Our features writer, Fundiswa Nkwanyana spends the day in Katlehong township with award-winning rapper Senzo Mfundo Vilakazi (28), popularly known as Kwesta.
Pictures: Avumile Magadla
Our day kicks off at RapLyf Records recording studio in Edenvale, Johannesburg. I find Kwesta rhythmically bobbing his head with earphones on while writing in his notebook. When exchanging greetings, he relays his eagerness to show me the place that inspires his music.
1. Roaming the streets
On our way to Katlehong, Kwesta describes himself as a dreamer who fell in love with poetry before discovering his love for music and rapping. Writing about his hopes and dreams as a young boy from the township became his trademark style when he started rapping as a teenager. His peers loved his flow and relatable lyrics, and this motivated him to pursue his dream of becoming a rapper who represented the township culture. As we drive through, residents curiously peep through the tinted windows of the RapLyf Records-branded car, hoping for a glimpse of the rapper while school children excitedly scream his name. Amid the excitement, he puts on his earphones and occasionally interacts with his fans at intersections. “I appreciate the excitement, but I’m just an ordinary guy who raps for a living,” he says.
2. Township living
Our first stop is at a local hangout spot down the road from his mother’s house. He recalls regularly hanging out at this spot as a teenager, sitting on a plastic crate and playing cards with his friends. He still goes there because he enjoys being surrounded by genuine people who just want to play a game of cards and talk about their ambitions and hustle. “There is realness in the township that I can’t find anywhere else,” he says as he greets his friends. A sense of calmness comes over him as he settles down on an empty crate ahead of a card game. While laughing with friends, he zones out and starts bobbing his head to beats that only he can hear. The statement he made earlier on about always making music suddenly makes sense to me. He effortlessly multitasks playing the game, answering the phone and taking pictures with his fans. He wins the game, and declines another round in order to spend some time with his daughter.
3. Home is where the heart is
As we approach his childhood home, Kwesta’s daughter, Khai (5), abruptly stops playing to greet her father with excitement. He jokingly teases her about having too much fun and not missing him. “My daughter has changed my life, and I’m now focusing on the business side of rapping because I want to build an empire for her,” he shares. Making sure that his daughter spends time in the township he grew up in is important to him because he wants her to be proud of where he was born and raised. “It’s the simple things in life that make me happy,” he says, playfully chasing his Khai around. After this, he has to go back to the studio to continue working until the early hours of the morning, he says.