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7 Jul, 2014

Interview: Meeting Johnny Joburg

Jonny Joburg first came to our attention as one half of the electro-rap act known as the SpazaShop Boyz. It may seem like he has taken a break since the group split up in 2012, but that is not the case. AXECESS tracked him down to shoot the breeze about his latest release, 'Mazishe' off his upcoming EP, producing for Cama Gwini and starting his own record label; Renaissance-Rock Recordings.

What is the story behind your new track 'Mazishe'? What inspired the track?

Mazishe is the story of a young man's wild night out in the city of Johannesburg. It begins with him struggling with the notion of going out because he knows what it will lead to. In the end it all eventually leads to exactly what he feared and also hoped for. The track, like all my music, is inspired by my own experiences. I've had a very interesting life so far! LOL

What has the response to the new material been like so far?

The response has been amazing! The single is on national radio and was broken by one of the biggest deejays on radio, Tbo-Touch. I also had my first television appearance as a solo artist recently where I performed 'Mazishe' and when I checked my social media an hour afterwards I had 200 new followers in just that hour! Since then it's been growing non-stop everyday and I have a lot of young people reaching out to me for advice or just to tell me that they love the music. I feel blessed.

Is the single a taste of what's to come? Can you let us in on any upcoming releases from your corner?

Yes, 'Mazishe' is the first single from my forthcoming EP "Sgebengu". After that EP I'll be dropping my debut album.

Some may think you've taken a break since Spaza Shop Boyz parted ways. What have you been up to?

Since the breakup of SpazaShop Boyz, I have focused on building my own music publishing company called Renaissance-Rock Recordings (RRR) which is in partnership with Sony-ATV. We currently have 21 world class African composers signed to our roster. I also produced the recent album by afro-rock /soul artist Cama Gwini.

You earned some great production credits on Cama Gwini's album 'Re-Birth', which was nominated for a 2013 SAMA in the category of Best Adult African Album. What was it like working in a space outside of electro/rap and the feeling of accomplishment behind Cama Gwini's success?

It was natural to me. Some of my earliest musical influences were rock 'n roll bands like The Offspring so Cama Gwini giving me the chance to express the part of me was just a dream come true.

Who are your top three most influential producers of all time?

Fela Kuti, Pharrell Williams, and Jonny Joburg!

You wear many hats: producer, performer, and record label owner. What ultimately gives you the most fulfilment?

Composing and programming music is the most personally gratifying but rapping is the most fun.

How do you balance the desire to become successful in your own career while trying to promote other artists at the same time?

I think it comes down to character. At my core, I just want to help other people but I love myself just as much so I juggle. Plus I have a lot of help from Sony-ATV with running my publishing company and my management team at Native Rhythms is amazing.

Tell us a bit more about Renaissance- Rock Recordings? Who is on the roster and what upcoming releases have you got planned for this year?

We have an exciting roster featuring some eclectic and excellent young artists. In fact, the Cama Gwini album was worked on by completely up-and-coming composers from RRR which is a testament to our world class African talent. Look out for Frank Marksy and Loui Lvndn who currently have EP's out, singles on radio and doing absolute damage on the indie circuit! And of course Jonny Joburg will be dropping his debut EP.

With 'Joburg' forming part of your name, you're definitely rooting hard for your city. In your opinion, what is it about this new wave of Jozi rap acts that is capturing the attention of fans in other parts of the country, as well as overseas?

The new rap and kwaito music coming out of JHB is amazing. Artists are doing a great job at raising the bar and I'm so glad to be a part of it. As for having Joburg as my name I'm going to say that my city, my country and my people mean everything to me and I will represent them everywhere I go… uJonny waka Joburg!

Your influence on the scene is not limited to music. It also extends to fashion. How important do you think fashion is in creating an overall aesthetic for your brand?

Fashion is music, music is fashion. I use fashion as an extension of my personality, my sound, and my business. RRR has a fashion department and we're currently designing and producing T-shirts with prints that embody the culture and attitude of the company. Meaning it's totally Afro-punk!  

Where can peeps keep up to date with the movements of Jonny Joburg?

I'm heavy on facebook and Twitter so peeps can follow me @Jonny_Joburg or like Renaissance-Rock Recordings on Facebook!

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