Revivolution doesn’t need an introduction.
With street credibility, rap knowledge and the ability to cater to different musical audiences oozing in every body of work released, you should be very familiar with the collective by now.
If there could be a single moment that one could recall as the defining time that they discovered the crew it would, in some way, either be related to a cypher, a battle, or an MC on a major stage introducing a rap super group followed by the “Revivolution be the clique” call and the “The rest can eat a dick” response. Whichever experience, it’s most probably not wrong to assume that you’ve been hooked ever since.
It was early in January when we met with members Illy Amin and Mr Makonga to get more information on Revivolution and their views on a number of things as well as what to expect in the near future from Revivo.
For the while that I’ve been keeping up with Revivolution I’ve noticed their gradual shift from underground kings famous for their battles to getting more mainstream attention to where they are now – what they describe as being the link between the two spaces.
“When we got together, it was more like we were friends and decided to take it more seriously together. It’s not necessarily that we used to battle, it’s just that at some point most of us found ourselves there. We didn’t plan it or anything, it just happened”, Illy Amin explained. While many fall victim to trying to balance the two, Revivolution have been able to, not only keep their die hard fans’ attention and love with the witty lyrics and interesting wordplay but, also capture the attention of the catchy-hooked, bottle-popping mainstream with their own version of certain the styles. There’s no method to it; it’s organic. Illy Amin put it simply: “We don’t really think about that. We listen to the beat and whoever wants to rap on it does. So sometimes I won’t rap on a song but the next time I might. I think there’s only been one time where someone’s been forced into rapping on something they weren’t going to.”
“Never ask us if we’ll change”, Mr Makonga adds. “If you came to us when we started, we would be saying that we wouldn’t do some of the things that we’re doing right now.”
With being in a music industry that maintains rules and requires a lot that many aren’t willing to succumb to, there are the times when people fall short and lose their shot at their success. Revivolution believe that this is where they differ: despite not liking certain things within the industry that they’re in, they know what needs to be done and they aren’t letting something as easily avoidable as lack of knowledge jeopardize their success. Illy Amin elaborates on artists that allow their inexperience and weaknesses to impact their careers: “When Osmic calls people or announces that they’re having a discussion on the music business, people don’t go. They don’t follow procedures, they don’t submit, and then they complain.”
From their music to their videos and even to their merchandise, an important aspect of who Revivolution is, is delivering a full and original package. People love visuals. “It’s better if your visuals can match the music because then people can actually see what you’re trying to say and can understand what you’re about”, Mr Makonga explains after honorably mentioning Okmalumkoolkat and his ability to make a success off of not only having great music but also having eye-catching visuals to match it. “A lot of the big people have the same things in their videos: the cars, the girls, the clothes. It’s not that we’re not doing that – because we are – we’re just doing it in a different kind of way.”
Revivolution believe that they have acted as the catalyst for many new creative ideas to form and hope that they will continue to do so: “We’re now seeing kids in high school starting collectives. If they’re doing that now, imagine what they’ll be doing when they’re like us”, Makonga says. “Even with smaller kids. Young kids – 4 year olds – are now able to use iPads. Some people complain about it and see it as a bad thing but you can actually see it as a positive thing: what will they be able to do when they get older?”
“The Internet is mad important,” Illy notes when we asked about the use of the Internet in an artist in 2016’s career “Now they’ve made it that in Braam you get 100mb a day but that’s not really enough”. Internet successes and literal overnight superstars have become a reality within the past couple of years. An abundance of online followers that interact with you on the regular, the right timing and something as small as a single retweet could be the beginning of a life-long career in the rap business.
But as much as we see South African artists becoming much more visible online, we aren’t where we should be. As much as radio play can determine who the hottest are, it’s very limiting. You’re only exposed to a small part of the music industry and artists, whereas with the endless possibilities that come with streaming, you have an ocean full of artists and their music. Access to streaming and paying more attention to the online sphere rather than radio has been a wish that has been coming into fruition recently.
“We’ve been performing Rimshot for 2 years now but it’s only been getting a lot of attention recently”, explains Makonga. “People are behind. They don’t know what’s happening because they rely on the radio and TV as a source of information and our radio and TV are behind. In the US don’t listen to the radio. Some of them said they only listened to the radio when they came here. Even if you look at Vez: Vez is always on Soundcloud and Audiomack just streaming and listening to music and that’s how he stays on with that dope stuff.”
From bad managers, being forced into freestyles, and witnessing how much of a gamble the rap industry really is, Illy Amin and Mr Makonga recollect experiences involving respected rappers in unfortunate life positions and forced freestyles on New Years Eve to come to a realization: A, they want to enjoy the rap journey and B, they want to make money from it. “I don’t want to be in a position where I’m asking people for money. We need to make money from this. I can’t not make money.” Illy Amin explains.
“We were friends before any of this. So if this doesn’t work out we’ll be laughing about it together.”
This year, look out for new solo releases from most Revivolution members, a couple of music videos and most importantly what’s been referred to, so far, as “the Revivo tape.”
Follow Revivolution on Twitter to keep up with the crew @Revivolution365