L-Tido. Picture: Twitter
‘I was raised by a single parent and I was an only kid,” L-Tido tells me as he fidgets with the strings on his hockey jersey. We’re at the back of an eatery and the rapper who was born Thato Madonsela is reflecting on the role that religion has played in his life.

“My mom loved going to church and she always made me go with her,” he smiles. “I didn’t hate it. We used to go to this Catholic church called Roma in Alex. It was a good vibe and everyone from where I lived, koFour, would go all the way there.”

“Now, I don’t get to go to church because I have shows on Saturdays and sometimes get home only at six in the morning. When I’m free, I do go to church at this stage in my life. I’m very spiritual.”

“To be an artist and be in the game where people come and go all the time for nine years – and as an independent artist – God has allowed me to sustain and make good money from this career for so long.”

And why are we talking about religion at this particular point in his life? Well, L-Tido has just released his newest single, Thixo, which features AKA and Yanga.

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The title is a Xhosa word that means God. The song interprets Groover’s Prayer by the legendary kwaito superstar, Thebe.

We meet a week before he and his rap friends shoot the music video for Thixo and L-Tido is sure to mention: “Thank you to Thebe for the inspiration, we really appreciate it.” Shortly after the song came out, there were social media discussions about the prevalence of kwaito samples in South African rap.

There are two camps: those who believe it’s a good thing and those who believe rappers are kwaito culture vultures. L-Tido says he doesn’t understand why people would be upset about him or his peers giving a nod to the musicians that came before him.

“If you’re complaining about sampling then you don’t love hip hop,” he exclaims. “All the classics we love are songs that were sampled from other genres. J Dilla used to sample a lot. Most of the Notorious BIG’s songs were samples.”

He continues: “When I listen to kwaito now, I appreciate it more than I ever did because it’s become such a nostalgic thing for me. It’s not at the forefront like it used to be so when I listen to kwaito now, it makes me think of how I grew up.”

“The first South African album I ever bought was TKZee’s Halloween and if you look at my library right now,” he pauses here to lift his phone off the table and swipe to show me the music library in it.

“I went back and got that album,” he thrusts the phone in my face. “That’s how much I love it. It’s my favourite local album that’s ever been released. TKZee brought hip hop and kwaito guys together without even trying.”

Another pair of guys who were brought together by music is L-Tido and AKA. In 2009, AKA took it upon himself to diss L-Tido and his then-rap group, Glitz Gang. It became proper beef – way before people even knew Cassper Nyovest would exist.

The pair traded barbs but eventually squashed it. Years went by before they would even attempt to jump on a track together but now that they have, their fans seem to be overjoyed.

“Me and AKA have been cool for a while,” L-Tido explains. “We were waiting for a time that was right to make a song together. You can hear it in the song. It’s just good vibes. This song happened eight years later even though we talk all the time.”

“Sometimes you beef with people but you don’t even realise how you have things in common. For instance, I was born on January 30 and AKA was born on the 29th. We were born a day apart and our mothers share a birthday.”

“We got so cool that we know strange things like that about each other. Even with us having kids now, we relate on that level. We were having a serious conversation about raising a daughter in this country as opposed to raising a son.”

Those are serious topics and L-Tido is happy to have someone to discuss them with. But he is also happy to be the butt of a joke if it is truly funny.

Like when he fell off the Back to the City stage last year. Even he couldn’t help but poke fun at himself for that move. I ask him what went through his mind when he fell.

“You don’t have to think! You’re not out there in the air for 20 minutes. I put my foot on the speaker and I was gone,” he chuckles. “The stage was really, really high up. That’s what people don’t understand.”

“I don’t know how I didn’t get injured because I landed on concrete. There was no grass there. People thought I was gone! My team was very worried. But they stopped the music, I went around the stage to backstage then got on stage again and when I showed up, the crowd went ‘yeah!’ I was able to put that video on social media because I find it easy to laugh at myself. Life is too short to be so serious.”

In this lifetime, L-Tido promises to keep putting out music for those who want to hear it. This August, he is set to release his third album. “All or Nothing 2 is the new album’s title. My second album, All of Me, was in 2013 and I didn’t like the roll-out of anything. But I got to learn the game and am hands on with everything I do. I’m independent as well so it took me this long to get everything to where I want it to be.”

* L-Tido’s All or Nothing 2 will be in stores in August