The more time I spend getting to know the men and women behind some of South Africa’s favourite music, the more I notice just how young the producers that they work with are.
A quick look at a few of the biggest hits in recent years are proof of this.
Cassper Nyovest’s award-winning single, Doc Shebelza was produced by the then 16-year-old, Just Fenese who met Nyovest on Twitter.
Tweezy, the producer responsible for AKA’s ‘Run Jozi’ is 23. Lunatik - one of the pioneers of Cashtime’s Skhanda rap sound and the producer behind K.O’s smash hit Caracara - is 22. Anatii - who had his first hit at age 16, L-Tido’s when it rains - is 23 and Bizz Boy who produced Da L.E.S’s ‘Heaven’ is also around the same age.
One such talent is Zambian-born, Midrand-based producer, Wichi 1080. Fans of hip-hop will recognize the 21-year-old as the mastermind behind the beats for artists like Priddy Ugly, Kly, Slique, Rouge, Refi Sings, Brian Soko (who produced Beyonce’s ‘Drunk in Love’) and most recently, Nomuzi ‘Moozlie’ Mabena’s ‘The Recipe.’
I first met Wichi behind the scenes of an online show called ‘The Gusto Project’ where he was performing alongside Priddy Ugly. The second time was at his home in Midrand while he was spending a chilled afternoon with a friend.
Wichi initially went by the moniker High Def aka. Mr Wichi but shortened it to Wichi 1080 after his friend, JJSine randomly suggested it during a recording session due to Sun’s frustration with how long his friend’s name was.
Growing up, the producer said he was that kid that wanted to be and do everything that his brother was and that’s how he got into production in 2006 - shortly after moving to South Africa. His brother stopped at some point but he had come to enjoy it so much that he continued.
At first, Wichi said all he did was make beats up until he produced his first record in 2013 when he met what seems to be his favourite collaborator - Priddy Ugly - at the Academy of Sound Engineering.
Naturally, his parents were wary about him pursuing a music career but they weren’t going to stand in his way. They still support their son and lucky for us because that support allows their son to make some amazing music.
Of the songs he has produced, his favorites include OMG by Priddy Ugly, Too Much by Kly featuring Riky Rick and Sheba Ngawn’o by Rouge.
“There’s no such thing as a back up, plan A has to work… I’ve started rapping a lot more these days though.”
Wichi has ambitions of going into video production next, starting with actually being the one who shoots the footage before learning how to edit and produce the videos himself. Fans can also expect to hear his rap debut sometime next year as the rapper says that he has been rapping a lot more lately.
And when that time comes, it probably won’t even be that hard for him to get a foot in the door. According to the rapper, he and his squad have co-signs from the likes of Brain Soko, DJ Speedsta, DJ Slique and DJ Maphorisa.
“Having a contact in the industry is extremely important. I don’t think you can get in if you don’t know someone on the inside. It’s the same with getting a job. I mean how do you get in if you don’t know anyone in the company? I don’t know any other way to get in. I feel like you need to have a co-sign from somebody inside and luckily we have a couple”
Granted, the music industry is a tough nut to crack, even with some big names standing in your corner but the young producer seems to be finding ways of maneuvering it all on his own.
“I haven’t experienced any problems being accepted into the industry. Everyone that I've experienced so far is either a fan or someone that f***s with what I do. The music industry is a weird thing. It’s like things are not straight forward, people are weird, and you have to maneuver through people and around people and the gold is in the places you wouldn’t think it is.”