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‘You know what’s scary?” Khulani Morule grips his soda can and stares at me.
“Making a comeback. I just was not,” he shakes his head, “I was not prepared to make a comeback. Not after everything we built and the blood, sweat and tears we put in.”
Luckily for the artist known as Khuli Chana, no comeback is necessary because his second album, Lost in Time, is a good follow-up to his critically acclaimed debut, Motswakoriginator.
Boasting production by pH (who gave us the Tswa Daar beat), Victory and even Mahoota, Khuli Chana flexes his musical muscles on fast flows and banging beats. But after performing pretty much everywhere and basically vying for pole position in the public’s eye – Khuli Chana admits that he did feel the pinch of the sophomore album jinx.
“Only towards the end did I have that sophomore jinx thing,” he says, flipping his snapback cap around.
“I started looking at the careers of other people, like Nas, and how anyone who is really good has got flack or bad reviews with their second albums.
“I started listening to Nas with It was Written, not Illmatic, and I realised that every project would be compared to his first. Then I started thinking about Outkast and how every project they did didn’t sound like their last. I felt that was the business model I wanted follow.
“F**k it, if people like it then they like it, but I’m not going to let it freak me out.”
Spending a few days in Cape Town’s Red Bull studio with KG (who, along with featured artist Towdee, formed Morafe with Khuli Chana) to direct the music allowed Khuli Chana to “go back to really how it started”.
“It was like back in the day writing rhymes in KG’s room and rehearsing and it was fun as I’d been procrastinating, not sure which direction to take with this album.”
Lost in Time kicks off with a scene from the film Boondock Saints where the difference between a talker and doer is explained. “That introduction was my idea,” he beams. “That’s actually my favourite part in the movie because everything after that was garbage,” he laughs.
“That part resonated with me because I’m from Mafikeng, a small town where there’s a lot of talk. Even here in Joburg, people just like to talk. While we’re in the club and my favourite song is on, people are just going on and on about how they’re dropping this mixtape. Why don’t you just drop it?
“I represent the doers. We’re all about ‘doing’ while you guys talk about it. I remember when I was just a talker, too. But i got myself a life coach. That f***ing changed my life.
“The other day, the weirdest thing happened when I was moving house. I was going through old papers and found one with a list of my goals. This was from when I still had my life coach. Everything that was on that paper? Done. Tick. House, car, album, this… right down to how much I wanted to earn a month. She said: ‘Write down a figure and tell me if you haven’t got this by this time next year’. And wow, I earn more than I had written down. You learn things like acting, despite feeling or thinking. Forget that little voice inside of you.”
It’s clear Khuli Chana has gone through some kind of transition and before I can ask him to elaborate he pensively looks down and says: “Procrastination is a motherf***er. I was very frustrated and knew I only had one shot at this. The fear of failure. If my first album flunked I would’ve sunk Morafe, too. I would’ve killed everything we’d started, the legacy of Morafe would’ve gone down. I’ve seen artists go solo and f**k up everything they had built,” he looks up then smiles. “After Sisqo went solo we didn’t want to hear a thing from Dru Hill.”
Who would’ve thought to compare Khuli Chana to Sisqo? Unlike Sisqo, Khuli Chana’s success didn’t hinder that of other motswakolistas. If anything, it has become the benchmark that the likes of newbies HashOne, Notshi and Biz can aspire to. These are the same people he features on various songs on Lost in Time.
About insisting on featuring new acts, Khuli Chana maintains: “I’m like a Professor X. I just find these mutants. I’m into weirdos. You have to be a weirdo to be Khuli or KG. You can’t be a normal guy.”
He also makes it clear that while he may be looking to retire in four years’ time, “honestly, I think it’s time to pass the torch before I have to. It’s our tradition. Something I learnt from HHP: to break bread. When people didn’t know about Morafe, he introduced masses to us. I need to carry on that tradition.”
That tradition was one that has its downside, too.
“We’d never seen someone blow up in front of us like Tuks blew up,” Khuli Chana recalls. “We featured him on a song, he dropped his album, won a Sama, got a new car, won more awards, made more money and now we’re opening for him. It didn’t bother me then because I knew we had to humble ourselves and it just wasn’t our time. It was just said that you put Tuks on, but you go home without a car and it’s like you fell off.”
But no love was lost between the tightknit Motswako family and Khuli Chana has gone as far as featuring Tuks on Hape Part 1 – a ditty that was inspired by a Tuks line in Morafe’s Dula and features Reason, AKA and more – but at the last minute, Tuks decided to scrap his verse.
But don’t despair, apparently, a Part 2 – produced by 37MPH – will surface soon enough.
Until then, it’s safe to say Khuli Chana won’t be needing to make any comebacks.
• Lost in Time is in music stores.