I heard it on every street corner I went to; it seemed every car that passed me was also pumping the jam. Kids with smartphones in Khayelitsha seemed to all be reciting the lyrics to rapper EmTee’s “Roll Up”. And it seemed like the hip-hop fans were also feeling the addictive song, as it won the coveted Song of the Year award at the 2015 South African Hip Hop Awards.
Not a one-hit wonder
EmTee, the 23-year-old rapper born in Matatiele in the Eastern Cape and residing in Soweto, followed “Roll Up” with another hit called “Pearl Thusi”, named after the media personality. When I finally get to speak to the rapper over the phone, after hunting him down on social media, about the song, he says: “I was into Pearl Thusi at some point. I had a serious crush on her. Who wouldn’t?” He says that she’s an inspiration because she works hard. “I wanted to make a song that represented the type of person I thought she would be, in my mind – outspoken, sassy and beautiful.”
On working with Wizkid and AKA
The rapper says that he always knew his music would take him somewhere, “It was a matter of when”. He says that, at some point, he and former Jam Alley presenter MarazA formed a group called 4Front (you might have heard them on “Siyekeleni (Enough is Enough)” off Mashayabhque KaMamba’s The Black Excellence Show EP). “[MarazA] basically taught me a lot of the things I know now. I mean everything he was saying back then, makes sense now. I am in the industry and experiencing what we talked about back then, [like] the Twitter beefs,” he says with a laugh. “My parents couldn’t afford to take me to varsity straight after school, so I hung around studios, wrote music and recorded over 100 songs as a form of practice to get to where I am at now.”
And where he is now is a great place for a newcomer – one does not simply have AKA and Wizkid on a remix to their song. “AKA is a cool guy,” EmTee says. “Wizkid was in the country and he heard about me. He wanted to work with me, hence we made the remix”.
His album, Avery, which was released towards the end of 2015, has been nominated four times for the upcoming Metro FM Music Awards. He’s also nominated for Best Video, Best Album and Best Remix for “Roll Up Re-Up”, featuring AKA and Wizkid. “I am very excited and nervous at the same time,” he says of the nominations. “So much hard work has been put behind this. My team has pushed for me to get to this point. I never thought I would be nominated ever. I feel blessed. Any award is good for me.”
Avery is a great listen especially for the trap music fan. There’s a heavy Future influence – EmTee does a lot of singing aided by autotune, and his lyrics are straight to the point. There are a lot of hit single prospects on Avery but for now, watch “Pearl Thusi” below and buy the album on iTunes.
Check out EmTee and other cool artists on our list of musicians to look out for in 2016.
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