‘Mafikeng’s a ghost town, nothing really happens there. So when you’re from there, there’s not much to do and so we spend a lot of time working on our crafts and getting better and better. By the time you make the leap to move to Joburg or Cape Town or any other big city you’ve worked so hard already that you’re focused and a lot of things don’t phase you’
– Cassper Nyovest during his E! Vip interview
When Nasi Tautona arrives in Gaborone his phone doesn’t stop ringing from the moment I get in his car. Everyone wants to know what he’s getting up to (which basically means where the free liquor is) but the only calls he picks up are from frequent collaborator Veezo and a select few other close friends
It’s clear he didn’t drive all the way from Mafikeng to play.
His friends however, did. Cobra, Le Gorda and KT wanna know where the party’s at and the answer is simple really – not here – not in this city, or this country, and definitely not on a Friday, but nobody ever believes me when I tell them that so stay quiet.
‘I don’t know what happens in this city,’ I say.
‘How are you an entertainment journalist when you don’t know these things?’ Le Gorda asks.
‘I’m a fraud,’ I say, helping myself to one of the two bottles of Hennessy on the table. For all my time spent around rappers, I’ve never tasted their libation of choice. Firstly, it’s three times more expensive here than in SA. Second, I’m not a hypebeast.
Nasi’s not how I’ve imagined him to be.
Dry Hennessy tastes like performing fellatio with cotton mouth. I’m shocked as I try to force it down my throat and zone out wondering if the rappers who love it so know this. I’m thinking about this, when Nasi calls my name.
Nasi’s not how I’ve imagined him to be. First of all his voice isn’t the high-energy, high-pitched erratic stream on his verses; quite the contrary. He’s mostly quiet and when he does speak his voice comes out low, soft and calculated, changing only when he’s excited or as I’ll come to find out later, angry.
‘Are you okay?’ I’m being weird – Very weird. Beyond greetings and other formalities I haven’t said a word and he looks concerned.
‘I’m fine. I just don’t speak when I have nothing to say.’ That’s a lie. I DO have something to say but even I, with my shitty people skills, know it’s generally frowned upon to tell people their drink of choice tastes like dick – especially if you haven’t paid for it.
Nasi Tautona was born some twenty-something-odd years ago as Reolebogile Allan Sebeelo, the younger brother of Sotho Mafia Entertainment founder Glenn Sebeelo. Growing up there would have been a slew of artists coming and going from the family home, rapping, collecting beats etc. and it was there that Nasi first discovered and fell in love with Motswako (a form of rap which fuses Setswana and English. The word itself ‘motswako’ means ‘mixture’ in Setswana).
In 2006, while at boarding school, he decided to try his hand at rapping and instead of adopting the usually westernised form of hip hop – baggy jeans, snapbacks, African-American slang etc. – he opted instead to try and carve his own distinct sound. He chose the moniker Nasi Tautona – Nasi is Afrikaans for ‘Nation’ and Tautona is Setswana for ‘President’ – and set about the task of proving that not only was he talented, he deserved a spot at the round table despite being the big boss’s baby brother.
In 2010, a year after Sotho Mafia was formed, Nasi along with two friends – Sun G and Mr Mix – felt the focus of the label wasn’t on them as individuals. They decided on a different approach: to tackle the industry as a collective. By 2012 Hash One had released their first album M4TLT: Mahala [free] 4 The Last Time) a testament to the hip-hop community that ‘up and coming’ was a description the members were no longer satisfied with. They wanted the world to know that they were doing free gigs, giving away free music and free collaborations for the last time, and that album paved the way for them to work and collaborate with industry titans and pioneers of note.
Over the years, Nasi’s sound and lyrical execution would set him apart from any other Motswako star.
Over the years, Nasi’s sound and lyrical execution would set him apart from any other Motswako star and have him work with Motswako heavyweights such as Tuks Senganga, Kaygizm, superstar producer Towdee Mac and the self titled Motswakoriginator himself Khuli Chana on his award winning Lost in Time album.
‘Have you guys heard that new Khuli Chana song?’ he randomly blurts out. We’re loitering outside Faded Gang founder Ammo’s house – Veezo having made the connection – and Nasi’s itching to get in the studio with Obado and Mane Dilla. He’s noticeably agitated as he paces up and down the street, popping up to ask random things and check in on everyone.
Before anyone can answer he starts again. ‘You know the one! The one with the campaign that he did with… Eish! Lea e cava mare! [You know it though]’ And we might, we really just might, but there’s too much pressure for us to know it now and so everyone’s mind goes blank. ‘I got that beat before he did and I recorded the most fire shit on it, bruh – Mfwethu ene ee tsha [It was on fire]! Mare nne ke sa e releasa [But I hadn’t released it] and just before ke e droppa [I dropped it] someone sends me Khuli’s, joh.’ He looks devastated as he relates this. ‘He bought the beat so… ga gona nka reng… [I can’t do anything]’ It’s awkward – just a smidgen, but awkward nonetheless because he’s visibly kinda hurt by it.
Obado is freestyling alone, everyone watching on in awe as he goes off, stopping only to catch his breath. He’s a rare talent, one who thinks faster than he raps.
‘It’s a great song though. Okay I don’t know but the video is fantastic. And you didn’t buy it so… you know…’ My attempt at offering some sort of solace falls flat, as per yooj.
‘It’s not that. I get that. It’s just that now if I release it it’s not gonna be as impactful you get me? People who don’t know me are gonna think I’m just another unknown guy doing a cover without knowing the story. I’m happy for Khuli sure, ke brah yaaka [He’s my boy] but eish.’ He disappears again, back into the house to check if it’s his time to record and once again, Cobra and Le Gorda ask about the women, the happenings, anything but studio life.
KT’s pretty much given up and his mission for the night seems to be looking after the liquor. Le Gorda alternates between fixing up his hookah (which he takes literally everywhere), smoking it, and checking to see if anything’s changed. There’s a notable stench of disappointment in the air and the young girls walking around trying to live rap life are only as enticing as jailbait could be.
Nasi comes back outside with Veezo trailing behind him – still no dice. More and more people keep trickling outside and Nasi can’t seem to get anyone to record him. He’s only in town for two days, but that clearly only matters to him. Everyone else lives here and thus gives nary a fuck about his time constraints.
‘You think you can rap fam? Go ask Obado to freestyle so he can murk you and show you flames!’ says Veezo, cackling gleefully at the thought of Nasi’s impending embarrassment. What follows is a half hour Motswako/Patois cipher which draws a sizeable crowd. By the end of it Obado is freestyling alone, everyone watching on in awe as he goes off, stopping only to catch his breath. He’s a rare talent, one who thinks faster than he raps. ‘When I was a boy me used to stab them yutes/ when I grow up me pick up gun fi shoot!’ The small crowd erupts because, well, if you know Obado you know he probably isn’t lying and just like all the rap greats before him, he’s managed to make murder sound unbelievably cool.
It’s 2AM and everyone is either drunk, stoned out of their heads, asleep or fucking.
Speaking of killing time, nothing happens for Nasi that night. The cipher ignites a new passion within him to record what would be sure to be a hit but, before we know it, it’s 2AM and everyone is either drunk, stoned out of their heads, asleep or fucking. It’s a blow to the man, a blow I resist the urge to address and as we part ways everyone makes a personal pact to make the next and last day better, some way somehow.
Day two was supposed to be a combination of fun and work because while I may be perfectly fine with the fact that Gaborone’s social scene is trash, I’m a Good Samaritan who doesn’t want other people to suffer (around me because they nag). What was supposed to be a few drinks and a candid conversation, however, turned into getting utterly wasted and talking about everything from ass eating to Birdman and money (three topics which aren’t difficult to intertwine now that I think about it).
There are no gimmicks to his act, no beefs and no twerking girls on his Instagram – just skill.
Currently Nasi’s working on a project with Hash One as well as his upcoming debut album PRIDE which he intends to put up for free (What happened to M4TLTL?). It’s a move which has worked for frequent collaborator, former label mate and now Family Tree signee Tshego before him. The first single, 50 Sgodo, ‘is a song about getting paid what I’m worth,’ he says. ‘The song is pretty self explanatory’ and features Veezo, Ginger Trill and Tshego.
‘I’m tryna be in a situation where everything that’s good in my life is cos of the music – Everything. I need to live off my music. Music is all I really wanna do so if a business comes outta this, it needs to be about the music. Wherever my bread comes from, it needs to be about the music.’ Maybe that’s why despite being on the other side of his 20s, Nasi doesn’t seem to be in a rush to ‘make it’ in the conventional sense. There are no gimmicks to his act, no beefs and no twerking girls on his Instagram – just skill.
‘I don’t want the fame and all that unnecessary shit that comes with people knowing you more than they know your craft. I have no interest in that,’ he says. Currently everyone I know who knows who Nasi is knows his lines word for word, his features and the delivery of his punch lines down to the tone – but not his face. Perhaps that’s what he wants. But it won’t be like that for long. As we usher in 2017 one thing is for sure – everyone will start to recognise his name and his face, and we can only hope that what Cassper said was true and all that time spent honing his craft in Mafikeng will keep him grounded.
Nasi Tautona will release his latest single on January 13.