Selema Writes The Hang-Out With Kriss Anti-B.
Who is Selema Writes, what does he do as a creative? And what’s your contribution to Hip Hop culture?
Word is bond. Peace to the gods and the earths. Peace to the homie Kriss. Salute for having me on the hangout. I just rolled some Gelato cos winter is indoor season nahmean. Haha.
I’ll kick off by saying outright that my prime creative outlet is MCing and I believe I’m an MC that operates at the highest level of the art form, from both a hip-hop perspective, in the sense that I was always driven to perfect my craft from all facets of what it means to manifest superior excellence as an MC, but also in soul and mind because hip-hop is also a vehicle of knowledge that enables access to many worlds.
The late Nipsey Hussle, peace be upon him, once said that, ‘the highest human act is to inspire’. That quote stayed with me and I feel like if I can inspire even one person to look at their life in a more honest way and empower them, then I’ll say I’ve made a contribution.
You were born in exile to freedom fighters in the 1980s.Tell us a bit about your upbringing in exile, your family’s reintegration back into South Africa and how much of those experiences influenced your latest musical project MAMA IS STILL A FREEDOM FIGHTER?
All facts. Growing up was like being a child in guerrilla warfare. We rarely stayed in one place because apartheid operatives were constantly searching. They would plant bombs in mailboxes of comrades and other such attacks in efforts to kill anybody who stood for the freedom of the people of South Africa. Once the stories came from home that the apartheid regime had come to an end and the imprisoned freedom fighters would be released I witnessed a joy from my parents and the other comrades like one cannot imagine.
Many in exile had not seen their families in decades and believed they would die never seeing them again (as many did) so it was a powerful time in the lives of all South Africans as much as it was mine. Though I don’t think I understood the magnitude as a kid.
Coming home for me was meeting a new family I had never even heard stories about because I was too young to understand and nobody knew at the time if we would ever be free. The latest project MISAFF is absolutely a journey into those memories and me exploring how those shaped me into the man I am today.
It’s a known fact that you are BRA HUGH MASEKELA’s nephew. How much of an influence did BRA HUGH have on you as a man and as an artist?
My uncle was a real phenomenon both on the stage and in the flesh. A real rockstar but at the same time a man of vision. A funky hipster that had serious charm and cool but at the same time a figher for a righteous cause for an Africa, downtrodden and marginalized. A lover of people and also one disciplined character that was in love with his art.
I’d say for the most part I was just in awe of how he was able to achieve so much while always keeping the world laughing along with him. So, having an OG jazz rockstar as an uncle definitely influenced me in a lot of ways.
You are one of the most consistent independent musical artists in South Africa, who’s amassed global acclaim & international recognition. Tell us about your history from when you were Slege Lee to Selema Writes, your albums, crews, battle rap history, the local & international competitions you won. The countries you’ve toured & performed in.
I’m humbled and thankful for the journey that hip-hop was able to pave for me. When I look at your question I’m thinking snap that should be a book cos it’s quite a tale but I’ll keep it brief as possible here because if let loose I might just go on for pages.
Slege Lee is an MC that comes from South JHB, he was part of a crew called Metropolitan Kingz. In 2014 he went on a solo run and put his name as an artist on the world map. He won eTV’s Shizniz Mixtape King of the Year. He had a 4 week consecutive run on YFM’s hip-hop battle show by DJ Mulo at the time. He battled on world-renowned battle league Scrambles for Money. He battled on international hip-hop festival Back To the City’s main stage and later that year at the South African Hip-hop Awards. And he crowned the year when he competed in the internationally-acclaimed End Of The Weak Challenge in Uganda coming home with the illustrious World Freestyle Champion title. The following year he travelled to Canada and took part in the finals again and performed across the city of Montreal.
I feel like after I accomplished all of that I couldn’t see what more I could do with what I had as a vision for Slege Lee. And that is when I began my artistic evolution, first to Dice Mak and then eventually and finally to Selema Writes, a trinity of sorts. Sometimes, you need to let go of parts of your past to let a new future reveal itself to you.
How did your relationship with BENNY THE BUTCHER come about?
I wouldn’t say we have a relationship like that. I saw him on instagram saying artists should send him music if they think they’re dope. So I did that and next thing he hit me back direct saying he thought my music was tight so he put my joint on a mixtape he was backing called Who Can Rap? Vol. 6. It’s always an honour to be recognized by cats that are also in the upper echelon with it.
You were a battle rapper at some point in your career. How important was battle rap in terms of shaping your creative process as an artist and why was it important for you to leave battle rap behind in terms of actually battling?
I come from a background where hip-hop is a culture and according to the rules of the culture the only way you ‘get a rep’ is by ‘paying your dues’. And the way you pay your dues is by running up in ciphers and chopping heads off. That’s how you make your name stick. So I simply followed the rules of the culture and as long as hip-hop still comes from the streets I think it’s always gonna be important to keep a sharp sword to get your rep.
Once I got to the point of becoming Selema Writes and really focusing on being an artist I decided to dedicate myself to that because I studied the greats. Almost every dope MC that made it to selling records whether Nas, Snoop Dogg or Proverb. They all went through the paying your dues phase but they also moved on from that and focused on their art once they completed that phase and that’s where I’m at with it.
What doesn’t evolve stagnates so for myself as an artist I made it imperative to keep evolving no matter how uncomfortable it may be. It’s a cliché but greatness requires discomfort.
If Hip-Hop 411 put a blank cheque in front of you and said NAME YOUR PRICE. Which battle rapper would get back in the ring for?
I hung up my battle gloves but on a super-hypothetical I’d say Stogie T just cos I know he’s a monster with it on many levels and only steel can sharpen steel.
Tell us about your relationship with PRONOIA & MOMS HOUSE?
PRONOIA is a concept originally developed by my homie Ant aka M.A.D. The ultimate vision is to house hip urban content and have it as a share-space for other artists and creators looking to contribute to creative urban culture as a whole. I came on board as a contributor and an ambassador and we’ve got some exciting developments that we’ll be sharing soon. And Mom’s House is an artist hub headed by Tazna Slater and affiliated to Pronoia who also contribute from an artistic and logistic perspective.
Who determines what sort of content & message you showcase on the art you create, you? Or your audience? Or your team? How important is creative control to you as an artist?
That’s a great question! As an artist I feel there’s something deeper to being gifted with an ability to speak to people. For me the point of the quest throughout my evolution was to be able to speak with a voice that is unmistakably me. We put on so many masks and as Africans it’s an intriguing identity split where we jump into the shoes of this American persona and almost adopt a character while still having a duty of speaking African truths to awaken African minds. So, that paradox or rather the quest to reconcile that identity paradox became something I felt would bring me closer to my true voice.
At some point I felt people were trying to control Slege Lee and that was also part of the search towards creative freedom and speaking with my true voice. So, it’s mad important to me to have that control but finding your voice is just as important. Some people have control but they don’t know who they are so they never actually make that unique imprint in your psyche. They shift from pole to post doing this and that trying to find something to hang their hat on. Some have their unique voice but don’t have control so their creativity gets stifled and watered down.
So for me it’s imperative as an artist to get to a point where you have found your true voice and you are in full control of how you want to present it to the world. And that is what you’ll see in all the art that I’ve given as Selema Writes and I will continue to give in the foreseeable future.
You are an independent artist. Enlighten us on some of the hardships and difficulties that come with being an independent artist and would you sign a record deal with a major record label if it meant losing your creative control for a bigger budget to market and sell your music and brand?
I think knowledge of self again is key here. Some people think you can get in the game with a commercial sound and then switch up once you get in and be gully and conscious. The truth is what you go in with is what you get known for and that is what gets expected of you and before you know it you’re repeating a sound because you’re trapped in a hype loop. But if it’s really you then that is your path and you can be true to it.
Part of my evolution was the realization that as an individual who is creative you are more adept at channelling sensitivity into something people can receive. This makes you more able to get affected by energy so if you don’t protect the space and talent as sacred eventually it turns on you. You end up hating it. I’ve seen many artists just never do it again. It’s because the energy you put into the art comes back to you.
So, for me I operate from the perspective that I’m living the art of life as opposed to trying to live the life of an artist which could just be another mask I’m putting on. Everything is perspective and this thing is mad delicate so I try not to tamper with it. Let it be what it wants to be.
Who are the 5 most influential musicians on your musical style?
Snap! I didn’t see this one coming, aight bet. So, if you were asking about Slege Lee I would’ve said Wu-Tang, Big L, Big Pun, Papoose and Tupac. With Selema Writes those elements are still embedded but I’d say Selema Writes is more influenced by Miles Davis, Moses Molelekwa, Roc Marciano, Willie The Kid and The Alchemist.
What’s next for SELEMA WRITES, what should we be expecting from you as a creative going to the future?
Everything is going to be about building and consolidating what I’ve created as a foundation for Selema Writes for the next couple of years. As you’ve seen I’ve dropped two EP’s this year, PEACE BE UPON YOU EP and MAMA IS STILL A FREEDOM FIGHTER EP.
Then, you can expect another two full projects very soon titled, THERE WERE MERMAIDS AT THE STREAM produced mostly by myself and then, BOMAYE! which is a joint project with one of my producer homies from Queens, NY by the name of Mindframe.
I’m looking at going the whole nine with the physicals like vinyls, and CDs at the minimum and of course fly merch to go with it all. So, all those who been following my journey should definitely keep it locked on my channels. Shout out to all my people who been supporting the run and once again to you my G Kriss Anti B for the call. This is another one for the books.
Let us know where people can access your work and your social media handles
All my work can be found on these links:
Selema Writes Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfWAtK7kfUNwYKw5_AkocEA/playlists
Selema Writes Bandcamp: https://selemawrites.bandcamp.com/
Selema Writes Streaming: https://album.link/za/i/1521979640
Selema Writes Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/selema-writes
Selema Writes Instagram: @selema.writes
Selema Writes Facebook: https://web.facebook.com/selema.writes/
Selema Writes Twitter: @selema_writes
Slege Lee Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/SlegeLee/playlists
Slege Lee Bandcamp: https://slegelee.bandcamp.com/music
Slege Lee Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/slegelee
Dice Mak Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5nteu5Z972_YtBO-v1SISw
Dice Mak Bandcamp: https://dicemak.bandcamp.com/
Dice Mak Streaming: https://album.link/za/i/1288689118
Dice Mak Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/dice_makgothi