Not many Mzansi rappers can say they’ve achieved what 20 year-old Youngsta has in the two short years of his music career. Since his first appearance on the scene in 2010 he’s dropped 23 mixtapes, a full-length album, occupied charts on Goodhope and 5FM and rocked big shows in Cape Town and Jozi. He has generated a lot of hype with his self-proclaimed “million-in-one rapper” approach, showing that he isn’t scared to prove that he can flex on any beat that comes his way (check out his Soundcloud page). At the end of last year he opened up for Lil Wayne; we caught up with him at a gatsby joint down the way from where he lives in Wynberg shortly afterwards.
Mahala: How did you feel when you got the opportunity to open up for Lil Wayne?
Youngsta: I didn’t believe it. Literally, I didn’t. My manager, Steady Lee, told me that I was gonna open for Lil Wayne. I asked him, “how sure are you?” He said we hadn’t got confirmation yet. I said when you get confirmation phone me back and tell me. I swear to you, not even a minute later, literally in 30 seconds he phoned me back and told me “I just got the e-mail now, you doing it.” For at least 5 minutes, I just sat and to be honest with you I planned the set in my head. I’m young I got the youth, I need to use it. The first thing that went through my mind was, what songs am I gonna do, I didn’t even care about anything else, I didn’t care what I was gonna wear, I didn’t care what time they were gonna put me on, I didn’t care for how long. All I thought was what songs am I gonna do. How am I gonna do it? Is it gonna be big? First thing that comes to my mind is my music.
Was that the biggest show you’ve ever done, crowd wise, and were there any nerves?
No nerves at all. I get anxious before I go on stage like I can’t wait because once I get on stage I’m not me anymore. Riyadh is somewhere else. Youngsta is now the guy you looking at. I don’t get nerves. There could have been 20 000 people. Like the same crowd that was there for Lil Wayne could have been there for me; it would have just been another crowd, because there are certain times when I’m on stage where I feel like I’m just rapping in my room again. I do it without thinking. Sometimes I forget that I’m rapping on stage. There are no nerves and I think this could be the biggest one we did crowd-wise. The buzz around it, people were anticipating this thing. It’s sad that there were people in the queue still.
So you put out 23 mixtapes in 23 months. Would it not be more beneficial to put that work into something like an album that you can sell? And what’s your motivation behind pumping out music like that?
I’m very impatient, that’s my problem. Good work takes time, yes. But I’ve been prepping for this moment for a while, like since I was young I’ve been waiting to rap and waiting to get onto the scene and see where everything is happening. And once I saw where the scenes were, I thought, how would I be able to get in and get ahead of the rest, make up for the time that I wasn’t in the scene. So the only way to do that is to flood it constantly with new material until basically they just get tired of listening to me. I just wanted to get my name out fast so I could do big shows like this Lil Wayne thing. And it’s because of the mixtapes that a lot of people know me.
Is rap a full-time job for you?
Indeed, sir. I do not study. I do not work. I do not do anything else. I feel that if I do something I might as well enjoy it. If rap is the only thing I enjoy, so be it.
What does your mother think?
She loves it. I think if I gave up she’d be disappointed. She wants to see me follow through because, obviously, like most parents they all had a dream and then they gave up or they didn’t get a chance to fulfill it. My mother was like that, now she encourages me to do what I want to do. She sat me down one day and she told me, “son, if this is what you want to do you gonna have to do it, but properly. You gonna have to put all your time into it. Focus.” So she supports it heavy. She’s one of the biggest inspirations that I have for doing this.
How long you been rapping?
I started when I was very young like 5 or 6. Mostly just imitating other people’s music, learning the lyrics, I learnt it fast. That was the catch with me. I’d listen to a song 3 or 4 times and I knew it. That helped me in my rap because I started adding in my own words and that kinda helped me structure my songs, figure out bars. So I’d remember a certain amount and I’d be like okay a verse must be that long. I did it by ear. I got into rap just trying to find out where the underground scenes were happening. Back in 2010 I did any and every show I could. Similar to the mixtapes I flooded myself out there. No matter where it was, I did the show. Whether I had to go there myself and not get paid or if it was a hole in the wall, the sound doesn’t work, the mic is broken. Basically any venue that would take me, I would do the show, simply because I had the goal of getting out there. That was basically how I came out onto the scene.
In your tracks you’ve mentioned a lot that you haven’t made it yet, but to me you’ve achieved quite a lot for your age. Tell us more about where that comes from. Where do you see yourself down the line or where would you like to be?
I’m still on the train and shit, taxis, which I don’t mind at all, but that’s not what I want my life to be like. I saw my mother struggle like that, how she used to carry me on the train, and she’s still on the train now. I don’t want my life to end up like that which is why she told me to pursue this. Yes I am grateful for what I have achieved in the past year and last year but I know that there is more that can be done.
There’s always more that can be done. There is never a full stop I think. The only full stop is when your heart stops. Then it’s finished. But so long as I got this air in me and I got this youth, my legs work, my fingers work, my mouth works, I need to be using it every day, bra, constantly. Which is why I am sitting where I am sitting now and there’s guys who are looking at me like how did he do it and he thinks he’s this and he thinks he’s that. Bra, it’s because when you were sleeping I was writing a song and the next day I recorded it and put it on the internet. Boom! There was the download, in your face. I’m kind of training myself for when I do make it. I want to come to a point where all my guys that surround me are full-time with me every day. Then I can say I’ve made it. I wanna open the door and there must be a car parked in the driveway. Then I can say I made it. Have my mother sitting pretty somewhere sipping on Mojitos. Then I can say I made it. But for now we sitting eating a gatsby, drinking a 2L Coke. In many ways we haven’t done it yet but we’re on the path to making it. I think as sad as it sounds, a lot of my material is involved in making it, in my eyes. Houses, cars and money and all that, but that’s what we need to be stable in life. If we don’t have that we gonna be living on the streets. So one day we shall be there, in time.
You rap over a wide variety of beats. What’s the motivation behind that?
In a way I’m showing off, because I don’t like when people say you can’t do this. Sometimes I just throw it in their faces. There I did it, what can you say now and I’m gonna continue to do that because it pushes me. (He hands me a copy of The Tranceporter Mixtape) Trance meets hip hop. It’s a new genre, actually. It will be coming out soon. But they call it trance hop. All of the beats on there are produced by the same dude in the States. I basically jacked these instrumentals and made an entire mixtape out of it, but no one has rapped on the beats before me, to my knowledge. So that’s why I say it’s like I’m showing off sometimes. I do it just to prove to you it can be done and by the time you’ll be wanting to do it, I’ll be on the next thing.
If you weren’t a rapper what would you see yourself doing?
A few things: I don’t know how I would get into acting, but maybe acting. Clothing design. Art, like graffiti. I used to graffiti on walls back in the day in high school. I always wanted to do things in art like I never wanted to be a lawyer or a fireman or, you know, the usual. I always liked things that involved creating, so it would’ve been something in art and then music would have been a side road and I probably would have ended up doing something in music anyway.
What can we expect from Youngsta this year?
Maybe Lil Wayne will open for me, bra. I’m joking. Hopefully bigger and better things. There’s no possible way to go down from here of course. I plan, now I say plan loosely here, to make at least 30 mixtapes because I want absolutely no one to catch up with me. It’s impossible, but you never know. Because I bet no one thought anyone could make twelve in a month and then I did it and now the next guy has to break my record for him to even be noticed. So in the future, the mixtapes will not come to an end, but after number 30 I’ll probably focus on something else. But bigger shows hopefully, music videos on TV – we shot a few now, so we need to start getting it played on air. And radio… radio needs to wake up because they only jump on the bandwagon after your stuff is blowing up. The radio is supposed to blow you up, because there is no way possible that you can do it without the radio. I don’t know how I’m doing it without the radio, but you can believe that the crowd that I performed to at the Lil Wayne concert would be singing some words, they would’ve known what was going on. I had to make them catch it by the second verse. I need some radio play. I need some big time features. I want a feature with AKA. I want HHP to call me up and be like “yo, Young let’s make a song,” you know? Because when they come to Cape Town they need to know that I’m the guy to come to. You want a feature someone, use him. You want a cameo, use him. I don’t want to say I’m the king of it, but who has done what I have done? Show me the list. Give me the names. I’m waiting for these people to be shown. There is no one else. If there is, I haven’t heard of them yet. I don’t like to blow my own horn. I hate it actually. But when you do the things I’ve done I think it’s about time to start bragging a bit.The accomplishments are just piling up and I keep brushing it off like it’s nothing.
*All images © Luke Daniel