Pics by Earl Martin
It’s been three years since South African pop star Jimmy Nevis released his second album, The Masses. Although he was relatively low-key last year, he kept his name in the public domain by releasing a few singles, including All About It, with Sketchy Bongo, and the Coke Studios single, CONTROL-ALT-DELETE, with Opposite the Other. Jimmy and his team were planning to release the project last year, but it was postponed by his record label.

He describes that experience as an important part of his journey and is planning to release his third album independently in June. He is working on the artwork for the singles he has lined up. “I’m trying to be as best prepared as possible, especially nowadays, where content isn’t released in a traditional way. It’s very cool to have supporting audio with so much visual content and I’m really enjoying getting to experiment creatively - doing lots of shoots and trying to make sure people understand the concept.”

The first of these singles, Don’t Wanna Fight, was released last month, with a typically symbolic and spell-binding video. “Before I was done writing the song I’d already come up with the concept for the video. It’s a powerful message that has been in my heart for such a long time. When we were planning the video I was thinking about what I wanted to say - whether it came with a message or some kind of inspiration. I knew I wanted to have something that expressed my love for religion, but also my challenge and my personal experience with God and living life in this industry where I’m challenged every day with my morals or my faith.”

It’s a message Nevis wanted to share with everybody because he felt it was a challenge we have all experienced, but don’t always talk about. He has yet to put a name to the album, but the music is coming along nicely, he says. It’s an album he wants to stand out and go beyond just the South African music scene.

I ask him how the album will differ from his previous two. “In terms of lyrics, I think it’s still the same type of flow and the same vibe. It’s not really different in terms of the way I’m writing, production-wise, or the type of message. It’s not like I’ve completely changed who I am, but I have grown and I am a different person. I feel a bit more at ease talking about things I couldn’t previously express. It’s a mix of something old and something new.”

In making this album he’s been referencing some global classics and simultaneously trying to maintain his own unique cultural influence. “I always feel like I grew up listening to so many international artists, but now, more than ever, being a South African is something I think needs to be in everyone’s music, whatever that may sound like. I think this is our time and it’s amazing. I see so many artists who are being themselves and putting our country on the map.” The 24-year-old has his own charity foundation, The Blue Collar Organisation, which he founded in 2015.

He is trying to build a focused organisation that provides a platform for people to interact and research. The organisation has also started its own bursary programme. “Growing up in my community, since high school I’ve always been very active in giving back to various other organisations. I saw other famous people involved in so many things and one thing I’ve always said is that if you become famous or have some kind of influence, and if you’re able to use that to do good, then that’s great." 

"I really wanted to create a space where it wasn’t just about me giving back, but was a focused space where I could build a team of people who are giving back, not only to my community or people from my side of the world, but across the country, and a group that can learn the right ways of giving back.”