19 Aug, 2018

Bonginkosi Ntiwane



With the US being dominated by Caucasians in numbers, it’s no wonder black Americans feel safe and at home when they’re on the African continent.

“In America, especially now with Trump, there are certain spaces that are very uncomfortable to be in as a black man. One, you never know how certain people feel and then two, because you know now how certain people feel. Before you’d assume it was racism…”says US rapper Javier Starks.

Starks spoke to Tha Bravado while in the country for the O.R Tambo music project titled Voices On OR. It is a collaborative double-disc album between South African and USA artists and some politicians, paying homage to the life of the late former ANC president.

Starks was in the country for a week, together with talented musician Miles Mosley who is also part of the project. They have been in studio throughout the week, but a bit sad for first time visitor Starks, because he hasn’t had the opportunity to experience South Africa and all its multifaceted beauty.

“There’s a pain in my heart, it’s like ahhhhh….it would’ve been nice to see Soweto, would’ve been nice to see other things. But I am very grateful just to be here-not a single moment in the studio has felt like ‘oh man, we still here’ every minute has been real. From the moment that I landed here, I felt very welcomed you know,” he says.

Unlike stable mate Mosley, who is on three tracks on the album, Starks is featured once on Voices On OR. “The lyrics I wrote for the song I wrote back home. While I was writing I did a lot of research on Tambo and God, this dude is a champion.” The track is titled Promise Land.

The double album is musically directed by renowned singer Gloria Bosman while seasoned saxophonist McCoy Mrubata is tasked with the role of producing. Among others, the project will include Jonathan Butler, Tsepo Tshola, Mandisa Dlanga, Jabu Magubane, Herbie Tsoaeli and Steve Dyer. Performances in the recording will be characterized by interpretations of musical themes based on events around Tambo’s life. It’s due for release in October this year.

A fairly new artist in the industry, but has been fortunate to be surrounded by great musician such as Mosely and Robert Glasper. “More than anything else, being around people like Miles and all these kats who are really talented, I really get to learn a lot. It really broadens my perspective in how I approach music, in how I see music because these guys aren’t just masters of their genre, which emcees and rappers tend to be you know,” says Starks.


Starks met Glasper in 2012, just a year after the latter released his critically acclaimed Black Radio album.  The two met at an event, DC Loves Dilla, which celebrates the work of late virtuoso producer J.Dilla. Unzipping his hoodie, Starks shows me his t-shit with a Dilla illustration on it, he tells me that performed three songs from Dilla’s countless produced joints at the event, which Glasper was also billed to perform at.

“I did Busta Rhymes’s Woo-hah because Dill did a remix of it, I did Common’s Payback is a Grandmother and Common’s The Light. After I was done with my set, I hear this guy playing the piano and I was like ‘damn, this guy’s really good’ and I went up to him after his set and told him he was really dope…we sat there and watched the Slum Village set from backstage together, and went out to dinner with those guys [Glasper and his band].”

The two have built a solid relationship since and whenever Glasper is in town the two link up. In 2015 during Grammy weekend, Glasper invited Stark to a meet and greet that he was attending. “I flew myself to Cali, I didn’t have a place to stay and told myself I’m gonna sleep in the car-I’m gonna make it work and I’ll be there regardless. I got there, and found out it was a concert. I’m standing outside the line, I’m like this ain’t no meet and greet. I got inside and I was in the front row and 20-30 into his set, he’s [Glasper] like ‘eyo Javier, come kick some rhymes’. I had his number and we would chat and he knew I was there, but we never talked about me rhyming. It was so spur of the moment. When he said come kick some rhymes, that’s when I learnt I’m about to rap,” says Stark.

True to their bond, Glasper offered Starks his hotel room, since he’s was leaving town for another gig.

He is s socially conscious emcee who is very economical with the words because he doesn’t curse on any of his records. “I can perform at your local club, I can perform at a school library, I can perform at a church and I can perform anywhere you know. That’s the beauty of being curse free and keeping your music uplifting and real –people can relate to that. You think about the stuff that most people rap about, it has its time and place- but most people can’t relate to shooting people or doing drugs, driving fancy cars and spending dollars. My goal is to show people that it works, not just because I say so, but look at my Instagram I’m everywhere because it works.”



PRO KID was only 37. Ben Sharpa just 41. Ol’ Dirty Bastard was a mere 34. Mizcheif was 38. Sean Price was 43 .

All these are names of great rappers who’ve inspired generations of emcees. But the other miserable common thread among these names, is that they all died at a young age because of the lifestyles they lived. The gallons of alcohol drank, unhealthy food consumed, smoke that fills the lungs and countless blunts that are puffed and passed, plus shit sniffed up the nose are huge factors in most rappers’ early deaths.

Pro Kid who died just last week is said to have demised from a serve seizure following a night out with friends. Since his passing, a lot has been said about what actually happened to the genius rapper whose real name was Linda Mkhize. In an interview with Drum magazine, Pro’s cousin said the rapper had no history of seizures. There are suggestions that the rapper had begun taking drugs lately, to help him deal with career and life frustrations.

In my interview with the SABC’s Media Monitor this past Sunday, I mentioned that the only thing we can do now is speculate to what really happened because no one went to Pro to ask how he was. There was a requiring theme on social media in the past week from celebrities, saying they failed Pro. Failed him in what exactly?

This indicates something wrong had been happening in his life recently, but people turned a blind eye.

I last saw the rapper in June at Basha Uhuru where he delivered a good performance. But what was startling was how young he looked- before that, I had seen him around Tembisa where he visited often years ago. Then, he looked his age. But at Basha the kat didn’t necessarily look bad, but he suspiciously looked like a 22 year-old.

As much as people might think, talking about what really happened to him is tarnishing his legacy, I believe the family has a responsibility to share the post-mortem results so that it can also help the next generation of artists. It’s their prerogative I know, but being open about such helps guide artists who are already in the game and those who have ambitions of gracing stages with their talent.

Imagine what a post-mortem would do for a person like Emtee, who a just a few weeks ago fell on stage high on codeine. It would really be a reality check for the young kat and others like him.

Sharpa had been living with diabetes for a long while, but died due to complications with the disease. I can’t help ask myself if ‘the complications’ could’ve been avoided had he lived a better lifestyle.

An illustration of late rapper Ben Sharpa at his memorial service in Newtown. By Sip The Snapper

Till this day, I laud Kwaito artist Zombo who went on live television to tell the nation that he was living with HIV AIDS. He died in 2008 at the age of 27. But that bone-chilling frankness has helped so many young men to think twice about dipping in the forbidden fruit without protection. Yea, he was ridiculed but at least now people know what not to do. If you can flaunt your success, then allow us to be privy to your downfall too. After all, you’re also a human being.

Kwaito artist Zombo. Photo Supplied

Wu Tang Clan animated rapper ODB died just two days before turning 35. His cause of death was due to an overdose on coke. An autopsy found a lethal mixture of cocaine and the prescription drug tramadol. The overdose was ruled accidental and witnesses say Ol’ Dirty Bastard complained of chest pain on the day he died- watching documentaries about the Wu, you get a perfect sense from those close to him that it wasn’t accidental. It’s this ‘sweeping things under the carpet’ mentality that causes the problem to escalate in the entertainment industry.

Rapper Ol’Dirty Bastard. Photo by HipHopDX

In an interview on Metro FM with DJ Fresh on his breakfast show last year, comedian John Vlismas spoke about this epidemic problem in the media and creative space. “We have been hardwired to think that we are working hard in media, we don’t really. Going down a mine is working hard. Being a domestic and working for people who are ungrateful is very hard. We think we work hard, therefore we should play hard and we have been raised in a society where this is permissive.” Vlismas himself, had issues with drug addiction before changing his lifestyle because of near-death experiences.

A member of hip-hop groups Boot Camp Clik and Random Axe, he was half of the duo Heltah Skeltah, performing under the name Ruckus, Sean Price’s death also shocked the world in 2015.  A statement from his team, just said he died in his sleep-not giving anything else. He was 43 and still had so much to offer.

Sean Price in 2014. Photo by Billboard

The last time I saw Sharpa perform was the last time I saw Mizchief, they were in Tembisa for the 21Mic Salute Hip Hop event in 2013- although Mizchief never performed. I vividly remember how Mizchief resurfaced from a hiatus, months before his passing.  The Fashionable hit-maker was reported to have died of illness in 2014. The more ambiguous the reasons for an artists’ passing from those close to them, the more the legacy is tarnished by rumours.

Mizchief. Photo Supplied

Fela Kuti’s brother, Professor Olikoye (Ransome) Kuti, a prominent AIDS activist and former Minister of Health in Nigeria, admitted in a press conference that Fela died of AIDS in 1997. Great as the musician was, his lifestyle choices weren’t the best. People ought to know who their heroes really are, because no one is perfect. If anything, people can now relate more to Fela.

Canadian rapper Bender who came to South Africa in 2016 to rip apart Stogie T (Tumi, of The Volume) in a rap battle, also died in March this year from a disease linked to his lifestyle.  He died from sleep apnoea- a sleep disorder characterized by pauses in breathing during one’s sleep. There are various causes for this, one of them being excessive weight or obesity.

Rapper Bender. Photo Supplied

The lifestyles we live will be our downfall. It’s very important for artists to surround themselves with people who genuinely care about their well-being because as much fun and cool excessive drinking and drug intake may be, one has to always think about their health. Added to that, is that most of these artists are survived by young families who are left stranded and in debt. That people have to donate stuff to the Mkhize family is sad and quite condescending for an artist of Pro’s calibre, because we’ve seen too many artists die as paupers. How long will this go on?

*Names not mentioned include: Brenda Fassie, Whitney Houston, TK, Jimi Hendrix, Brown Dash and plenty more!



Me: I see you as a renaissance man. I mean, you do everything.

Him: (In his hoarse voice,he bursts into laughter nearly falling off his chair)

He is Abdul Milazi. A former reporter and editor, now an avid full time painter and an eccentric life coach.

I’m at his Randburg home to sit with the man. He is quite an extraordinary individual in that he was at the helm of South Africa’s biggest tabloid print publication, the Sunday World when its sales rocketed from 138 000 copies a week to 200 000 in less than two years. While his artistic inclination is second to none- he published a book of his poetry collection in 2015 and creates music on a daily at his home and performs around Joburg regularly-and does this without inner conflict, looking at the hats he wears.

“…that’s the beauty of African languages, they are richer than Western languages. The only other languages I’ve come across that are as rich, are Arabic, Latin American languages…abo English and what what are too shallow.”

“Bongi, mina I never have conflict. You can give me any task, if I don’t understand it I’ll ask you to fill me in, and then I’ll give you the best of what you want. I use to joke with people and say the subject is irrelevant, you could give me Framer’s Weekly [to be editor] and I’ll give you the best Farmer’s Weekly ever,” says Milazi.

He fell in-love with art at a young age, like any other kid beginning with simple drawings. But growing up, he’s struggled with what the Western world defined as art. The West’s insistence on not giving credit to African Cultural artists when they do work steeped in African traditions, on things such as ukhamba.

“Most of the time, they are never recognized by the West. They’ll say ‘it’s clay pot or whatever’ but when they do pottery, they call it art…it’s the same thing. How is it, that one is not [art] and this one is. That’s a struggle I’ve had all my life,” says Milazi.

“It kinda worries me, when people are left behind when I move because when I move, I want us to move together so we can celebrate together…”

When he was 16 years-old, he use to visit his English teacher who was also painter. She introduced him to painting and the young Milazi used to hound her with questions about this hypocritical stance that the West has on African art. “[Black] people use to draw on rocks, using simplistic drawings to tell stories…art is an expression, it doesn’t matter what medium. It’s an expression. Why do people isolate other expressions?”

One of Milazi’s Paintings. Photo by Abudul Milazi

He says we’ll only witness true expression once artists stop excluding certain people from expressing themselves. “Even the ladies who do amacansi or ama duvet…how do you then isolate that, and say ‘no, that is not art’”

His paintings are laden all over his abode. I was welcomed by a gripping landscape painting he did of Joburg City as I walked into the house. The paintings are simple but all have a different feel to it-there’s work I would buy but also work that my mother would also gravitate towards.

The paintings have been a mainstay at the Zoo Lake’s Art At The Zoo, since he first started exhibiting work last November. “The same white people who’ve been buying there, say [to me] ‘you’ve brought something different…it’s modern and not this old arty farty work’”

He admits that he also started out painting in that dull style- landscapes, portraits, etc. “Until I got bored because all I’m doing is photocopying and there are photocopying machines, right? So if I want a landscape, I can bring a camera and shoot it. Mina I want to paint emotions uyabo, make people happy. If you see all of them [my paintings] you won’t find morbid ones. When you get my painting, and you put it up your wall, it should make you happy when you enter your home. I wana do pieces that will make people’s home feel home-it’s your escape from all the crap outside.”

A piece by Milazi. Photo by Abdul Milazi

Milazi’s work-be it the painting, music, poetry, or his life coaching- is primarily inspired by people and their stories. “Some stories make me wana cry. But I don’t wana paint sadness, I wana take the positives. If you tell me your family is not treating you right, but tell me you’re still carrying on…Mina I take the still carrying on part, not the cutting down. I capture your strength. It’ll emphasize your resilience.”

He’s had an illustrious career as a journalist, but fell into it by default. “I asked my English teacher, where will I do the most writing, she said Journalism-I said that’s where I’ll go. But I never romanticised journalism-but I ended up in it. I just wanted to write books. But I wanted to write books as early as 10 years-old.”

At that young age, he was an ardent reader of comics. From there, he grew into reading novels, going to book exchange shops, where he would get a load of books by trading with the store the stuff he’d already read.

His first gig as a journalist came right after he completed his matric, at the South Coast Herald in January 1987. “Because I was black, they thought I was applying to be a messenger. And I told them that no, I want to be a reporter- I think the editor was amused because I had been writing for school magazines and newspapers,” says Milazi. He adds that, those publications in the schools he went to were brainchildren of his.

Milazi’s work on canvass. Photo by Abdul Milazi

Currently, he writes a column for Ilanga Newspaper. “I’m actually having loads of fun. It’s forcing me to go back and reacquaint myself with the language [isiZulu]. After writing three columns, I was laughing to myself ngoba ngathi ng’se high school futhi. It’s beautiful…that’s the beauty of African languages, they are richer than Western languages. The only other languages I’ve come across that are as rich, are Arabic, Latin American languages…abo English and what what are too shallow.”

His career has seen him in newsrooms such as the Financial Mail, Business Day, The Star, The Sunday Times and The Times.

He is one of those confident individuals who aren’t shy to tell you about their achievements, but without making you inferior. While sharing his success stories which include horrid times, he will, in a slick way make sure you also benefit from it, in whatever manner.

It’s his life coaching coming into effect.

“I’ve helped colleagues I started out with, to keep focus…without knowing it was life coaching. Ku mina, I still love to see all of us succeeding. It kinda worries me, when people are left behind when I move because when I move, I want us to move together so we can celebrate together-if it’s only me moving, it poses a question to me ‘Am I a good friend’ ,” he calmly utters the rhetorical question.

He began his life coaching studies while at the Witness Newspaper in 2012 and got his certificate in 2013.  “As a life coach, I help you. I don’t decide things for you. I give you clarity on things you want and together we work towards achieving those things. But every decision will be made by you, not by me.”

Necessity is the mother of invention and it because of the necessity of a good guitarist when performing his poetry, that he ended up teaching himself to play. “Most session musicians are drug addicts and are unreliable- they would dump me on the day of the fucken show. So I said to myself, ‘let me learn how to play one instrument’. I bought an acoustic guitar, bought a book and taught myself how to play. ”

A month after purchasing the book, he composed his first track with three chords. “Now, I’ve taught people how to play…”

His music is all over Soundcloud now and he’s worked with a number of young artists. Before I left his home, Milazi jammed some of his tracks on his guitar that he named Maruapula. The music serenaded the bottle of whisky we had that afternoon so smoothly.



THERE’S something sacred about being welcomed into the working space of an artist. It’s where they immerse themselves in their creative catharsis. It’s akin to being received in someone’s home.

It’s in the evening of Nelson Mandela day and the faceless Suzie on the GPS of my phone has led me to the suburbs of Waterkloof. This is where PG13 has worked on their debut project, He’kaya. Upon hearing the title of the EP, my Nguni brain, thought it fitting that I come to their abode in Pretoria, to have a listen to the project right where it was recorded.

But He’kaya is Swahili, meaning legend. The four track EP will be launched this Saturday at Tembisa Lifestyle where the band was formed late 2015. “It’s where it started.  The reason we chose Swahili, is because it’s the oldest African language,” says poet Angela Mthembu.

“Legends as in folktale and ‘legends’ as in legendary human beings. Our journey has been blessed by those who came before us, that’s why we always do To The Ones Who Came Before Us first[when performing live],”Mthembu says. The track is also known as Dlozi and is on the EP.

Paying homage is a serious thing for them. So much that they open their performances with To The Ones Who Came Before Us, and if not sung well, there are irreversible consequences. “It’s really important that, that song goes well. But if it doesn’t, we’ll play a great set but everyone’s mood [in the band] will change,” says drummer Steven Bosman. Mthembu chips in to say “…You guys won’t hear it. But certain weird things happen when that song goes wrong- either Wanda bursts an amp or I forget my lyrics in the next piece. ”

The song is their prayer, to those above and below them. And they have strong belief that if they aren’t earnest about the music and being on that stage, a bad set is guaranteed.

PG13 He’kaya EP Cover.

For their launch party they would like to pay homage to the late Phillip Tabane and Moses Taiwa Molelekwa, vicariously through the descendants of these icons. “The idea is to collaborate with the offspring of legends that have shaped our music. So Thabang Tabane and Zoe Molelekwa- we’re hoping Zoe will be in Joburg on the 18th so he can come have a jam with us,” an excited Mthembu tells me.

PG13 includes vocalists Thando Msiza and Bongiwe Nkobi, Harry Thibedi and Zelizwe Mthembu on guitars with Wandisile Boyce on bass. The clique started out as three females- Mthembu, Nkobi and Towela Tembo- and has morphed into what we know today as the band. The PG represents Parental Guidance, but the 13 has a strong significant modest element to it. “13 is the beginning of teenhood and that’s the element where you as a child need the most guidance from your parents. It represents innocence. But it also represents us entering into this world and we’re starting to learn what it means to be a human verses what it means to be a child or an adult,” Mthembu says.

Tha Band: PG13 . Photo Supplied

The band has performed on a decent number of stages which include the Smoking Dragon New Year’s Eve music festival, The Dawn, U the Space, Tembisa Street Food Market, Afrikan Freedom Station and Soweto Arts and Craft to mention a few. On He’kaya are songs their ardent followers have heard them perform on these various platforms. “The people who’ve followed us from the beginning, actually most these songs are relatively new to them because they knew us with Jack and Jill. Moving from a band that just had guitar to a full seven piece band, the sound shifts altogether- so even if you say ‘I’ve heard these songs’ you get a different flavour and taste from them,”Mthembu says. The tracks were recorded sporadically over a period of months,close to a year and were mixed and mastered by Bosman and Jamie Van Niekerk.

Speaking as Ndoda serenades our conversation in the background, Bosman says “With this track, the guitars were recorded last year, the drums were recorded this afternoon and six months back was two vocals. So it’s been little steps trying to mould a song.”

The version of Ndoda on the EP that we’re listening to in their studio is a tad different to an older version they recorded a while ago. On the older version Mthembu’s poetry comes off as lambasting all men, but her tone on the He’kaya version is a softer and a more conversational tone with the male species. Her poetry comfortably falls on Nkobi’s warm backing vocals in the backdrop. While in her verse, Nkobi charges boys to heed the call to be the men that are needed. But her vocal dexterity tones down this charge, sounding like it’s your mother singing you into your manhood asking to wake up and be idnoda! Bosman’s drumming is sharp, punctual and in sync with the vocals.

PG13 on stage. Photo Supplied

I wouldn’t have guessed they recorded in the process in which they did, had I not asked because it sounds as though they were all in studio at the same time. A mark of good sound engineering and says a lot about their chemistry as a clique. “The challenge as well has been, not knowing what someone else is doing, which was also exciting. Because a few members will pitch up and be like ‘what! I didn’t know the song was gonna sound like this’ one day I wasn’t here for the vocals, and I never thought our vocalists would do something like that, that they came up with a completely different concept for the chorus and completely changed the song,” says Bosman. He quips that, Monday nights in a tiny smoky room is chemistry. “It’s like a new perspective, every day with different ears-if you do it all together at one point, everybody hears the same thing. When it’s changing, you start to get some cooler stuff,” adds engineer Van Niekerk.

PG13 tracklist.

“The chemistry moves from the physical…like I gel with Steven and I start to like, gel with Steven’s drum. So when I hear Steven’s drum in my ears, that’s the chemistry that’s transferred,” Mthembu says.

If done wrong, the cocktail of music and poetry in a band can go south pretty quickly. A group that mastered this was Kwani Experience, so good was the blend that is wasn’t evident to the ear-the music just captured you.

PG13 also has that busyness. The chemistry, especially between Nkobi, Msiza and Mthembu makes the whole set digestible.  On Jack and Jill Nkobi and Msiza beautifully go back and forth on vocals, requiring you to pay close attention. Their music doesn’t only borrow from Jazz and African music elements, but also has unmissable rock sounds.

Jack and Jill came out on Women’s day as their first single and is available on Soundcloud. The band has a tour planned after the He’kaya launch in Tembisa. “We’re doing three provinces-KZN, which is the longest leg of the tour, we’re gonna play about six venues there. A festival in Rustenburg and about two shows in Joburg,”Mthembu says. The tour is named After Skul is Afta Skul: He’Kaya.



THE sight of a woman spinning a BMW 325i can be quite intimidating for a number of grown ass men. But thank goodness that hasn’t prevented Angel Beautyspot from burning the tyres of a Gusheshe in clouds of smoke, all in the name of fun.

“People would say ng’thanda izinto and some would think I’m into this game because I want attention from guys…and some look at me with those eyes that say ‘she thinks she’s better’,” says Angela Beautyspot.

Having grown up in the township myself, I’ve witnessed spinning  by thungs at funerals or in celebration after a big score. Hence there’s a stigma attached to the sport, which is coupled with huge misunderstanding of what it really entails. “Whenever you mention an event, old people will just say ‘no, please leave the kids behind because they’ll get hurt’. And that’s not the case…things have changed. Spinning is an amazing sport, not a game for thugs, I just hope spinning can be recognised and people be open minded about it,” 30 year-old Angel Beautyspot says.  She will be one of the spinners tomorrow at Wheelz ‘n Smoke’s event that celebrates women in car spinning, fittingly dubbed SPINderella.

The Kwa Mahlanga lady was introduced to the sport by uncles and friends four years ago, but only started participating this year.

SPINderella participant Kaylin, dancing in front of her spinning car. Photo Supplied

The event is organised the Wheelz ‘n Smoke Company, which hosts weekly car spinning sessions on Thursdays on the South of Joburg. SPINderella takes place during a time when Women’s issues are under the spotlight, as it is Women’s Month and females such as Angela Beautyspot get scrutinized and looked at funny for their pure desire of wanting to spin cars.

“National Women’s Day draws attention to significant issues South African women still face, such as inequality in society, the workplace, politics, as well as in sports. The SPINderella programme is one of the many ways in which we aim to eradicate this issue of inequality, by representing women who still aren’t recognised in the motorsport space,” says Wheelz ‘n Smoke co-founder Ayanda Mbele.

A SPINderella Community activation in Katlegong. Photo Supplied

One of Wheelz ‘n Smoke’s crowd favourites is Stacey Lee May who has been doing this for a number of years now.  “Women such as Stacey Lee May, Tina Rossouw and Felicia Van Staden are pushing boundaries in spinning and making their mark. Therefore as leaders in the spinning industry, we want to celebrate these women who have contributed to the growth of female spinning and encourage more girls and women to take part in this growing extreme sport,” adds Mbele.

Car spinner Nazeema getting in her zone. Photo Supplied

The event has the backing of Motorsports South Africa (MSA), the governing body of four-wheel motorsport; who also have a social responsibility commitment to improve the future of women in motorsport. Together with its sponsors and supporters, Wheelz ‘n Smoke hopes to raise awareness on the importance of women in motorsport and create a sports culture that facilitates and values their full participation.

The SPINderella event is set to take place tomorrow at the Wheelz ‘n Smoke Arena, from 12 pm till late.

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