A few days before K.O debuts his new EP, Two Piece, on a commercial radio station, we are sitting outside on a patio. It’s a little chilly but he, dressed in a trench coat and a drawstring collar sweater, has brought the heat.
An extra table, on which he can place the speaker so he can play me Two Piece, is brought out. But the rapper can’t help himself. He quickly gets up out of his chair, picks the table up, and turns it around, so the lines on that table are in the same direction as the ones on the table we were sitting at.
“Sorry,” he says, although unapologetic. “It’s that OCD,” he smiles.
A penchant to take control of not only decor but his destiny led to the artist whose real name is Ntokozo Mdluli being labelled the Skhanda General when he ushered in a sound that would shape some hood hip hop along with his then-crew, Cashtime Life.
Now, just over half a year since he released his second solo album, Skhanda Republic 2 (SR2), the man who is now known as the Skhanda Gawd, took matters into his own hands once again and decided to drop a two-track EP.
“My plan was to drop a single outside of SR2,” he tells me. “I haven’t been out of the studio since I put out SR2. I had recorded this one record with AKA, and I was going to follow that up with another single a month or two later, depending on how the first track did. Both records were going to feature someone.”
He played Fire Emoji, featuring AKA, for his label, Sony. Then he also played them a song called Waya Waya, featuring Cassper Nyovest.
“The label felt since we’re going into the last half of the year, fans would want to hear something more up-tempo from me and suggested that the Cassper record might be that song,” says K.O.
“Instead of me opting to can the Kiernan (AKA) record - he took time from being busy recording his album to give me a hot 16 - I decided it might be a good attempt, on my end, for me to try to build on the unity thing,” he continues. “I felt me being on the same record as Cassper was huge for the culture.”
You might remember that Cass and K.O weren’t necessarily on good terms after Cassper released a track called Beef, where he took jabs at the MTV Base Hottest MCs list by trying to discredit K.O’s achievements. Cassper apologised on social media, but K.O had never planned to hold a grudge.
Years later, the pair have a jam called Waya Waya, which is one side of the coin that is Two Piece. On it, K.O’s signature Skhanda nonchalance takes centre stage, and he raps about how ilokishi needs this collab.
He also anoints himself K-Hova. Cassper raps about money and swiping his card till the last credit.
This track is being put out at the same time as the only other song on Two Piece, a blazing ditty called Fire Emoji. Produced by Buks, the track sees AKA, and his auto-tune, talk about shoes and he tells people they’re talking number two.
On this song, K.O gets into high-intensity flex mode as he looks back at his career and tells us he’s been getting money from doing what he wants. He also looks forward and declares that he’s set to own summer 2018.
“I was just stamping my authority on this record,” K.O says. “This was just another day at the office. I’m 12 years in and no one has really done it on this level - which is why, on the Cassper record, I boldly called myself K-Hova as (Jay Z is) someone I look up to. On Fire Emoji, I am appreciative of my past and am just building my future.”
This third member of Teargas has a past that includes the crumbling of Cashtime Life. While he predictably doesn’t mention this on Two Piece, he is compelled to tell me about his current head space.
He felt he was pushed to be more vulnerable on Skhanda Republic 2 and as a result of listening to people’s advice and opinions, “that took away the raw version of me,” he says. “I was too polished and too clean and that dust element wasn’t there.”
“Now I’m carefree. I don’t want anyone’s opinions,” he smiles.
“That’s why these two songs are coming out now. Whether they work out aor they don’t, I know it’s my call. This is my ship. I can only steer and captain it the way I see fit.”
Buy the Two Piece EP at online music stores.