Today we are spanning the globe and chopping it up with Cape Town, South Africa’s very own Vhedza. He has been on the grind as of late and he has a story to tell. Vhedza was inspired by some of the greats like 2pac, Biggie and Big Pun and now he is set to embark on his own musical journey. We got to catch up with him and it went a little something like this ..
HipHopLead- Whats good Vhedza? How’s life?
I’m good man. Life’s good so far.
HipHopLead- We got to know, how did you come up with your rap name?
Vhedza- My first name is “Vernon” so my firends in High School just flipped it to “Vhedza” and its stuck since then. It’s slang for my real name basically.
HipHopLead- It’s public knowledge that Pac, Nas and Biggie were some of your inspirations to make music, but you had some other choices that aren’t as popular to the general public. What exactly was it about Keith Murray that you listed him in your top emcees?
Vhedza-Keith Murray is a complete MC. Very talented, excellent delivery on the mic and his wordplay is out of this world. He can sound street and educated at the same time.
Examples : “I’ll shoot your hips up and make you boggle like Jamaicans” on Hot to Def
” My analysis is rougher than callouses/ you better practice of you wanna challenge this” on The Rhyme
Keith Murray makes it cool to be a nerd (so you can understand words like ‘callouses’) as long as your game is tight, and I can relate to that coz I’m somewhat of a nerd myself.
HipHopLead- So you had 3 dope tracks on Digital Dynasty 23 (Hosted by Vinnie Paz), what was it like being apart of such a huge mixtape?
Vhedza-It was an amazing feeling man. It made me feel like whatever my producers and I were telling each other in studio about how far we could take our music was true. It gave me more belief and stimulus in our vision. Very good “stimulus package” (laughs)!
HipHopLead- How did you link up with D.D. and make that happen?
Vhedza-I was catching up on my daily Hip-Hop news @ Ballerstatus.com and saw an announcement for submissions for the forthcoming DD23 mixtape. So I emailed Tha Advocate as per the announcement on Ballerstatus.som, and submitted songs which were approved and that’s how I got the placement. Thank heavens for the internet!
HipHopLead- Do you have any more mixtape appearances planned, maybe DD24 or something else?
Vhedza-Yeah, I’m still toying with the idea of another track for DD24, but if I dont get a placement there I will probably put something on DD 25 in support of my full length album. I’m also releasing my music on other compilations like Hip-Hop Unleashed which is released in my home country Zimbabwe.
There’s a new joint I just did called “I’m serious (MCs sleep with the fishes)” which will probably end up on Dynasty 24 or 25.
HipHopLead- Lets go back to when you started. You dropped an EP in 2002 and then an album in 04. Then 8 years later came back out with the “Majestic” mixtape. How come you stopped making music for almost a decade?
Vhedza-At the time, I got caught up in finishing my law studies and then establishing my career as a Lawyer which has taken some time. I’ve also had other personal challenges in my life which sort of took my energy away but in 2012, it all came together when my Producer Rex Nhongo gave me a call to come to his studio and lay down one track.
We laid down one song called “Riva Risingapotse” which is an underground smash right now, and from there my energy just came back and I decided to go ahead and do another album. So things just developed organically from there.
If it wasn’t for Rex Nhongo insisting that I come to his studio and do a track because he thought I was wasting my talent, i probably would not have recorded in 2012. I just found the right sound I was looking for with him as well as another Producer called The Future that I worked with under Zanla Forces Entertainment, and we just did more songs because our musical vision was basically the same.
HipHopLead- How do you feel about the rap game now, or the mainstream rap game? The popular artists now are totally different then the ones you listed.
Vhedza-I used to be mad at the mainstream but not anymore. At the end of the day, the popular artists dont force people to buy their records so I just choose to learn what I can from their success because that’s everyone’s goal at the end of the day.
HipHopLead- Do you think Hip Hop has changed for the worst?
Vhedza-No I dont think it has. When Hip-Hop started it was about fun. For example “Rappers Delight” is a party song set to a disco beat. Hip-Hop evolved to incorporate other elements but people can’t box Hip-Hop and say it should sound like this or like that. It’s art and anybody can interpret it their own way. Hip-Hop is not a fundamentalist religion.
HipHopLead- Who are the biggest Hip Hop artists over in South Africa?
Vhedza-My favorite artists in South Africa are TearGas, Proverb, Prokid and HHP. There’s also good Zimbabwean artists like the legendary Mau-Mau and right now I’m feeling a new group called Clientele.
HipHopLead- Have you ever been to the U.S?
Vhedza-No, not yet. I’ve been to the US vicariously through all the rap albums I’ve listened to, movies and music videos I’ve watched (laughs)! I would definateley love to visit LA, New York and Miami though.
HipHopLead- It’s not often we get to interview a rapping Lawyer. For starts how is it practicing law?
Vhedza-Its very demanding and challenging but I really enjoy it so I keep at it.
HipHopLead- Is it hard to juggle the two things together, we assume being a lawyer must be very time consuming?
Vhedza- Yes it is time consuming but being an Attorney helps a lot with the business side of things because I’m not intimidated by things like contracts and its easier for me to understand them plus I know I can sue anybody who tries to play me business wise, so I’m confident in my dealings with people.
In addition, being an Attorney teaches you the importance of discipline, humility, patience and dilligence. Practicing law is challenging in many ways, you have to always be humble to the Judges in Court, you have to work long hours on cases and deal with demanding clients, as well as pay attention to detail, have good interpersonal skills and business acumen in order to succeed. All these things are useful and important in the music business as well.
HipHopLead- One mistake a lot of rappers make is not having a back up plan. You were able to LLB (Bachelor Of Laws) from the Universsity of Capetown in 2003. What made you realize early on that a back plan is needed?
Vhedza-I really didnt have a choice (laughs), because my Dad wanted me to be a Lawyer. My father is a corporate lawyer so I just joined the family tradition although I’m a litigator now. However, i enjoyed studying law, and enjoy practicing it because its mentally stimulating.
Law is also not really a back up plan for me. I intend to do it permanently and retire as a Judge.
As I’ve grown older, i also realise how important it was for me to have another career because it helps with stimulating my mind and spirit in other ways plus it helps me sustain myself financially whilst I wait to see how the music will pan out.
I’ve also borrowed a lot from my experiences as a criminal lawyer for my rhymes and understanding the dilemmas of a criminal or a Hustler because I frequently see and help them at the lowest points of their lives and it gives me a lot of wisdom about life in general.
HipHopLead- Do any of your clients know that their lawyer is also a rapper?
Vhedza- Yes, some of my biggest fans are my clients. They bang my music all day or call me when they’re having a party playing my joints and let me hear that they’re playing my music at their party or in their car through the cellphone. Its always a great feeling.
HipHopLead- What would you say is the main difference between African Hip Hop and American Hip Hop?
Vhedza-I think African Hip Hop is now finding its own voice. Before guys would blindly imitate American Hip-Hop but now the content is shifting to tell more African oriented stories which is good.
So the main difference now is the artist perspective because African and American Artists are in different locations with sometimes similar but mostly different experiences of life so the lyrical content will be different.
The production standards however of African and American Hip-Hop are identical and in some cases African Hip-Hop production is better since computer technology now makes it possible to produce good music on a relatively limited budget. I also feel like the sound of American Hip Hop nowadays is a bit formulaic and repetetive.
HipHopLead- What new albums or mixtapes are slated to drop in 2013?
Vhedza-The main thing is my album called “Trained to Reign”, which I want to put out in the next few months once my “Majestic” mixtape has helped me create a stronger buzz.
HipHopLead- Any features or Producers worth mentioning?
Vhedza-Yes, my Producers Rex Nhongo and The Future are definetely worth mentioning. I wouldn’t have a record without them. I also have S.Gatsi an African Rock artist, Bob , and Buli who also featured on the album. These guys might not be known to the world but they’re great artists to me.
HipHopLead- Any touring or shows coming up? If so, when and where?
Vhedza-Yes, I’m just waiting for the Majestic video to be released and do a little bit more press so people can know about my music so they have a reason to actually come to the shows. I will probably start with Cape Town, Johannesburg and Harare, then build it from there depending on where the fans are. Eventually I would like to make it as far as the US, Europe and Japan.
HipHopLead- When we first heard “Will I Fry” on DD23 it was intriguing to say the least. You really went in on that track. What type of mind state or feelings were going thru you when you wrote that?
Vhedza-When I made that track, I was dealing with a heavy situation that made me wonder whether I would succeed or fail. Whether all my dreams and my parents’ efforts to build me up in life would all come to nothing. That song deals with my fear of failure, and I really didnt know whether I was going to overcome the situation I was dealing with at the time.
HipHopLead- You spit ” On earth for a short stay, my time’s got to pay/ searching for that Halo, while I’m eating my Jello”. We took that line basically as if you are conscience to the fact that no matter what you do in life you have to be on point and realize your actions now can cause your fate later? Is that correct or know?
Vhedza-That’s 100% correct. Its like even in a world of darkness, fear and uncertainty I’m still searching for the light and trying to do the best I can to be a righteous individual even as I do the most mundane things. I’m basically saying life is a constant spiritual journey even through the most trifle situations like eating my jello. There’s significance in everything.
HipHopLead- Your track “Majestic” was so smooth. It was funky and a ride out song. How did that track come about?
Vhedza-That track came about because I was listening to Jay-Z’s “The Blueprint” a lot at the time. The first track on there “The Ruler’s Back” has always hit me hard from the first time I listened to the album, so I thought to myself how can I re-interpret Jay-Z’s track and make something so regal but with a sense of African identity in it too.
I listen to lots of different music, but my first love is Jazz. I’ve been listening to African Jazz maestro Fela Kuti for ages, and everytime I listened to his album there’s a song on there called “Water no get enemy” that I always knew from the first time I heard it would make a dope Hip-Hop beat if it was sampled correctly.
So after I’d done a couple of songs on my album that had a very synth heavy sound, and what I would consider some American style Hip-Hop samples, I decided to flip it with an African sample that would hit Hip Hop Headz hard all over the world, and could also potentially cross over.
So I took the Fela Kuti sample to my Producer Rex Nhongo’s studio, and we lifted it, then I told him what I was trying to achieve with the track, and just left him to do his thing. When I came back the next day, and he played me the beat I was like WHOA!!
He’d listened to Jay-Z’s “The Ruler’s Back” and even used similar sounding drums and percussion on the beat, and everything worked perfectly.
When it was my time lay down the raps,I gave props to Jigga just to let people know the influence behind the song coz the opening lines are similar to Jay-Z’s “The Ruler’s Back” and I even mention his name:
“Gather round Hustlers that’s if you’re still breathin’/
Yes once again its that old Vhedza rhythm/
This track’s an ode to Mr Sean Carter”……….
That right there is telling the whole story of the song. I feel proud of it though coz I feel like we still made the song our own and kept it African sonically, but at the same time the song had enough appeal to touch other people elsewhere across the world.
I’d had the idea for a long time, and when I heard Trey Songz and J-Cole do “Can’t get enough” with the African Jazz sample, I knew I was on the right track and I just had to wait for the right time and moment to put out my own ideas. In-fact i was mad that they beat me to it. LOL!
At the end of the day, I thank my Dad for introducing me to all this classic music that I’m able to re-interpret for today’s audience. I knew the Trey Songz “Can’t get enough” sample already from my father’s record collection, and I started listening to Fela Kuti because of him as well. So you could say the “Majestic” record would not exist without my father.
HipHopLead- What would you say is your best song to date? and why?
Vhedza-”Majestic” because I feel it reflects my identity as an African, but at the same time it shows how cosmopolitan the modern African is, in terms of how we can adapt an American form of music and use it to reflect our own identity, and at the same time connect with everyone else around the world.
Here at HipHopLead we like to ask our interviewees some questions out the norm to give fans a brouder outlook on you. So fasten your seatbelt and get ready!
HipHopLead- If you can ressurect any dead rapper back to life who would it be and why?
Vhedza-That’s so obvious. Tupac.
HipHopLead- Why specifically?
Vhedza-That’s because Tupac was the quintessential human being. Outspoken, kind, harsh, fallible and ambitious. He embodied the Yin and Yang of the Universe, and he was a reflection of the duality of all existence.
HipHopLead- Who is the baddest chick in the game??
Vhedza-For a long time I’ve wanted to answer this question (laughs)! I’d say its Amerie. She’s a very classy woman. I also have to give it up to my Zimbabwean Home Girl Tash from the group Clientele.
HipHopLead- If you would abolish any rapper from the game that annoys that hell out of you who would it be?
Vhedza-You know I used to be mad at certain rappers, like why is he doing this or that now? At the end of the day, the industry does not belong to anybody, if u dont like what someone is doing then instead of moaning about it, get up and take their spot otherwise its pointless to wish someone in the business away. People will do their thing regardless so u must do yours.
HipHopLead- Favorite Food?
Vhedza-Sadza and madora. That’s an African delicacy you guys definetely need to get up on. In-fact I’m gonna open a couple of restaurants serving that all over the world. Watch this space.
HipHopLead- Favorite color?
HipHopLead- Any hidden talents we don’t know about?
Vhedza-I’m a writer with one manuscript completed so far.
I also plan to produce movies in the future. I’d like to produce the first big African crime epic. Kind of like the African version of “Scarface” or “Brooklyn’s Finest”. It will be very tasteful and insightful though not just about the drama and violence. It will be more about the story behind the drama and violence.
Back to the norm…
HipHopLead- We heard you have a video in the works, can you elaborate on that?
Vhedza-Yes, I’m getting ready shoot the video for the “Majestic” joint. That should be out in a couple of weeks.
HipHopLead- We look forward that and it was great chopping it up with you. Feel free to give any shouts outs or FU’s or to give the HHL viewers any links to check you out … the floor is yours!
Vhedza-Shout out to my father, mother (R.I.P.), my sister, brother, Uncle Gus, Hip Hop Unleashed Magazine and rap group Clientele, my fiancee and daughter. Respect to my Producers Rex Nhongo and The Future as well as everyone who featured on the album, my fans and all my friends.
I’d like everybody to check out my “Majestic” mixtape @ www.soundcloud.com/vhedza and to “like” my facebook page at www.facebook.com/vhedza
Watch out for the Majestic video when it drops, and my album called “Trained to Reign” coming out later this year. One!