It's hard to miss rapper and actor Big Zulu, real name Siyabonga Nene (34).
His signature swag, expensive clothing, gold chains, and dreadlocks piled on top of his head. On some days, a white secret sock peeps out from an expensive Italian shoe.
As ambassadors to both Brentwood and Carvela, he admits his style does not come cheap.
"Brentwood goes for R1 300. You wear it once and it has to be taken to the dry cleaners where you pay R60. That's why I call them installment pants," he laughs.
He recently shared a design made specially for him by Carvela that came all the way from Italy. For that, you part with thousands.
“It is a great feeling to be ambassador for these brands because you aren’t taken seriously if you are influenced by cultural things, you aren’t given the respect or recognition. Abafana besilungu (western cultures) tend to think that what they do is the only right or accepted thing,” Big Zulu says.
The stars are surely aligning for the Zulu rapper who just landed a role on the much-loved SABC 1 drama, Uzalo. He plays Sobhuza, a charming young man with dashing looks. He is kind even though he possesses an element of danger, as he is involved in a life of crime. If he had his way, he would be a family man but he isn’t living his life in the narrow.
“This role is not far from the brand that is Big Zulu. When I choose a role, I go for something that relates to the music too,” the former Isibaya actor adds.
Big Zulu grew up in Bergville, KwaZulu-Natal and that influences everything he dips his hands into.
“There are not many people who talk about authentic stories from the rural areas. At all times, we hear about city life,” he says.
The Vuma Dlozi hit singer says that is why people love him. Coming into an industry where Zulu rappers aren’t widely known, he had to be resolute and not bend when it came to the narrative he wanted to drive.
“I knew there was a market for the kind of hip-hop I do because what I rap about is relatable to everyone, young and old.”
He is called inkabi (assassin) and his fans are inkabi nation. He assures us that he's not that kind of killer though.
“I just kill people with words – that is how the name came about,” he says.
Growing up, he was in the taxi industry for a long time but now he says he has his eyes firmly fixed on growing as the owner of record label Nkabi Records.
“I have signed Mduduzi Ncube, the Isginci singer. He will be releasing his album Stimela soon. I have a single called Mali Eningi dropping in a few days where I feature Ricky Rick and Intaba ya se Dubai,” he tells us.
Big Zulu says he's proud of the chances he has taken and urges others to not hold back from pursuing their dreams.
“Life is not easy – it is all about taking chances. That is why it is important to be the first to believe in what you do. You can’t give people what you are not sure about. Taking a chance is important – you will never know where it takes you," Big Zulu adds.