“I was kind of expecting it,” says Soweto-based producer Tweezy. It’s a wintry Wednesday afternoon and Tweezy (real name Tumelo Mathebula) is reflecting on winning producer of the year at last year’s South African Hip Hop Awards. “When I was nominated in 2014, I figured I was too much of a newcomer to win. But I got nominated again last year and after looking at everything I’d produced, there was no way I wouldn’t win that award.”
Cocky? Perhaps. But given the number of chart toppers the award-winning producer has produced in the last year, maybe he’s entitled to a little bit of boasting.
Let’s go through this together. From AKA’s “Baddest”, Riky Rick’s “Sidlukotini”, L Tido’s “Dlala Ka Yona”, DJ Sliqe’s “iLife” and Kwesta’s “Day Ones”, Tweezy has quickly established himself as South African hip hop’s go-to hitmaker. At 23, his signature bass-heavy production has become a mainstay in South African hip hop charts and there probably isn’t a producer more “in demand” as he is at the moment.
On producing for AKA
He first burst onto the scene two years back, crafting three singles off AKA’s sophomore album, Levels (namely “Run Jozi”, “All Eyes on Me” and “Sim Dope”). He met AKA through a mutual industry friend and after initially having his beats rejected, he struck gold with the “Run Jozi” instrumental.
“He’s a perfectionist,” he says about AKA. “When he walks into the studio, he usually knows exactly what he wants. It’s a bit surreal to work with him but I enjoy every minute of it.”
Considering the success of AKA’s Tweezy-produced singles (All Eyes on Me and Run Jozi went gold), it’s no surprise the two teamed up again. Toward the end of last year, Tweezy helped craft one of AKA’s latest singles “Baddest”. Featuring Khuli Chana and Nigerian superstar Burna Boy, the track features the same kind of rubbery bassline and sparse drumwork that made “All Eyes on Me” such a hit. Tweezy co-produced the track last year, just after AKA came back from his UK tour.
“I co-produced that joint with Master A Flat,” says Tweezy. “Him and Kiernan started that beat while he was touring Europe. It was inspired by Wale’s “Summer League”, so they were going for the same kind of vibe but with a new-age kwaito feel to it. Kiernan called me into studio one day and asked me to help with the beat. I added the bassline, reworked the drums a bit and three weeks later he called to tell me the joint would be called Baddest.”
“Me and E-Jay aren’t beefing”
Last year, Tweezy was the subject of controversy after Cape Town-based rapper E-Jay accused him of stealing his music and selling it to other artists. This came after Johannesburg-based duo Benchmarq released a song called Bonang. E-Jay claimed Tweezy initially gave him the beat, then sold it to the duo without his permission. Tweezy says this isn’t the case.
“Yeah, the beats were initially meant for him [E-Jay],” he recalls. “We were working on his Apartheid EP at the time, but we had a falling out and I decided to take all my beats back.”
If only it were that simple.
After dying down toward the end of last year, the E-Jay controversy has since resurfaced. This is after Kwesta released his latest single, “Day Ones”, featuring AKA and Tweezy. Like “Bonang”, the beat and title are similar to a track on E-Jay’s EP.
“I explained the entire thing on Twitter. I left everyone know I was no longer working with E-Jay so I’d be taking my beats back and shipping them out.”
In spite of this, Tweezy says he has no beef with E-Jay.
“None whatsoever,” he says. Maybe he’s the one who’s beefing with me because he keeps calling me out on Twitter. I don’t have beef with anyone. ”
Plans for the year
With the E-Jay controversy now behind him, SA’s newest rap talent is currently working on his solo EP. In fact, today he’s set to drop “Ambition”, the first single off his upcoming EP.
“I’ve achieved a lot, but there’s still so much more I want to do. In short, my biggest ambition for the year is to keep making music and grow as a producer.”
Follow Tweezy on Twitter: @beatsbytweezy
Behind the beat is a series of interviews featuring young, South African producers across different genres.