I can remember exactly where I was the first time I heard Skwatta Kamp’s Umoya. I can remember exactly where I was, exactly what I was doing, and – in that moment – exactly how it made me feel. That raw and rugged sound offset with Relo’s sweet vocals stopped me in my tracks and infected me. I became a fan of Skwatta Kamp that day and I owe that moment to Kamza’s The Essence on 5fm.
Mine is but one of a litany of stories that could be told on the impact of hip hop radio in SA and the ways in which it has shifted and grown the culture. From the days of the Rap Activity – hosted by Lee Kasumba – to the Full Clip – hosted by Siz n Scoop – on Yfm, hip hop radio shows have had a notable effect on the urban music landscape in South Africa. They’ve been a go-to for discovering new music, birthed rap careers, heralded some of the biggest stars of the time, and given us memories to last a lifetime. The latest addition to the pantheon of hip hop radio royalty, Absolute Hip Hop on Metro FM aims to take the platform to new levels.
The duo that host this Saturday night music ministry have long been in service of the medium. Luthando ‘Lootlove’ Shosha radio roots took hold in Port Elizabeth’s Christian community radio station, Kingfisher FM. “I had a midnight show! I’ve done so many different shows on radio, it’s actually ridiculous. I started on a weekday show, 7-10pm, then I moved to breakfast on Kingfisher FM, then at some point I moved to the gospel top 40. Wow that was a time in my life.”
“But even when I got to Metro FM, I started on the breakfast show on Saturdays with Adil. Then when the changeover happened I moved to a house show on Friday nights, then I’d come back for the breakfast show, then I’d come back on Sunday for an RnB show. So I’ve kinda been a little radio show hoe. I’m everywhere!” she reflects. “I’ve been on all different kinds of shows and all different kinds of spaces and it’s my favourite thing because if you can move into different times then you’re definitely radio.”
Lesego ‘Speedy’ Nkaiseng began his career on internet radio stations Transafrica Radio and Rhythm100 before moving on to community station VUT FM, which is where Yfm found him. “When I started, I made a list of things I wanted to do that would help me be here forever. From high school this is all I ever wanted to do. I didn’t think about studying, I wanted to broadcast and be a DJ. I didn’t have a plan B, I didn’t even think about a plan B, I was like ‘I need to do this’ and radio was one of the ways where you’re here forever, well for a long time if not forever. That’s why I started from the roots in terms of radio.”
Starting off at smaller stations groomed them for the roles they would take on at one of the biggest commercial radio stations in the country. “The thing about radio is that as much as it sounds like people just hanging out in studio and talking about nothing, there’s a lot of work and preparation and art that goes into it. It’s also very disciplined,” says Luthando. “But the training you get from community is what prepares you for commercial radio. Having to produce your own show, do your own research, put your own show together, create whatever structure, vibe with it. That thing trains you for the big time. But commercial radio is hard! It’s a wakeup call.”
On her love for the medium, Luthando says “Radio is just a different space. It’s a different conversation, it’s a different energy, it’s a different kind of storytelling. Radio is really nice in the sense that all you have is your voice and that’s a very powerful tool so the message you send out is very important. How you send out a message is also very important; the words you use, the conversations that you have. You have to really paint a picture and everyone has to feel that they’re hanging out with you; and that’s a skill, that’s an art, and that’s something I really enjoy.”
“I’m actually a very shy person, and the reason I love radio is because no one can see me” Speedsta says. “I get to hide behind the actual art”.
On their synergy as a duo and how important it is to the authenticity of the show, Loot says “It’s everything! If you don’t have chemistry, synergy, if you don’t vibe at all you shouldn’t be together on a show. It sounds dead, it sounds forced, it makes people switch to the other station. And I guess we’re lucky, we get along really, really well.”
“We have fights as well. But that’s like every relationship, it would be wrong if we didn’t fight”, Speedsta says before Loot adds “It’s trying to better the show. And the kind of disagreements we have are very emotionally mature. Sometimes you have to call each other out, sometimes you have to tell the other person that this is not working, this is working, or whatever. But it takes a really cool relationship in order to have that conversation and go back on air and carry on as usual because it’s not personal.”
With Luthando hailing from Kwamagxaki in PE and Lesego from Vanderbijlpark in the Vaal, I wonder if being from a small town has helped them navigate the entertainment industry. She feels like “It gives you a completely different perspective. When you’re from a smaller town, you actually work harder because everything is limited where you’re from. But the thing about being from a small town is that it actually keeps you grounded.”
“I was always a different person growing up; not understood. And it was always because my mind is always just going [with ideas]. I go back there and I find it kinda sad that there hasn’t been much change, that people are still doing the same things, the mentality hasn’t changed. Those small things help you remember that you need to do what’s important, which is doing it differently.” Speedsta says “It’s also our responsibility as people who have been in the city to take what we learn in the city back home and apply it there.”
In so far as inspiration goes, for Luthando it’s “knowing where I come from and knowing that I don’t wanna go back there. My family inspires me a lot; my brother, my mom, and my sisters. And I think the idea of being an example… I’d like to be an example for a lot of kids who, like Speedsta was saying, didn’t fit in, who were awkward, who were thinking about things that no one around them were thinking about, who are tryna do more than just be in P.E. I just wanna be that example, that beacon of hope that ‘She did it, that means I can do it because she’s from the same street as me, and grew up the same way’ and just wanting to leave that kind of impact on people is what inspires me.”
Speedsta says “I think for me, unfortunately I grew up by myself. I didn’t have a lot of structure behind me so from a very young age I was very independent. I’ve actually been really uninspired of late but it’s purely because of the age that I’m at. I’m at an age where I’m still a kid but I’m no longer a kid so I’m going through certain changes so at this very moment the inspiration that I get is just from taking a look around me. Those kinda things inspire me because it’s almost like I came here by myself and I’m still here by myself so I like to look around me and what I’ve achieved and be like ‘This is how far I’ve come.’ I’m very big these days on self-fulfilment and being happy before anything else.”
When he says “That’s where I get all my inspiration from right now with every aspect of my life, it’s a very ‘keep on, keep going’ kinda thing. Lots of heartache, lots of times I feel down and very insecure, I feel like I’m not good enough but I just try to remind myself that ‘You’ve made it this far as you, so keep it going’” I wonder if he’s affected by imposter syndrome. He agrees, before Luthando delves into a deeper explanation.
“Thing about being an entertainer and being a creative is that creativity comes from a lot of experiences and emotion. And as much as it looks like a beautiful process, it’s actually one of the hardest things to be.” Apart from the negative connotations attached to creative exploits as opposed to traditional career choices, she feels that being in an industry filled with immense talent can also chip at your confidence. “A lot of the time only you can re-assure yourself. I can sit and say ‘Speedy, but you’re dope’ but he has to sit down and think about the fact that he’s dope and believe it. And that’s the thing, how everybody sees you is not how you see yourself because you’re always very critical of yourself. But I think that with age you learn to make peace with a lot of things. There’s certain things that I don’t stress about anymore because it’s too much for me to carry. I’m getting into the place of trusting myself, I’ve been doing this for six years now, I am doing something right and that’s why it keeps going higher and higher and getting bigger and bigger.”
Speedsta adds “It’s a gift and a curse because you obviously want to be the best in whatever you’re doing and you want to be the best as a person. The best is kinda weird, I don’t know how to deal with that kinda stuff. I’ve always – my whole life – I’ve always been the underdog and that’s how I roll. The top is really weird, it’s a gift and a curse. I don’t want to be the best DJ in the world, at this point of my life I want to be the best version of myself.”
With Absolute Hip Hop turning one, I wonder if it’s a milestone they celebrate and appreciate in a fickle industry. Luthando says “I think one is always something to really celebrate, it’s a big deal. A lot can happen between zero and one; things can bomb out, things change all the time, and in radio nothing is guaranteed. Switches happen every single year so I think the fact that we’re going into our second year is a really, really good thing. Also going into our second year with a radio award nomination is a big deal. I don’t think it was an easy task to get this kind of show and have to put it together and redo everything. Shit, I wanna celebrate every show, I wanna celebrate every milestone, I wanna celebrate every single moment because we actually don’t know how long we have it for. But turning one is a very, very, very big deal and I want us to be loud about it.”
Speedsta adds “As much as it’s a milestone, I see it as more of a challenge because we haven’t reached our destination in terms of what we’re tryna achieve with the whole thing. So it’s cool to be turning one but I want us to be celebrating 10, 15, I want to do more. I also want people to understand that we’re actual broadcasters. It’s not just a hip hop thing, we just happen to be really hip hop and we can execute a hip hop show, but that’s not where it ends. I’m grateful every single day, blessed, still enjoying it, which is very important for me. I’m very honest when it comes to the show, so everything you hear is really natural, really organic, and really real. So it’s dope, happy birthday to us!”
On what direction they see the show taking, he says “We wanna build a hip hop home. If you’re part of South African hip hop, or wherever you’re from and you get to South Africa, you must know that Absolute Hip Hop is the hip hop home in terms of issues, good things, fun… Small things like our mixes, a lot of our DJ mixes on the show, the guys come and do it live just to create that vibe that everybody is welcome here, we’re pushing our thing – which is South African hip hop.”
Make-Up: Mbali Nyikazi
Design: Dumaza Ndata
Creative Direction: Nick Kaoma
Editorial Assistant: Tiffany Lekuku
Clothing supplied by Puma Select, Goldstreet and Favelo.