Rappers get all the glory – but those behind the scenes deserve a shout out, too
By Ndu Donsa
A lot of the time we don’t show enough love to the individuals working tirelessly behind the scenes. Rappers get the glory – which is cool, that makes sense – but what about those dropping the imagery, videos, merch, commentary and all the other peripheral content? It’s time to give props to the people who are doing amazing things for the culture.
Meet five creators who are killing it behind the scenes and contributing to the culture.
Arguably South African hip-hop’s first creative director, Don has been instrumental in shaping AKA’s creative, from designing artwork to producing music videos.
“I met AKA about four years ago,” says Don. “He’d forgotten his Yeezys at a hotel after a show and I arranged to get them to him cos I knew how much they meant to him. We linked up shortly after that and kicked it. Our first collaboration was the ‘Kontrol’ music video that Yanga (Ntshakaza) directed. We did a few projects together from there, like 'Run Jozi' and 'All Eyes on Me' and he recently appointed me as his creative director.”
Most recently, Don's dropped a hoodie range that's one hundred flame emojis and causing a stir on social media. “I came up with the idea of the Sandton Hoodie a while ago,” says Don. “I was waiting for the right time to drop it. The idea was inspired by my love for Supreme's iconic box logo, and Sandton.”
You might have spotted “Directed by Kyle Lewis” at the beginning of your favourite music video. If you didn't ask you yourself, “Who?”, you should have – he’s the guy doing the most at the moment when it comes to directing music videos and has worked with the likes of Cassper Nyovest, Khuli Chana, and Riky Rick.
How does this cat stay so low key? Perhaps he just moves different? In terms of awards and accomplishments, Kyle’s short film Exodus, on which he collaborated with Riky Rick, won him a Silver Loerie award last year.
The creative that Kyle did on Nasty C’s 'Bad Hair' might be his best work yet, and the director had the following to say about this project.
“Nasty C approached me to direct a film featuring three of his songs that would make a statement. It’s an art piece about his own journey of breaking free and becoming a man, with the three sections representing the past, present and future respectively. Visually, the films move further and further away from the initial renaissance styling, as a visual metaphor for breaking way from the ideals of the past and becoming true to yourself. As surreal as it gets, I tried to keep it as real and visceral as possible, which is what I got from Nasty’s music.”
It’s time we bump up Guy Stylez. Part of Styla Gang, which we named as one of the 5 brands to keep your eyes on in 2017, he's one of the guys writing the manual on how to grow a streetwear brand. Causing much noise in the game of late, Guy Stylez fills us in on their latest.
“Black Supremacy was a concept created to help black people think differently, or see the world differently through economic growth and how that has a positive influence on culture. The concept has been slowly appreciated. Like with Jay-Z's latest project, it kinda made people realise that this isn't a local brand but more international as it raises awareness about the importance of black economics, as Jigga would say.”
The other thing that makes Guy Stylez important to the culture is the way he’s built connections while dressing some of the rap game’s most loved.
“For me, it's not about who I dress up, it's more about who exposes me to new markets and helps me grow as a creative. This is primarily influenced by word of mouth and the internet. People see things they love online or on their friends and want to purchase it. Some of these people are my close friends: Emtee, AKA, DJ Milkshake, Khanyi Mbau, Babalwa Mneno, Tshego, DJ Speedsta, Cassper Nyovest, G-Snap, Lwazi Zondo, Izibusiso Khumalo, African Trap Movement, Cass, Sean Kross and Vino… So I plug them with samples every time I make a new product.”
Major League Gardens
The eventing space allows rappers to make bank, and consumers get to live their best lives, so everybody wins. But an event needs a unique identity, as anyone can have a lineup and a poster. Those making moves create a brand experience – like that of Major League Gardens.
Theirs is a good example of what happens when an event goes beyond an all-white theme. The twins want you to bring your cooler boxes, camp chairs and picnic baskets, so that you can enjoy summer and the great outdoors. They go on to say that,
“Major League Gardens is the ultimate social arts festival, a spring outdoor funfair event with the best outdoor activities and live stage of the best acts Mzansi can offer. A place where you can join the finest ladies and gents for a day of drinks, dance and summer madness. A place where friends get together to usher in the finest season, through sounds of laughter and music. That's what makes the Major League Gardens a memorable social event.”
Reaction videos have become the staple for culture in 2017. Who would have thought that getting people to react to music videos could be such a thing? Enter Microwave Boys, whose YouTube channel is filled with reactions to everything from Cassper Nyovest to prison strippers to a Nasty C freestyle.
Every time the Microwave Boys drop a video, they trend – and they’re teaching mainstream media the importance of authentic content and how to engage with an audience online.
“I think we have been extremely consistent and very real in our own opinion of things,” says Larry Ngitis, who together with Sipho Says and Sphaka makes up Microwave Boys. “We've also stuck to the core of the team and are focused on the same prize. The key thing is we tell each other when we think something is wack or not, it's amazing how many crazy ideas you can come up with when you listen and have an open mind.”