From Coca Cola Pop Stars to Idols SA, campaigns and reality shows that seek out South Africa’s next big talent have been around forever. But can they propel an individual from anonymity to prominence? Phumlani S Langa meets the winner of Sportscene x Puma Put Me On and of the Rémy Producers Search.
More and more, brands have started to recognise the significance of local hip-hop and the powerful pull this culture has. Local clothing outlet Sportscene has had its eye on this gap for a while, while premium cognac brand Rémy Martin has also waded in. Both companies set up contests this year that pitched themselves as aiming to upskill musicians and give them a springboard into the industry.
We met with the respective winners and asked what the competitions meant for them.
Sportscene recently equipped its Sandton flagship store with a basketball hoop, a tattoo parlour and a fully loaded sound studio. The studio, which is open for public use, is where I meet up with 19-year-old Lucas Raps, the winner of the Put Me On competition.
Intent on finding South Africa’s next big hip-hop artist, the competition’s winning package came with a chance to create a song with Gemini Major, to produce a professional music video with Nate Thomas, a chance to perform at this year’s Capsule Fest, a professional public relations package and exclusive products from Puma for a year.
The search included road shows in Durban, Cape Town and Johannesburg, after which the public could vote for their favourite from the pool of finalists.
Repping Durban, Lucas Raps boxed out his opponents to win the coveted prize. Rocking Puma from head to toe, a winner’s perk, he gets his producer to spin a few beats and then freestyles for me to get a taste of his sound.
It’s very trap-based and built for local radio. He does have that spark and, of course, as with most rappers, he talks a big game.
“I’ve been rapping since I was eight years old. I only developed a serious passion at around age 15, when I became mature enough to talk about my understanding of things,” he says.
He looks to motivate and drive people with his music, which is what got him to stick it out for so long.
“It is a blessing, honestly. It was a bit rough for me before this Sportscene thing popped off. I was at a low point, praying for a sign, and this was it.”
The win alleviated a lot of the stress that was weighing him down. This is a cat who is going at it without a safety net as he dropped out of school to pursue the passion of poetry laid over beats.
At the age of 17, he left home and moved in with record producer DJ Maphorisa, where he was able to incubate his talent.
Where would he be had this opportunity not arisen?
“I would’ve found an in,” he tells me adamantly.
“Even the artists who didn’t win would have succeeded somehow, as we all have talent and social media – the perfect platform to voice our opinions.
“They don’t need Sportscene behind them – neither do I – as I know I’ll always believe in myself and push hard.”
He’s aware that it doesn’t hurt to have a machine behind you, but without a work ethic, it’s pointless.
And although the young lord is yet to fully prove himself to me, he claims to be better off now than he was before the competition.
Rémy Martin recently held a nationwide search for the country’s next big producer, with a prize including sound equipment, cash and the chance to work with rapper Riky Rick.
Joburg’s PRxFND – pronounced profound – took the prize, and will be in studio next week cooking the final product with brother Makhado.
“I feel good; it’s mission accomplished. I knew what I wanted to do in the final. Making a song with Riky was key, and now I get to do that,” he says.
The idea was to upskill existing talent, so what skills did PRxFND garner from this process?
“What was introduced to me by the competition was engaging with the crowd and developing more of a deejay ear, which you don’t get in the studio.”
This initiative helped him gain an understanding of the differences in tastes between Joburg and Cape Town, and the steps he had to take to adjust for that.
Rémy furbished the astute beatsmith with a MacBook.
“They also provided the boy with some bottles,” he chuckles.
Would he be on the same trajectory if not for this win?
“It’s tricky. Irrespective of who I’m working with, I’m still my own brand. Moving towards the Riky Ricks would’ve been hinged on opportunities that I created for myself. It is, after all, a combination of hustle and finesse.”
He’s been at it since Grade 9, and he really got serious about tweaking the knobs in 2015 and 2016. He was a beat boxer, which is an organic progression to production.
“The climate for producers is tough. Producers can’t really live like rappers or have the financial opportunities that rappers have.”
So was this win worth the effort of entering the competition?
“I am very much better off now than before. I was not entirely focused on a win, but rather on the chance to showcase my sound and see if it works. This has me in a much better place as I now have a solid idea about where I can take this.”