In conversation with Ginger Trill on Paid in Full

Words by Sekese Rasephei

On August 2nd, one of the most exciting emcees in South African Hip Hop, Ginger Trill will release his highly anticipated EP, Paid In Full (PIF). Ginger has built a name for himself as part of the crop of emcees whose pen and flow are heralded in the scene. Having traded bars with some of the industry’s heavyweights, and comfortably holding his own, he’s also amassed what one could consider a cult following that knows whenever he’s involved, dope bars are sure to follow. The Plug decided to connect with Ginger ahead of his release to delve deep into his early years and some of the watershed moments of his career, leading up to the release of his latest project.

The Plug: Coming from Potchefstroom, how did you take the path that you’ve eventually taken in terms of Hip Hop? You’re in the North West, so naturally, one would expect you to take the Motswako route. How did you end up taking the route that you did?

Ginger Trill: I started quite early. As early as Grade 6 or 7. I was in a school that had Grade 1 all the way to Matric, so I used to play basketball with guys who were way older than I was. I played with Matric students before I got to High School, and those were the guys that introduced me to Hip Hop culture. I developed my taste from them. As far as actually rapping? That started out by chance. A few of my friends had already been rapping but I wasn’t aware. This one time one of them asks me to tag along with him to a cypher, which I reluctantly agreed to. He further urged me to rap as well but, at that time, I couldn’t rap yet. My man literally taught me how to rap for purposes of that cypher. We got there and I actually free-styled, more than anything. Cats gave me so much props, and that’s when the seed was planted. The exhilarating feeling I got from doing that and the acclaim that followed. That’s when I fell in love with the art of rap. Why I didn’t take the Motswako route? Uhmm, shout to the Maftown cats and by extension the Rustenburg cats, who really championed the Motswako sound. I believe, in part, Motswako’s inception had a lot to do with those cats responding to the stigma attached to being into Hip Hop back in those days. They bridged the gap between what they loved, which is Hip Hop, and Kwaito, and created an enclave they could all relate to, minus the stigma that came with being ‘le-nigga’. So with us in Potch, we didn’t really have the Jabbas and the Baphixiles and the Crowded Crews to look up to, you know? Our immediate influence was what we heard on radio, the Cashless’, the Proverbs, Zubz and Tumis. That’s who we looked up to the most.

There’s more than a handful of talented guys out there who can rap really well but, for one or other reasons, never take the leap to make a career out of rap. When did it become clear to you that perhaps you should take rapping seriously and explore it as a career?

I would have to say fresh after High School. When the hommies and I started recording and making our own songs, the reception we got around our hood was very encouraging. That’s when I seriously started pondering about making it a career. One of my hommies’ dad had gone overseas and brought him a MacBook. We started recording on that joint and one of our songs went viral. I fondly remember the feeling of having my song on somebody else’s phone and them sharing it with all their friends via Bluetooth and all that. That’s when I knew that maybe this is the path I’m meant to take. After one of our songs went viral, we decided to put out a tape. I think this was around 2004. We bought Princo CDs and burned our music on there, then sold the stuff. 10 bucks a pop! That feeling was so addictive that when I was done with high school, I couldn’t think of doing anything else but that. I took a gap year and went at it by myself, but it was a lot harder now trying to do it without crew, you know? I only had my man Summertime, who was my engineer at the time. Him and I laced one of my first projects and we shopped that joint. My name was getting out there and that really gave me hope. In those days, I remember bumping into Cassper and he was already really serious with his stuff. He was packaging his stuff too and he was the first guy I ever saw, him and Spooky I think, who had proper CD covers ready for the shelf and all that. That really inspired me to take my stuff serious as well.

Did you get resistance or support from your parents when you decided to take the plunge?

I wouldn’t say resistance per se, but of course it took time for them to understand that this is really what I wanted to do with my life you know. I went to college and did Information Technology, but unfortunately, I did not finish. However, I know they appreciated the effort and could see that ultimately, that’s not where my heart was. Despite all of that though, I value my time at an institute of higher learning, because it really sharpened my sense of self. In that environment, I got to learn a lot about myself and my capabilities.  I learned skills that have eventually helped me in the path that I’ve chosen. So I’m grateful for that opportunity. My parents see my vision now and they’re so aware, I can tell they know that I haven’t reached the pinnacles I plan to reach but they are supportive nonetheless. They see me doing my thing. (Laughs)

When would you say your biggest break was, and when you look back now, how far have you made it from there? What are the lessons you’ve picked up along the way?

Man, in 2010 when I went to YFM for an appearance on The Full Clip. That’s really when the floodgates opened for me. I remember I listened to the show while still in Potch, and me and my man Summertime both knew that I would kill it. Sizwe Dhlomo and Siyabonga Ngwekazi were hosts and they were so well-versed in hip hop, you know? Underground hip hop at that. So I was very confident that they would like me. I decided to just head to Joburg in order to get a shot at spitting live on the show. I pulled up at the studios and had to do my thing. Genocide – from the group Optical Illusion – was the one choosing emcees who would eventually go live on air to spit. So there was a bunch of us outside the studio and we all gathered there, hoping to get chose. I think Smashis was also there. Nonetheless, I did my thing, spat a dope verse and Scoop was so impressed with it, he begged me to spit that very same verse when I got on air because it was that dope. Needless to say, I spat a different verse when I got up in there. I had too many hot verses and I was confident in all of them. After my impressive showing on The Full Clip, it was all systems go. I moved to Jo’burg a year later and I’ve never looked back. I was lucky enough to find a fort with an OG of mine, shout out to Dope Greene. He took me in, really believed in me and helped me get my way around. That’s how I got my first deal with Tinism.com. We signed a partnership deal and I started working on my debut album, “Rookie Of The Year” that was released in 2012. After that, I learned that actually, this is when the real work starts. After the debut, that’s when one has to put the most work in. So I was on the grind heavy. The buzz was also gaining momentum and that’s when doors started opening.

One of the most notable appearances you made, which helped bring you to the fore was your placement on Reason’s “No Sleep Remix”. A seemingly good working relationship with Motif Records – Reason’s label at the time, helmed by Tumi Molekane – blossomed and you were almost signed by them. Take us through that period.

It’s a funny story how I first attempted to make contact with those cats. My first encounter was with Tumi and it didn’t go that well. I think I was just ahead of myself and may have bombarded him so he basically blew me off. Luckily, I got another chance and this time I made sure I came correct. Thankfully, it went well and I was able to pass him my CD. He must’ve loved it because no sooner than I expected, I got a call from them and they wanted me on their joint with Tibz on The All Love Album. It was off the strength of my song on that album, “Le Tlo Nkitsi”, that they also tapped me for the “No Sleep Remix”. After that, I was gone bro! That’s when everybody knew who Ginger Trill was. They even put me on “Bump The Cheese Up Remix” so we were really cooking. We also did the Kendrick Lamar tour when he came down here. Reason brought Tumi and I along so we fostered a good working relationship. For me it was all so surreal because a year ago none of that was happening, but now here I was on such big stages, with enormous crowds and they were all mouthing my verses, word for word. That was crazy. That’s when talks of trying to sign me came up, after that 2013 run, all through to 2014. Motif felt like they could really help me out and develop me into a fully-fledged artist, you know? Develop me into a consumable product. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out because I was already with a label, Tinism.com. It didn’t seem viable to go to another independent label, who would essentially do what my label was already doing, you know? Because they also wanted to manage me and all that, but that just fell through because they weren’t offering anything that Tinism.com wasn’t already doing for me. Nonetheless, it’s all love man. We’re all still family.

Your next project is called “Paid In Full” can you take us through how you came up with the title, as well as the makings and content of the project, particularly as to how it relates to where you are at this point of your career.

Paid In Full, also known as PIF is largely inspired by the movie of the same name, Paid In Full, that came out in 2002 depicting life in the 80s in Harlem, New York. The project started to take shape after I had completed one song and then made a skit. After that, I was inspired to go that route for the entire album. The movie, for me, represents so much, in that it is so rich and steeped in Hip Hop culture. From the slang, to the attitudes and just the way of life depicted in it. I’m immensely inspired by it.  Another aspect of it is the acronym PIF. I always describe something as that as pif’ if its dope, you know? That’s just the slang, you know? The ebonics! (Laughs). So it felt fitting. Ultimately, I just told myself that I’m going to make this concise project, with just the right skits and it’s going to be conceptual, and also paint a picture of the reality of the music industry, and juxtapose it with the fantasy of the movie Paid In Full, in so far as hustling and rapping can be seen as one thing, hustling being the main plot of the movie, of course. That last piece to the puzzle is paying homage to Erik B & Rakim’s Paid In Full. The classic tape that dropped way back in ’87. Eric B was the producer and Rakim was the emcee. With my project, I’m the emcee and my homie K-Thaso is the producer. So we just wanted to pay homage in that sense. And it’s interesting because I’ve never had a young homie from my hood whom I have ever given a platform ever since I got to shine, you know? So this will be the first time I actually do that. This kid K-Thaso is incredible man and I’m actually very blessed to have him producing the entire joint.

Ginger Trill, thank you very much for sharing so much with us. Good luck with the album and everything else.

Nah, thank you The Plug, for an incredible interview. I truly appreciate it. Hope your readers will get that PIF when it drops on August 2nd. Peace!