“There’s a whole family involved” was the immediate response that I got when I first asked for this interview. If this doesn’t put the whole group and what they embody into context, then I don’t know what will.
It’s one thing to have a joint vision with a group of people for something big – possibly even bigger than what you initially thought; but it’s another thing to have a team of people all equipped with the right skills in more fields than one to actually attain that vision.
Meet Khaptive Fam, a collective straight out of Joburg consisting of Buda, Puni, Sigh Koolese, Slykk, Slay, Nino, Toon and Definite. I met up with members Slykk, Puni, Sigh Koolese and Buda in the somewhat deserted December streets of Braamfontein, just a few days ahead of their New Years Eve performance at Ko’Spotong, to discuss what the crew has been up to, as well as to get a deeper understanding of what they’re bringing to the Joburg rap scene and even South Africa’s rap scene at large. With a crew rolling eight deep with rappers, producers, engineers, photographers, and visual artists, it’s no surprise that the quality of the work is nothing subpar.
As the first interview of 2016, I saw it as extremely important to feature a collective. It’s being proven that, not just as hip-hop develops but as music on a whole develops, it’s slowly becoming more and more necessary to have a solid crew of creatives behind whatever you’re pushing. More now than in the past, creative collectives are becoming louder and it’s exciting to watch. It’s now no longer enough to just have a group of MCs – regardless of how dope they may be. You need the visuals. You need the social media presence. And you need to get yourself out there through multiple mediums and beyond the wild beats and ill bars. But when the desired execution fails, this is the exact reason for some groups’ downfall: the inability to cope with the difficulties in managing the creativity that each member would like to get out.
Since the group’s inception in 2008, there’s been much development in both the structure of the group and what they’re delivering to their audience as well, focusing on pushing their visual work, equally as much as much as the music. “We thought: ‘Let’s expand more’”, says Buda with his fellow group members on his left, all reminiscent of something out of a superhero comic book with their dope skills and modest mannerisms. “Get more creatives in the crew. So we got like 7 more people. We even had females at some point. We were a real fam”, Puni explains to us with an unmissable sense of pride. “But due to differences, we lost a couple of members so now it’s the 8 of us.”
With having so many creative inputs in bodies of work ideas may conflict, egos may take over, people may leave and the work may be compromised. Khaptive Fam isn’t succumbing to this kind of pressure. Puni put it simply: “We don’t try to compete; we just work.”
“If we do a track and his verse is dope, it just ups my game. I’m like ‘He came through, so now I’ve got to come through.’”
“At some point everyone rapped, but then along the way some people saw that they had more strength managing, some had more strength with this and that”, explains Buda with a quick follow-up from Slykk: “But the skills all work together. Some people are doing courses that have to do with music and some of us are doing things outside of music like graphic design, for posters for the camp and things like that.”
Somewhere in between the many questions, intricate answers, and interesting conversations, the guys even managed to squeeze in a few freestyles, delivering subject matter ranging from relationships, to success and difficulties within society, completely stripped of the clichéd story-telling and generic flows that are overflowing some of our music collections. A presence so captivating that each line resonates deeply within the listener. “Most of the time, when we make music, we tend to be in a state – in a different state of mind, you know what I mean? We might be chilling like ‘Yo bruh, I have this idea. There’s something ringing in my head and just start playing on the keys and then we just build on it and a track comes through. You can’t put us in a box. The stuff from Too Ugly To Be Cool sounds commercial, but that’s not the sound we’re pushing. We do everything. We love hip-hop as a whole, and we don’t think that there’s one lane in hip hop.”
“We’re young so people tend to not take us seriously because of our age – not because of what we can do, because we’re dope. Not to sound arrogant or anything. We make dope music but they’re blinded by our age.”
Johannesburg, notorious for its hope-filled streets and buzzing entertainment industry, is a difficult city to survive in and make a career in as a young dream-chaser, despite what your TV may say. Add the many hustling talents to the pot and the chances of blowing become slimmer. This doesn’t seem to slow the collective down, if anything it adds to their drive. “[Joburg] has a lot of newcomers which is a dope thing; the more the better. People want hip-hop to be exclusive, which is stupid. It shouldn’t be exclusive. If you want to rap: rap. As a collective we’re just trying to make music that people can vibe to. Personally, I think music is a selfish thing.” Buda points out with a strong sense of honesty. “I think you don’t make music for people, you make music for yourself. But in that way it tends to touch people and they tend to vibe with it.” But why wouldn’t people gravitate towards it? There’s something about the genuine creation of something without the intention of grabbing peoples’ attention that in fact grabs their attention. Many people haven’t gotten this yet; Khaptive Fam has and this is where they differ in an industry flooded with repetitive sounds, and artists subduing their creativity in hopes of acceptance.
While many upcoming artists put almost all of their energy into pleasing the gatekeepers and conforming to a couple of stiff industry standards, this group doesn’t give in to the pressure in hopes of changing the system. How they’re planning on doing this comes in their encouragement of zero conformity. “By showing up to interviews without wearing a suit”, they explain. “By going to a wedding in flip flops – small things. Then, gradually do it through the music. I feel like you don’t need to dress up for anything. If I’m going for an interview, our look should not matter – my skills should. My intelligence or whatever I bring to the table – not how I dress.”
“In 2016, we’re trying to do an unplugged session. We just need to get some live instruments; shoot that; get it out visually. We might drop it on Soundcloud as well – make it a whole project.”
This year, look out for some releases from Khaptive Fam members. As Sigh Koolese says it, “[We’ve] been working so hard. We make good music.” Although a simple statement, very true in all senses of the word ‘good’ – good in quality (to say the least), good in the positive messages, and good in taste. “We’re an empire. We’re captivated in this music”, says Puni.
Follow the crew on Twitter for updates on new projects – both audio and visual – and stream Mr. Social and The Introvert aka Buda and Puni’s 5-track EP Too Ugly To Be Cool below. Also go stream Puni’s Fuck Shit Up and Leave on the Khaptive Fam Soundcloud.
Have a kickass 2016, and keep checking out The Influence’s work this year.