BET­TER

EM­tee just keeps get­ting One of 2015’s break­out hip-hop stars, eM­tee, ended last year on a high thanks to the suc­cess of his hit sin­gle Roll Up. He spoke to Gugulethu Mh­lungu about his new-found fame

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Twenty-three-year-old eM­tee, whose real name is Mthebeni Ndevu, ended 2015 as one of the most played artists in the coun­try, de­spite the fact that his mas­sive sin­gle – Roll Up – only came out in the lat­ter part of the year. In terms of lo­cal artists, eM­tee was the third most played, beat­ing the likes of mu­sic heavy­weight Cassper Ny­ovest. He was also the 10th most played artist over­all (lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional artists in­cluded).

Pop­u­larly known as “eM­tee Da Hustla”, Ndevu was born in Matatiele, Eastern Cape, but grew up and pol­ished his lyri­cal tal­ent in Rockville, Soweto. He says he started rap­ping when he was nine and par­took in a va­ri­ety of mu­si­cal and artis­tic ac­tiv­i­ties through­out his child­hood.

“I was al­ways an arts kid. I did choir at school; I was leader of the school band; I did danc­ing, act­ing ... I be­lieve in prac­ti­cal skills and hon­ing and per­fect­ing your craft, so I have been do­ing the mu­sic thing for years now.”

The young­ster, cur­rently signed to Am­bi­tiouz En­ter­tain­ment, re­leased Roll Up within four months of join­ing the sta­ble. It spawned two remixes, in­clud­ing one fea­tur­ing Nige­ria’s Wizkid and South Africa’s AKA. He says Roll Up was never even meant to be a sin­gle. “[It] was just me hav­ing fun. I didn’t even write. I got into the stu­dio and just jumped in. It was meant to be one of the songs you record and don’t re­lease, but then my pro­ducer sug­gested we re­lease it. I hated it be­cause I wasn’t be­ing se­ri­ous and was just play­ing around. I was doubt­ful, be­cause the sound is also new to South Africa,” he says.

De­spite his con­cerns, it scooped the 2015 Song of the Year award at De­cem­ber’s SA Hip Hop Awards.

At 17, Ndevu be­came a mu­sic in­struc­tor at dif­fer­ent high schools, which marked the be­gin­ning of mak­ing an in­come from his pas­sion. The small amount of money he made helped him de­liver his first mix tape, ti­tled The In­tro­duc­tion. In 2008, he pushed mix tapes for two years among his peers and gained street cred for his work.

His 2010 col­lab­o­ra­tion with rap­per Maraza, a song ti­tled In It To Win It, es­tab­lished them on Chan­nel O’s show Head­rush as the sec­ond-best em­cees in Africa.

Ndevu, to­gether with Maraza, also be­longed to a quar­tet called 4front, spe­cial­is­ing in elec­tro, dub­step and rap. In 2013, the group split to fo­cus on solo ca­reers.

Ndevu’s first solo al­bum, named af­ter his daugh­ter Avery, is a solid of­fer­ing, which is no small feat, con­sid­er­ing it has a mas­sive 18 tracks.

Avery is do­ing well on iTunes – much bet­ter than Ndevu had an­tic­i­pated. He says that at some point it was num­ber two on the lo­cal iTunes chart.

“There have been some ma­jor changes. I am now get­ting calls from peo­ple who wouldn’t give me a chance ... I am top­ping charts and get­ting love from my idols and peo­ple I never dreamt I would hear from or meet. Every­thing has just com­pletely flipped,” he says.

His plans for the new year in­volve an Avery al­bum tour.

“I am also work­ing on mer­chan­dise, which I want in stores this year. I’m work­ing on a com­pany, which I started a few years ago, which I want to use to give other young­sters a chance in the same way that I was given a chance.” eM­tee’s de­but al­bum Avery is now avail­able in stores

and on iTunes

ON­WARDS AND UP­WARDS

This is just the be­gin­ning for the tal­ented eM­tee

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