Kwesta. Picture: Supplied

Award-winning hip hop artist Kwesta, has been named an influencer and is the newest member of the Red Heart Rum Crew. Kwesta follows in the footsteps of other local successful hip hop artists who have been branded influencers for world-class brands.

The #LiveWithHeart campaign refers to approaching not only the big things, but also the day-to-day activities, with passion. The rapper and songwriter, who burst on to the scene in 2010 with his debut album, Special Rekwest, has seen major success since then and has collaborated with a number of local stars.

“I don’t really know why they decided to have me be apart of this campaign, but when they did approach me and told me what it was about, I couldn’t say no because I felt that is was something I could relate to. I always have my heart in whatever I do; I have never been someone who is worried about the world and what people have to say, so this is very close to me,” he said.

For his first challenge, Kwesta was tasked with making a song using only the words “Soweto”, “gymnastics” and “ten pin bowling”.

“First, they were such random words, I didn’t even know where to start; it was all so weird simply because of the words, but at the end of the day making music is what I do, and I do like a challenge – and there was some rum involved, so that helped,” he said.

Other crew members include pro-skater Jean-marc Johannes, ex-Springbok rugby player Breyton Paulse, pioneering graffiti artist Falko One and custom bicycle innovators Fixn’ Diaries.

Kwesta said he hopes the challenges he will face with this campaign will inspire confidence and independent thinking among his fans. “I hope that people follow their heart and their gut feeling, and also have guts to do whatever they want to. Often a lot of us feel like outcasts and I want this campaign to change that; we all have something good to give to others,” he said.

The star, whose real name is Senzo Vilakazi, was recently nominated in six categories at the upcoming South African Music Awards. “I am actually very excited, it means a lot that the work I put out it being recognised, and for me it could only happen because of the support I have around me and the people who keep cheering me on,” he said.

Although he has criticised award shows in the past, he did say they are important. “Look, the system of acknowledgement is important, I don’t think that anyone wants to work hard and not be recognised for their efforts. However I do believe that no one should be making music just to win awards.”

On his success with his third studio album, Dakar 2, he said: “The last 15 months have been one hell of a ride. I never anticipated this success – I mean, I hoped I would be successful – but never like this. I love that people love my music, it’s extremely humbling.”

Some of those people include Cassper Nyovest, who is featured on Kwesta’s hit, Ngud. “When I first recorded Ngud, it was just me, then Cassper heard it and threw a verse together because he wanted to be featured, because he liked it, and that’s how it happened. I like letting collaborations happen organically, I am not very clinical about them; it’s all about making music.”

The rapper also made quite an impression earlier this year while on Sway In The Morning, a popular American radio show that is broadcast from New York. He was in the country to promote his music and dropped a freestyle while on the show. “It was so dope being on that show, and also being in the States. The plan has always been to take my music to the world…” he said.

On what he thinks his winning formula is, he said: “I think that with everything I have done, I have not lost my head in the celebrity aspect. I have stayed true to myself, and for me that is important.”

He added that the South African hip hop industry is now better than ever, “I love our industry right now, we have so many success stories, we have such a huge influence on the youth, and even fashion and pop culture. We have quality artists who put out quality work, and that is amazing…”

On what else his fans can expect from him this year, he said: “I am working on a new album that I am very excited about. My fans are in for a treat – the music is going to be insane.

“I am also doing a lot of travelling this year, trying to make the most of every opportunity”.