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Hangin’ With Brian Soko

by Tseliso Monaheng / 24.09.2014

Brian Soko is not a happy man. Not only is he having to deal with the trauma of a daylight break-in at a cottage he’s renting while on a three-week work-related trip to Jozi, but the rappers he’s supposed to be having a studio session with the next day aren’t answering their phones. I’ve been tasked with following him around for the next two days, documenting his work flow as he works it out with artists Cassper Nyovest and Teargas.

We’re on the N1 highway headed towards Centurion where Chad da Don, another rapper, is due to complete his verse on a Soko beat. As we race to beat the traffic, the producer sheds more light on the break-in incident. He’d barely been gone from the cottage for thirty minutes. Returning with the groceries he’d gone to buy, when he discovered that his iPhone, Macbook, two external hard drives, sneakers, and his girlfriend’s jewellery had gone missing. The cleaning ladies knew nothing; neither did the cottage owner or the gardener.

Going to the police didn’t yield results.

*

Born in Chiredzi, a small town to the South-East of Bulawayo, Soko was initiated into hip hop by his elder brother Prince with whom he now runs the Anashe Media Group – a management, marketing and production company focused on the African music sector. His other brother Arnold is also involved.

The story of his initial forays into music production follows a similar trajectory to that of many producers: he started off as a rapper, but instead of him feeling like he wasn’t good enough, he realised that there was good money potential in making beats for others. He switched to that trade exclusively while in high school.

“I used to sell my beats online,” he says, referring to early start-ups like mp3.com, which enabled independent artists (or ‘bedroom musicians’) to generate income from their music.

His banker father re-located his family to America after a brief stint in South Africa. Soko’s athleticism – he played football at one point – took a backseat when he decided to study sound engineering. He met his current production team, The Order, during his freshman year at college in Tampa, Florida.

Between Soko and the three other members of The Order, they have produced for A-list artists such as Rich Gang, Future, and Drake. There’s also Beyonce’s ‘Drunk In Love’ which was [wrongly] attributed to recording artist Detail. I ask Soko about this:
“It’s all industry politics,” he tells me, “I made that beat about four years ago.”

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In Centurion, we’re greeted by two apes, which belong to Chad da Don. Chad’s mother, a hip hop lover of sorts, comes out and invites us into their home. Maggz, the Soweto-born rhyme-spitter who can rap circles around most others, is present, as is Chad’s producer Ashleigh.

After brief introductions, Chad invites us into his studio. Soko’s still concerned about the break-in, but his mood instantaneously changes when Ashleigh fires up the studio workstation. He’s most at peace making music, it seems.

The producers go through some songs that have been placed on albums due out later this year. Pusha T and Rihanna’s names get causally mentioned.

Next is Chad’s unfinished song with Maggz, who’s in the same room and has already recorded his part. The playback elicits something of a collective mini-orgasm when everyone hears it: “I pray we take it, to the next level / change the game and let the cheques battle / when you state your name they’re like ‘yessus’/ into ziya jika mfankithi.” Maggz’s cadence is unmatched!

*

The last time Soko was in South Africa, he did production work for Cash Time Life – first KO’s ‘Mission statement’, then DJ Vigilanti’s ‘Sgelekeqe’, which features stately rap contributions from Ma-E, Pro, and Maggz. Both songs went on to dominate radio charts and establish KO as something of a lyrical monster outside of the Teargas collective (which he’s part of, alongside brothers Ma-E and Ntukza).

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Over the next two days, Soko’ll host a roster of producers and rap artists either at the tipping point of their careers, or currently riding the crest of an ever-brittle and elusive ‘peak’. Cassper Nyovest will make a stop to record ‘Phumakim’, as will Ganja Beatz, the production collective responsible for producing bangers for Reason, Okmalumkoolkat, and Riky Rick, among others.

I pull Ma-E aside during one of the sessions to ask him how the working relationship with Soko developed. He tells me that the producer used to contact them (Cash Time Life/Teargas) via e-mail with links to his soundcloud account. KO decided to open one of the links and went on to alert Ma-E. “In two seconds, I was like ‘Yo, this guy’s the deal! When he comes down, we’ve got to hook up!’”

*

On our last meeting, Brian comes across a post from October 2012 while scrolling through his Facebook timeline and says: “I make weird beats on purpose! One of theez days imma set a trend!” With one of last year’s biggest songs under his belt, and song placement on big name artists’ upcoming projects, Brian may well be on his way to accomplishing his goal.

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*Images © Tseliso Monaheng

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RESPONSES (10)
  1. Thabiso says:

    I want to repa pls contact me,im from haamanskraal

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  2. Shaoline says:

    I would to hav a producer for my rapping career

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  3. Tray says:

    I would like to contact Brian Soko and talk to him

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  4. Thabi ntuli says:

    Ey big soko I need ya..big..can u plz email me

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  5. Thabi ntuli says:

    Big time

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  6. Collman 0734915247 says:

    Hy man I’m collman frm soweto up coming hip hop artist looking for producer

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  7. am xolile nomana from poortjie am a hip hop rapper and i need a producer i like hip hop and i want to be a professional rapper my rapping name its T-Chain says:

    0849652944 my mom’s number 4nez

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  8. jaY rAp says:

    BriAn sOkO’WiLliNg tO bE oNe oF uA pRoDuCtS iF yOuR iNtErEsTeD cAlL 071 2012 873

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  9. […] Monaheng, HANGIN’ WITH BRIAN SOKO, “Mahala”, Published:24 Sep 2014,Retrieved:9 February […]

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