I’m sure most of us still remember DC Comics’ Batman and Robin, the pair who at times of distress who would come to Gotham City’s rescue.
Just like Gotham City, Swaziland’s music industry is in distress. Swaziland’s presence on the hip-hop global stage has been as good as non-existent. A lack of quality production and an overflow of uninspiring lyrics have threatened its international reputation due to lack of facilities, funding and stunted technological growth.
Two young up-and-coming talents, in particular have made their claim towards saving the Swazi hip-hop industry: Swaziland’s own Batman and Robin.
Sibusiso Mabuza, better known as Rendition, is a producer and songwriter. Rendition started his journey as a house music producer for a deep house collective called the Rhythm Lab Project. He signed to Italian-based label, Uno Mas Records in 2011.
Rhythm Lab Project got some recognition after a collaboration with Amber Long from Toronto, Canada. In 2013 he moved to Pretoria to study and started making hip hop.
Rendition co-founded independent digital entertainment platform MotherLand X alongside Siphosihle Ntshangase, Mbakisi Gopolang and Ngcebo Hlophe during his time in Pretoria.
The beauty of MotherLand X is in its pan-African feel; its co-founders come from Botswana and Lesotho to Swaziland. Fast track to 2015, Rendition was selected as one of the six producers in South Africa to compete at the UPE MC/Beat Battle for a chance to work with American super producer, 9th Wonder, and rapper Skyzoo. 2015 also saw the release of beat tape A Day In The Life. Melodic synths are well complimented by his timely use of samples; listening to it gives you a feel of his musical skill set.
80 Script, real name Zolile Motsa, is a 24-year-old indie hip-hop artist from Swaziland who’s been in the game since the age of 16.
He often comes across as a storyteller, sharing his experiences through his music while catering to different facets of hip-hop. Beyond being a gifted lyricist, he’s a multi-linguist. I’ve heard him rap in his native language, siSwati, English and occasionally in French.
80 Script and Rendition met in 2014 and had an instant synergy. Their music, independently and collectively, is a breath of fresh air to say the least. It is incredible to even think that such music stems from the kingdom of Swaziland. In that same year, 80 released his debut mixtape, These are the Basics.
This project shot him straight up the ranks as one of Swaziland’s biggest hip-hop artists. The release boasted exhilarating jams such as 32 Bullions, Podium Finish and The Harvest which Rendition had a hand in producing.
Last year, 80 released his EP under MotherLand X, You Do The Dishes (YDTD). He just released the single Call Me Already.
YDTD is still at the top of my personal playlist. It makes sense that it clocked 2,000 downloads within its first two weeks of release. I managed to grab myself a quick chat with this dynamic pair.
Here’s how it went down:
I know you as a house producer originally. Why did you move to hip hop?
Rendition: My decision to transition towards making hip hop was purely inspired by a need to grow creatively and as an entrepreneur. On the business front, I studied people like Diddy, Jay-Z and Dr Dre. These guys broke the barrier between the hip-hop culture and the corporate world.
Due to the growing demand of hip-hop music, companies saw an opportunity to reach the youth using these artists which led to endorsement deals, film and TV placements and, generally, brands investing in artists.
You could take any direction with the sound which allowed me to experiment.
On the music front, I loved the fact that hip hop has so many sub-genres that were emerging. You could take any direction with the sound which allowed me to experiment and finally find my own unique sound.
Would you say Swazi hip hop is moving in the right direction? What needs to be done to speed up the process?
80: Absolutely. The mentality is shifting. The only thing that’s lacking is resources otherwise Swazi hip hop is definitely moving in the right direction. It is up to us to show investors that Swazi hip hop is a gold mine.
How hard/easy is it to get yourself out there and noticed as a producer?
Rendition: I think before anything, producers need to work on the quality of their music and not rush to put it out. People tend to gravitate towards quality music. Secondly, these days it’s become easier to get yourself out there with social media and platforms like SoundCloud and YouTube. Finally, networking is very vital. Producers should get out there and build relationships with other producers, artists and labels.
There has been talk of a full-on studio album. What can we expect from 80 Script in 2016?
80: The album is definitely a work in progress. We have it at the back of our minds to drop it this year and see no reason as yet as to why that shouldn’t be the case.
It needs to be the project that puts us, and the country, on the map.
At the same time we are under no pressure whatsoever to release it if it’s not ready. We need it to come out the way we’ve planned. It needs to be the project that puts us, and the country, on the map.
What advice would you give to any upcoming producers?
Rendition: I’ve been producing for six years now and now I’m still not where I want to be. The beauty of it is that all the time you spend making music every day and trying to break into the industry directly translates to your craft. You keep getting better so by the time people get to know you, you have already put in your 10,000 hours of work.
That is what will set you apart from all the thousands of producers emerging every other day, the quality and authenticity of your music. Just be patient and keep working harder.
The one artist I’d kill an animal to work with is Drake.
Tell us one artist you’d love to work with, dead or alive.
80: Fortunately, the artist I have in mind is alive so you never know what might happen in the next year or two. But yeah, the one artist I’d kill an animal to work with is Drake. It’s no secret that I’m inspired by the Canadian legend and I’ve always felt that no one can tell a story better than he can.
So I’ve always wanted to know how I’d fare on a track with him. He’s the reason I rap how I rap and that’s by far the one artist I’d love to work with in this lifetime.
80 Script and Rendition aren’t the only names worth mentioning with regard to Swazi hip-hop. Massive mentions should go to the likes of KrTC, Mozaik, Psycho Lution, Illuminous, Crax and producer phenomenon Subjamz, among many others. They may not wear masks and capes but 80 Script and Rendition possess all the attributes to save Swaziland’s hip-hop industry.