For some, Hip Hop in South Africa is just a genre with no meaning yet played when needed. However, for others it is more than that, it is a movement that is progressing every day, which is why the world is taking note of it.
Content Creator and Photographer, Sabelo Mkhabela is one individual who has taken the mandate of ensuring that each aspect of the genre is respected and well maintained because generations to come must understand how the seed was planted and blossomed into a great phenomenon.
You have quite the resume! From taking photos of famous hip hop stars e.g.: Stogie T, Rouge, Nasty C and many other prolific artists. To being one of the contributors to one of South Africa’s most informative shows, “Yo! MTV Raps”, who or rather what inspired you to pursue the career you are currently in?
“Thank you! I would say my love for hip-hop and just how much it fascinated me from a young age. I used to read Hype, The Source, XXL etc.
I guess I wanted to be one of those who document hip-hop, especially in SA where I feel like there aren’t enough people doing it (especially back in the day). When I started, I was inspired by everyone who was writing or documenting in any form with passion. The passion aspect is very important to me because any writer can interview Nasty C or Rouge, but it’s the passion with which you write the story that makes it a worthy read. At least to me,” he says.
In your line of work, you focus quite a lot on the hip hop culture in South Africa and speak quite a lot about it. Do you feel that the culture as whole is heading towards the right direction or do you feel there hasn’t been progressive change from how it started?
“Certainly there has been progress, however, I’m not very good at predicting where things are headed really because things can change anytime. Personally, I’m really excited by what the young generation is doing, so artists like Nasty C, A-Reece, J Molley, YoungstaCPT and many others excite me a lot—from how they approach their craft to how they do their business,” he explains.
Do you feel that you have made a contribution towards the Hip hop culture or there is still more that you would like to do?
“Tough question to answer. I think that can be answered by someone else who’s been observing. I don’t really look at what I’m doing as ‘a contribution towards hip-hop’ per say, I don’t like overstating my importance. To answer the second part of your question: Ofcourse there’s still a lot I want to do, I want money.”
With the rise of women slowly dominating the hip hop scene, there seems to still be resistance from people to take on women in rap seriously. What do you feel is the problem and is there a way to resolve it?
“The problem is how women are treated in society. The solution would be fixing that, which will take a very long time if it ever happens. I don’t have the answer to how that can be done, but it’s not only a hip-hop problem, it’s a societal one, ” he shares.
What was it that made you fall in love with the hip hop culture?
“Not sure but I just love hip-hop. I’ve never really asked myself why and I doubt I ever will. But I really love hip-hop because it’s unfiltered and unbounded. Hip-hop always makes nothing out of something.”
You often see plenty of artists perform, in your opinion what have artist improved on musically and what should they also work harder on improving?
“I think a lot of artists make the mistake of thinking performing with a full band makes your stuff sound better. Usually makes it sound really bad. If it was up to me, only a few hip-hop artists would perform with bands, especially one that has a drummer, those drums really take away the grit that is the soul of hip-hop in my opinion, ” Sabelo says.
With such a busy lifestyle, what do you do to relax?
“Watch series and sleep.”
What hobbies do you enjoy apart from photography and writing?
“I like visiting my family in Swaziland and forgetting about everything. That’s my favourite thing to do.”
Please could you name your top 5 best rappers in SA (male or female).
“Stogie T, Nasty C, Kanyi Mavi, Ginger Trill, A-Reece… Note that this list changes every day,” he says.
What is your advice to those who wish to follow in your footsteps?
“I would say, for me, the most important thing was realizing that having a unique take on things is allowed. What makes a writer valuable is their ability to give you a new perspective on things. So, I would advise that person to educate themselves and never be afraid to voice their opinions no matter how unpopular they are, as long they can support them.
Most importantly, I would advise that person to stop overthinking or talking about doing the work, and just do the work,” Sabelo says.