Daev Martian, Kid Fonque and African Ginger share stories about their careers. Photo: Supplied

Two DJ-producers and an illustrator walk into a bar…

It’s not a joke, sorry. The second edition of the Ballantine's Stay True Labs sessions took place in Braamfontein at the end of April 2018. The couch-conversation-style session aims to put like-minded creatives together to talk about the trials and triumphs they have experienced in their careers.

This is so that other creatives - both established and emerging - can learn from their paths and hopefully avoid some of the pitfalls. This particular evening in Johannesburg focused on the music industry. On the couch, DJ and producer, Daev Martian - who still hadn’t taken off his Red Bull Music Festival Johannesburg artist tag - was seated alongside scene starter, Kid Fonque and illustrator, African Ginger.

For Kid Fonque’s latest beat tape, which is released under his label, Stay True, African Ginger was tasked with creating the tape artwork. It’s sort of like a Rorschach Test in that the artwork looks like whatever your eye wants to see.

But what was most fascinating to me was hearing the stories of how these guys were tested in various ways but they still chose to remain true to their vision. Essentially, they bet on themselves and used the resources around them to get them to their dreams. Kid Fonque’s vision was to own an indie label. But he started out working Soul Candi.

“I didn’t learn how to run my record label,” he said, emphasising the “my.” Then: “I learnt how to run a record label with specific needs. It was a house label.” Now the alternative beat-focused muso is giving acts like Daev Martian a chance to fully express themselves.

African Ginger spoke about being the first artist in his family and he gave tips on how to be a trailblazer even when the environment doesn’t allow.

“The most times I felt the purest form of myself is when I cut all the noise out and I just did what I did and stayed true to myself. Now people [look at] my work more than they did five or six years ago because it’s me being me and saying what I want to do,” said African Ginger.

“A lot of people don’t appreciate musicians or creatives as a whole,” he continued. “It seems like we’re these good for nothings. But we can prove them wrong.”