Rapper gives reason to 'flashy' SA hip-hop
“Yes it gets flashy, shiny, disrespectful, a little too excited and irresponsible but it is a reflection of who we are as artists – in positions where we are young and for most of us, money is coming in fast, the glamour and popularity is coming in fast and our personalities also come out a bit more because we can afford to do anything,” Sizwe “Reason” Moeketsi says.
But Reason, who was born in Tembisa and raised in Katlehong, feels that there are benefits to hip-hop becoming more commercially successful.
“Corporates are starting to need hip-hop. Recently I was doing a gig for a petroleum company who was giving out bursaries and they needed a rapper to perform. Getting a rapping gig for a petroleum company 20 years ago? Talking to science and maths students and relating to them as a rapper? You would have never imagined that. Now they are interested because that is what the kids are listening and relating to. I am not the cleanest and most censored rapper but I’d like to think that I am responsible.”
And now that some of those commercial dreams have come true, 25-year-old Reason’s life has changed. For the better, he says.
Reason, who has been on a seven-year long musical journey, worked as an art director at the Jupiter Drawing Room while taking part in rap battles on the side, He decided to venture into the music industry full time following retrenchments at the company.
He attributes learning valuable skills from the underground, rap-battle scene – useful enough to be applied to a career in commercial music. “You learn to think fast, rhyme fast, make sense of things – you learn to change the situation. I started applying that so when I get called to feature on a song and studio time is limited, my writing is a little faster.
“Battling can be addictive, going against people and challenging them. It is like boxing I think. And it can be fun as well. But there is always a better guy, a younger guy.”
Rise of Reason
Reason’s star began to rise last year with Walk On Water, his song on the soundtrack of the award-winning South African film Otelo Burning.
Then came his first radio hit Do It Like I Can, which reached number one on various radio stations including Metro FM, 5FM and Ukhosi FM music charts and eventually topping the South African Radio Audience Measurement Survey's local radio airplay charts.
This year, his success has continued with Reason being nominated for two categories at the South African Music Awards (Sama): Male Artist of the Year and Best Rap Album. His song, A Lot On My Mind, followed in the footsteps of his first single and reached the number one spot on 5FM’s charts. The track was produced by Sama award-winning producer Mpho Pholo, better known as 37MPH, who also wrote the haunting hook, sung by Lebo Mochudi (former lead singer of Voodoo Child).
37MPH "sent the song with just the instrumental and him singing that part – it was a last minute beat, the album was already done. But that was his message – as a producer – that was where he was at, and as an artist that’s where I was at,” he says.
'I’m not as reckless'
When asked about being on the receiving end of fame and commercial success, Reason states: “I think the fact that a lot more people recognise you and a lot more people know who you are puts you in a place where you behave. I’m not as reckless as I use to be.”
Explaining his moniker, Reason confidently says: “I believe that music is my purpose and I live by the statement that everything happens for a reason, and that for me represents a purpose. That my purpose in life is to make music. That is why I decided on Reason."