The atmosphere at The Station Drive in Newtown is electric, the usually deserted building is filled with gyrating bodies of Joburg’s young influencers.
Grime, Gqom beats, an excess of Jose Cuervo tequila and flashing lights transform the abandoned building into an electric 90s rave.
The headlining act and the name on everyone’s’ lips is UK hip-hop artist Wiley. Richard Cowie Jnr for the people who know him intimately. Known for speaking his mind, the English rapper has been outspoken about not straying from the roots of grime and not letting money or the industry influence the direction of his music.
As one of the most influential musicians in Britain’s grime scene, he has a career spanning decades, 11 studio albums, 3 EPs and 12 mixtapes. Unlike the likes of Skinner and Dizzee Rascal, the thrilling performer and eccentric genius just hasn’t managed to make the crossover to pop like his peers.
I meet the Eskiboy backstage, where he’s wrapping up another interview. The rapper is dressed casually in a black tracksuit and can’t seem to stop from moving to the Gqom beats.
He greets me warmly, both of us having to shout over the sounds of the party happening below.
Wiley admits that he didn’t know that he had such a big following in South Africa. “I’m so happy,” he says sincerely.
Wiley’s performance doesn’t disappoint,his grungy beats and electrifying energy captures the audience.
“I want to big up Skepta, Stormzy and the different people who have helped to move the scene forward,” he says, giving credit to the newcomers who have carried grime into the mainstream and to the rest of the world.
The conversation turns to the rappers thoughts on the Gqom, the wave of music that is sweeping South Africa. “I appreciate it. It feels like home to me.”
He expresses an interest in working with a few South African artists in the future (but doesn’t go into the specifics of who). “I’m going to do a lot of work in South Africa. I want to work without the thought of money, just vibes… and the money will come.”
The interview ends with Wiley sending love to his South African fans. “I love this country, I love this place and when I love a place – I come back.”
We’re eagerly awaiting Wiley’s return to South Africa and look forward to his future projects.