EMPANGENI “lookin’ in” got the world “watchin’ out!”
“Discipline, critical thinking, work ethics, perseverance and that dreams are meant to be reached. Most importantly in my darkest hour, Hip Hop saved my life… I should also mention that most of my most trusted friends today, I met them through Hip Hop…”
Once again LIFE CHECK is proud to introduce you to another foundation scene in the structure of K-ZN and SA Hip Hop. Yet again there can be no denying the importance of the independent hustlers that maintain their commitment to real Hip Hop culture and the forward movement of SA Hip Hop talent. These are the real soldiers, the true leaders, the least noticed in the mainstream but the most apparent in the underground. While the fakers are made to fade away, these are the individuals who keep us free from the front by strengthening the spine, keeping the backbone solid so the bounce stays on point. Meet MTM and the EMP army…
- First up, who we talking to here? Introduce yourself to our readers if you please? Name, age, area, position in life etc.etc.
Tem – Wah a.k.a “MTM”, Malawian born 32 year old, from Empangeni KZN South Africa, “The God Father of EMP Rap”. I hold a normal 9to5 that basically finances our hustle with regard to getting out there. I am currently studying for a Phd in Economics which I have taught at university level for about seven years. I also produce/rap but I think my most noted purpose in EMP Hip Hop is to keep the wheel turning in the best way I know how…..
- Cats in Hip Hop, we always talk about “representing”, like repping an area or repping a scene. What does representing mean to you and how do you represent?
Representing for me has always been being a reflection of ones environment and basically staying true to who you are with no apologies. With regard to my area I have always had the hunger of taking EMP music beyond our borders. Some people might represent when they scream their area codes when they rap. For me repping means doing the dirty work i.e. Liquid KZN would call me and say they need studio time and I would simply make time for them to come through, record and mix their tracks at no charge. For now I am also running the www.empmusik.co.za website which was initially set up with the sole purpose of presenting EMP material and artists, because before we would produce Mixtapes but distribution beyond KZN was a challenge. Now Cats can visit the site and access some of our Mixtapes and promo materials. However, the site also covers other cutting edge artists, other than EMP acts.
- Give us some insight into the scene on the North coast? What other scenes are close enough to be connected to yours?
I think the Hip Hop seed was planted way back in ‘93 by the Mad House Crew, consisting of myself, the now Liquid KZN and a dozen other rappers. Some members have passed, some fell off and some are still in the struggle. From this set up a dozen other crews mushroomed, cats use to come to my crib to record. It was crazy. Sometimes I used to have 20 cats cramped in my back room, everybody “wanted to rap”. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never been the leader or the most prominent head from EMP, I just created the atmosphere where the cats could do their thing. As time went by new crews emerged from Esikhawini, Ngwelezana and Mtubatuba and Nseleni (the surrounding townships) and there was a whole lot of other cats that sprung out from 2003 onwards. Forward to 2009 I am proud to mention that EMP has artists that can hold their own. Presently, in my opinion, cats to look out for include Rez Proph (from Richards bay Empangeni), Hobonoid (from Esikhawini), Dila Phunk (ESK), Chyld (ESK), Poverty (ESK), Influence (ESK), Spoonology (former Liquid KZN member from Ngwelezane), Avelanche a.k.a Mthakathi (from Mtubatuba), my boy Robotron, and last but not least my boys Liquid KZN who hail from Esikhawini and Ngwelezane townships. However, I should also mention that not only does the EMP scene have some of the most talented emcees in the country but we also have cats that can hold their own on the boards. The latest production that am feeling right now in EMP apart from myself is Hobonoids, Robotron and Aligatah MC who has always been that artist that stands out for me, and by far the greatest hustler from EMP. I should also mention Mo the bass player from Durban group T.H.O.T.S also hails from Empangeni. In 2004 I got everybody together and we dropped the Prototype Mixtape Volume 1, which should give one an idea of the caliber of some of the emcees mentioned above.
[The tape is available for free from www.empmusik.co.za]
- I notice in your work you maintain a strong focus on the ethics of real Hip Hop culture, of respecting Hip Hop history? Why do you feel this is important?
Our strong focus on the culture is not by accident. That is what we grew up on, fed on and that is what fuels us ahead. Musically my encounter with Hip Hop came in 1991 and the first beat I ever recorded on was a loop from Public Enemy. To me those cats spoke to us and not MTV. Somehow they made me think differently about issues, most importantly they made me realise that Hip Hop is not just music but a way of life. One group that put all the pieces together for me was The Prophets of the City. These cats basically taught me all the elements of Hip Hop through their music, because they lived Hip Hop. Respecting Hip Hop history and focusing on the elements lays down the foundation on top of which everything we do is built on from a creative point of view. I don’t see me aligning myself to works or elements that would compromise the culture coz that would be laughable, like a lot of material out there today. I guess it boils down to one question: “why am I doing this?”
- How did you become involved in Hip Hop?
I think the time I heard POC chant “no justice no peace” and Chuck D, Flava Flav and Terminator X [Public Enemy] doing their thing, I felt like I also had a lot to say. Although I had heard the likes of Ice Cube, True Life Crew, NWA, Tribe Called Quest and De la Soul, it was the energy of Chuck D and passion of Shaheen (Prophets of the City) that got me to start doing something. The first beat that I ever wrote on was a Public Enemy loop. I made my friend listen to it on the school bus and this kid thought I was fire. That was the beginning of EMP. I later hooked up with Aligatah MC of Liquid KZN and we built on that.
- How would you describe Hip Hops influence on your life this far?
Discipline, critical thinking, work ethics, perseverance and that dreams are meant to be reached. Most importantly in my darkest hour, Hip Hop saved my life, coz I would flood myself with material, write verses or make beats. I should also mention that most of my most trusted friends today, I met them through Hip Hop. Hip Hop also taught me that some humans can’t be trusted, coz cats that I used to record once broke into the room we use to record in and wiped me out of equipment. That’s when I had to refocus my energies on cats that meant business.
- Again, us cats like to talk about a movement when it comes to the culture, what do you think this movement is?
I think anybody that is part of the culture is out there to show case their art, be it graffiti, emceeing, b-boying or turntablism. The culture has sustained itself for a long time through the support of its stake holders, most importantly because of a common cause. To me this movement that is made up of the various elements simply means pushing this collective art by introducing it, presenting it and expanding it to anybody that cares to receive it. However, for the growth and sustainability of the movement, we all can’t be emcees, DJs or graffiti artists. I feel each person in Hip Hop is equally important, the fan or the supporter is equally as important as the emcee coz neither would exist without the other.
- Aight, enough with the politics! Let’s get personal. What are you listening to right now?
Right now am listening to the new Liquid KZN – Aqua Flow Agenda, Zakwe- The Red Tape, K’naan – The messenger Mixtape, EPMD- We mean Bizness, Illuminating Shadows- Psycles, Camp Lo -Uptown Saturday Night, Estelle, Bunny Wailer, Some tracks from Maliq, Zenith – Music from the Colour Purple, and the Rezolution Mixtape by Rez Proph. I am also banging some tracks from Black September, my upcoming project. I have some of this music in my office that I bang when I am at work, some works I bang them when I am commuting and the rest by the crib. All these have been in rotation for about a month or two.
- When you think of a good MC, who comes to mind? What makes him/her good in your opinion? This is a question about what generally for you makes one MC better then another?
For me it’s difficult to choose one particular emcee coz most tend to restrict themselves to certain themes or subject matter. One emcee I honestly envy is Canibus coz of his hunger and sharpness, Rakim coz he introduced the sense into rhyming and is still relevant to date, Eminem coz he is entertaining and captures almost anybody, Christopher Wallace [The Notorius BIG] coz of the crazy rhyme patterns and the laid back swag, Mode 9 coz of the hunger and hustle and vicious delivery, and last but not least Shaheen, coz throughout his political activist rhymes, he never forgot to remind his listeners of staying true to the art. His Afrikaans accent and delivery captured me the first time I heard him and the content kept me repeating them tracks.
- The SA scene is strengthened by the independent moves made by cats like you, putting your scene out there off your own steam without the financial support or infrastructure of any major players, just for the love I guess? Where does this love come from?
I guess the love comes from when I throw in a Liquid KZN CD, a Black Moss CD, Ewok CD, Flexx Boggie CD, or when I see groups like Sake of Skill perform, the goose bumps I get when Rez Proph laces his verse on a new joint…the Hip Hop scene in SA right now is a beautiful thing, there is so much hungry talent out there that needs to get out and I guess EMP is just contributing its part to the bigger scheme of things. My disappointment in some acts out here is also a source of motivation and fuel for me personally coz it makes me believe that Hip Hop needs us. I also just feel EMP has so much to offer and if we don’t build that platform ourselves nobody will. For the first ten years of pushing our music we have hit the wall a thousand times, until it dawned on us that we had to do it ourselves and push ten times harder. Giving up has never been an option. Like my man Ali says “We’re too lazy to give up”.
- Any shout outs and last words?
Shout outs to my step daughter and my girl, shout outs to my unborn (u heard it first from here), shout outs to Rez Proph (the Rezolution is coming), shout outs to Liquid KZN (the water has broken), shout outs to Azanian Uhuru (lets finish your projects), word to Hobonoid, Ehikmos, Dyrekta, Esikhawini, Ngweside, Mtubatuba, Nseleni wonke amalokshini emzanzi I see u, to my boyz in Malawi the time is now!!! Last but not least thanks to Nyambz for the beats, we appreciate it!!
To Life Check and Ewok, thanks for your endless support, very few do what you do………………. we see you…!!!