Words by Glenn Kisela
My first impression of Kid Tini was that his demeanour reflected his music accurately, particularly his flow – calm, but intensely confident. He seemed sure of himself and there was no self-doubt to be detected throughout the interview. As we talked more and he opened up, there was this air of friendliness to him that belied the intensity that he has spewed on tracks. For only being 19 years old, Kid Tini had a lot of insightful things to say and illustrated why so many are expecting big things from his career.
We met at the Ambitiouz Entertainment offices, in a beautiful office block in Midrand, but mentally we travelled to a small town in the Eastern Cape called Butterworth, where Tini grew up. We talked about how it was a small town where there’s very little to do and he laughingly tells me “It was really hard to go out and have fun or whatever” but that downside became a blessing as all the down time was the reason he got into hip hop and found his passion for music.
You can tell, as we chat about his childhood that involved not just Butterworth but Queenstown as well, he has fond memories and he talks about how despite growing up in slow places, there are some really good people that bring a lot of positivity to the lives around them.
I mention to Tini how I’ve read about boxing being a part of his family and ask him what that was about. He smiles when he answers the question, explaining to me how his grandmother was so passionate about boxing and got the entire family into it. Even after she passed away, boxing is still an important part of the family and is akin to a small tribute to her. When I suggest if this love of boxing has an influence in his delivery and style as a rapper, he absolutely agrees.
“Of course, it’s a pretty aggressive sport. I feel like there are so many similarities between hip hop and boxing. It’s a very competitive sport, it’s very aggressive. Sometimes it’s not gonna be pretty.” The last part is added with a knowing chuckle.
The conversation naturally goes into where else he gets his sources of inspiration and he immediately talks about his brother. He tells me how he discovered his brother’s mixtape sometime after his brother had stopped rapping and Tini couldn’t believe what he was hearing. After listening to it, he went to his brother and told him he wanted to rap seriously and his brother did everything he could to provide everything Tini needed to start his career.
Aside from that, he highlights other rappers as sources of inspiration such as Gingerbread Man who set the bar for Tini at a young age. Blaklez, Nasty C and the Ambitiouz artists are also other sources of inspiration.
When he brings up some of the newer artists on the scene, we get to chatting about a big debate that is happening in not just South Africa but America as well. This idea that the new age rappers don’t have respect and knowledge about the history of the scene that they’re in. In the South African context, this is a conversation that often comes up and many of the older artists feel that the new ones don’t respect the grind from the past that paved the way for them.
“It’s crazy that you’re asking this because we had the conversation, me and my homie had the conversation with a guy at the barbershop yesterday and we were talking about how the new kids don’t care where it came from, they care where it’s going and where it’s going is with them right now”, he says.
He follows that up by sharing his personal view on it and talks about how he feels it’s important to know the fundamentals and where the culture started. You shouldn’t just go with the wave and where it’s going, you need to understand the start of it and know your basics. He adds that when young rappers dismiss the history of the scene, it makes all of them look ignorant and that’s not a look they should be proud of or want to portray.
I bring up a second big conversation topic that often does the round in the SA music scene about needing to sound original versus biting American flows. It’s a particularly important conversation now with so many eyes around the world fixed on SA music. I bring up his own change of style from when I checked out his discography in 2016 to where it is now and how he’s incorporated a more local, original sounding style over time and ask him if it’s a conscious change.
He agrees fully. “At first I didn’t care, to be honest because I felt like I was good with just English but after signing to Ambitiouz, it was like the moment I realised I needed to connect with the people.” You can tell connecting to his fans, to the people, is an important thing for Tini as he repeatedly mentions it as we talk about the need to sound local and original. He emphasises that he wants to connect with everyone and that people should be moved by his music. “It’s very important to keep that torch burning” he adds, talking about how SA music is ‘cool’ right now and everyone wants to hop on it globally.
We move on to the latest visuals he dropped for his track Movie. I ask him about the inspiration for the video and the boxer-side of him comes to the fore. We had to shut some people up, he responds with a determined look in his eyes. He talks about how “it was a moment in the game and a lot of people were coming at me, you know the Twitter Streets […] he’s not gonna do it, he’s not gonna come to the hood. I had to show them that it’s not a thing about me being scared or comfortable; If I say it on a record, I’ll probably do it in real life”.
Naturally the beef surrounding him and A-Reece gets mentioned and Kid Tini unashamedly says “At this point, I wouldn’t even call it a beef. I’d call it a discipline. I just had to put a young’un in his place. That’s all it is. We still waiting on him. They ain’t say shit yet.” The confidence that he’s exuded throughout the interview comes through strong at this point. This is a 19 year old rapper that no longer doubts his impact on the game.
But it wasn’t always like that. I ask him if his young age has been an advantage or disadvantage to his rap career. He explains that it’s always been an advantage for him but then I ask him what he’d wished he had heard earlier on in his rap career and he says he wished someone had told him to believe in himself and that he had what it took to make it in the rap game.
We move on and I ask him what would be the one thing he needed to achieve this year that would make 2018 a successful year for him. With little hesitation he mentions that he would need that recognition as lyricist of the year. I suggest he’d have to be competing with Youngsta CPT and his response is to shout him out and say he’s doing amazing things and deserves it. It’s that combination of ambition but also humility that makes me think Kid Tini is ready for the game and ready to make his mark on it.
Towards the end of the interview, I ask him who he’d want to collaborate with locally that he hasn’t collaborated with already and his eyes light up. He tells me passionately that he would love to work with Shekhinah. He elaborates that her voice is amazing and she sounds like an angel.
“She just needs to hit me up, she need to stop playing. Somebody @ Shekinah.” he adds with a laugh. We end the interview with Tini telling me he has so much up his sleeve as he’s cooking up the new album. I ask him when we can expect his next album and he tells me that it’ll be this year some time, probably in the 3rd quarter.
Kid Tini is a youngster in the scene and has a lot to prove but the early signs shows a rapper that is hungry for success and ready to prove his worth in the game. He’s a talent you won’t want to sleep on for sure.