Winning the UWC (University of the Western Cape) leg of the 2012 annual BlackBerry Campus Tour which earned him a mentorship opportunity with South Africa’s – um – rap prince AKA in 2012, is what introduced me to rapper FonZo. He never went on to win the grand prize which was opening for Kid Cudi at the BlackBerry Secret Gig in Johannesburg. But he did take advantage of the attention that was thrust upon him.
In that very same year, the Port Elizabeth-born UWC student remade the beat and recorded an unofficial remix of his then-mentor, AKA’s smash hit, “Jealousy”. He let it loose on the internets and it went viral earning him praises and awkward side-eyeing from AKA. Or so we hear.
His digitally released mixtape, theRAPy got reviewed on South Africa’s leading hip hop publication, Hype Magazine. And the review was impressive too. Check out his Youtube page, he has rendered numerous covers of big American rap hits such as Kendrick Lamar’s “Swimming Pools”, Drake’s “The Motion”, Kanye’s “Blood on The Leaves” and many more.
On the September of 2012, he rocked at the very first Rolling Stone Weekend series of gigs alongside Ratrod Cats, Grassy Spark, Junkyard Lipstick, Ballistic Blues, and Willim Welsyn en die Sunrise Toffies.
He released his first self-produced 16-track mixtape, Lucid Dreaming in August 2013 to – if I may – critical acclaim (let’s assume my opinion matters a lot and is therefore something to go by). The mixtape reveals a confident articulate MC with an impeccable wordplay and one who’s not afraid to tell his story which meanders from him being a well-off kid to being an insidious dreamer and relationships and stuff in between. And he makes the beats too assisted by key strummer, Eudy.
At a hip hop show held at the Baxter Theatre, he poked fun at his fellow rappers when he performed a selection of songs from Lucid Dreaming with live keys (played by his partner on the boards, Eudy) and backed by vocalist, Dilaska. The effort alone would have been applaudable but the execution was great too. I had a short chat with the brother a few days after his performance.
LIVE: Who is FonZo?
FonZo: Simply put, FonZo is an aspiring hip hop artist. But we all know that nothing is really that simple, right?
LIVE: How would you describe your music?
FonZo: I’d love to respond by saying, “My music sounds like nothing else out”, but that would be a blatant lie, because hip hop in itself borrows much of its beginnings from jazz, break-beat and soul music. So my music can be described as a blend of the musicians that have influenced me throughout my life, coupled with my own ignorance and creativity.
LIVE: Tell us about Lucid Dreaming.
FonZo: Lucid Dreaming is the first project I’ve [ever] put out, that features original production all-round. Beats, lyrics, recording, mixing, artwork, physical-copy funding and release – everything was self-done. So Lucid Dreaming is more than just a mixtape, it’s really a launch pad for what I want to do with the rest of my existence – which is make music not just rap over dope beats, but be involved in the actual creative processes all-round.
LIVE: How has it been received? Both sales-wise and critic-wise.
FonZo: I’ve always had a plan regarding my music and where I want to take it, and the first thing that needed to be done was to introducing myself to the masses. That was the purpose of both theRAPy (2012) – with raps, and then Lucid Dreaming (2013) – with both production and lyrics. So the mere fact that I’ve garnered support to the point of people actually buying my music from these “introductions” alone, is extremely humbling. So in my mind, Lucid Dreaming really has been received better than what I expected it to be – both critic-wise and sales-wise. Maybe not as well-exposed as I’d like it to be, but it’s definitely been positive all round. Side-note: critic-wise, I really am my own harshest critic, and all I have to say is I will always try to outdo my previous projects with the next.
LIVE: What have been your proudest moments as an artist so far?
FonZo: Many notable moments, but none earning the top spot as yet, because I feel I have a long way to go still but my first full-length project, theRAPy being reviewed alongside one of, if not the greatest MC of all-time, Nas’ Life Is Good album, on Hype Magazine, is right up there.
LIVE: Most Cape Town dreamers feel Cape Town is not the best playground for them and opt to relocate to Jo’burg ‘cause the industry is there. Are you one of those? Why/why not?
FonZo: Nope. Technology has made the world so small, so it’s made South Africa as a country even smaller, thus in my eyes, saying “the industry is in Jo’burg” is no longer an excuse I want to hear from Cape Town dreamers, especially not when the world is at your fingertips. I do however feel that Cape Town dreamers need to come together as people. In all spheres of artistry, especially hip hop, us folk should stop (me included) being so focused on competing with each other, for the title of the Cape Town or South African artist, and rather focus that energy onto the bigger picture – which in my eyes, is exposing South Africa as a whole, to the globe. Regardless of your field of creativity, think bigger.
LIVE: What are your thoughts on the Cape Town hip hop scene?
FonZo: I don’t know about how everyone else feels, but I think it’s in a very healthy state right now and I’m glad to be a name that’s starting to be associated with that. Honestly, I’m just glad to see that there are so many people in SA as a whole that I’m finding out about weekly, that are making good music. It’s really dope man. Because of this, I think it’s only a matter of time before the provincial divides are shattered.
LIVE: Please tell us about Eudy and your guys’ working relationship.
FonZo: Eudy really is the best producer that South Africa doesn’t really know yet. I say this with legal confidence. Working with him is basically like playing soccer with the homies, competitive but always dope. I’ve known Eudy since High School, and it’s been three years working with him on beats and production now. All I can say is dude really does have a never-ending supply of audio-art. [I] can’t wait ‘til he gets the exposure he deserves.
Tell us about the guy you featured the most on Lucid Dreaming, Dilaska.
Talent in abundance, that’s it. Visit his soundcloud and/or purchase his Suffer No More release for proof. I’d rather you hear the dopeness of this producer/rapper/singer/self-taught engineer yourself.
Who are you feeling in Cape Town and SA at large right now?
To avoid any hate-mail, and salty looks for forgetting some people off a list, I’ll just say that anybody with enough passion to chase their dreams – and if that dream is to make dope music – I feel you.
What should we expect from FonZo this year?
Expect the unexpected, really. I have a varied amount of material steady stacking up, and getting ready for release right now. It’s all about timing, and I hope I get it right.
What would you like to add that I didn’t ask you about?
I’d just like to add a thank you for finding interest in what I do and taking time to interview me. So yeah, thank you. Really is much appreciated. Oh, and to anybody wondering where to find me, here’s a list of social network check-points:
For Lucid Dreaming CD purchases, bookings, beats etc.: firstname.lastname@example.org
Live performance images by Andiswa Mkosi, the rest, courtesy of FonZo