Kanyi’s phone keeps ringing. Just as she settles down in her producer’s bedroom studio in Gugulethu, where she’s working on her new EP, her phone goes off. “Ndisenza le-interview, still here in Gugs,” she talks into the phone. The producer, Kosh, has worked with the Cape Town rapper since 2008. He worked on her 2012 debut album Iintombi Zifikile, which helped solidify Kanyi’s place in South African hip-hop. She had already proven herself through performances around the country and most notably her show-stealing verse on Driemanskap’s “S’phum’eGugs” single.
“Kanyisa was performing at the [Cape Town International Jazz Festival] sometime. A friend of mine saw her and introduced us,” says Kosh. He’s producing two tracks for the emcee’s upcoming 8-track EP, for which she just released the first single called “Andizenzi”, recorded in Sweden in 2014.
Where she has been since 2012
Apart from a video for “Ungalibali”, a single off Iintombi Zifikile, and a few guest verses, for instance one in Four Corners soundtrack, Kanyi hasn’t released new music since the album.
In 2013, she was part of the Sweden and South Africa music exchange initiative, Kwaai, which involved a few collaborative songs and a tour to Sweden. “That was really fantastic,” she says. “We met the best artists in Sweden, Kwaai made a hell of a noise there, we were performing on great stages. That also opened a lot of doors because I met a lot of artists and audiences, and just different networks.”
She went back to perform in Sweden in 2014. In 2015, she went on tour with Kwaai again, this time to Zambia, Zimbabwe and other parts of South Africa.
The making of “Andizenzi”
Ted Krotkiewski, the producer of “Andizenzi”, is one of the connects Kanyi made in Sweden. “He’s part of a drum band called Yakumbe,” says Kanyi. “They all play drums, and I got a chance to perform with them in Stockholm.” She gives a bright smile as she describes the feeling of performing with the band, “Oh my gosh, Can you imagine? All those fucking drummers like…,” she plays imaginary drums, “It’s high energy.”
Which explains the heavy drumming on “Andizenzi”. The song itself is a departure from the traditional boom bap production she went for on her album. She’s telling me that there are a few more tracks she’s working on when her phone rings again. “I was looking for a particular sound,” she continues after the call. “We (hip hop artists) all like the same thing and it kinda sounds monotonous, even though, we add our own flavours when we do it.”
Being in that comfort zone was frustrating for Kanyi. She knew exactly what sound she wanted for “Andizenzi”. “I gave him (Ted) a brief,” she says. “He tried creating something but when he went through his archives, this beat was chilling there. He made the beat a long time ago – like 2012.” Her upcoming EP is about exploring different sounds and being as creative as she can be, she says.
Kanyi resurfaces at an interesting time for women in South African hip-hop. There are a lot more female rappers visible – the likes of Fifi Cooper, Gigi Lamayne, Rouge, Patty Monroe, Dope Saint Jude and more. Quite different to a few years ago when it was just her, Qba, Nthabi, Godessa, Eavesdrop and a few others. Insufferable hip-hop heads bring up Kanyi’s name whenever women who rap are discussed.
Kanyi’s tone changes when I ask for her opinion on this.“I’m tired of this thing that whenever a girl comes through and raps I must now attack her.” she says. “I’m tired of that shit: I’m tired of being the go-to bully. Now I must go and bully these girls. For what? There are so many wack cats that have been dominating the charts for years. The ones who are really dope are still on the streets unheard, so what is new?
“I am happy that all these girls are coming through,” she says, “But I always stand for dopeness – I want bars, I want lyricism, I want creativity. But we don’t all come in the same package.”
The rapper’s in touch with the current crop of artists. She says she’s currently feeling Devour Ke Lenyora, Nasty C (read our interview with him here), Uno July, Assessa and Nonku Phiri. But adds that it’s female rappers she’s more excited about. “It’s been said that this is the year of the female rapper and I really hope that happens.
“It’s exciting, it means that the stencil – this carbon cut that every [woman who raps] must be ‘like this’ – will be destroyed,” she says. “They are coming through and doing different things. They’re not all dope but they’re bringing something to the table. Some of these [male] cats aren’t dope either. But clearly they bring something to the table because people like them.”
Photography by Onele Liwani