“Eisan bebasbiza omalambane now sidla izambane lika pondo,” these are the lyrics of Bonginkosi “Kid X” Mahlangu. Loosely translated; “they used to call us poor but now, we are making money.” At this point in his career, X can certainly back up a statement like that. He has come a long way.
Dressed in camouflage chinos, a matching bucket hat, a black t-shirt, black All Stars and the staple of any rapper – a gold chain – Kid X met up with me at Post Coffee Shop in Braamfontein to discuss the rise of his career, the Cashtime Fam split and his perspective on South African hip-hop among other things.
My observation of who Kid X is began almost immediately. I learned that he is very punctual because I found him already seated and waiting for me. I then learn that he’s also quite generous because as I settle into my seat, he offers me a drink. Having listened to his tracks, it is surprising to learn how calm and down to earth he is. His lyrical content tells a different story. It exudes unrivaled confidence.
Born in Mlhuzi, Mpumalanga, Kid X relocated to Culinan in Pretoria where he spent most of his childhood. His love affair with hip-hop started 10 years ago after watching Eminem’s biopic 8 Mile. But, like many other South African rappers, Kwaito was his first love. “I grew up on abo Zola, uyazi (you know) and also funny enough I was really into RnB. In fact, I still am. That’s where I draw most of my inspiration,” explains X. Ever since he first saw 8 Mile, hip-hop has taken Kid X on what is set to be a legendary journey.
Kid X first burst onto the scene as a part of the now defunct Cashtime Fam, consisting of himself, AB Crazy and his best friend Smashis. Cashtime Fam was co-signed by renowned hip-hop trio, Teargas and they dominated the airwaves with hits like “Goodbye” and “Stundee.” X and Smashis now fall under Cashtime Life, Teargas’s new brainchild, which X describes as “its just us evolving, we are exploring each solo entity’s potential out there. I feel like everyone is just in the position where they can stand on their own.” Cashtime Life consists of Kid X, Ma E, Smashis, K.O, DJ Vigilante and recent acquisition Maggz.
Anyway… I digress. Let us keep this about Kid X. A lot of rappers are starting to take notice of this young sensation and nearly everybody wants a piece of him. This increasing demand for X on a feature now makes his verses worth about R 10 000. He currently features on quite a number of songs that are dominating the charts, including Riky Rick’s “Amantombazane” Remix, DJ Speedsta’s “Hangout” and K.O’s smash hit “Caracara”.
The fact that the South African rap scene is quite flooded at the moment makes it quite a challenging space to break into. It takes something special for artists to do just that and succeed. The South African music industry has a lot of rappers coming out but not all of them are going to make it, the same actually goes for the global music industry. Kid X considers standing out as one of the most challenging things about being in the industry because “we’ve got an entire industry of rappers. All the bases have been covered and you’re finding the loop holes as to how you’re going to brand yourself and how you’re going to appeal to people, that for me is a major issue.”
One can easily get absorbed by the hype, but with X its different. “For me, I try and not soak in too much [of that] because obviously once you come to terms with how big the situation is then you can never be the same person. Now you’re gonna start acting a certain way. So for me I feel like the best thing to do is not get carried away by too much of the hype. I’m still a new artist so I feel like once I have the biggest song in the country then maybe I can start flexing ka ncane (a little), you know…” he says jokingly.
Creating different branches of hip-hop that they can call their own seems to be a mission that a few artists in the game are on. We’ve had Motswako. We’ve had “New Age Kwaito… And now we have what X terms “Skhanda rap”. Kid X dropped his latest single called “Pass n Special” this past Friday which is an example of “Skhanda rap”. In addition to breaking down what it entails, he also explains his new single; “Skhanda rap is basically us just fusing Kwaito and hip-hop, its the perfect fusion ene vibe nje (that has vibe).” X adds that “Pass n Special basically means siya jiva si e bumnandini and umuntu u ya ku hlupha (we are dancing, we are partying and someone is pestering you) and asking questions like ‘mfana when are you guys performing at this gig?, when are you jumping on?, yo how much is a feature?, yo can you do this and that?’ when you’re just out there to have a good time you know. That’s pretty much the energy of the single.”
X is currently currently killing the verses on every song that he’s featured on and if “Pass n Special” follows the trail blazed by anything he has been involved in ,the homie’s future in the music industry certainly looks bright. I asked him to paint a picture of Kid X five years from now and he described Kid X as being “on his third album, shutting it down, obviously… A-list rapper, touring all over Africa, frequenting Europe and America as often as he wishes, financially stable and the same way I was given the platform as Kid X, I’d like to return the favor,” he says.
Kid X let me in on the names of two of his closest friends in the industry. Drumroll please… They are, his best friend and label mate Smashis and fellow rapper Kwesta. This led to my favorite part of the interview; I asked him who he would save if it just so happened that Smashis and Kwesta were drowning and he could only save one. “Hey man, can the niggas even swim?” he asks laughing. After hesitating and laughing for a bit, he continues, “hey man, I would save Smashis because I’ve known him for the longest you know, Kwesta knows man, no hard feelings.”
I certainly trust that X’s career will flourish and he will go on to achieve great things.