Cape Town Lately’s Gareth Duncan pays tribute to rapper YoungstaCPT, who is not only breaking barriers in his own industry, but who is inspiring a generation to be unashamedly proud of our Kaapstad heritage.
When YoungstaCPT released one of his biggest tracks in 2016, he created two sides of spectators.
1 Those proud of being represented in their Cape coloured vernacular, while others have been won over by the passion and confidence that resonates through his music.
2 Then there are those who didn’t quite warm up to his straight forward, raw approach… mostly the same people who complain that too many local rappers sound the same or too “American”, but then criticise those who express themselves in their own accent.
It has become evidently clear which side of these spectators is bigger as YoungstaCPT has become Cape Town’s very own Pied Piper – transforming the mindset of many through his lyrical talents and profound messages, which has captured the interest of the youth. He’s shed a light on the coloured race and coloured communities, who have not been represented effectively for years. He tells our story through his music.
And after years and years of fighting against stereotypes and critrics, the 26-year-old from Wittebome, Wynberg has managed to capture the hearts of thousands – not only in Cape Town, but around the world, as shown during his recent tours to Switzerland and Australia.
Cape Town Lately celebrates the Kaapstad Naaier’s evolution into an International Naaier.
“How do I start it off? I came and I saw, but I haven’t conquered all. This Demo Three feels kinda like the Carter Four. Life’s a movie and I wonder what it got in store. Ever since I small, I always strived for more. Kinda depressed but I could never seem to find the cause. We’re all designed with flaws, I try to embrace mine. This rap thing is not a fling, it’s gonna take time.” – Don’t F&*# With Me, YoungstaCPT (2012)
I remember meeting Riyadh Roberts for the first time during a Cape Town Lately shoot in late 2013. After seeing his first few music videos – like “Flowing Through My DNA” and “Ohh Wee” with DJ Codax and Frankie – I knew there was something special about this kid, and I wanted to play my part in sharing his story by putting him on the cover of our then digital magazine.
He was about 15 minutes late for the interview at Metalloid Lab studios (run by producer Gary Arsenic) in Fairways, and I had my then creative director and chief photographer waiting with me. I remember thinking, I hope this laatie is not going to arrive with his Prima Donna tendencies.
“I’ll be the soon. My ride is just a bit delayed,” he apologised via SMS.
I didn’t quite understand until a taxi pulled up to the corner and out jumped Riyadh with longtime friend, StrayDogCPT.
“Sorry for being late – the driver took the long route. The name’s Youngsta C-P-T. Good to meet you,” he said as he introduced himself.
“Why the C-P-T?” I asked.
“Because we need more people representing Cape Town. We need to tell the Cape Town story, so I put the CPT next to my name to remind everyone where I come from,” he answered.
What ensued was probably one of my favourite interviews I’ve ever done – not only for Cape Town Lately – but during my nine years as a writer.
And it wasn’t because of YoungstaCPT’s music. It was because of his story.
In a nutshell, he wanted to pursue his music after matriculating, but his mother wanted him to get an education. A compromise saw his mother give him one year to prove that he can create a sustainable living from a rap career. He hustled hard and made a name for himself as a young artist on the scene (hence, the name YoungstaCPT), a name big enough to convince his mother to give him a fair chance to take a journey that was destined for him.
“I have huge respect for my mother and . She’s played a big part in my life and I’m proud that I can do this for her,” he explained.
He also told me that the journey was not easy but rewarding. He realised how important his progress was for those around him as he started getting credit and recognition from his peers on the trains and taxis he travelled on.
“I’m not one to flash the cars or the riches because that’s the wrong story to tell. It’s a fake lifestyle. I’m working on a bigger purpose. I’m working on my career to inspire the next generation. The Y-Generation. I interact with the youth on the trains and taxis, and it warms my heart when they rap my lyrics to me or play my music on their phones. Our people need leaders who inspire others to believe that you can be anybody who you want to be, no matter your circumstances,” said YoungstaCPT, one of the most profound statements he made during that interview.
This kid was something special.
“I know that you will say that more names should be brought up. I wrote this before the Top 10 list was drawn up. People want mentions, handouts and shortcuts. Bra, where I come from, that’s not how they taught us.” – Top Ten List, YoungstaCPT (2016)
Now, as talented as YoungstaCPT is, no one said the climb would be easy. And he soon realised this when he faced many challenges and barriers, some which could’ve easily doused his passion for music.
Radio and TV declined his submissions, saying it was “too raw” for mainstream media. There was hate from his own people, who criticised his “gham” tendencies.
I’ll admit, even I believed he needed to incorporate a more “commercial” feel to his music to open the doors. Why? Because I believe (and still believe), pound for pound, YoungstaCPT has a superior skill-set than the likes of AKA, but the latter’s sound was more welcomed by the broader South African audience because he appealed to a bigger listenership.
But YoungstaCPT refused to conform to the norm, and continued to push his own voice. Without the support of mainstream media, he used his own personal platforms to showcase his art… and the wheel started turning.
How wrong were we?
YoungstaCPT started building a big following, which stemmed in Cape Town. He took things to the next level as he made the move up to Johannesburg, where he networked with influential players in the rap game. He started collaborating and building relationships with good people in the South African hip hop industry, like Nasty C and Tumi. To this day, I still believe DJ Switch’s “Way It Go” is one of the most underrated tracks to be dropped.
He continued to thrive, and big career steps followed. YoungstaCPT’s bigges
Kaapstad’s International Naaier was born.
SETTING THE EXAMPLE
“I’m using my powers for good. It doesn’t happen much in our hood. Those in power is crooks. They change history in our books. So we read the lines of the G-Code. Ears, fingers and teeth gold. That lifestyle bring the young down and they’re slipping low in that deep hole.” – Arabian Gangster, YoungstaCPT & Maloon TheBoom (2017).
“A coloured bru killed a coloured bru, but I told them that’s the wrong target.” – Let Me Great, YoungstaCPT (2015)
“I’m from a place called the Cape, where we were forcibly removed. The gangs are organised with rules. Young boys who think it’s cool to sell tik and skip school, on the corners drinking booze. Now the anger that is fuzed must be responsibly used. But instead he misdirects it and it goes towards his bru.” – Son Don’t Set, YoungstaCPT & Tommy Ills (2015)
So what makes YoungstaCPT a pioneer in his own right?
Five years ago, would you ever believe a young laatie from Wynberg could inspire a generation through hip hop music based on his Cape Coloured vernacular? Could you ever believe he’d be performing to sold-out crowds… not only in South Africa… but overseas too?
Whenever someone tried to close the door on him, he created his own way in. It’s the kind of attitude and mindset we need in our communities, especially the youth.
When you enter the real world and you’re trying to make your own way in life… it doesn’t matter where you come from or who you are… if you’re willing to give everything you have to something that you love, you can make something out of it in life.
It doesn’t have to be hip hop as in YoungstaCPT’s case… it can be anything that lights up that passion, that fire in your heart. We’re living in a generation that has given birth to extraordinary young people reaching new heights in every industry… and this should be celebrated.
More importantly, it should be understood that this life is not easy, but it will be worth it.
“It’s middle finger to the government, because they hate me. So much k*k going on here that they ain’t see. ANC did a lot but they also broke laws. So Y-Gen is the party I will vote for.” – Music First, YoungstaCPT & Maloon TheBoom (2015)
YoungstaCPT hosted an appreciation party for all his fans last week as he understands that he wouldn’t have reached the heights he did without all the support.
The big question is… can he maintain and build momentum in the long run?
He definitely has the potential to, he just needs to ensure he holds on to that work ethic that got him here in the first place. To understand why… you have to see him perform live.
I recently watched him perform at Hunter’s Heat Seekers and Sizzled in March. The passion for his music flows from his soul through the microphone, which resonates through to the audience. To see people of all races and creeds scream “Salutas” and “Kaapstad Naaier” underlines his diverse influence, even with his Cape Town intellect.
Then there’s that freestyle performance… asking the audience for four words then including them all in his freestyle, showing off his skill that took years and years to master.
Then there’s the external reasons… seeing how Cape Town has become proud of its Kaapstad heritage thanks to YoungstaCPT’s music. Seeing how other races are taking an keen interest in knowing more behind the stories in his lyrics. You have to respect the stand YoungstaCPT’s is taking for the coloured race – which has been stuck in no man’s land in Cape Town for far too long – a sad fact when you consider that the coloured race is a large population contingent in the Mother City. It’s a culture that’s unique to the world… and finally the world will hear our story.
There will be doubters, of course. They will always be there. But from an objective point of view… if he has reached these heights with nothing but hard work and grind… what makes you think he can’t go higher when he has more support behind the Y-Gen movement?
More proof of this saw YoungstaCPT recently debut the Wes Kaap music video (in collaboration with Ganjabeatz) on MTV Base. There’s definitely a lot more to look forward to.
You have to give credit to the rapper they call YoungstaCPT.