Rapper Riky Rick is giving the Newtown precinct a much-needed boost with his Cotton Fest. The second celebration of the new Joburg street culture returns to the Station with a strong line-up. Expect a healthy mix of well-known acts and new artists. Phumlani S Langa sits down with his all-round pick of the line-up for a chat.
The second annual Cotton Fest is happening, brought to you by the lord of cotton and all fly fabrics himself, Riky Rick. Last year gave us the first edition, on a day when American artists Nas and Lauryn Hill were performing in the city, Riky unveiled a chic street bash at the old Station in Newtown, Joburg.
He had a scintillating line-up, an oddly harmonious balance of well-established acts and artists who were only beginning their rise to stardom.
Riky has been on a mission since jumping on the microphone while at the podium presenting an SA Music Awards at Sun City in 2018. He had somewhat of a Kanye West moment and advised the kids to use the internet and forget about the old structures that come with being signed or waiting for the media to pick up on their talent.
Ironically, he later collaborated with Sony Music to come up with his label, an imprint called Cotton Club Records.
To build the hype for this second Cotton Fest, he worked with a few artists he has invited to be a part of his inner city celebration of street culture.He did a song with Dr Peppa, Chang Cello and Lucas Raps called What It Is which has quite a fresh-looking video and feel.
Riky doesn’t seem at all phased by passing the torch to the young guns in rap and other genres not too far removed. It comes across as a primary objective for this seasoned entertainer.
The festival will not only be about the music but also art and fashion with the Cotton Fest unveiling some merch to purchase on the day. Festival goers can dress the part and step out in their finest threads to take in this all-local line-up.
It’s bound to be quite a spectacle.
Naturally, a few big guns will be out to bless the stage at the year’s first significant hip-hop gathering.
YoungstaCPT is still riding the wave of his debut album’s success. The shimmering beacon that is Sho Madjozi will be there, along with her Xibelani magic and the emperor of autotune, AKA. We’re also hoping to catch a few of the rising stars.
Killer Kau from Soweto made the cut this year. His After School EP dropped last year, showing off this brother’s fine ear for street grooves. His song Tholukuthi Hey (2017) is an absolute banger, and now that this youngster has passed matric, the world is his oyster.
Another impressive performer is a pop singer named Money Badoo. She doesn’t have much out in the way of material, but her song All My Friends (2019) is more than a little ear raising.
Riky has cleverly sifted the market for the sounds that don’t dominate radio, but could. More acts include Figo Stella, Beast, Willy Cardiac, Yan Solo and Costa Titch – full frontal indie and underground acts, budding blossoms of talent that are finally getting a call up to the big league.
Along with the performers, the DJ line-up is hard body. Of particular interest is Lalla Hirayama, who has been playing the Sandton club scene.
We can’t wait to see if she has the real spins or if she’s rocking pre-mixed specials.
The Cotton Fest has positioned itself to be the freshman bash of the year, not in a sense that it attracts a lot of students but because it unveils underground talent on a platform where they can test their work on a crowd that will definitely let you know if your set is substandard.
Walking into the Coalition Studios in Randburg, Joburg, the vibe seems to be business as usual.
Label exec Vaughn Thiel leads me to the recording studio where seated in a dark and smoky room, is Lord Kez.
She is dressed in black sweatpants, a white Yves Saint Laurent golfer and a piercing running through her septum.
The Kimberley-born singer is a relatively unknown powerhouse of urban music. Her debut project, Revenge Season, came out last year. The EP caught the attention of Riky Rick, as it did ours.
Her sound is a mystifying fusion of pop, soul, trap and R&B – although she would never concede to that.
“I don’t like to call it a certain thing. I mean, you think it’s R&B. Okay, but you’re wrong,” the petite songstress jokes.
Revenge Season shocked me. Personally, it was like listening to a broken-hearted and Gothic Shekhinah, whom Kez coincidentally admires.
“I came up with the name on Instagram. Everyone’s always using these cool names and wanting to be kings and queens. I was like man, I want to be a lord. I also thought it would be quite a shock as it’s a masculine tone, and I am the opposite of that,” Kez says.
The singer turned 21 on Monday and says she’s somewhat insecure. The persona helps shield these insecurities from the world; she refers to it as her higher self.
“My family is very Christian, and so, in the beginning, I was worried. It’s so blasphemous like, calling yourself lord. But they love my music, especially my mom.”
She grew up in the Northern Cape until she was in Grade 10. She then moved to Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates, which is where the music called to her.
That, along with the drastic change in her perspective, has aided this artist in being the well-kept secret that she is. But she is poised to blow up.
Music is a form of escapism for her. A cathartic getaway from the world, as Revenge Season is about shedding her old self for a new and improved version.
“I have a bunch of influences. I grew up listening to Whitney Houston and Brandy who my mom loved; Amy Winehouse and Beyoncé. I also like The Soil and Brenda Fassie. You know it was never just one specific sound.”
Locally, she sings the praises of Shekhinah: “Dude, I’ve known about her for so long, but only recently did I realise that her shit is fire. I love what she does with her voice,” she says.
Her Cotton Fest set will be the most significant stage she has graced yet, and she appears to be totally up to the task.
“We are going to be doing some new music, something completely different from the EP. It’s going to be a surprise.
“It’s less dark, no daggers, knives and coffins, as I have been in a different mind-state while writing this. I’ve been reading.
“The place I stay at has these amazing trees, and the vibe is peaceful, you know. So hopefully that’s what the music will come out sounding like.”
She hopes we feel the sound more with her new material. She explains that she has an array of different sounds – from poppy radio songs to laid-back Sunday music as well as a bit of trap – which she seemed particularly excited about.
“I want people to leave feeling intrigued more than anything else, like what is that?”
We certainly are. Right now she is sitting on a lot of music. And we can’t wait to see how she curates the new avenues of sound she was exploring into an explosive follow-up to her release last year.
- Be sure to bump the Cotton Fest playlist at Apple music.
- See our gig guide for more information.