Muzi’s Backstory by King ADZ
May 16th 1991 a boy was born in Entabeni Hospital, Durban, and he grew up in the eMpangeni Township. 22-years later he is music’s next best thing since sliced bread, as he has a natural talented for killer beats and the slickest rhymes, his sound is hip-hop mixed with house mixed with Kwaito mixed with some other level shit that I’m way to old to even understand; the proper and righteous sound of South Africa, the erstwhile ruler of the next generation.
He is a genius, a future global star of a genre of music that some lame music executive would try and pigeonhole as ‘urban’. And one fine day he’s checking SLAMxHYPE and he clocks the interview ‘Securing the Future’ with yours truly, and after reading it he figures that his manager needs to get in touch with me. And he does.
This is how South Africa now moves around me. And I’m thankful that it does – ideas and thoughts in motion. Anyway his manager comes through to my youth advertising book launch in a trendy coffee shop at Warm&Glad and we get on.
When he was thirteen Muzi started making tunes on his brother’s crappy old PC with 128meg of RAM, using software like EJay, Reason 1, or Cubase 1, which his brother’s friends had installed on the machine. Slowly he gravitated towards Fruity loops because ‘the interface was awesome, very user friendly,’ and he still uses it today.
Totally self-taught, what you’d call an autodidact, if you were all larney like. He would spend days sitting in his yard in eMpangeni, trying to make beats that sounded exactly as they did in his head. He knew what that shit should sound like. The trick was getting it into reality; making it manifest in the ether. ‘I’d make about 15-20 tunes a day.
My old friend Charles and I would compile weekly beat CDs and play them on my moms radio. We’d laugh at each other all the time because the beats were so whack. I then decided not to play them for anyone until I thought I was good enough.’
This made me think of how Isaac Mutant started out on their journey, and although there was a decade or so between, it seems like a lot of proper talent is rising up thanks to pirate software and cheap home-made PCs, which outside of South Africa may seem insignificant, but here this is a major platform from which talent jumps off. It’s also something that is illegal, but that just makes it better.
So, Muzi begun to really graft at making beats and tunes. He spent the next four years honing his craft; four years when he’d never play anyone his beats. Besides his best friend at the time, no-one heard anything. Nada. Nish. His hero is his mother. ‘Shout out to all the single parents out there,’ which should be a mantra in this country. I’m not saying that they don’t exist outside of South Africa, but here the moms are the ones who hold it down, don’t piss their Rands away in the shebeens, and always make sure their kids have tuition fees, clean clothes, food, and shelter. It’s the moms that work at five jobs all over the place and spend an inordinate amount of time in taxi’s schlepping from one middle-class suburb to another.
Muzi used to have a shitload of musical heroes when he was younger, but one after another they all started to let him down, like they do. ‘As soon as you really start being true to no one but yourself, you become an outlaw, I think. As you begin to think for yourself and not let books, parents, friends, and society, think for you – you’re cast out. You lose friends, silence becomes your best friend, and people think you’re weird, you don’t follow trends. However, you are also more likely to succeed.’
So Muzi records a track in 2007 that he knew was the one to break the silence, when the time came. It was called Back to School and Muzi ended up dropping it at a Hip-Hop show in a pub. He performed one track. ‘Must’ve been a crowd of like 50/60 people, all heavy Hip-hop heads. And we were the youngest people there. We performed the track and everyone went quiet, but that shit was banging. Either the track was so good that it caught them off guard or we were super whack.’ Whatever the reaction Muzi was stoked because he’d performed in public, and because deep down he had the upmost belief that his music was a gamer-changer, genre defining, once-in-a-blue-moon kinda happening, and people were never really going to understand what he was trying to achieve. ‘From early on so I didn’t care about the silence. I’m stubborn, so to me it was I’ll do this music thing till I find my crowd.’
Muzi grew up in the township, where kids either played basketball, netball, soccer, or stayed at home. Rolling through all of this was Muzi on a skateboard, at a time when no-one skated in the townships, and making an early form of the music he makes now in his room. He was an outcast from the get-go. Spin the dial forwards a decade and most kids in the township have skateboards, swag, trying hard to do their own thing, make their own music.
They’ve caught up. But Muzi has moved on.
By 2013 Muzi is living in Parkhurst in a cottage in the back garden of his manager, where he’s been set up with a studio, a roof, some money and a period of time to craft his music. He spent the last few year’s literally hustling beats on the streets of Durban, before catching the ear of manager John Maclennan. ‘He is a big Jax Panik fan, and I was Jax Panik’s manager. Muzi sent us some beats, Jax thought they were ok, but not great. I could hear a lot of musicality, and a kid who was taking a lot of chances musically, total lack of fear came across in his music.’ In the end it was Muzi’s attitude that told John that he was the one…I wander about the garden as Muzi pumps his sounds out of the tiny windows, and it’s a perfect paradox: middle-class suburbia, a neat lawn and a golf course not to far away, but the soundtrack is township battle-heavy beats with chopped and screwed lyrics running in and out of the aural landscape, tucking me up tucking me in.
Fuck the neighbours, this is the Ride of the Valkyries coming over the shrubbery; the ghetto piper at the gate of dawn sending out word that suburban Jozi has fallen.
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