Zeus is one of those rappers the continent is fortunate enough to have watched evolve from when he was dropping tracks like Gijima and Champagne Music to him dropping unique sounds like Fever. Today the god MC has given African Hip Hop a sound and an identity. African Time is a classic African album every Hip Hop fan out there needs to listen to before they get old and start listening to the Mtukudzi’s and the Masekela’s lol. Zeus has won 2 Channel O Awards and has been in Africa’s Top 10 list several times. I got to sit with Gab City’s very own and this is how the interview went:
How would you best describe Zeus in 5 words?
Eish I think any person that can be described best in 5words is a shallow individual ha ha but the key words would be ambitious, creative, strategic, happy and artistic.
Where did you grow up and what were you like?
I grew up in Gaberone. Funny thing my sister and I laugh a lot about how growing up is so weird because a lot of the times the essence of who you are still feels very similar. I feel like I have always been like this, big on jokes, books, language and just any content that stimulates my mind. That’s why I like that phrase ‘inner child’ because I feel like the same dude just older.
I first heard you on Champagne Music, which college did you go to and what did you study?
I was by Monash SA where I studied BCOMM in Marketing and Management
What do you think of the current state of the Hip Hop genre in Botswana?
I always think any scene is defined by different levels. There’s the grassroots which is the activity in the bedroom studios, the ciphers and artists just perfecting their craft. The next level is more mainstream, business, industry spaces and corporate moves. In terms of the grassroots there’s a lot of activity and I love it. I’m a bit worried a little bit about the culture because the culture has changed. They have seen artists blow out of the bedroom studios, they have seen Soulja Boy do it, they have seen the kid who produced Doc Shebeleza do it so the culture has changed. In our time it wasn’t about trying to find the next big hit.
How has growing up in Botswana helped shape your perception on creativity?
First thing is in Botswana culturally there is a lot of opposition to the arts. It’s very weird because in our folk traditions and everything we are a very artistic people, from the storytelling to the choral music, dance to instruments and so much more amazing traditional things. But as we have moved to being more modern there has been a move away from that, generally speaking people seem to be undermining those things to our lives. Story telling around the fire is no different to watching a television show during prime time.
All the traditional things that we got have given me a strong ethnicity. Growing up in Botswana has made me love HHP as much as I love Jay-Z.
We know you tour a lot, how do you prepare for your shows?
Yeah I like to slaughter a chicken… ha ha nah I’m playing. What I call my ritual is the chill before getting in to the activity of the day. Before I go out to all the madness I like to ground myself first.
Where did you draw the inspiration for African Time?
The key thing I wanted to find with African Time was an identity for African Hip Hop. I feel like a lot of the African Hip Hop is called African Hip Hop because it was made in Africa but it sounds like cheap watered down L.A or New York Hip Hop. As I get older I think a lot about legacy, what will my kids think when they hear my album? Will it connect them to their grandmother despite never getting the chance to meet her?
I grew up listening to Talib Kweli, Dead Prez and they were speaking about Afro identity, they question their identity from a Diaspora perspective and they fear that they have lost their heritage and connection with their roots on the continent so they look for that through music and sound. Now us on the continent should be safe guarding that Africanism more than anyone else but surprisingly we are quick to abandoned it for something else.
How long does it take you to write a song?
It depends on mood and inspiration. When you work from a place of inspiration you will realise that a song can literally be a gift from the heavens. When I am inspired it takes me about 30 minutes to pen a verse so a song would take me about 2 hours. Writing a song is just like writing an essay, the difference is you are making it rhyme.
Which Botswana rappers are you currently listening to?
There’s this young homie called Owie who is raw and hardcore. He really sounds like a golden error MC. Kinda reminds me of Joey Badass who is young but could have come out in 97 but still would’ve been relevant and fitting into the time. Staxx and Chub Heightz are rappers you definitely need to look out for.
From just being a local rapper, how do you grow your brand beyond your country?
That’s a tough question because as much as there is an art and a formula to it, I must say it’s unique to the individual. Music is a very unique thing you know, it’s not like you are selling fast food or consumables. But I will tell you some of the things that have worked for me.
Physically leaving your country and relocating somewhere else to set your roots there. It’s not an easy thing to do but it’s an important thing to do.
Collaborations. Build strategic alliances. If you can manage to touch base with other great artists from other countries who are in your stream.
Media is another important thing. We obviously can’t overlook the power of media, so getting out and doing interviews like this is important.
I have been very fortunate to meet great media personalities who I have been able to build with. For example C-Live was the first guy who broke Gijima on Yfm top 9 at 9. He has just had a tragic in his family so his definitely someone worth shouting out. This is why I will always consider him as someone important to my career, he didn’t care that he didn’t know me but was focused on the dopeness of the song. I feel more media personalities need to learn from that.
What issues are you currently concerned about in the African Hip Hop industry?
We need to do our own thing man. We need to stop trying to replicate what’s coming out from the States. West Coast Hip Hop is West Coast Hip Hop because they not trying to make Dirty South Hip Hop. But we are quick to want to create replica’s of their music. For instance everyone is trying to make trap without even understanding the cultural significance of what trapping is.
Some of my young dudes back home are replicating what we see from ATL right down to image. We need to stop it man and start creating music that is unique to where we come from.
What do you do for fun?
I do this for fun haha. Coming out here doing this interview is fun, being in the studio is fun to me. I like lifestyle stuff, I like food, cooking, eating food that I have never had before.
What do you look for in a woman?
Grounding is very important. I don’t like someone who is just blown by the wind and does whatever. I want someone who knows what they want in life you know. For me it goes hand in hand with having your own say, your own opinion, your own dreams etc. I really hate this thing where women find their relevance from their partner, even guys do it and I think it’s a weak thing to do.
Your Top 5 African Hip Hop artists?
3. Reggie Rockstone
Your G.O.A.T list, dead or alive?
2. 2 Pac
3. Slick Rick
5. Mos Def
You have been in the game for over a decade now, what have you learnt about pursuing your dreams?
Firstly you have to be very definitive, you must be very specific, you need to know what you want and see it before it happens. You also need to be very unapologetic about it. It takes a lot of cutting people out of your life, do that because you will be angry at that friend who would always persuade you to go turn up when you should’ve been working on your dreams.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I see myself Enterprising more. Growing more and more of my businesses, my brands you know. I am interested in more than just an artistic career.
What advice would you like to give up coming rappers?
Find your own voice, stop chasing trends, be your own trend, be independent and make things happen.
Any words of wisdom to the youth?
This whole interview is words of wisdom to the youth.
Take care of yourself. You need a healthy body, mind, heart and spirit for you to achieve real success that’s sustainable. If you are doing it for the wrong reasons you are more likely to fail.
Where can your fans reach you?
Facebook: Zeus Deuce