The Masterclass with Rashid Kay

Early 2000s were my high school years and hip hop was very much a part of those years.

We had a teacher there, Mr Potgieter, a misanthrope, racist and homophobe.

Jannie, a young “feminine” Afrikaans boy, would now and again suffer his insults, he called him “Jannie my sister”.

He also enjoyed sharing anecdotes about his time as a teacher in the Transvaal, these bitter tales were designed to impose feelings of self-hatred to young black boys in a former model-c school, who although in the majority, were still not welcome.

He spoke of Thokoza where he had been a teacher in the late 80s to early 90s. The barbaric violence of our people in Thokoza.

He would say, “we (white people) build schools for you and you (black people) burn them down, talk about how we shoot and kill each other then turn around to blame it on the government”. He made sure we knew our place in the white world.

Mduduzi Khumalo known to the masses as Rashid Kay is an activist from this God-forsaken ghetto, famous for its political violence in the 90s. Thokoza then was a PR nightmare, not anymore.

In a song called Somalia, rapper K’naan talks about how amazing it is for one to come out of such a dire situation, learn the English language just to share their observation through Hip Hop.

The song could well have been written about Rashid. Resilient. Social justice a recurring theme in his work. He will stop at nothing, constantly on the grind.

Three albums, a radio show, a podcast, former editor at I Speak Hip Hop magazine, social media Q and A’s for young hopefuls wanting to get in the game, inclusive Sunday Hip Hop sessions (check out the LGBTQI take over 22/08/2021), strategist at South African Hip Hop Awards and Back To The City Hip Hop Festival. Rashid is Hip Hop.

Zululand Press (ZP): Greetings Mduduzi. How are you? Why Rashid? Are you a Common fan? Islam?

RASHID KAY: My birth names are Mduduzi Rashid Khumalo. Kay is from my surname. I grew up in the Nation of Islam.

ZP: Please give us a little background on who you are, what you do? Was everything planned or it happened by accident?

RASHID KAY: I was born and raised in Thokoza, and got introduced to Hip Hop at an early age. I planned my life and career around Hip Hop, nothing was accidental.

ZP: Tell us about Thokoza then and now? The East Rand Hip Hop scene when you were coming up, what happened to Hidden Force? Has anyone made an impact bigger than theirs as far as Thokoza is concerned?

RASHID KAY: Thokoza was a Mecca of underground Hip Hop when I was growing up; House parties, Hip Hop sessions, basketball and cyphers. I don’t know how it is now, I don’t post around the streets no more. Hidden Force dropped one album and broke up, Supremo passed away but the rest are still around. It will take a lot for anyone from anywhere to have a bigger impact than them.

ZP: Off ramp a little, do you think someone other than Oskido would have made a better host to a Hip Hop show? Nota maybe and who voted Nota the Hip Hop authority? Do you respect his position?

RASHID KAY: Every radio station has a Hip Hop show. Oskido started this shit in 1997 to give rappers a platform when Kwaito was running shit. Nota can call himself whatever he likes, Cassper calls himself Mufasa, Arthur named himself King of Kwaito. It’s cool, as long as they believe it.

ZP: Do you think there is a chance for print magazines to resurface and have the cultural influence of Ymag, Hype?

RASHID KAY: The print magazines are dead. You can’t sell me a story that happened 2 months ago when I have social media.

ZP: There are rumours of people buying awards, is that the case with SAHHA’s?

RASHID KAY: No one has ever bought a SAHHA. It’s 60% judges and 40% public. The judges have the final say.

ZP: Does proximity to authority have a role in who wins what?

RASHID KAY: There’s submissions, vetting, voting and judging, and independent audit. That’s how one gets to win an award.

ZP: Are cats making money from Hip Hop? As a man who wears so many hats what would you advise youngins to do in order to make sustainable bread from this? Connections? Sleep with decision makers? Work hard and hope for the best?

RASHID KAY: Even Jay-Z and Kanye West didn’t make their billions from Rap. Do you think there’s money in SA Rap? Hell no! You gotta fucks with endorsements and have multiple streams of income.

ZP: What is happening at Afro Bru?

RASHID KAY: The Master Class Hip Hop Sundays, a weekly platform for up and coming rappers and DJ’s.

ZP: Podcasts are a big thing right now, tell us about yours. Are you getting the desired numbers? Are you getting back what you are putting in? Revenue? Are they a real alternative to the traditional way of doing things?

RASHID KAY: OG Samke and I drop episodes of The Master Class Podcast every Friday. We are getting more than we expected. We are just having fun doing what we love. Podcasts are the future and will take over traditional media.

ZP: What happened to Fede Fokol (documentary)? What was it about and why did it not make the impact many scholars of the culture thought it would? Did you end up getting an interview with Stogie T, Tumi then?

RASHID KAY: That was a commissioned documentary that I worked on. It will be available at South African Hip Hop Museum. Nah, Tumi never made it to the documentary.

ZP: What is the future for Back To The City? With everything happening right now (lockdowns)?

RASHID KAY: Whatever the future of the country is. Lockdowns affected everything and everyone.

ZP: What is your take on the ‘open up the industry’, conversation?

RASHID KAY: Nobody owes anybody anything. Bobby Motaung said Kaizer Chiefs is a family business. How do you tell Kaizer Motaung or The Fergusons to “open up the industry”? Every hustler for himself. People must start creating empires for their kids, to avoid handouts and exploitation.

ZP: Is streaming working for anyone? Any cheat codes on how to get those streams?

RASHID KAY: Streaming works for labels, and not for artists. Big record labels can afford to have a room with 1000 cell phone devices and WiFi to stream songs on repeat for the whole month to cheat the numbers.

ZP: What is the highest you have taken in payola? For those looking to go legit, how do you get your music to be played on radio?

RASHID KAY: I’m not a compiler, and have no authority to playlist music. Not everyone is in a position to take payola. You submit your song to radio compilers for playlists. There are radio pluggers you can pay to submit for you.

ZP: What is the role of Back To The City? What is the future of BTTC?

RASHID KAY: Back To The City is the SA version of Woodstock or Coachella. BTTC will keep the culture alive like it always did.

ZP: Longevity. Do you see yourself sticking around for long and how do you plan to stay ‘relevant’?

RASHID KAY: It’s not about me being relevant, but the relevance in what I do.

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