Cape Town rap stays Ill Skillin’

By: Siphiwe Zwane (@SDotJR_)

Guest writer and fellow ‘head’, Siphiwe Zwane for CHEKA Digital, chats to Ill Skillz about the rap game in Cape Town and the challenges behind what they call the ‘Phela’sonwabe mentality’ of local music.

1. Ill-Literate-Skill is the official name of your crew, that’s sounds like an audacious oxymoron to choose for a name. What does the crew name mean to you?

Uno July: Initially, those three terms (Ill, Literate and Skill) were fundamentally our point of reference as students of rap and as an art-form primarily. Eventually we became affectionately known as Ill Skillz because the industry naturally dumbs shit down for everyone else. Despite that, nothing much has really changed in terms of what we stand for as a brand and the concept behind the original name. These are the kinds of qualities we have maintained till this day to stay afloat, and we encourage and enforce them to preserve our concerns of being the illest.

2. Notes From The Native Yards is not traditional radio music per say, it’s raw and boom bap inclined. With the hip hop scene titling towards the “turn up” movement, how is Ill Skillz progressing without adapting the new wave?

Jimmy Flexx: Popular culture is ever changing, that is how it sustains itself, by feeding into a particular system. Our music isn’t defined by that, we pursue an alternative purpose informed by the grassroots not to say we do not participate with mainstream trends. There’s a whole other progressive music audience that’s not in the scene. Word life.

3. How was the experience of performing at Back To the City on Freedom Day this year and what was the crowds response to your music?

Jimmy Flexx: It was eye opening to see how the culture has grown. The crowd was disappointed that the set was so short so we’re planning to go back and do an exclusive show and introduce Notes From Native Yards. That’ll be real special.

Ill Skillz Live Photo Credit: Toni J
Ill Skillz Live
Photo Credit: Toni J

4. What are your views on how the local award ceremonies handle the merit of hiphop?

Jimmy Flexx: Hip hop isn’t at the award ceremonies.

Uno July: Word to the streets.

5. Lastly, how difficult is it for an independent act to thrive in SA and what are some of the challenges that have you come across?

Jimmy flexx: The main challenge is getting radio airplay, if you’re not playlisted then you apparently don’t exist. The South African music landscape is highly misrepresented on radio and TV.

Uno July: It is very difficult for independent artists, point-blank period! Especially if you’re outside of the Johannesburg media and celebrity circles. It seems like you have to please them before anything, whether your work is mediocre or not, no quality-check whatsoever. I just personally think that people generally have bad ethics and furthermore lack honesty and authenticity, everyone is afraid to stand-out and stand firm for their personal visions, but will rather try fit-in with the current status quo… To a point where you realize how defensive they are to keep promoting their mediocrity because of their own insecurities of losing bread on their tables should they not jump on the band-wagon. Gravy train shit. Phela’sonwabe mentality.

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