Vol.21 No.24

Monday 16 February 2004    

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Arts/Culture Review
Hip-hop Finds 'Meaning Of Life'

Morongwa Phala
Staff Writer

2/15/2004 11:23:25 PM (GMT +2)

Johannesburg, South Africa based Motswana rapper, Monametsi Nkhukhu, soon to be known as Apollo Diablo, will make a debut with his album 'Meaning of Life'. The twenty-year-old HipHop musician told ShowTime that he is about to release his album in Botswana, which has already been released in South Africa.


Apollo Diablo sounds a strange combination for a stage name, but then it is like that with stage names everywhere? Nkhukhu is however not concerned with the significance of what is in a name. The ambitious and talented muso just rebuffs and says that a name is just a name.

A name with a meaning is quiet something else, which is why anyone would immediately think of Apollo 13 or any of the Apollo crafts that have been sent 'out there' on space missions as an attempt to explain the combination.

Apollo, according to the up and coming artist, is taken from Greek mythology. Apollo was the 'Greek god of the Sun' known for his looks, creativity, and support of all the arts of civilisation. Diablo, however, is a Spanish word for the 'devil'. Like the devil on a mission of vile deeds he is never stopped. Combining the two, one could make a deduction that this upcoming artist likens himself to an unstoppable force that strives to achieve its purpose through his creativity.

He set out last year in the month of July in search of a recording deal. In the same month Sinewave Production and Management Company signed him in, and he started recording. Of late his singles are enjoying airplay on Metro fm and Yfm.

"It was a real tough road to record this album. I went through things I never thought I would experience," he says.

Though he was always exposed to hip-hop music, Apollo first appreciated the culture in 1992 when he had a taste of the American rapper Dr Dre's Chronic album that swept the billboard charts in 1992. In 1995 he formed a group of a bunch of eleven-year-olds called Fifth Generation in Jwaneng who aspired to bring a new standard of hip-hop music in Botswana.

Fifth Generation, is still around, its members include Phoenix (Karabo Kerobale), Nitro (Lets Galeeme), EQ (Khumo Magetse), the explosive vernacular lyricist Orakle (Kabo Lokwalo), and Apollo himself. Already they have a following in Jwaneng.

"We referred to them as 'The Uncanny' meaning that we are all into the weird, supernatural, super-fly, and unnatural," he explains.

Apollo is the second member of the group to release a solo album following the release of the album Sex by Orakle last year.

"We are trying to maintain cultural reverence through breaking stereotypes with people who think we are trying to be American. We are selling hip-hop to normal people relating issues that speak to them," he said.

Though he has rhymed since the age of nine, and played with a group since the age of eleven, he believes Botswana, possibly, has a good future in hip-hop.

"I am proud of the rappers before me, such as Cashless Society, Third Mind, Scar, Stagga, Mr T, Wizards of the Desert, and Orakle," he said.

Of late, many young Botswana hip-hop artists shuttle between South Africa and Botswana to land major record deals.

"The South African market has a lot to benefit from Botswana hip hop artists. In exchange Batswana artists in this genre get exposed to a larger audience in South Africa. Such audience motivates them while they also get to perform and work with other experienced artists. To be frank South Africa is the port. It is a terminal for international artists and that in itself holds a lot of opportunities for these artists," he explained.

Apollo says that though he has found better offers in South Africa he could never turn his back on Batswana and cut himself off from his roots.

Talking about the album, "I am trying to define myself and the purpose of my being. In doing this I also hope to inspire other people that they are really worthy of what they aspire to do. Up to now I have done some things that I never thought I could ever do," he said.

Apollo has so far been on air with Metro FM's Penny Lebyane, Zack, and Rudeboy Paul. He has shared stage with American groups, Dead Prez, Blackalicious, Botswana's Cashless Society, and South Africa's Mizchif, H2O, Kabelo, and Mzekezeke. His first major performance was at the original Kilimanjaro in South Africa. His first live performance was at the 2002 Sprite Show in Botswana.

While he is planning to launch his album here he says that he is seeking a local Manager. Though Botswana started out as a main attraction for the likes of Hip-Hop Pantsula to build a genre of hip-hop, in the Southern African region it seems the dynamics have changed. Though most of hip-hop in the region is junk that cannot be recycled, it still has found a rapidly increasing following in Botswana and South Africa where kwaito was predominant. The fact that more and more young people appreciate the music can no longer be ignored.

"Skwatta Camp was able to sell 25 000 copies in just one week. That makes it clear that there is a big buying clientele in South Africa, which is every artists' dream," he said.

"Any artist would see the logic of moving to South Africa because South Africa presents a bigger market. Botswana is only reliable when it comes to live shows, because an artist is always guaranteed to have a performance at most shows they are billed to play. Music is business and therefore musicians will go to where they have a market. This is money. This is demographics. When artists such as Skizo break records in South Africa they do not trade their nationality just because of those advantages. I too stay a proud Motswana, but I would go after a major record deal," he says.

Since labels such as Gallo and EMI show interest, artists like Cashless Society have been signed by BMG, so more of them are going where these major labels can sign them. He added that the problem in Botswana is that promoters do not pay their local artists well.

"Payments can arrive two months later. What we need is a more professional system to counteract this," he states.

His album is set in an African original undertone and is presented part in English and Setswana rhymes he says.

He now already started recording a video with Counterattack, the same company that recorded videos for Vee's 'Ola Kasi', and Mr T's 'Balabala'.

He says that his 18-track album is an offering of strong themes.

Though explicit lyrics are a given with hip-hop music, Apollo says that profanity is usually used when someone lacks creativity or they are reflecting a lifestyle. He refers to the f-word.

He praised traditional musicians for what they do for music in the country and added that youth should educate themselves seriously. He also said he greatly encourages HIV/AIDS testing so that people know their status in life and plan for it.

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