Big Nuz
Big Nuz

‘Pardon me, how the f*** you gon’ start with me?” Lil Fame screams into my ears as MOP’s Cold As Ice blares through my earphones.

It’s a scorcher of a Saturday morning in Cape Town and thanks to Castle Lite, I’m en route to meet two of the most unapologetically ghetto, brash and rugged rhyme-spitters in the flesh.

Made up of long-time friends, rapper Billy Danze and rapper/ producer Lil Fame, MOP is a rap group straight out of Brooklyn, New York, and they’re in the Mother City to shoot a TV advert for Castle Lite – which premieres tonight – similar to the ones starring Vanilla Ice and MC Hammer.

I’m sweating – more from the sun than the prospect of catching some behind-the-scenes action on the set of the advert – and trying not to |pull aggressive rap hands as I mouth the Cold As Ice lyrics (off MOP’s breakthrough album, Warriorz) to myself.

MOP’s music has earned the group a reputation for being in your face, for encouraging moshpit behaviour, for being (for lack of a better word) belligerent. So I put my earphones away in anticipation of seeing a set-up akin to the group’s wild Ante Up remix video. Instead, I am greeted by girls in freakum dresses, smiling faces and people posing for pictures.

Turns out the commercial has already been filmed and this is just a photo shoot for the campaign promo shots. A quick scan around the room – Billy Danze doting on a blonde, Lil Fame looking jovial – gives me enough time to realise that in this moment, MOP aren’t trying to live up to their abbreviation: Mash Out Posse.

They look happy and nice and, well, happy. I’m able to find out where some of this happiness stems from after I pass by a platter of pastries, a smorgasbord of sarmies and a bevy of beverages set up outside a hotel room where MOP conduct interviews later that day.

“This is our first time in Africa, period,” Danze beams before he excitedly talks the advert up. “It’s hot. The commercial is going to be hot. Great vision from the director (and ad agency, Ogilvy Cape Town). We feel good about this. There’s going to be a sequel and it’s going to be colder.” Lil Fame adds, “We’ve got a song called Cold As Ice and of course, Castle Lite is an ice cold beer.”

MOP were chosen as the next American act to feature in a Castle Lite ad because “we always look for iconic musicians and the song Cold As Ice, is perfect for our brand”, Leanne Martin, Castle Lite communication marketing manager told me.

So in the ad, a mock-band called The Kwaggas are playing a ’70s hit, Cold As Ice, which was originally sung by British-American rock group Foreigner. This song was sampled by Lil Fame and made into an instant classic by MOP in 2000, so while The Kwaggas are jamming in 2013, MOP arrive.

“I grew up with all kinds of music around me,” explains Lil Fame, a man of surprisingly few words, “and the Foreigner song was just a good one to remix and revive.”

I ask him why he produces under the name Lil Fizz – which is what appears on the production credits – instead of Lil Fame and he says, “I rap under Lil Fame, and then there’s my producer monicker. But you know, around the way, in my neighbourhood what happens is…” He pauses and asks me, “What’s your name? Helen, right?” I nod. He continues, “Then they would call you Hez.” Without skipping a beat, Danze interjects: “Heeeeeeeeeeeeez!”

There’s laughter from me as well as a group of minders and brand people who get to sit in on an, er, one-on-one interview. “So,” Lil Fame starts again, “then they’ll call me Slap or Fame and so they’ll say Slez or Fizzy. Lil Fizz.”

No matter what they call them, over the course of two decades, Fame and Danze have managed to rap alongside or produce for everyone in the hip hop alphabet from Busta Rhymes to the Wu and with their 10th album due for release soon, according to Danze, they show no signs of slowing down.

• Look out for the Castle Lite television commercial that features MOP on your small screen this evening.

The Castle beer brand has been no stranger to the music industry. The third-best music video-centric show that’s ever been on SABC 1 – Studio Mix and Bassiq take the top two positions, in my humble opinion – was brought to our screens by this brand.

Castle Loud, which was hosted by Bongo Maffin’s Stoan Seate and later Stoan and Unathi Msengana (née Nkayi), put South African music first and was a pleasure to watch. Since then, Castle has supported South African music through other platforms and even brought in international hitmakers like Drake and Kanye West to headline their Feel The Beat Of Subzero concerts. Now, Castle Lite presents Unlock Extra Cold Live.

Comprising a concert in three cities – Joburg, Cape Town and Durban – Unlock Extra Cold Live allows music lovers in the respective cities to tailor-make their own concert.

Fans are asked to choose seven artists to take the stage in their city, out of a total of 25 artists who range from rappers to DJs and afro-pop singers. The one-night-only concerts will take place at Fiction (Cape Town) on May 25, at Boulevard (Durban) on June 1 and at Neighbourgoods Market (Joburg) on June 8.

Through its selection of music initiatives, Castle Lite has tried to push a message of being the coldest beer. Its adverts sometimes have snow in South Africa as part of the concept. Just this year, before Kanye West took to the stage to perform at the Feel The Beat Of Subzero, AKA’s performance began with him revealing himself out of a gigantic ice cube.

Rumour has it that’s the cube ’Ye was supposed to come out of but he turned it down. Anyway, the brand is cold and they’ve dubbed the spots where the concerts will take place the Capitals Of Cold.

Vying for a spot on your line-up are the likes of BIG NUZ, Zakes Bantwini, DJ Ready D, Driemanskap, Jack Parow, Teargas, Pascal and Pearce, DJ Zinhle, AKA, Roger Goode, Khuli Chana and more.

To have a say in who performs in your city and stand a chance to win VIP tickets to the concert as well as prizes, you have to buy a Castle Lite then check the code on your beer’s underliner.

After that, dial *120* YOURCODE# and then select the artist you would like to see in concert. Good luck.

• Visit www.castlelite.co.za for more information