After a number of attempts, I finally got the time to speak to the 24-year-old DJ whose name is on the lips of music lovers alike – DJ Sliqe. I take my seat on the outside area of a restaurant in Randburg, Johannesburg, and enjoy the gentle breeze as I patiently wait for him to arrive.
I’m sitting alongside Sliqe’s booking agent as he sorts out prospective weekend gigs over the phone. He definitely is a man in high demand.
Sliqe, born Lutendo Kungoane, is a DJ, producer and radio personality of Venda descent who grew up in the south of Johannesburg. He was an A student in both primary and high school and by the 10th grade, had established himself as the DJ for his school’s social events.
I’m a low-key businessman.
As a student at the University of Johannesburg, he became the resident DJ at the hottest clubs in the region, such as Club Sway in Sandton and Stones in Melville, to name a few. Sliqe found his niche in infusing the stylised rhythmic sounds of hip hop with Kwaito music – a genre that emerged in Johannesburg during the 90s.
‘I’m a low-key businessman… for me to elevate and take the Sliqe brand higher I knew that I had to go into music. The likes of DJ Khaled and DJ Drama in the States, as well as DJ Dimplez over here, were releasing music so I just thought that I could do it too.’
He released his first single in 2015 – Do Like I Do – featuring the critically acclaimed rapper, Kwesta, as well as the late heavyweight lyricist, Flabba. The track was an instant hit, garnering major airplay on numerous South African radio stations and being included in a number of DJ’s sets. The single was such a success that Sliqe went on to record a remix to it, featuring L-Tido, Riky Rick, Reason, Nadia Nakai and Flabba.
Each artist, to their credit, came to the fore in what was a historic remix: Sliqe became the first hip-hop DJ to scoop a SAMA (South African Music Award) in the ‘Best Remix’ category. This was undoubtedly a defining moment in the young DJ’s budding career and served as confirmation that he is, indeed, on the right path.
What soon followed from Sliqe was a succession of singles and appearances at a number South Africa’s major parties and nightclubs. What we didn’t know is that he would release a fully-fledged studio album. Alongside mega producers and acquaintances such as Tweezy, Psyfo and Wichi 1080, to name a few, he sought to release a body of work that he could call his own.
The 14-track album, Injayam Volume 1, features over 18 artists. Each song is meticulously different from the next. Reason being, making an album as a DJ, as opposed to an artist, is a different process.
‘There is a huge difference between making an album as an artist and as a DJ because an artist can be in a certain space at a certain time. Whereas, as a DJ, I’m working with different artists so there’s different creative mindsets from everyone that you work with.
‘So as the curator, you have to be able to see beyond the horizon because you can’t be trapped in the same space that you were in in last night’s studio session on another day.’
The album has only further solidified Sliqe’s place as a rising star in African hip hop.
The album includes features from the likes of AKA, Shekinah, Tweezy, JR, Blaklez, Kwesta, DA Les, Yanga, and Reason. It’s quite the star-studded lineup. Surely, working with such a long list of established and decorated artists came with some degree of difficulty. I put this question forward to the DJ, to which he laughs and responds, simply: ‘Egos!’
But his knowledge of the artists that he personally planned to work with coupled with his keen ear for an exceptionally-composed track allowed him to soldier on throughout the craziness.
‘From a DJ’s perspective, making an album is like the best thing because you just learn so much from different people. Besides from just listening to the people’s (artists) music, it’s also getting to chill with the people… because understand that the vibe is very important when you’re going into studio.’
Since its release in October, 2016, the album has only further solidified Sliqe’s place as a rising star in African hip hop. His remarkable work hasn’t gone unnoticed, bagging a nomination in the Best Hip-Hop Album category at the recent Metro FM Music Awards, one of South Africa’s most prestigious music awards ceremonies.
If you be yourself, and you stay true to yourself and you work hard, there’s nothing that can stop you.
Despite his major moves in the game in recent times, he remains humble, revealing that simplicity is key. ‘If you be yourself, and you stay true to yourself and you work hard, there’s nothing that can stop you. No philosophical blah blah; be yourself, work hard, and you will do it!’
Future plans for the DJ include hopes of releasing an album a year, shooting visuals of more tracks on his album, planning an album tour, as well as working on his brand so that he is able to take on an artist or two in the near future.
Sliqe aims to be one of the most respected and accomplished individuals in the hip-hop culture: ‘I’m gonna be P-Diddy, man. That’s it. Release music, have a record label, have artists, own brands… the works!’
This is part of a guest editorship series by Shingai Darangwa, Alex Kamutondole and Thebe Kadiege who are bringing you the best new culture and news from Johannesburg.