“Life is good man, I’m not even gonna lie,” says rapper Neo Pitso. “Everything is starting to come into shape.”
Since being awarded the African Australian of the Year award at the Sydney Opera House in 2015, the South African rapper, who’s based full-time in Sydney, Australia, has been going from strength to strength.
The latest single off his coming self-titled album, Energy featuring AB Crazy, is something of a follow-up to a song he did with AB Crazy in 2015 called We On.
That song reached the top spot on DJ Ms Cosmo’s 5FM radio show, maintaining its position for three weeks.
Pitso will be hoping Energy achieves similar success.
“You know what I like about AB Crazy? Firstly, he’s really honest about his craft. If there’s a couple of things he doesn’t like, he’ll be like, ‘Naa, I’m not gonna do this’. There’s a lot of artists who are scared to speak out, but he’ll straight up say it. He’s always willing to try different things and take on different challenges.”
Pitso and AB Crazy gel seamlessly on Energy. AB Crazy delivers a raging, venomous hook about his success and the “boss moves” he’s making. Pitso carries that energy onto his verses as he raps about his relentless hustle. It’s a fast-paced banger that’s well-suited for the club (and the gym).
Pitso moved to Australia about 15 years ago when his parents, both nurses, sought greener pastures after struggling in SA. Now his own man, he’s often tempted to move back to SA. In October, he’ll be in town working on a documentary and, hopefully, recording the video for his single. If things go well, he may end up staying in SA full-time, he says.
Apart from his professional commitments, he often gives motivational talks at high schools during his SA visits. He’ll also be pushing his campaign to donate sanitary pads to girls around the country.
Much like it is here, the independent industry in Australia is booming. Pitso credits his independence for the opportunity he’s had to tour with the likes of Nas, The Game and Bone Thugs and Harmony, opportunities which have proved to him he’s on the right path and anything is possible.
The hip-hop industry is still in its infancy in Australia and the only time really big shows come about is when major international artists are in town. “We haven’t quite broken the mould, but slowly but surely we’re getting there. And obviously it’s a bit interesting for me being an African overseas because, as weird as it sounds, it’s almost like reverse Eminem. So you got the white rappers looking at me like, ‘Dude you don’t belong here’ and I’m like, ‘What do you mean?' ”
Despite numerous record deal offers over the years, Pitso has maintained his independence in a quest to maintain creative control. “If I don’t work I don’t eat. It’s like a lion waking up to chase an antelope. If it doesn’t catch the antelope it won't eat. I like that I’m in the driver’s seat.”
Pitso is a bona fide hustler. He tells me how in 2009 he started contacting BlackBerry asking them to sponsor him. Even after they declined his proposal he persisted. Two years later, his persistence paid off when they offered him an ambassadorship deal.
BlackBerry went on to fly him to Florida with their other ambassadors, Alicia Keys and Lewis Hamilton. Pitso has since partnered up with global brands such as Adidas and Alizé.
Pitso’s album, set for release in September, is a project that’ll be telling his story.
“I came across a lot of people that said, ‘Look, we love your sound, but we actually know nothing about you. Who are you and where did you come from?’ And so I thought that, ‘You know what, it’s the perfect time to tell my story from scratch’. A lot of people are sometimes under the impression that I come from a rich family and what not but that’s not really what it is. So this project is really gonna introduce people to Neo Pitso.”