Wednesday afternoon. I wait for a lift from one of the most talented rappers in SA hip-hop game. He arrives, and we make our way to his place in the north of Joburg for a chat about his career and future.
“Dude do you mind if I get a haircut while we do this?” he asks before we walk outside to the balcony of his apartment.
Sizwe Moeketsi, better known as Reason, is a rapper who has been in the game for quite some time but recently got his shot at success when he released his first major album under Motif Records. Though Audio 3D is his first major release, it’s actually his second album.
“Audio 3D did a lot of things, but it definitely introduced Reason to the industry,” said the rapper, who continues, “Audio 3D opened opportunities for me and helped show the industry what Reason can do.”
He is currently working on his third album, Audio HD, with his producer Instro and he touched on a few challenges they faced when making the album and what people should expect from this project.
“On this album it was just me and my producer collecting great music from other producers, and sometimes we had to turn down great ideas. We had great songs, but at times we couldn’t justify the songs and really place them,” Reason states.
This is normal for an artist when making an album with a certain theme or feel. Even with those challenges, he states, “The album is actually really cool. It’s going to have about 16 tracks and we’ve got Thandiswa Mazwai, M.I, Donald, HHP, and Locnville on the album too.” After he mentioned these features, it seemed clear that the album is going to be something great.
He goes on to say;
“Audio 3D established me as some sort of South African entity, but with this new album we are trying to see if it can jump onto the African entity.”
Reason wants to establish himself as an international artist and claims, “I always aspire to fall under the international umbrella, but I feel I have to fall under the African umbrella in order to become an international artist.”
While on the topic of his album, we discuss the sound of SA hip-hop and if it has a distinct sound. Hip-hop in SA has struggled to give birth to its own sound. With that said, the masses appreciate the sound and the growth in the genre. Reason says, “Hip-hop in SA is definitely discovering a sound. I think SA hip-hop has had sounds, I just don’t think we had got it right.”
There are a few artists he believes played a role in creating this sound.
“If you look at what Skwatta Kamp did when they came out, they had some sort of a sound. They were taking the international sound and adding vernacular lyrics to it. JOZI was taking the local sound and making a new sound with it. Teargas was taking old school choruses and using them on top of new school hip-hop beats,” he added.
Throughout the years there have been albums and tracks dropped that have been viewed as the defining sound of SA hip-hop. “It’s only now where I feel like it’s becoming more natural and comfortable discovering this sound because hip-hop is having a flirt with something cool, and that’s kwaito,” says Reason.
Which is true. Recently we have been witnessing kwaito and hip-hop become friends. A lot of the most popular songs in hip-hop right now have kwaito artists on them, which automatically helps bridge the gap and grow both genres.
“All this time we’ve been trying to compete with kwaito, but now if we actually look into it there is a sound that can actually come from it,” adds Reason, now with a fresh haircut.
So what next for the rapper? He’s performing at the Cape Town International Jazz Festival this month and has a point to prove. His dad believes jazz is the best genre ever and the two continually debate – is jazz or hip-hip supreme?
“I’m happy to be performing at the Jazz Fest because it’s going to help prove to my dad that hip-hop and jazz are both the best genres.”
Clearly Reason has an interesting album on the way. This is an album he hopes will put him on the African map and expand his international market. And if his determination and talent are anything to go by, then you have no reason to doubt Reason’s future success.
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Photography by Mpho Lehlongwa