Truth Sayerby Ts'eliso Monaheng / 27.06.2013
He may have potentially reversed the advances made by the black community in South Africa by a decade, but rapper Slikour went on an all-out offensive to support his statement that “Blacks r fools.” He is almost-universally at the forefront to offer commentary on pressing issues, especially where hip hop is concerned. Before winning two SAMA awards in the hip hop category with his group Skwatta Kamp, he was a revered freestyle emcee in ciphers around Jozi. So when the opportunity presented itself, we had a chat with the truth speaker himself about his career up to this point.
MAHALA: Who is Slikour, and where were you born?
SLIKOUR: I’m a chilled out cat born in Natalspruit Hospital in the East Rand, now known as Ekhuruleni.
Please describe the climate in which you grew up, from the political climate at the time, to the music that played during that time. What aspects of that environment shaped who you’ve become today?
I grew up in a hood call Hlahatsi. The musical influences were everything from Kwaito to what they called international house and R&B when it was at its prime. The music took me to a place in my head that was not there in my reality. It was rebellious black musicians that was standing up against oppression and was conscious in its thinking. It made me feel like being black has a great purpose and we are meant to do great things, yet my environment was always saying the opposite. In fact I still believe that, but growing has allowed me to accept that mankind has a purpose too. My parents were strict and raised be to be the man I am, but the music made me hold on to a dream of being great.
We remember the days when you used to be called Phantom Slik. How much of an impact did the formative years around the Jozi hip hop circuit have on your growth as an artist? Who influenced your rap style the most during those days?
I never hung around a lot. When I was young my parents wouldn’t allow me to travel to Jozi alone, plus I was studying in the East so J Sec was this big myth. I literally built up my skill from the tapes I listened to and learnt something from everyone I was meeting.
I was always free styling and a friend showed me to how to write and I started doing that, then we recorded our music on tapes and someone criticised the quality and suggested CD’s and so I started doing that and it was only moments till we won a SAMA.
I learn from criticism. It makes me sharper, and everyone that laughed at me once upon a time has seen me have the success they wish they had.
What are some of your earliest memories as far as hip hop in SA is concerned? Is there an anecdote you’d like to share from the Le Club days?
Like I said I wasn’t a Le Club regular, I just once went to club called Trends in Braamfontein and there was an open mic. I just jumped on and Snaz start dissing me. But Amu, Spex and a couple of guys encouraged me. That was a defining moment for Skwatta Kamp in the streets because I was this kid from nowhere ripping it apart and all the guys we were hearing about in the east like Amu, Spex, Ramon, Ramesh gave us respect after that night.
Le Club was a vital point of contact, a space from which many great emcees have emerged. Are there any heroes fallen by the wayside whom you think SA hip hop would be better off with them in it?
You know, at a time we were exactly where the universe wanted us to be, and there are a bunch of new kids today who are today’s heroes.Their time will pass too. That’s just how life works. I was a hero for my generation, I can’t be that new kid on the block that killed Snaz or from that award winning hip hop group that changed the game. People forget and don’t care. Hip hop merely reflects life, it’s not the other way around so the kids that are leading today are a sign of the times.
Skwatta Kamp laid a lot of foundations for the scene, from crafting catchy and accessible songs very early on, to handling your business expertly. Do you feel that hip hop acknowledged your contribution?
It’s not for hip hop to acknowledge that. There’s a lot of insight that we have that people can build from but everyone thinks this is a battle and they start from the ground where we started when they should be building from where we left.
Buttabing Entertainment came along in an era when it was almost unheard-of to have a solid management team. Who were you looking towards for inspiration? What was the thought process behind that move?
Recording companies weren’t signing so we became the recording company. There wasn’t any deep thinking to it at the time, but in retrospect we were ahead of our time.
What was going through your mind when Skwatta Kamp won a SAMA for best hip hop act? Were there any perks afterwards, did you get better treatment at shows?
It’s a long time ago now but I’m sure it felt right, I got up on stage and said if the stores don’t have our album burn them down. We weren’t expecting to win. We actually submitted the album thinking it was a big joke.
Skwatta always had an edgy, socially-conscious side. In light of what is happening at the moment in SA, do you feel that hip hop is still concerned with such matters? If so, who do you think is the ‘voice of the people’ so to speak? If not, why do you think there is no interest from the hip hop community to challenge social injustices?
If you look at the best selling hip hop albums this year internationally it’s been message driven albums. Kendrick Lamar has a message and his is a lyrically driven album. Even all the so-called commercial artists are going back to the boom bap or message driven raps look at Kanye. Drake’s buzz singles were tracks where he rapped more than sang. It’s a new day in rap.
Gallo records came knocking shortly afterwards. With the benefit of hindsight, how much did the move to a major record label enhance or retard your growth as a group?
It did what was supposed to do: educate us. You can only run around the same circles for so long.
The group also did great as far as making in-roads into the continent is concerned. Why do you think there aren’t as many artists, especially non-mainstream in SA, pursuing that route?
South Africa is self involved or always sucking international cock. There’s a perception that we are better than other Africans and we are of international standard, and in the meantime we are backwards. I blame that on radio and tv. We’re not showing real South African stories and struggles through music and visual content and this is not allowing us to connect with the rest of Africa. Until we can sell the true South African story without always bringing in history and race people won’t see value in us. The people from all the other continents are working hard doing great things for their communities to consume.
Why did you decide to go on a solo mission with the Ventilation series of mixtape(s) and albums?
I just felt that we all had different visions at that time and I love making music and never wanted to depend on 6 people to do what I love.
How was the reception for that? Do you feel that your mission got accomplished?
It could never be bigger than Skwatta but it was good enough to be interviewed by you 8 years later.
You have always been a vocal person about issues close to you, from the ANC government’s empty promises to black people being foolish with their spending habits. What inspires your social commentary?
I’m not really interested in politics or anything but I’m interested in the social progression of human beings anything in the way of that is not Godly. What’s not Godly will always overpower society and keep them in darkness, when you quite you guilty or you’ve been over powered. Im not guilty, im not overpowered but im godly.
What is the status quo regarding Skwatta Kamp? What have you been busy with lately
The Skwatta Kamp question needs six more answers so I can’t comment on that. I’m currently working on my fourth solo album… still searching for a title.
What can the crowd at the Puma Social Club expect from your performance this friday?
Some new tracks and songs I don’t normally perform. It’s maybe the first show I’ve rehearsed for in a while. I think Puma Social Club will be the first venue to be blessed with a part of my new musical direction. Here is one new song and if you coming to the Puma social club listen to it a couple times cause Slikour might need your help.