Rap Song: Brian Khoza

2008-08-29 00:00

Tha Playmaka is going back to his roots. After a few years of ups and downs,

Imbali rap artist Brian Khoza says it is time to take life back into his own


It is clear when I arrive at his photo shoot on a dry winter’s Saturday in

Imbali that he is intent on achieving this. “After a few setbacks in the

music industry, I decided to go back to square one,” says Khoza, whose stage

name is Tha Playmaka. “I have now taken my life back into my own hands and

will find success on my own terms.”

The writer, poet and rap star has decided to focus on his company, Rhyme

Pedigree Entertainment Service cc., and to produce a solo album, titled PMB

Poison: Personal Moral Regeneration.

The mid-morning photo shoot by photographer Andrea Arbuckle is taking place

at Sophie’s Choice, a tavern in Stage 1, Imbali. “The idea of the photo

shoot is to capture my music, which is about my life and where I am from.

It’s just us in our natural environment,” he says.

Stage 1 socialites are lining the wall, Black Label quarts in one hand,

bewildered as Khoza and seven Rhyme Pedigree streetteam members turn from

Imbali boys into glorified artists. “A big part of my vision is rebuilding

Imbali’s image,” Khoza says. He says a lot of people in Imbali are “sitting

in their rooms” using programs to make house music based on rap, because he

says it’s easier using a computer than starting a rap band, due to the lack

of resources. “I try and get them out of their rooms and help them by

hosting an event twice a year, which I fund myself,” he says. “I try to

expose them to an audience, which helps them to perform better.”

We move to an old park, which is completely overgrown, with a weed-infested

court in the centre. A shack made out planks and corrugated iron is now the

main attraction. It is an informal sport’s bar, a small TV showing soccer

attracting the odd passer-by.

In 1995, a basketball court was built in the park, explains Khoza. “They

didn’t really finish it, though, which was kind of weird,” he says, pointing

to the cracking surface. “My Carter High School friends and I decided to

paint it and then taught others in the area how to play basketball,” he

says, “That united us.”

Basketball linked them in other ways too. They discovered music together and

most of the guys on the court are part of Khoza’s Rhyme Pedigree rap group

and are furthering their music careers. “My brother, Stylez, is in Jo’burg

and he was just interviewed and did a live performance on YFM; Nash was just

interviewed in the August Fair Lady and recently hosted the Tilt nightclub

birthday party; and Mylowe, who is a labour consultant in Jo’burg, is nearly

finished recording his album.”

“We put Maritzburg rap on the map,” Khoza says. “We were the first rap

artists from here to be on TV, back in 2001, and we just want to continue

inspiring rap artists here. A big part of what I do is not to mislead people

and make them feel it is the way to make it. I show them what a struggle it

is; I don’t just show them the nice side of it.”

Khoza says going back to his roots as a rap artist is essential. “I need to

do an album in Pietermaritzburg before I look for deals elsewhere,” he says.

“I need that, and I need it on my own terms because it is my story, my

drama, my comedy, my tragedy. Hopefully people from elsewhere relate to the


Khoza points to a ruined house cross the park. “This is an ANC area and that burnt out house over there was suspected to be owned by an IFP guy, so they shot it up during the 1991 violence,” he says. “We were playing soccer right next to it when it happened. We heard the gun shots and then saw this car come screeching past.”

“It was rough growing up here; you don’t value life as much. When we first arrived there were funerals every weekend from the political stuff, but people haven’t stopped dying,” he says. “Now it’s HIV/Aids and the odd stabbing here and there. I have been to six funerals recently. These are people my age dying. We need hope.”

Violence and sex forms a big part of what Khoza raps about. “I rap about my life and about the violence that goes on here. I have been through bad stuff; I’ve nearly been killed a few times,” he says. “People just want to fight, they are angry. You fight over nothing and before you know it, people are breaking bottles, pulling out knives, pulling out guns. I’ve got six stitches on this hand from one fight.

“A lot of people are promiscuous and I want to promote sexual ethics. We go through the sex education stuff and people throw their wild oaths, but they never stop sleeping around,” he says. “You’ve got to stop at some stage and I talk about that a lot.”

“Ultimately, it’s respect for yourself and respect for other people. You don’t know that when you’re young – you get fed the wrong information,” he says. “But, in life, you get to grow. So what I do in my music is that I take myself to the worst time in my life, when my attitude was just messed up. I talk about that and bring it to the present and show how I get to where I am now – someone who thinks and understands about what is happening.”

Khoza also wants to give back to Imbali. “I have a unique way of teaching,

and it is these young Imbali boys that are my main priority,” he says. “We

have 1,5 million people living in Pietermaritzburg and we are about to

become a metro. So why is everyone leaving? We can do it here.”

€ Stylez and Tha Playmaka are supporting the furst leg of “A S.A. Hip-Hop

Heritage Tour” with Johannesburg rap pioneer Spex, Sbudapardo, Dj Dollar and

Andreya on Septmember 28 at the Polo night club on the corner of West and

Greyling streets.

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