The tranquillity of a scorching Saturday afternoon on the golden savanna of this vast farm just outside Mahikeng, North West, is shattered by the rumble of our approach in a white Toyota 4x4. Nguni cattle raise their heads from grazing to sniff the air.
The acclaimed Motswako rapper Motlapele “Mojo Man” Morule, AKA Mo’ Molemi, stops the bakkie and the beautiful patchwork beasts move towards him. The only sound is their hurrying hoofs: the car radio is switched off and there is definitely no Tswana fusion hip-hop in the air.
Morule, wearing classic farmer khakis and a pair of flip-flops, gets out and walks towards the cows that encircle him. He extends his hand to pat one.
“How are you, my babies?” he croons, as if talking to small children. “How have you all been?”
The cows are obviously happy to see him. This is a far cry from the kind of audience Mojo Man usually attracts when singing his hard-hitting rap lyrics. But Bakang farm, along the Botswana border with South Africa, is the rapper’s other “stage” – and the cattle seem as electrified by his “performance” as any fans.
This is where he grew up, driving tractors and tending cattle in his father’s fields.
“My family has been farming for as long as I can remember, and it was kind of inevitable for me to go into it too. As a teenager, I did general farm work and that’s where I learnt a lot and got my passion pumped up,” he says. He is as comfortable in this world as he is rapping about police abuse or recording albums with local hip-hop stars such as HHP.
Over the years, City Press has learnt not to ask farmers how many head of cattle they have. It is like asking a businessman how much he has in the bank. Let’s just say there are a substantial number of Nguni in the Morule herd.
As the cows crowd in close enough for Morule to stroke their highly prized decorative hides, he tells our photographer to walk gently and “take slow steps so that they do not feel threatened”.
This is the 33-year-old former Morafe rap group member’s other world. But the two worlds live side by side. Does it get any easier to juggle both careers?
He laughs. “Sometimes it is close to impossible and it seems that my two loves cannot coexist. Last year I released an album [A Sia] at the same time as I was starting a new farming project in the Free State.
“I would get calls for radio interviews while I was somewhere in the fields ... busy with farm work or training.”
Morule admits his agricultural work kept him so busy it “affected the momentum of the album”.
Recently, though, Morule is finding ways to make farming and his music work together. These days, he is more interested in selling his produce than growing maize and breeding cattle.
“I am now using my name and brand as a musician to market my agricultural products,” he says.
He prints some of his lyrics on the packets of carrots and tomatoes he sells, which refer to farming life. His second album, Motsamai, was dedicated to a cattle herder of the same name who died.
“It was about a man who had never travelled anywhere or gone to university, but who had this raw intelligence – he understood rain; he understood cattle; he understood the land.”
Morule – in Setswana his name means “the one who plants” – has big ambitions to take his farming to new heights. While he helps out on the family farm near Mahikeng – which his father still manages – he is busy getting his own retail and food-processing business off the ground in the Free State.
“I started farming in 2004 and have done it all – from being hit by drought after planting 50 hectares of sunflowers, on a bank loan, to breeding goats.”
He is now not only interested in primary agriculture.
“I am now about retailing farm produce; meat and veggies,” he says.
“I want to see my company, Arable Parable, becoming a huge agricultural agent able to supply goods with access to markets in the rest of Africa.”
His dream is to have his own brand of frozen veggies and other processed food products. “I want to break into the market currently dominated by the greats, like I&J and McCain.”
Currently, Arable Parable is contracted to supply food to hospitals and prisons in the Free State, but he is still pursuing his ultimate goal. “I am buying from emerging farmers. We wash, clean and package produce and then supply clients.”
Morule is keen to cut out the middleman.
“I will not continue to plant veggies and sell to the giants who supply Pick n Pay and other chain supermarkets. I would rather plant and process my own produce and buy from emerging farmers as well.”
But he won’t stop there. “I want to conquer the Southern African Development Community region. My dream is to grow beyond borders and I dare you to watch this space.”
With all this going on, can the farmer-businessman still find time to make music? Can his fans look forward to another album soon?
“I still perform, but not as much as I would love to. I have built my own studio, and yes, my producers and I are working on something."