Shoot by Alex Kamutondole
It’s around 7pm on an icy Wednesday evening and there are about half a dozen people in the Ambitiouz Entertainment office in Midrand. The smell of fresh paint fills the air. The label has been here only a few weeks, and it shows - the place isn’t fully furnished and the crisp white walls are still stainless.

Several awards adorn the reception area when you enter, the fruits of the unprecedented two-year run the label has enjoyed since it burst on to the scene with Emtee and Fifi Cooper as its main attractions.

Fifi Cooper has since acrimoniously departed the label but Emtee, whose incredible rise from trawling the city streets as a perennial up-and-comer to becoming the multi-award-winning face of African trap music is virtually unheard of, is still here and he’s still winning.

It’s been a year and a half since Emtee released his platinum-selling debut album, Avery, a sprawling 18-track masterpiece which took us on a lucid journey of his street life and his swooping rise.

His latest single, Ghetto Hero breaks away from the trap music he’s popular for, and sees him singing hearty lyrics like, “Without you I’m nothing, you turned me into something. I wanna be a ghetto hero, something like Steve Biko,” in the catchy chorus.

When we sit down in the recording studio at the corner of the office Emtee, whose tinted black shades blur out his eyes, explains the inspiration behind the song: “I can turn up, roll up and do all these things, but somewhere and somehow I need to come back down to earth and tackle serious situations such as those. Because you have people in the hood doing voluntary work and they don’t get credit for that. You have your everyday guy at the corner always helping out in the hood but never getting anything, and he’s not even looking to get anything. This is just basically me shining the light on those people.”

On his upcoming sophomore album, which he says we should expect this spring, Emtee says he will be showcasing his versatility. “I’ve grown to an extent where I’m beginning to experiment with sounds. I’m now making my story broader and more vivid. With Avery I was able to tell a part of my journey - now I have another chance to sum it up and tell the next part of my story. I really want to show people that I’m capable of anything.”

Emtee hasn’t been releasing music as consistently as his contemporaries. He’s been taking his time to master his craft. To appease fans’ thirst for new music, he recently released a video for Winning featuring Nasty C, one of the stand-out songs on Avery.

“For me, it kind of made sense,” he explains. “Nasty C has also acquired so much at this point in his career. We can really, really say we some young n****** winning. And I know that people love the song. We did a poll asking people what song we should shoot for next, and they said Winning and that’s what we did.”

Despite the lack of solo singles, Emtee produced one of the verses of last year on Stogie T’s By Any Means, and he recently produced yet another impressive cameo on Kly’s SnapThatSh*t alongside Nigerian superstar Patoranking.

Emtee has also been spending his time developing his label, African Trap Movement, a passion project through which him and his friends and business partners manage a few artists.

“It’s a brotherhood, a label and it’s a movement above all. I managed to get a lot of people part of it because they believed in the vision and the plan I had for it. Everybody within the movement was willing to wait and invest their energy in letting me do my thing to give my career an extra boost. This is how I’m giving back to my homies, by opening this label where I can put on my friends and my team that I’ve been working with for over 10 years.”

The label isn’t a means for him to leave Ambitiouz Entertainment and go independent, it’s just an avenue for him to advance his other interests, he says.

In April, Emtee took to Twitter to announce that he was creating a reality TV competition called Rap4Me, where he’ll be trying to unearth the next big rap star. He’ll also be performing in Birmingham, England in June as part of his Roll Up Tour as anticipation for his album grows. When I ask him what we can expect from it in terms of content and direction, he says he’s playing around with the idea of releasing a double disc.

I sure hope so.