CityLife Arts

Boity Thulo, the evolution of a TV personality into a formidable rapper in South Africa

Her rise to the top of rap music follows the resurgent interest in this music genre in South Africa in the past few years

By Edward Tsumele

I remember the year very well. It was 10 years ago, when Sowetan, then my employer on its entertainment desk, which produced for the daily paper content that was centred on anything from cheap celebrity gossip, to sophisticated, and even thought provoking pieces on theatre, music and TV.

Its online version had just concluded a competition that asked readers to vote for the sexiest female and male celebrities in the country. A number of names of mainly actors and presenters on TV had dominated the nominations. Boity Thulo topped eventually and as a result was declared the sexiest female celebrity by popular vote.

My memory is failing me when it comes to who the readers at the time voted the sexiest male celebrity. Sorry mate. It is certainly not deliberate amnesia on my part. This is what normally happens when a male scribe is writing about sexist this  or that after so many years as they will in most cases, only remember the female winner and never the male winner. Apology to the sexiest male of the time.

But anyway, as one of the senior entertainment journalists manning the entertainment desk at Sowetan, I was asked to go and interview Boity about her being voted the sexiest female celebrity in South Africa, beating many big names to this triumph. Ordinarily I would have protested for being picked to do an assignment of that sort, as over the years I had believed that I fall on the cerebral side of things. In fact I had grown to become a nerd, especially when it comes to my interaction with many so called celebrities in South Africa.  But this time, I was somehow bemused. Never complained. Who would anyway when assigned to interview a young lady deemed to be the sexiest in South Africa?

 Here is the tricky part of this assignment. Even though at the time Boity was gaining traction on TV for shows she presented and that she had presented in her teens, quite frankly, I did not know who she was as I had  stopped watching most of the shows on TV as I snobbishly regarded them as boring, lacking depth and not deserving anyone serious’ attention.

But here we are in Dippio Zero in Rosebank, not far from Sowetan’s offices at the time, as they were across the road. Doppio Zero restaurant at the time was a favourite of most scribes across the road, me included, as that is where we liked quenching our thirst often after hours, but sometimes during working hours, just to get that inspiration for a high punching introduction. You know what I mean.

Short, a bit shy, but once in conversation, confident and could hold her own in a conversation, I was face to face with a young lady readers from throughout the country had had just voted the sexiest female celebrity in South Africa. Not that she is not pretty, for she is, but I kept on thinking what went into the mind of the readers to select her as the sexiest out of all the other women that are definitely sexy in the industry. But If I had my doubts, such doubts were suddenly erased when the male waiter who had known me for sometime as a regular at Doppio Zero, never wanted to leave our table during the entire interview. He lingered around our table longer than was necessarily in between serving us. In fact all along he smiled from ear to air, and each time looking curiously at Boity, and not me. I had never seen him in such a particularly jovial mood before. I immediately got it, and that is that he was in agreement with the readers’ verdict as far as Boilty’s body aesthetics are concerned.

Now fast forward this to 2020. I am at Universal Music offices at the Zone in Rosebank, again. And guess what, I am meeting Boity. A lot has changed in both our lives, professionally speaking. For one, I am now working for this very publication you are reading/CITYLIFE/ARTS.  Boity on her part, has grown phenomenally in her entertainment career. And yes, she is still as pretty as when she was voted the sexiest female celebrity by Sowetan readers10 years ago. That much has not changed. But a lot else has changed with regards to her development in the entertainment sector as she told me after reminiscing about how we met 10 years ago.  For example, she was allocated a huge Def Jam Africa boardroom for this interview. Me sitting on the opposite side felt like I was an employee having to explain myself to a company chief executive officer for messing up on a deadline, and her publicist Bonnie Meslane must have felt what I did when she remarked, directing it to me “How does she look like sitting on that seat.?” “She looks like a company chief executive officer,” I responded immediately.

The point is, this young lady hailing originally from Potchefstroom, North West Province, is currently a shaker and mover of monumental stature. Her small physical stature may deceive one about how big she currently is on the South African entertainment sector.

She in this year alone has launched several successful projects, including her own reality show that was screened this year on BET, a hair care range and perfume business, as well as having successfully launched a trail blazing musical career since 2018, when she first collaborated with South Africa’s formidable rapper and now a global rap music icon, Nasty C. That collaboration that started off accidentally in 2017 when she as MC for a concert where Nasty C was featured, took a chance and rapped  over Nasty’s song, That spare of the moment brave act, culminated in the launch of her  much long awaited EP on Friday, December 3.

Boity’s foray and increasing influence on the rap scene has been phenomenal in the past three years.

“It was not planned when I rapped over Nasty C’s song. It was a spare of the moment thing and even when the audience responded positively, I never took it serious. It was when Nasty C approached me one day and said you know what, you have something there, that I took it serious coming from him,” she says.

And taking that advice and compliment from Nasty C was certainly a good decision for the rapper. This year, just before lockdown, Boity was one of a select rappers in South Africa that were snatched by Def Jam Africa, a subsidiary of Universal Music when it launched in South Africa, joining seasoned rappers that had long been in the game before her, such as Nadia Nakai and Casper Novest for instance.

And the launch in Africa  with offices in Johannesburg and Lagos Nigeria, of this successful recording label co-founded by one of the richest rappers in the US, whose fortune in the business is estimated at $340 million, Russell Simmons was no accident. Rap music, which first started in America by mainly black youth yearning to express themselves  within a society that tended not to hear them, nor see them, and now over the years spreading to the rest of the world, is big business and cultural phenomenon. South African rap is following that American trajectory of success. The signing of South African talent in Johannesburg as well as their Nigerian counterparts, by Def Jam Africa, must be seen within this context. Boity is a beneficiary of that development in the rap music industry, whose influence has been particularly prominent in the past few years in South Africa, and its growth trajectory has in a way been following that of its cousins genres in the country, such as kwaito, house and amapiano.

I can tell you now, none of these rappers that were signed by Def Jam Africa  recently, a few years ago, could have ever imagined that one day they would be stable mates with Boity who until now was only regarded as a celebrated TV personality, and not a rapper who would take the big boys on their game. The release of the 4436 EP follows a series of smash hits since making her rap debut in 2018 with Wuz Dat featuring Nasty C.

Representing the North West, this Def Jam Africa’s new platinum has named the EP after her grandmother’s house in Potchefstroom, where she was raised.

The 4436  EP was produced by pH Raw X, Reason and Bash Jameson and features a host of multi-talented stars such as Riky Rick, Yanga Chief, Maggz, Ginger Trill and Maglera Doe Boy.  Getting these seasoned cats to be involved in your project as a new rapper should mean that they are taking you seriously The 9 track EP comprises the bonus track Wuz Dat which largely launched the rapper’s career. “With all the makings of a global star  the right look, a banging body, a glamorous life and the flow to match, this is indeed Boity’s time and this EP showcases her skillful rap, high quality production and her growth as an artist. The people’s favorite rapper with over 7 million followers on social media

and fast becoming one of SA’s most featured hip hop acts, Boity is proud of the work she has put in making this offering, “ says her well oiled public relations machinery, following the release of her EP.

“I am beyond excited, nervous and even more excited to release this body of work. It’s been a long time coming. I want to thank my fans for their patience, my producers for the same patience and the work they put in,” comments Boity.

What is oblivious in the case of Boity is that the way her career has been accepted by the music industry is nothing short of phenomenal, and some will even say that luck must have played a part in it. She does in fact not disagree.

“It is actually a combination of a lot of factors, the Universe, God, ancestors and luck, as well as the time being right. But I am not going to be apologetic about my success for that is what was meant to happen and I am in no position to be apologetic about the blessings. I do not believe in things just happening as everything is connected in life,” she told me boldly.

Rap music is often controversial, particularly its lyrics, with especially older people complaining about the music’s lyrical and video content. Does her mother listen and watch her videos? “My parents are my biggest supporters even though I swear, hip hop being what it is. They understand. What I do not do though is to twerk as I believe I can express myself without the need to twerk,” she told me amidst a shy chuckle.

She also revealed that she works with two songwriters that she trusts and who understand her style.

There you have it-Boity is the most successful female rapper in South Africa today, with her single having reached platinum status, the first such achievement by a female rapper in South Africa. (Boity 4436 Listen here ).

And yes, South African rap icons such as KO, Ricky Rick, AKA, Reason, Casper Nyovest,  Nadia Nakai, Blakrock, Nasty C, Sho Madjozi,  to name but a few, may not be millionaires. Not yet. But the music has taken off in a big way that it would not surprise many If in a few years’ time, the country’s entertainment scene produces its first millionaire rapper, just as the US produced its first billionaire rapper in Jay-Z in 2019, according to Forbes.

The list of the wealthy rappers in the US

No. 5: Drake — $150 million

The 32-year-old Canadian is the youngest rapper on the list. His wealth grew 50% over the past year (2018), Forbes reported, “boosted by holdings ranging from real estate to his Virginia Black whiskey, as well as a lucrative tour and new residency at the XS Nightclub in Las Vegas.”

No. 4: Kanye West — $240 million

In addition to his music, West can credit Adidas and his Yeezy shoe line with landing him on Forbes’ list. “Our accounting of West’s wealth is almost entirely predicated on a conservative estimate of that brand’s value,” Forbes wrote.

No. 3: Diddy — $740 million

Diddy drops to No. 3 this year (2019)as some of his holdings — cable network Revolt and his Sean John clothing line (he still holds a stake in the company) — lose money. “I’ve always understood that if I give the customers my best and service them differently, whether music, clothing or vodka, I’ll get a return on my hard work,” he told Forbes. His investment in Ciroc vodka is providing the biggest return right now, Forbes said.

No. 2: Dr. Dre — $800 million

Dr. Dre declared himself a billionaire in 2013, but Forbes has yet to do so. “Even with the vesting of his final slug of Apple stock last summer, Dre hasn’t quite made it into billionaire territory,” Forbes wrote. “He has spent heavily over the years on property (he paid $40 million for Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen’s Los Angeles estate) and charitable donations (along with Beats cofounder Jimmy Iovine, he gave $70 million to start a school at USC).”

No. 1: Jay-Z — $1 billion

With a $1 billion fortune, Jay-Z is officially the first hip-hop artist to become a billionaire, according to Forbes.

The 50 year-old father of three has amassed his income through investments in art, entertainment, real estate — he has properties in Los Angeles and New York — liquor — he owns Armand de Brignac — and his own music catalog.

Jay-Z is now hip hop’s first billionaire, according to Forbes.

If you combine his wealth with that of his wife Beyoncé, the family is worth $1.4 billion. “To convince artists that you can’t be an artist and make money … was the greatest trick in music that people ever pulled off,” Jay-Z told Forbes in 2010. “I think the people that were making the millions said that.”

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