Kwesta. Picture: John Wessels
It’s just before 10pm on a brisk Wednesday evening and Kwesta looks and sounds exhausted.
He’s been on the move since the early morning when he started filming a Red Heart campaign that saw cameramen following his creative process for the day.
Tonight, we’re at his label Rap Lyf Records’ video media launch for the four singles that they released earlier in the year. An hour ago he and his label mates Kid X, TLT and Makwa 6eats, along with other guests such as Yanga, had also been performing their new music and unveiling the vision for the label.
Despite coming off a stellar 2016, which was arguably the strongest year in his career, Kwesta wants to do things a little differently this time around. “The biggest thing I’m trying to do is not forget,” he explains.
“I don’t want to make music from the point of view of the guy who had the type of 2016 I had. So one of the first things I’m doing is working on an album this year and I’m not gonna do it in this country.
“Not because I don’t believe in the engineers or the studios or the the quality of music, but just because I want to write from the point of view of an unknown person.”
To achieve this, Kwesta aims to record across three continents: Europe, North America and other parts of Africa. His aim is to shed his superstar status and live anonymously as a John Doe. “I don’t relate with this guy that I’ve created and the perception people may have for it. I’m a next-door neighbour kind of guy.”
This is evident in his interactions with the guys around him: the likes of Yanga, Kid X and other people in his circle. He’s without a doubt the most famous among them yet he blends in seamlessly.
He comes across as a regular guy who just happens to be a supremely talented artist.
This Saturday, Kwesta will be suited up at the Metro FM Awards, where he’ll be vying for four awards: song of the year, best male, best collaboration and best hip hop album.
“I’ve never done it to be in a certain position. I’ve always done it because I loved it and that’s genuine. And I know it sounds cliched, even saying s**t sounds cliched, but I just genuinely do what I do because I love it and everything else comes with it. It is what it is, that’s why when you call me media friendly it’s like, ‘Okay, there’s the media that comes with it, do the d**n thing’”.
So you just wanna work, I ask? “Yeah, right now as soon as I’m done we’re gonna go to studio.
And people might say there’s no point because dude you had DaKAR 2, you had Ngud, there’s no need to record. There’s always a need because that’s my job, that’s what I love doing.”
The launch represented Kwesta’s desire for placing everybody on the label on an equal footing by releasing their music simultaneously, as opposed to following the trend of trying to push himself and putting everyone else on hold.
“I’m with like-minded thinkers. We make music every day together. So why not drop together, you know, to say this is who we are, we’re a unit, we’re a family. We just wanted to invite some people to showcase.”
The aim for Rap Lyf is to forge a year unlike any label has had and create unique music that doesn’t follow what’s popular right now, he explains.
And their new releases fit the bill – they don’t subscribe to the trap-heavy sound flooding the market currently, but rather match the sound that makes Kwesta, Kid X and the other guys the unique artists that they are.
When I ask him what we can expect musically from him as a solo artist this year, he’s cautious not to overhype himself. “I’ll do my best to create the best music I can that’s how I approached DaKAR 2.
I’m looking forward to building Rap Lyf as the unit that it is and building more platforms. I’m letting it happen to me, I’m not trying to force it in any sort of way. I don’t want to sit here and go, ‘Ungawari, umlilo, umlilo!’
“Dude, I don’t know. I’m gonna try my best and go into the studio and do the d**n thing I always do and hopefully when I put it out people embrace it and I connect.
“I don’t wanna lose the connection with the people, that’s the one thing I never want to do and that’s the one thing I’ll strive not to.”