Still weary from a 12-hour flight from LA, South African rapper Du Boiz is sitting in a lounge at Hong Kong International Airport trying to make sense of the last 48 hours. He’d been in LA shooting a video for his latest single, Dope Dream featuring American rapper Tyga.
‘I was in the studio sleeping this one day and I had a dream that I was a superstar in Miami and I had a beautiful lady with me,’ he recalls over a slightly delayed WhatsApp call. ‘I just woke up, went into the booth and recorded it.’
I know it’s special because everyone back home in South Africa is talking about it.
After sending the original song and three others to a few prominent American artists including Tinashe, Rick Ross and Chris Brown, it was Tyga and his management who reached out and expressed interest in this song, thus setting in motion a sequence of events that would see this young, relatively unknown artist turn his dream into reality.
This is a big deal that hasn’t yet sunk in for the 24-year-old. ‘I’m still numb to the whole experience. I know people expect me to be excited but right now I’m still chilled. I know it’s special because everyone back home in South Africa is talking about it.’
The video was directed by renowned music video director Matt Alonzo who’s directed videos for the likes of The Game, Lil Wayne and Ice Cube. ‘It was amazing. For the first time ever, I felt like a superstar. They gave me a VIP room, special treatment and Matt Alonzo’s ideas were just great, man.’
Du Boiz isn’t accustomed to receiving superstar treatment. He recalls an incident where he was undermined a few weeks ago during press interviews: ‘I asked for water and they went and poured tap water in a glass, but when a certain star came in the room they quickly went and got bottled water for him. They were even being called Mr and sir. They don’t give a fuck about you because they don’t know who you are. The respect that I got in America is very different to what I get in South Africa.
He’s just your regular guy, making extraordinary moves.
‘The worst thing ever, especially in South Africa, is being on the come up. You don’t get respect from organisers, the stage managers, the producers, even the make-up that you get.’ Despite being part of Mabala Noise, a record label which counts in its stable of artists the likes of Nasty C, Riky Rick and Gigi Lamayne, Boiz also says that back home the major artists are reluctant to do songs with upcoming artists.
As he waits for his connecting flight to Johannesburg, Du Boiz will be leaving all the negativity in the past over a few glasses of champagne. Despite being slightly jet lagged, he sounds cheerful, often letting loose a long, goofy laughter similar to that of Will Smith’s character in the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. He’s just your regular guy, making extraordinary moves.
It’s worth noting that Du Boiz hasn’t just come out of nowhere. He has a song called Celebration which has been on high rotation on radio stations Ukhozi FM, Metro FM and a few others. He’s also previously been on a three-city tour of South African with Nigerian superstar, D’Banj. ‘I just haven’t been getting the credit that I deserve and people haven’t really taken me seriously, but my song’s been playing (on the radio) since March.’
During our conversation, Du Boiz takes time to remember the late Mandoza and pay homage to the influence he and others have had on his passion for music. ‘I grew up listening to him, Mzambiya, Zola, Teargas, Trompies and all those old guys,’ he says. ‘When Zola came out with a song called Mdlwembe I knew that this is what I wanted to do.’
Du Boiz is just getting started, but he hopes that this move can play its part in getting him to the very top.
Du Boiz also draws on the political influences of Muhammed Ali and Malcolm X. #FeesMustFall and other South African socio-political matters such as the recent drama over young black girls at a high-school in Pretoria being denied the opportunity to wear their natural hair, are topics he’s been keeping a close eye on. Despite this, Du Boiz is less rigid that you might expect.
‘When I’m chilling with my brother, we spend hours at the internet cafe watching music videos and live performances. I don’t care if you’re Beyoncé, AKA, Thandiswa Mazwai or Tear Gas. I feel like this is the dumbest shit I’ve ever done, but if I’m not working, that’s what I do.’ Reluctant to cook, Du Boiz lives on a staple of take outs. Nandos, KFC and pizza are favourites.
‘I already have a special someone,’ he says when I ask him about chasing girls. ‘She’s a person that’s been with me since day one; before the fame, before the feature with Tyga.’
South African hip hop has shown a willingness to embrace young talent.
He credits his loyalty to his upbringing in his hometown of Newcastle, Kwa-Zulu-Natal, a famous breeding ground for multiple South African influencers including the likes of L’vovo Derango, Sizwe Motaung, Siyabonga Nkosi and Lucky Dube. ‘I also want to be part of that hall of fame someday,’ he says.
With the emergence of young rappers Emtee and Nasty C in the past year or so, South African hip hop has shown a willingness to embrace young talent. Emtee and Nasty C’s rise was spawned by major features and Du Boiz hopes that Dope Dream can lead to a similar trajectory. ‘I’ve been ready for this, I just feel like everything happens at the right time.’
This might very well be his time.