For a veteran to South African rap music, Proverb is quite the low-key dude. Quite recently I met Proverb at his The Read Tape launch in Cape Town. He gave an amazing performance emphasizing in every song the importance of true lyricism and respect to the art of rap, with it ending in him inviting all of rappers in the room to the stage for a cypher with the king himself.
“That’s the Hip Hop that we came up on. You know what I’m saying? Where it didn’t matter who the act was – everyone who was an emcee was gonna get on!” accompanied by 10 minutes of raps from anyone who had it in them including Uno July and Camo, who are among the spitters holding it down for the Mother City at the moment, grabbing the mic for a little bit and causing havoc in the crowd. Earlier that day, we talked for a little bit and when I reminded the vet of the interview we had in Maboneng a while ago that got taken down, he got quite excited and he asked me to upload it again. SO, here it is. Proverb is one of the only rappers that’s on almost everyone’s top 10 list and it’s dope that he’s STILL at it…
PROVERB. Cool to meet you. We’ll be quick, so let’s get right into it with the basic: what is Hip Hop to you?
“Hip Hop to me is a lifestyle. It’s a medium of expression, it’s a mirror image of who you are as a person, it’s a platform that allows you interchange and exchange with fellow hip-hop headz.”
We’re nearing 30 years of the Hip Hop culture in South Africa, which is nuts. Often people have the wrong idea about what Hip Hop really is and either enter different aspects of the culture for the wrong reasons or formulate incorrect opinions on Hip Hop as a whole – not just the music. What misconceptions have you noticed?
“Well, as far as misconceptions go; everyone draws their own. There isn’t a standard. Back in the day, it used to be that hip-hop was all about vulgarity and abuse and derogatory language. But nowadays, things have evolved so much that everyone is kind of drawing their own conceptions or misconceptions and its not necessarily up to us, the creatives, to try and change those but I think the onus is on everyone to draw their own learnings and do their own research about Hip Hop.”
You’ve been in the game for quite long now – 10 years deep this year. It seems that there was a period when people weren’t really buying music (globally) which then also affected the music we were getting. Since then, things have improved with so many platforms such as iTunes that allow people to buy music online. From your point of view though, what are your comments on the buying and selling of rap?
“Look. I think as hip-hop headz ourselves; we need to find more creative ways of making our material more available. I think the traditional way of trying to sell CDs out of stores is a redundant system that’s no longer working for anybody so now we need make better use of the digital space, the online space and the online platforms that we have.”