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Reinvention is the key to longevity in the industry – Khuli Chana understands this best

Khuli Chana. Picture: Instagram

Khuli Chana. Picture: Instagram

Published Jul 31, 2022

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In 2012, a year after the release of his classic debut album “Motswakoriginator”, Khuli Chana rapped like he had a chip on his shoulder. Despite its relative success, he wanted to prove beyond doubt that he was the best.

And so when his sophomore album “Lost in Time” came out that year, there was a steely intent on the fierce opening songs “HazzadazMove” and “Tswa Daar”.

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The latter went on to be his biggest radio hit of his career.

“It was important to show my level of skill in rap. I had to show my lyricism and versatility.” he says.

“We changed the game and cemented ourselves as revolutionaries when I dropped “Tswa Daar”.

He went on to dominate the South African Music Awards (Samas) the following year with three awards: Album of the Year, Male Artist of the Year and Best Rap Album.

That solidified his place as the cream of the crop among his peers at the time, many of whom have not stood the test of time.

Khuli (real name Khulani Morule) has since played the long game by reinventing himself all over again. A hard-nosed street rapper turned record executive. Despite how sure of himself he seems, Khuli says he never imagined he would be going strong for this long.

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“The plan was to go back to school after I dropped my first album,” he says.

“I’ve recently enrolled for a post grad in innovation and entrepreneurship with AFDA after 20 years.”

Just shy of his 40th birthday, he’s actively positioning himself as an elder statesman ready to put his experience to good use.

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In support of this, during the week Khuli announced the launch of Khuli Chana Studios, his new recording studio and content hub through which he’ll be mentoring and supporting new artists and creators in need of a platform.

Khuli Chana has opened Khuli Chana Studios. Picture: Supplied

The latest in a long line of boss moves, which include his record label “MyThrone”, which is home to Maglera Doe Boy and his DJ wife Lamiez Holworthy, partnering up with Universal Music, Khuli Chana Studios is a legacy move that solidifies him as a true entertainment mogul.

Khuli’s manager, Abiot Ledwaba, shares some insight on how challenging it was setting up the studios.

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“The process of setting up Khuli Chana Studios was a very difficult process because we lost a lot of money in the process and we had people who wanted to partner with us who were not about the vision, but who were just really focused on making money. They didn’t align with our values.”

While this has always been a dream of Khuli’s, the process of properly executing it started around June last year, Ledwaba says. They were just biding their time and waiting for the right clients and the right people to join their team.

Khuli says he’d previously failed at launching this venture on a couple of occasions prior. “Every failure was a learning curve. I was inspired by the idea of becoming a media house, breaking new talent and shining a spotlight on the icons by creating groundbreaking content.”

Lately, Khuli has been immersed in the latest of his brand deals: Legendary Life Lessons campaign with Lunchbar and a new collaboration with Jagermeister. Through these and other deals that he’s been involved in over the year, Khuli still somehow finds time to stay active musically.

His experimental single “Buyile”, which fuses his unique rap style with amapiano, is up for the Music Video of the Year award at the upcoming South African Music Awards (Samas) and his latest single “Take Care” has been a mainstay on urban radio since its release late last year.

I asked Ledwaba what it is about Khuli that keeps him operating at such a high level. “I think it’s always how he’s always surrounded by young people when he’s working,” he says.

“He really believes in the hungry young people, that’s how he always knows what’s happening in the streets. He doesn’t necessarily need to be in the streets but the young people in his team are the ones who will make sure the brand moves in the right direction because this is what people like.”

He also cites Khuli’s humility and “clean brand” as a contributing factor to his ongoing success. Going forward, Ledwaba says we can look forward to more music content from the Khuli Chana Studios, as well as more philanthropy projects through the Khuli Chana Foundation — “We’re just solidifying his legacy. He’s about to turn 40 and from here on we’re just pushing the legacy.”

As Khuli enters his fourth decade in the next month, he looks on at figures like P Diddy and Jay Z as the benchmark for this next chapter.

“In order to have more, you must become more. Success leaves clues, Hov and Diddy inspire me a lot. They broke boundaries — from music to fashion, media and product design. And they are still hungry to this day.”

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