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They kicked in the door with the birth of kwaito, pioneered Afropop and packed dance floors with the rise of Durban kwaito. Now Kalawa Jazmee have hopped on to hip hop.
Last month, AB Crazy became the first artist to release an album under a subdivision called Kalawa Jazmee Hip Hop.
But how did it all come about?
“You need to remember that we had Stoan (of Bongo Maffin) from around 1996,” says Kalawa Jazmee founding member Oscar Mdlongwa. “As he grew, he said why don’t we look at this hip hop thing? But we first had to get ready and even today we’re still learning.”
Producer and Kalawa Jazmee co-founder Mandla Spikiri (pictured) said Kalawa started with kwaito and Afropop.
“But even Boom Shaka had elements of hip hop, so we started with hip hop a long time ago. We’re not just looking at hip hop – we also want to start a gospel label and spread our wings,” Spikiri said.
“Kalawa is like Coca-Cola – you can have Coke, but you also have to have Fanta and Sprite.”
But Coca-Cola products sell very well worldwide. Hip hop in South Africa, on the other hand, doesn’t.. So why invest in a genre that last saw gold album sales when Slikour was still Phantom Slik?
“At the end of the day, Kalawa Jazmee is a business, and it doesn’t matter what brand of music you represent, just as long as you have potential.”
Oskido, as Mdlongwa is affectionately known, elaborates: “Hip hop is part of pop culture, so there is bound to be a demand. And just as no one really knew about kwaito in the beginning and we worked on it to make it sell, we’ll do the same for Kalawa Jazmee Hip Hop.
“We know hip hop doesn’t sell, but we’ll make it happen by looking at revenue in terms of performance gigs.
“Look at Dr Malinga – he is one of the busiest performers in the country and he has no album out. The structure of the music industry has changed. It’s no longer just about album sales. We’ll look at radio and also see how brands are aligning themselves with hip hop.”
AB Crazy is no stranger to the world of hip hop, but this is his first outing as a solo artist.
“We decided to go with AB as the first guy we release because he is one of the most talented artists in the country,” says Oskido. “He writes, sings, raps, produces and can even engineer and he’s a rare find. He’s the total package.”
With a testimonial like that, it’s no wonder AB Crazy, who titled his album Home Coming, feels at home at Kalawa Jazmee Hip Hop. – Helen Herimbi