Kwesta

Kwesta (Senzo Mfundo Vilakazi) is a South African rapper from Katlehong in the East Rand  who first gained fame following the release of his debut album titled Special Rekwest.

Kwesta SAMAs
Born Senzo Mfundo Vilakazi
August 11, 1988
Katlehong, East Rand
Johannesburg
Gauteng
South Africa
Known As Kwesta
Also Known As Mr Cool, DaKAR
Occupation  Rapper, Songwriter
Musician
Genre Hip Hop
Since 2003 – to date
Label Urbantainment
Associated Acts Zakwe, Shugasmakx
Jimmy Nevis, Slikour
Kid X, CrashCarBurn
Agent Unknown
Website Unknown

Kwesta was born Senzo Mfundo Vilakazi in the Johannesburg township of Katlehong in the East Rand in the Gauteng province of South Africa.

His parents divorced when he was eight years old, “My parents divorced when I was eight and I was introduced to a fatherless upbringing,” he told Independent Newspapers’ Tonight. Kwesta’s mother is a teacher.

He has a younger sister, she was the subject of a song “Suster” and in a ZAlebs interview titled “Riding in the Hood with Kwesta” a interviewer says “Kwesta introduced us to his childhood friend and older brother”.

Kwesta began his spoken word endeavors with poetry in high school before switching to rap following his victory at the talent show in that school.

In 2003 still in high school along with a group of friends, he formed a hip hop crew called Ghetto Fellaz which later changed it’s name to The Juvenylz after the addition of a new member.

During this period Kwesta was going by the moniker of Quest before changing it to Kwesta.

The Juvenylz were never discovered and make it to stardom, Kwesta dropped out of high and pursued a full-time career as a musician.

He recorded a demo at his makeshift studio at his home.

In 2005 Kwesta met Max of Africa’s Most Southern (AMS) Record Company, there (at AMS) he (Kwesta) refined his rapping skills with a then unknown rapper named Zakwe, producing numerous lesser known songs along the way.

His quest to stardom was further buoyed by successfully participating in YFM’s Rap Activity Jam and e.tv’s youth programming block’s, Craz-e, Shiz Niz The Freestyle Kings special – and went on to win both.

Kwesta’s success on The Freestyle Kings special introduced him to the national audience and went on to perform at The Rand Show and The Durban Beach Festival among other major festivals.

Following a successful stint as an underground rapper, he decided to pursue mainstream success, Kwesta completed his demo tape and dropped it off at Buttabing Entertainment offices in Park Hurst in Johannesburg.

His demo was met with great enthusiasm by Buttabing Entertainment, co-owned by Shugasmakx and Slikour of Skwatta Kamp fame, and three days later they invited him to a formal meeting.

Buttabing Entertainment signed Kwesta and introduced him to mainstream, he travelled all over the country as part of the entertainment line up and judging panel on the Sprite Hip Hoop Tour and featured on The Ventilation Street Tape, he also took part in the Nokia Defend Your Street campaign where he collaborated with various artists.

In 2007 Kwesta released his first radio single titled “Shap Fede” and followed up with a Mixtape with hip hop DJ C-live.

In 2008 he began work on his debut album while continuing to perform across South Africa with the likes of DJ Naves, Shugasmakx and Slikour.

In 2010 Kwesta was selected to be a Brand South Africa ambassador and headlined their nationwide roadshow tour ahead of the 2010 Fifa World Cup South Africa.

That year he collaborated with the likes of 2-Face and Jozi among others on MTN’s Everywhere You Go theme song which also featured American singer Kelly Rowland of Destiny’s Child fame.

On July 11, 2010 Kwesta performed at the 2010 Fifa World Cup South Africa closing ceremony at the FNB Stadium (Soccer City) ahead of the final match of the tournament between Netherlands and Spain.

That ceremony was watched by a reported 500 million people across the world and was one of the very last Nelson Mandela‘s public appearances before he passed away just over three years later on December 5, 2013.

 

 

Career as a Recording Artist, 2010 – to date

In September 2010 Kwesta released his debut studio album titled “Special ReKwest”.

Special ReKwestThe fourteen track album was a runaway success and spawned hit songs such as “7-day Hustle ft. Junya Skillz, T’do & RJ Benjamin“, “Babhemi ft. Sandile Ziqubu”, “Flash” “Pump It “, and “Flava” as well as “Sharp Fede (Remix) ft. Pro-Verb, N’veigh, Flabba, & Red Button”.

“Flava” secured a DSTV synch-deal for their summer theme music and was used in the 2011 Loerie Awards television ad-campaign starring Riaan Cruywagen, a retired South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) news anchor.

“Pump It” also secured a synch deal with DSTV and was used by Redds in their television and radio ad-campaigns for 2-years.

“Stomp” was featured in the soundtrack of the American action film Death Race 3: Inferno starring Luke Goss, Danny Trejo and Ving Rhames.

In 2011 Kwesta was nominated in two categories at the 17th Annual South African Music Awards (SAMAs); Best Rap Album and Best Newcomer.

In that year he was also nominated for a Channel-O Africa Music Video Awards in the best newcomer category.

Kwesta was named World’s Grittiest Rapper by New York based online magazine SOHH.com and e.tv’s Nicky Greenwall hosted The Showbiz Report named him Rising Star of The Year.

In 2012 Kwesta released “Boomshakalaka ft. Kid X”, a first official single of his second studio album, DaKAR (Da King of Afrikan Rap).

In that year he also departed from Buttabing Entertainment to form his own independent record label, Urbantainment.

In November 2013 his second studio album, DaKAR, was released digitally on iTunes and debuted at number 3 on South African Hip-hop/Rap chart behind Eminem’s Marshall Mathers LP II and Drake’s Nothing Was The Same.

Kwesta DaKARDaKAR gave birth to songs such as “Balloon ft. Jimmy Nevis”, “High on Life ft. Tia Black”, “Thul’ Ujayive ft. Zakwe”, “Pray Hard ft. Reason”, Johnnie ft. Crash Car Burn”, “Radio ft. Charles Mchunu” and “No Competition ft. Jody Williams” as well as “Find a Way ft. Kruna and the Soweto Gospel Choir”.

In 2014 Kwesta was nominated and won Best Hip Hop Album (DaKAR) at the 13th Annual Metro FM Music Awards, he was also nominated for Best Rap Album at the 20th Annual South African Music Awards.

In November 2014 MTV Base placed Kwesta in the 9th position of the list of the 10 hottest MCs in the year 2014.

Also in November 2014 Kwesta released a hit single title “King Speech” which was viewed as a response to the list and his position in it, Kwesta was quoted “The song was not something done in response to the list rather it was dedicated to my fans who have grown frustrated at me being underrated.”

In December 2014 at the South African hip Hop Awards Kwesta won the award for Lyricist of the Year.

 

 

Discography

Year Title Label Notes
2007 U Got It Buttabing Entertainment Mixtape
2010 Special ReKwest Buttabing Entertainment Debut Studio Album
2013 DaKAR Urbantainment Second Studio Album

 

 

 

Open Letter to 5FM

In February 2014 Kwesta posted a letter on his Facebook page addressed to the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) Radio’s 5FM titled “The Black Youth of South Africa Also Want the Power of 5FM”.

The letter related that 5FM is the only SABC youth radio station and therefore should adhere to that by play-listing, playing and including in their charts the music of black hip hop artists.

He alleged that 5FM was catering to the white community as opposed to the masses, “79% of who are black”.

“I know from personal experience that when Boomshakalaka had already reached it’s peak on various radio stations and long become the most downloaded rap track in the country [South Africa] I still had to carry out the research myself and collate data to prove to the music committee that the song was worth playing even though as I was told that there was too much vernacular in the lyrics for the “5FM listener” to which I responded so Afrikaans must be the only African language that is palatable to the “5FM listener” because at the same time Jack Parow’s song was getting enviable airplay,” Kwesta said in that letter.

While Kwesta’s letter was viewed as controversial, the impact of the letter on 5FM and on the issues covered therein remains unclear.

Kwesta was lauded for his letter by fellow hip hop artists including Hip Hop Pantsula (HHP), Tumi, Slikour and Teargas among others.

*See full text of the letter in question*

 

 

5FM and “Johnnie ft. CrashCarBurn” Controversy

In June 2014 it was reported that Kwesta was involved in a “race row with 5fm” after he defended a station’s DJ who was rebuked by a listener on Twitter after he played Kwesta’s song “Johnnie (Keep Walking) ft.CrashCarBurn”.

That requested that the station “play decent music” instead of “Zulu and Xhosa rap”, referring to Kwesta’s song “Johnnie ft.CrashCarBurn”.

 

 

Personal Life

Kwesta is a father to a daughter; talking about the song, “Johnnie (Keep Walking)”, he made with CrashCarBurn, Kwesta was quoted by Tonight of Independent Newspapers saying “I wrote it so that my daughter will know about her mother and my relationship. I had to leave the day after her birth and want to show that I love her mother and her. Out of all the things I have done, no greater thing has happened to me since that day she was born.”

arrow