Rapper Tumi Molekane, whose most recent moniker, Stogie T, is a colloquial term for cigar, orders one as we sit near the back of the terrace. I’m hardly surprised when Molekane, whose music is furnished with references to scenes such as this, tells me that this is one of his favourite hangout spots.
Lately, this veteran emcee has set aside his work as the head of Motif Records in order to focus on his solo career.
His artistry has been rejuvenated by this change in focus and the Stogie T era has already presented us with last year’s Stogie T - a perfectly layered album that balances Molekane’s signature lyrical prowess with a more light and palatable sound.
He’s been encouraged by the response to this album and considers his rebranding a success.
Despite his knack for weighty, thoughtful music, Molekane has made a point of staying in tune with hip hop’s rapid evolution by featuring on songs like Reason’s No Sleep Remix and Zeus’s Dats Wasup over the years.
He understood the pace of the game and he ran with it: “I have a great connection with what’s happening at ground level,” he says. “I’ve got a great view of the game and where I fit as well.
“Where I fit is exactly where I wanted to be; it’s where I can do a battle comfortably. I can be at the club, do very commercial things like TV and brand stuff and I can still go and do a jazz show with a live band.”
On Saturday, Molekane will be headlining the latest instalment of the Kaya FM and Bassline Live series, alongside jazz collective, Rebirth of Cool. The show will see the two collaborate to present a soulful, jazz-infused hip hop show.
Stogie T. Picture: Instagram
Molekane has a distinguished history with the Bassline brand. In December, when I interviewed Bassline CEO Brad Holmes about the company pivoting its business towards special events, established monthly shows and music festivals, he spoke glowingly of Molekane and the work they’ve done together over the past 15 or so years.
Looking back, Molekane describes his beginnings with Bassline as being very influential in his growth as an artist.
In between puffs of his cigar, he recalls how it was a powerful creative hub for like-minded artists such as Blk Sonshine, Godessa, Moses Molelekwa, Bongo Maffin and Lebo Mashile.
“It made me take myself really seriously. Because I was like, ‘You know what, I’m not just a rapper, bro.’ No doubt I’m a rapper, but I’m not just a rapper. I can be Busi Mhlongo. I can be Miriam Makeba. I can be Bra Hugh Masekela. I’m on the same same stage, bro. It just elevates your self worth.”
Molekane has not only reinvented himself as an artist, he’s also now reinventing his role as a “label head”.
Instead of having formal record deals with artists, he’s developing a model whereby he has a working relationship with artists, where he sets them up with the necessary contacts, guides them through the appropriate channels and ensures that he equips them with the tools they need to succeed in this industry.
The challenge he’s found with this unofficial role is figuring out how to position himself in the market as the guy who does these things for artists and trying to find a way to manoeuvre in such a way that he moves away from being perceived as a label, or the “big bad wolf”, as he describes it.
As a solo artist, Molekane will soon be releasing a video for one of the songs on Stogie T, as well as putting the finishing touches to some of the music he aims to release in the coming weeks.
In closing, I ask him what people can expect from Saturday’s show and why they should come. He considers for a moment: “As far as hip hop goes, no one else can front a situation like this as classy and as currently as I can.”