Kimosabe’s hauntingly beautiful vocals are all over radio these days. Be it on DJ Clock’s latest dancefloor anthem “Wolves” or DJ Dimplez’s “Bet It All” alongside the rapper Maggz. Last year, the vocalist appeared on DJ Ganyani’s House Grooves 9 album on a song called “Heaven”.
However, Kimosabe’s not just a vocalist. He’s a producer, responsible for most notably iFani’s hit “Iingoma Ezimandi”. It’s been a long journey for the 23-year-old artist from Mt Ayliff in the Eastern Cape, who started as a rapper, called Sixfo, releasing his music online.
Hopeless on the Internet
Around 2012, I remember him as a weird character on my newsfeed, who posted hostile status updates about having a dream of being a musician in a country that doesn’t value the craft. He made equally hostile music – about killing people and throwing their bodies in the ocean, spending most of his time alone, and dealing with the pressures of growing up.
Sonically it was dark, too, with eerie guitar riffs and enhanced vocals that sounded like someone singing in an abyss of despair. He was releasing music frequently, but what set him apart from most up-and-coming rappers who were doing the same was his subject matter. While most were making customary egocentric music, Sixfo was exposing his vulnerabilities, with a set of melancholic songs which he would package into a free mixtape or EP.
He also put a lot of effort in the production, as he played all the keys and strings and mixed his own music. Even though he rapped, the magic was in his vocal abilities and production. The quality of his music got better with every release. Blowing up was always a matter of “when” than “if”. Especially after his work ethic had attracted collaborators like Smashis, F-Eezy, PDotO, Molly and a few others.
Transitioning from a rapper to a singer
In 2014, he quit rapping for singing and producing. “Basically, I was getting a lot of flack for rapping in English at the time,” he says to me via email. “But then again it was a different time [when rapping in vernacular was popular]. Fortunately, I could hold a note and I guess my unique singing style was something people wanted to hear more of. I don’t know. But as a singer and songwriter, things have definitely started looking up.” That was when Kimosabe teamed up with DJ Voodoo as the dance music duo PromKnights.
Wowing DJ Clock and DJ Dimplez
DJ Clock was impressed with PromKnights when they played him songs from their upcoming album in their studio. “The next day,” says Kimosabe, “he sent us some beats to write on and then ‘Wolves’ came about. Sent it to him and he was like, ‘Yo, this is gonna be the first single.’” After the success of “Wolves”, the duo got to perform at Ultra Festival in 2016 in Joburg.
It was almost the same thing with DJ Dimplez for “Bet It All”, which Kimosabe produced and sang the hook for. “So I meet him in the club, right,” says the singer. “And he tells me he’s working on some new stuff and I should send him some stuff. Following day, I made the beat and sang the hook on it, too.” Kimosabe says it was just a reference for whoever DJ Dimplez was going to choose to sing on the song. “He calls me like 30 minutes after I sent the beat and he’s like, ‘This gonna be the first single.’”
Kimosabe is currently working on the PromKnights album and doing some songwriting for other artists. He plans to release an EP by the end of the year. But he’s busy working on more collaborations with Tweezy, DJ Radix, Mac G and a few more. “It’s gonna be a good year,” he says.
The optimism reflects on his recent tweets and Facebook posts. These days when he’s not retweeting praises from fans, he’s announcing the moves he’s making, like working on a single with the rapper PDotO, or being awed by being recognised from TV by a stranger.
Photography by Thato Matseke