Interviews

INTERVIEW: K.O Talks Cashtime, SA Hip Hop & New Album

The rapper distills his legacy and teases new album while shedding light on Cashtime catalogue

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If we had our own franchise of David Letterman’s Our Next Guest Needs No Introduction, K.O would have been at the top of the production wish-list.

While his rich catalogue of timeless classics and definitive bars have underscored his ascension to the crest of the culture, he’s one of the few influential figures in Hip Hop who’ve shunned the splashy displays and trappings of fame.

Perhaps it’s because the genesis of his fame dates back to an era when rap mushroomed outside the parameters of the mainstream pop zeitgeist, producing a wave of artists whose survival depended on sheer artistic brilliance, rather than their ability to dazzle elsewhere.

K.O, Moozlie, Maggz, Kid X, Ma-E all appear on the Cashtime ‘Now or Never’ album, now on all digital platforms. Photo: Supplied

In 2006, when Teargas blew up, the hooks of celebrity did not really attend to the emerging slew of rappers who went against the grain. Not Skwattakamp, not ProKid, and certainly not Teargas.

There were just not many opportunities and platforms the rappers have now. Back then, Hip Hop itself was the misunderstood ‘cheese boy’ everyone in school thought would snitch and sell out the authenticity Kwaito had cultivated and owned.

“What I have coming up is gonna be appreciated on a large scale, just based on where I am. I’ve found my feet again.”

Of course, we now know that was not true. Hip Hop became the new leader, and K.O was at the forefront of that revolution.

Just like the now mainstream genre, the rap juggernaut didn’t just top charts and take every award, and the coins, he pioneered a whole new distinct sound and an original wave that melted township street heritage and Hip Hop. The Skhanda sound, and the merch that followed, positioned him as the ultimate disruptor.

But despite all his success, K.O has managed to sustain an enigma about him. This is part of the reason our chat with him was all the more exciting – you are chatting to one of the g.o.a.t’s, trying to clear a bunch of things and dive into a world from which one of the greatest Hip Hop movements emerged.

K.O seeks to preserve the piece of history created by the Cashtime entity with new move. Photo Credit: Supplied

The rapper talked frankly to us about the importance of evolving as an artist, adjusting one’s creative sails in the very vast waters of an ever shifting soundscape, the details on the newly re-published Cashtime catalogue, and what lies ahead in his music and street apparel careers.

Congratulations on Skhanda Republic and the Cashtime catalogue being republished on digital streaming platforms. Though, why now?

The music was down for almost a year… since last year. The reason was because Cashtime was being distributed by Sony Music. And then, sometime last year, the contract and partnership between Cashtime and Sony Music lapsed.

By default, Sony had to take the stuff down. We’ve spent months on end trying to find a new home. We could have easily decided to renew the deal with Sony, but we decided because we are an independent label, we should explore more options.

In the end we settled with Africori, the guys who are now responsible for looking after the catalogue. It’s literally just a business decision. Once we were happy with what was being offered, we decided to move forward, which just happens to be now.

There are so many questions around the Cashtime catalogue, which includes some previously unreleased tracks, now resurfacing back into the radar. What does it really mean for everyone involved?

It doesn’t really change much because as you can see, everyone is sort of doing their own thing now.

Stuff that is out there is stuff that was released while we were working together. It’s solely based on servicing the continuous demand for that piece of work and history. Whether we are in business together now or not is beside the point because everyone is now invested in their own individual business efforts, myself included. I’m not a Cashtime artist, I’m doing other things.

In terms of relationships amongst ourselves as former colleagues and business acquaintances, there is no issue there. It just doesn’t mean that we are gonna start working together as Cashtime moving forward. It’s a piece of history that we wanted to preserve and that’s what it is.

Skhanda Republic is your quintessential masterpiece. It’s what Thriller was to Micheal Jackson, and Purple Rain was to Prince. Do you obsess about trying to top it? 

No. Artists go through different phases in their lives. Times change and so do artists. Trying to recapture a certain feel is difficult. I can literately go into the studio and try to create a song that will sound like that album, but it won’t resonate the same.

It will now just be a repetition of what I did in the past. It’s almost like… you know when they say the first cut is the deepest? That’s because it’s a new feeling at the time.

Once you try to give someone the same feeling using the same thing, you are unlikely to achieve the same results. The only thing I can do now is forge ahead and make a new classic that marks the chapter where we are in 2019… where I am right now. Something that encapsulates the current mood.

When people look back 5 years from now it should almost be an audiovisual album, so to speak, that whenever you listen to the music… it triggers the feelings of 2019.

That’s what that album did. When people look back, they say, ‘Oh, shit! That was probably SA Hip Hop at its peak!”

… It fitted that period. Especially with what was happening with the Kwaito influence at the time.

In 2019, If I can try and use the same elements it won’t resonate because people just aren’t that excited about that Kwaito vibe anymore. I need to tap into what’s happening now in order to create the next new classic and that’s what I’m currently working on.

Music has evolved a lot in the last two years. What are your thoughts on the SA Hip Hop landscape?

One thing that’s kind of missing is, we are not that big of risk takers as we used to be in terms of style and the music that we are making. We are just sort of tapping into, ‘Okay, this artist has a song that is happening right now, or amapiano is happening right now… How do I make an amapiano song? There’s Gqom happening now so let me do that.”

Like, people haven’t been as daring as we used to be. No one is saying, ‘I don’t care what people think but this is what I want and feel could change the game’, and then doing that and breaking the chain. It creates the next revolution of SA Hip Hop. A lack of that has kinda held us back.

It also reflects in how things look right now. We hardly have big SA Hip Hop songs on the charts, and that is because the audience is not stupid. They can see. When we are putting in the hard work to wow them, it shows in how much they consume the culture. But if we are comfortable and complacent, and also just playing it really safe, it affects the numbers.

It also reflects in how artists blow up and fizzle just as quick… 

Yes!

But you’ve managed to be relevant and authoritative for so long. What can you tell the up and coming cats about longevity? 

You need to be a fan of the culture. Like, through and through. You can’t expect yourself to evolve with the times if you don’t embrace change. Just because people are singing on a Hip Hop beat you think  ‘I’m rapper, why should I?’ Once you start seeing things that way, you will find yourself falling behind.

It’s about adapting all the time because times do change. New artists keep coming out and there’s always a new style of music our people are gravitating to.

If people are gravitating towards a Nasty C hit, understand why they are doing that and then you find your way around the people.  What can you borrow while keeping true to your authentic self? How do I appeal to a Nasty C fan while also appealing to my fan? That’s how I read evolution.

How have you managed to marry fashion and music so authentically? It never felt like, ‘Oh, he’s getting another bag.’

I’ve always been someone that always kinda had an influence in the streets as far as fashion trends are concerned.

I saw what Caracara did and how we impacted the culture. Having done that, and doing it using brands that I wasn’t even in business with, I figured if I add value to brands that have nothing to do with me then, how about I empower myself and build my own label? It’s how we started back then.

With Cashtime Life and the merchandise, we hadn’t figured out the apparel business side of things. It’s how we ended up being unfortunately hit by by piraters and stuff like that.

Now going back into it, I was fortunate enough to have a relationship with a chain store like Studio 88, who are now selling my brand through 40 stores countrywide.

And that was a result of my relationship with ASICS. So it’s always been about trying to do things differently and trying to grow, not just focusing exclusively on the music. That’s where we are now – it’s not just having a good song or album. It’s also about the other stuff you do outside of that and how you influence the culture and impact the entire game.

Cashtime shifted, disrupted and redefined the culture in a pioneering way. Is there anything in the game that is particularly exciting you about the future of SA Hip Hop right now?

I don’t think it’s happening on a movement level. Artists, individuals are doing big things though. If we need to get back to creating movements and seeing black conglomerates working together, those are kinds of things I care about. I still want to do that…

Let’s look at the future. What’s there? 

On the clothing side, we are currently we have a winter range available at Studio 88. We have a Spring range launching in October. I’m very excited about that!

On the music side of things I have a new single that is coming out in August with a new music video. I’m also working on my third solo album, which I think people are gonna love! I’m grateful to see my current single Supa Dupa making rounds within the game and people still showing excitement around what I’m bringing to the table.

In terms of the album, what I have coming up is gonna be appreciated on a large scale, just based on where I am. I think I found my feet again. I can’t wait for people to hear it.

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