Some want to retire with a crown. When Prince Kaybee retires, though, he envisions himself with a cigar, whiskey and flip flops. But until then, “it’s crunch time!”
It’s for this reason that he believes people spend too much time busking in the light of their short lived glories, instead of plotting their next move. Rather than waste time amplifying his own milestones, the award winning producer has spent as much time as possible in the studio, where he engineers his sprawling catalogue.
That’s how he’s been at the top for more than five years.
Yet despite churning out a slew of blockbuster street anthems, he still ducks being dubbed an industry leader. “I still have a lot of work to do”, he says, masterminding his looming adventure into the global music market, where he intends to deliver his sound to new audiences.
The plan to conquer the world informs the creative genesis for his recently released Crossover EP, the official manifesto for his campaign to soar to new dimensions.
The house music architect had a clear plan, along with a milkshake in his hands, when we met with him to unpack his new chapter.
Congratulations on your EMA nomination for ‘Best African Act’. How does it feel to be recognised at that level?
It feels great and it’s been a long time coming, you know? It is great for the culture. I feel like I have a responsibility and an EMA is not an individual thing, it’s a South African thing. Even with the Nasty C nomination, I feel like I have won because that is another platform where we need to represent African music. So it feels great because I look at myself in the mirror and be like, ‘yes we did it!’ But looking at the bigger picture… it’s all about Africa and what we are doing to win.
What does it mean for you to be an African artist in 2019?
It means a lot because we have been through a lot and we have seen people come and go. The past two years have been the most competitive. Looking at what is going on, like music is improving so much so that it is no longer about having one hit song in an album and all the other fifteen be wack.
People actually put in a lot of effort with the whole body of work. Like, you literally sit in and listen to an album and just drive… it’s no longer about just one hit. To answer your question, it feels great because everyone is putting in the work. You feel worthy of something that is part of the collective, or industry peers, that lead the industry.
With people coming in, blowing up, and some disappearing just as quick, how do you maintain the momentum and keep growing?
I don’t understand why artist are at the club all the time. I don’t understand why 90% of the time you are doing things that are not aligned with music when you are an artist, you know? Take a doctor for example. Would you wanna hire a wack doctor? This is your health! You would hire someone who is qualified for that, right? So what do these people do to be qualified?
It’s what they do they in the office from nine to five. I have a schedule as a musician; I have a nine to five. I get at the studio at nine in the morning and leave at 5pm. You won’t find me in the studio after that, except only when I have juicy stuff flowing. But I know my times and I know I have to be there every day. Some artists get in the studio on Monday and they literally leave and come back two months later.
For you to be consistent you actually have to work on your art constantly and give it attention. That’s the only way to do it and that is it. You can read the most expensive book on how to sustain yourself and whatever, but you have to go back to the basic rule of putting in the work because what you put in is what you get out.
Let’s talk about the transition from Re Mmino to The Cross Over EP. You have said that this EP represents a ‘new you’. Who is he and how does he differ from the old Kaybee?
It’s not necessarily a new image, new me or whatever, it is just a crossover of the genre within the genres. I’m doing something different… something outside the norm.
How do you select your collaborators?
Talent is talent, there is no two ways about it. If you work, I will tell you if you are good, let’s work. Why not? If your energy is great… and if you are positive and have certain morals in understanding the principles that I agree with, let’s work. Overall it’s talent but the energy is very important because the studio is a happy place.
This EP aligns with your intentions to venture into the global market. Tell us more about that goal?
As a brand that has done so much in South Africa, I feel like it is now time to say ‘cool guys let’s explore.’ Other people are fine (with keeping it local). There is nothing wrong with that, but I feel I want to cross over and the narrative is as is, crossing over and changing the sound, a bigger audience and letting the European people and that market know about our sound.
When I cross over it does not mean I am going to feature global artists only. I will be crossing over with artists from South Africa. On the EP as well, 90% of artists are South African even though the genre is different.
You’ve said you feel you have done everything to be done in South Africa. What has been your biggest milestone so far?
I don’t think I have a specific one. Like, everything has played a role in itself. I really don’t because since 2015 when I started mainstreaming, I can’t single out just one thing, you understand? Everything makes sense in its growth… it’s the people who interview us, my family, the music ,the fans… You can’t single out shit.
Do you feel like the biggest artist in South Africa right now?
Then who is?
There are a lot of guys who are doing huge things, like Sun El Musician is a good artist for me. Samthing Soweto is dope. And because I listen to a lot of House Music, I am gonna list a lot of House artists… but there are a lot of artists in the industry who literally shook everything, like Sjava, Sho Madjozi etc. A lot of industry peers are doing great. I feel I am nowhere near, I still have a lot of work to do.
In terms of your transformation, was the change in your look – the fitness and chopping off the dreadlocks – part of your bigger plan?
No, no, no! It isn’t. Remember, you cannot separate. Some people think sometimes I am Kabelo and other times I am Prince Kaybee, but there is no way of separating the two. There is no difference between the brand and the person because you just can’t bro! I feel like when I am on Twitter and type, it’s Kabelo and Prince Kaybee typing at the same time. Everything that I do is for the brand – gym, the change… It’s a reinvention. It’s an on-going challenge of bettering yourself as a person, you know?
Word! You are at top right now. What advice would you give to up and coming artists about getting there?
I don’t know the formula. If I had I would literally give it up. But there is one principle, which is, what you put in is what you get out. This applies to everyone; musicians, journalists, whatever… A lot of artists, especially the young ones that are coming up, they don’t believe in being in the studio every time. Once you have an album out you have to celebrate for six months. Bro, you don’t need to celebrate anything! The only time that celebrations come is when you retire. When I retire I don’t give a shit where I am, I will always have my cigar because I have done my part. I will have my cigar and whiskey, in my flip flops. I won’t even wear sneakers.
But now it is crunch time bro! I don’t go out on vacations and I don’t go out not because I intend not to do that, I am having fun while working, so that I don’t feel like am straining myself. It’s crunch time. Let’s not start celebrating and blowing our own horns. When you win an award stop telling us for the next 5 years. Forget that award and win another. The young ones are too tied to little accomplishments. I always say one hit song doesn’t guarantee you a career. Look at things from that perspective.
With everything you’ve done, what is the ultimate goal you are still chasing? Say, something you will be proud of with the cigar and whiskey and flip flops?
I want to get my mom a house she has never imagined. I can afford one now but I am looking at a very homey house. Then I will be done done.
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