This is uncharted territory for K.O.
After years of success, the veteran emcee has quietly faded from the spotlight. With the recent collapse of his Cashtime Life empire, he now faces the daunting challenge of having to pick himself up and prove he’s still got it; that he can put all that behind him, dig deep and claw his way back up the increasingly competitive hip hop ladder.
In 2014, at the absolute peak of his powers, K.O was virtually untouchable. Not only had Caracara become one of South Africa’s biggest rap songs, his debut album Skhanda Republic proved to be a sprawling and definitive body of work. Just three years later, that period seems a distant memory.
Today’s release of his long-awaited and eagerly anticipated single, No Feelings, is a big step towards reclaiming that glory. It comes after much delay, with K.O having earlier in the year announced that he’d be releasing new music last month. That process was held up as he ironed out the intricacies of his newly restructured relationship with Sony Music.
In this exclusive interview, he tells me how, after he was criticised for his verse on Bang Out (which features fellow rap bigwigs AKA and Nasty C) he took the decision to go back to basics and tone down on the releases until the negative publicity around his name had subsided.
“The energy at the time was all ‘F*** K.O right now’. So whatever I did was heavily scrutinised. So, coming out of that space where everyone around you is trying to talk down on you - that’s one of the reasons I delayed this album. I knew exactly the type of hole I was in. The music was going to fall on unreceptive ears. Now that I’ve starved them a little, they’re actually gonna realise my place in the game."
* This is part one in our three-part exclusive interview with K.O