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When we meet on a scorching January afternoon, Zeus (pictured) is wearing a Botswana soccer jersey. This Botswana-born, Joburg-based rapper may be a patriot, or he may just be a football fan in the spirit of things now that Afcon is under way. But one thing is certain: with his upcoming (and third) album he is looking to score in this music game.
We sit in a dark studio and Zeus reluctantly plays me a rough cut of a song on the as-yet-untitled album. “You know what it’s like,” he smiles, “it’s like having this concept in a movie and then telling someone the concept, thus giving away the whole movie.”
But then he decides to play me a song called Mafrika – which you may have heard a snippet of on his mixtape, Honey I’m Home 2 – and sat back beaming.
With a chorus that encompasses a plethora of greetings and sayings from languages on our continent, Zeus raps about beauty in diversity and exploration.
While the rapper who rose to fame with the Channel O Music Video Award-winning song, Gijima, cautions not to take one song as the whole concept of the album, he does say that “the album will be ready by the middle of the year as we already have a couple of songs down so there’s a skeleton of what the album will sound like.”
“I will say that this album, if I had to use the movie analogy again, is kind of like a Spike Lee joint,” he continues, “in that it’s very personal to me, but it’s sincere in a way that many people will be able to relate to it.
“So it’s a little like mass personalisation, but from my point of view on the young, urban Africa; who we are and our shortcomings.”
Shortcomings are the kind of thing Zeus’s fans aren’t afraid to call him out for. Sure, some of them were disgruntled that this 20-something who was born Game Goabaone Bantsi in Gaberone would participate in a reality show like Big Brother Africa All Stars in 2011, but he didn’t let that faze him.
“Big Brother Africa wasn’t even on my radar,” the rapper who got a scholarship to study business and commerce at Monash University confesses.
“But my first thought was that this was good marketing for me. I found out later that between 40 and 50 million people was the average viewership. So it did wonders for me in terms of brand awareness.
“I always had a vision of being big continentally because that puts you in a position to make big moves globally.”
As long as those moves don’t include house music, according to his fans. A very up-tempo song called Dancing Shoes which saw Zeus sing and not rap was to be featured on a now-shelved album, but the criticism that came with this new musical direction made Zeus think twice.
“What I wish people understood from the get-go is that good musicians have different sides to them and aren’t one-dimensional,” he shares.
“I grew up listening to 2Pac’s All Eyez On Me as well as Fresh House Flava – (volume) one and two stand out. I was getting tired of rapping and felt like everyone was saying the same shit, especially after I made the song, Champagne Music. House guys loved Dancing Shoes and it even got onto a few charts, so it’s flattering to get love from something I don’t usually do.”
Zeus came back true to form last year when he released Honey I’m Home 2 and brought out Das Wassup featuring Tumi Molekane and AKA and it seems as if, at least for now, he’s left the house music to the likes of Donald.
• Download Honey, I’m Home 2 at www.zeusdeuce.com