack Parow-branded Panama Jack tequila; Coca-Cola cans with Jack Parow written on them; the performer pass from when he opened for Eminem; framed platinum and gold albums; posters from movies that he’s appeared in…

Parow walks past all this and opens a big box, which is filled with his new vinyl. When he’s done he moves over to the arcade game in the corner and plays his favourite game, Miss World ’96. While he’s busy doing that I pick up a large, well-thumbed notebook at the end of the table.

“DON’T TOUCH THAT!” screams Parow, in what can only be described as uncharacteristic. “LOS! Don’t touch what you can’t afford.”

Turns out that this book is where he pens in his raps. Parow’s face then breaks into a smile, and he shoos everyone out of his studio, taking us into his big backyard. It’s a pretty perfect day after all, but the truth is that because he’s surrounded by mountains, Parow needs to plug his laptop into a massive satellite dish in order to get online.

After he’s done doing whatever he needs to do on the internet, Parow logs out and tells us to come and check out his rides: a metallic brown bakkie and the black back-up bakkie. Unfortunately his jetski is having its leopard-skin seat upholstered, because apparently all those girls he gives lifts to at the dam always leave the seat really wet. What he can show us, however, is his new Harley, which he gets a bit emotional about when describing it to us. After he starts it up, Parow rides off and we stand around, waiting for him to return for about twenty minutes, eventually going back inside his house.

After walking around the house looking for our photographer so that we can leave, we find Parow tanning next to his pool. He’s angry with me again, because apparently I’d promised to bring him some fresh tackle for his fishing rod. Parow likes nothing more than drinking cans of Castle and fishing in the swimming pool that he keeps stocked with fish.

“Are you guys still here? No man, you need to go. Cheers.”

The sun is dipping below the icy Atlantic, turning the sky various shades of orange and pink, and Parow takes this all in, cracking another man-size tin of lager and drinking to his success. Just another day in Parowdise.

* We forgot to credit Bart Larter for that cheesy voice over. Sorry about that Bart, love your work.