Gigi LaMayne arrives at our office a few minutes early and the first thing she does is ask for the microwave so she can warm up her chicken and slap chips. These aren’t necessarily staple foods in the superstar diet, but Gigi isn’t your typical superstar.
She’s more like your typical 22-year-old: she loves watching movies, laughs a lot and jams to AKA’s music.
What makes her stand out is that she can rap better than most, and she’s got a bunch of awards to prove it.
But despite her fistful of Best Female triumphs at the annual SA Hip Hop Awards, she’s not too impressed by the comparison to other female rappers.
She firmly believes she should be measured on an equal footing with her male counterparts.
“I was speaking to somebody earlier today about how it needs to stop being about who’s the best female rapper,” she says. “I hate that, because I could probably take out your best female rapper.
I’ve been in situations where I’ve been in cyphers with a Maraza, a Kid X. A lot of these guys now in hip hop know me and I’m like that little girl who they saw at the cyphers at Ghandi Square or the Full Clip with Siz n Scoop or Namba Namba on Ukhozi FM.
I’ve been at all these things since the age of 14 and I’ve never versed a girl. So for me, it’s awkward when you get to the mainstream and now you’re being compared to a singer or someone who sings and raps here and there.”
To be clear, Gigi isn’t a singing type of rapper. She raps. And she can trade bars with the best of them, male or female, which is corroborated by her being enlisted in 2016’s SA Hottest MCs list.
At last year’s SA Hip Hop Awards she was nominated for Best Hustler alongside Cassper Nyovest, Khuli Chana and Proverb, and she won Best Mixtape over Maraza, Stilo Magolide and Kid Tini. And this year, there will be more.
“I think my biggest run yet in the music industry will be 2017,” she says confidently. “I’ve got endorsements, music and a helluva brand starter pack. Like, it’s not just gonna be music that I’ll be doing. People are gonna see me – I might be acting, I might be producing. I’ll be doing something like that, that I can’t disclose now. I find myself competing.”
Her latest single, Ugly Boy, which was released on Valentine’s Day, is a playful track that strays away from her repertoire of typically venomous records.
“It’s very light-hearted.
People have heard me go harder,” she says. “And I just feel like at this point I’ve proven that I can rap. That shouldn’t be a discussion for hip hop artists now if we’re going to levitate beyond our genre. If we’re to compete with a Zahara, a Zonke, a Lira or a Shekhinah, then we need to look at this thing as music. That’s what I was trying to do with this single.”
The song is inspired by how she used to love pretty boys and how that never worked out for her. The reference to ugly isn’t necessarily about looks, she says: “Sometimes you’d rather have the guy who’s quiet, rather than the guy who’s out there tatted up and always with girls.”
Having tried trap music before, she’s realised that it doesn’t fit her DNA as an artist because she can’t identify with that lifestyle. She also wants to make people dance when she wants to and to inform them at other times.
Gigi’s been in the industry since she got a record deal at the age of 16.
She recalls how it was a great platform, but that she had to leave because she felt she wasn’t being given a proper chance. Then she signed to Dream Team SA a few years ago after winning the music competition Jack Scouts and everything seemed to improve.
When she left last year she quickly signed to Mabala Noise. She’s quick to point out that she didn’t receive a R5-million advance, as has been reported by the media. She feels empowered by how much control she has over her music and how much support she receives there.
“I’m very excited. I’m 22, man. I know kids who make more money than me and I don’t think they’re investing their money. And I feel so good being able to do this. Because I don’t want my kids to grow up the way I grew up.”
With a degree from Wits University under her belt and a sparkling rap career, I’m putting my money on Gigi doing just that.