The Sunday News
Bruce Ndlovu, Sunday Life Reporter
WITH every well executed chorus on a hit, with every poetic lyric he pens, the question just begs to be asked. Could he be the one?
When he started singing to an audience of one back in his family’s humble home in Bulawayo’s Magwegwe West, Msiz’kay never imagined some could think of him as a saviour of sorts.
Back then, he was just Sizalobuhle Nkomo, a young lad whose voice accompanied every track he heard on the radio.
He was yet into the serial hitmaker that time and experience would mould him into. Back then, the hopes of music lovers did not rest on his voice yet – hopes that he could be the one leader of the new school, hopes that he could be the next superstar in a city that has produced precious few in the recent past.
But with every hit, the whispers grow. A well-executed melody here and poetic lyric there and those whispers grew and grew, gradually becoming a chorus. Could he be the one of the “chosen Ones”, that rare breed of artiste that succeeds in a city that some artistes believe is notoriously apathetic to its best music talents? (ask Lovemore Majaivana).
The burden of expectation is a great one to bear, but if there is one artiste that seems ready to carry it, it is Msiz’kay.
He has, after all, had had to wear many caps in his lifetime. He is three people rolled into one: he is a musician, a poet and, perhaps unexpectedly, an accountant.
“IF you want something done, do it yourself.”
This is a phrase that is used commonly enough. It is a truism that has guided men and women of action, doers that believe in making things happen rather than sitting on their laurels and hoping they do, since time immemorial.
One day, when he was sitting in the studio, “Msiz’kay” decided that if he wanted things done, he needed to do it himself. Better yet, if he wanted a song sung, he would sing it himself.
That one moment, that one decision was an important step taken in the evolution of a musician that with every song, sounds more and more like the voice of his generation.
“I have always been the person that likes singing,” he told Sunday Life in an interview.
“I was the kid who was always singing along to the radio but growing up I didn’t trust myself with this voice so rap was easier for me to try that than straight up singing. When it came to a point where I was recording, mixing and mastering my own vocals while learning from Joe Maseko, I started gaining more confidence. From around 2014 I went to Joe Maseko (now late) and I asked him to start teaching me music production as I was keen to learn.
“When I started recording my vocals, I had the confidence because I thought, I keep looking for vocalists but they are hard to find.
You’d want to do a song and go for a year without recording it while thinking that you’d find that person who is going to do the chorus so eventually I braved it and said let me do this thing. You do it once, you do it twice and the third time around you think I can do this. So, I eventually realised that I could do both and overtime with practise I started doing a lot more singing,” he said.
But before he even had the confidence to get in the studio, Msiz’kay needed someone to turn his passion for writing rap music into songs that fit for consumption by the human ear.
“My journey in music started way back in 2010. This was when I recorded a song by a producer who called himself The Virus. He was a guy that lived in my neighborhood. Back then I used to write, endless paragraphs of rap lyrics and so I came across this guy and he was making beats.
“This was in late 2009 and so we started hanging out in the studio where he was producing songs. He said ‘my guy, you say you write raps, so let us hear what you can do’. He schooled me on how to rap and things like that and that’s where the journey in music for me began.
Unfortunately, that very same year I had to leave for college so I was now recording every chance I got during holidays and semester breaks. I only started taking music seriously when I got back from college,” he said.
Today, Msiz’kay is unrecognizable from that raw teenager that used to dedicate barrels of ink to penning hardcore rap lyrics. Nowadays, the lyrics are distilled by a forceful voice that dispenses melody and wisdom in a way that is unmatched by his peers in the city. It this ability to craft catchy melody that has led some accusing him of abandoning his hip-hop roots.
“There are some that would argue that Msiz’kay is not hip-hop. But for me, in everything that I do, it is all about expressing yourself. For me, everything that I do, the way I tell my stories, is all hip-hop so I don’t know about those that say I am not,” he said.
For Msiz’kay, the love for poetry came first.
“What initially inspired me to start doing music was my love for reading and writing poetry. I liked reading a lot and I used to write poems. Those poems are what eventually turned into rap songs. I realised that these things (poems) could rhyme.
One thing led to another and the poems turned into music which was good because at the time that I was writing those raps I met Virus and other friends that were into the same thing. That was back in the early 2000s when we were listening to the like of Kanye West, 50 Cent and Jay Z. Those were the guys who were really inspiring us and made us love hip-hop.
This was myself and some friends because we had formed a small crew, we were doing battles in class and other things like that,” he said.
The poetic influence in his music is undeniable. While his ability to craft a catch chorus in also undisputed, Msiz’kay stands as one of the few artistes that crafts meaningful lyrics while maintaining mainstream appeal. He is the people’s poet, whose messages come clothed in rhythm and song.
“The poet in me is still alive. Even in the music, you can feel the poetry in there. The song writing is very much influenced by poetry and hip-hop, if though sometimes there might not be hip-hop songs. For me those lessons learnt as a boy growing are still with me.
Those lessons influence my style of writing and my style of music and how I present the things that I’m trying to convey. I’m still a poet and a song-writer at the time. The poetry is still in me, even though I no longer set out to write poetry like I used to back in the day,” he said.
Msiz’kay went to JW Mthimkhulu Primary then proceeded to Sizane and then St Bernard’s High schools for his O and A level education. Before his rap career could take flight, he went crossed the Limpopo, travelling all the way to the Eastern Cape, where he enrolled at the Walter Sisulu University (South Africa) where he acquired a BCom degree in Accounting. He partly pursued his post-graduate studies at Fort Hare University.
In a country where most families value education, Msiz’kay is every parent’s dream – a well-educated, respectful young man. When the spirit of song possesses one however, it does not care whatever academic qualification hang off one’s walls.
“As for the fact that I do have a degree and I do music which is totally different from what l learnt at school, of course I have family and friends that will send you adverts for vacancies trying to steer you in a different. This is okay because in their own way they are trying to be helpful, but they don’t understand music business and they don’t see the potential that I can see in it,” he said.
With his music, Msiz’kay has touched hearts and healed mind. His lyrics, some fans claim, are band aids and his songs, are medicinal, giving long-term healing to wounds that cannot be seen. Yet he is away that there are those that would love to see Msiz’kay die and Mr Sizalobuhle Nkomo reborn. In such uncertain economic times, especially for the arts, there are those that would love to see him seated in a corner office somewhere, dressed in a suit and tie, crunching numbers.
“I always face those challenges from people who don’t see the potential that I see in the music business or how gifted I feel I am and how much I believe that I can give to the world. If I was to do a different thing so much would be lost for many people because we are trying to inspire people. I can do that through music and not necessarily sitting in an office somewhere,” he said.