This guy needs no introduction. His work speaks volumes and he’s at a point where he is passed trying to make a name for himself in the local hip hop scene. Leslie Mampe, commonly known as Da LES, has to be one of SA’s biggest hip hop artists. He first stepped onto the scene collaborating with Bongani Fassie and Ishmael as part of the most influential South African hip hop group, Jozi, and later made his mark as an individual artist with his debut album “Fresh 2 Def”.
Since then LES has consistently been dominating our airwaves and television screens with dope sounds and up-scale music videos. He’s done features with Africa’s biggest artist such as Queen Vanessa, Nivvy G and Liber T, just to name a few. Now LES is working on his highly anticipated LP “Mandela Money” and shared some insight on what inspired the title and sound. “The album is an inspiration of my self-motivation to develop my music into an internationally acceptable product. The sound is hip hop flava, with soul swagga, and beats from young producers whom are from five different countries on our continent.”
Speaking of self-motivation, LES’s latest videos for the singles “Heaven” and “Fire” have set the bar high and have made a lot of rappers re-evaluate their videos and how they’re shot. LES states, “ Videos are an expression of the artist, so I believe whatever level of video I put out there must be representative of where I see my peers, my fans, but most importantly where I see my brand”.
LES has no time for the critics and fans who try to dictate how SA hip hop should sound. “Really I don’t spend much time trying to determine what is real, or what is or is not SA hip hop. We all have individual types of hip hop we enjoy, from Nigeria to SA to Europe to USA, real hip hop is what we personally like, not here to judge!”
The rapper sheds some light on his solo career and his relationship with Ghetto Ruff/Muthaland since everybody thought there was bad vibes with him and the record company. Last year, rumours spread about how unsettled he was and how he has no ties with the label. “My relationship with Muthaland is very much on point, so I wouldn’t say I have ‘left’. I am in a process of developing my own business entity, of which they have been very supportive in assisting me to build. With regard to ‘solo’ that’s where I am right now I want to build my own brand.”
Da LES is becoming a household name if he is not one already. Bongani Fassie played a big role in all of this. Bongani and LES were unstoppable when they got together in studio as Jozi and they gave us some of the hottest music in local hip hop. Has their relationship been dented? Will we still see him collaborate with Fassie again? “All the guys in Jozi are multi-talented, and I would work with any of them if the project fits my direction. As for Bongz, his one of SA’s top producers, and at any point if you go into studio with Bongz you can record and produce banging tracks. I will always have my door open to turn-up with Bongz”.
Jozi was able to win awards and tour the world with their music. Asked about a Jozi reunion, LES says, “ Life has cycles of which none of us can call. I leave it in the hands of the Music Gods.”
Local hip hop is healthy to a point where artists are starting their own independent labels and turning them into successful businesses. Skwatta Kamp’s Slickour was able to launch the career of rapper Kwesta through Butta Bing Entertainment. Tumi’s Motif Records is doing an excellent job with its signee Reason. LES has taken the same route and recently started his own record company named Fresh2Def Productions. “F2D is in its infancy. Last year we pretty much got the studio on point. This year we have been developing relationships with producers, and when we’re ready we will look at artists. The vision right now is to establish a sound foundation for the F2D brand and look at developing a platform where artists can produce hit records. Hopefully in due course we can become a ‘label’.”
As one of SA’s most prominent hip hop artists, Da LES has seen the genre grow. “SA hip hop is on turn-up and looking much healthier. In my opinion it’s time for corporate South Africa and our media to start giving our artist the due respect that the international artists receive. Most importantly, drop the same amount of cash on us!!”
LES is clearly developing into something bigger than what most people would expect from him. He has always been a relevant figure in all aspects of hip hop. Now, he is set on making it known that he’s here to stay.