Average reading time: 5 minutes.
When Ayanda Mkhwanazi aka Aygee Montero was 14-years-old, he innocently started making music after being introduced to how to do it through a friend named Mr. P who was the only rapper in the small town of Ermelo, located 210km east of Johannesburg.
Mr. P inspired him to play around with different genres, forming his own sound involved mixing the gritty braggadocio of rap with the sweet rhythms of Afrobeats, yet grounded in his South African roots.
“What introduced me to Afrobeats was actually my big brother. He’s a fan of that sound and he used to play all these songs, so I simply fell in love with it. Rap was always there. I guess I just learned how to master my flow. Then I started making beats that are closer to Afrobeats, but I wanted to fuse them with my style of rapping and that’s how my sound came about,” the Mpumalanga rapper explains.
Speaking about what separates him from his contemporaries, the 23-year-old continues, “I’m a bit different because I use Zulu phrases on top of an Afrobeat and that brings me back home. Sometimes I’ll put the Maskandi humming with Zulu words here and there. That’s how people know that I’m not a Nigerian artist.”
Aygee’s music journey became more serious in 2017. At the tender age of 18, he was approached by Silungise Lamba, a record label owner who came across one of his songs. He then signed a one-year deal with the boutique label, Godforth Records and hit the ground running, frequently performing at small gigs, doing photoshoots, and producing and writing records for label mates and other artists.
Even though his career prospects seemed promising, his parents were hesitant about him making a major move to Johannesburg. As a way of making them feel more comfortable, he went to the University of Johannesburg to obtain a Bachelor of Arts in Humanities which he completed this year.
By 2018, he left the record label as he wanted to forge his own path and become an independent musician. He has accomplished a lot since stepping out on his terms. In 2019, he released his EP, Vibes Don’t Lie and he worked with industry heavyweights like Truhitz, Cokayne Beats, Megabeatz, and Silas Beats amongst others.
The EP gave him a spotlight as he was featured on channels like Trace TV, MTV Base, Channel O, and SABC 1. The lead single, Secured peaked at #42 on the Top 200 South African Hip Hop/Rap Charts on Apple Music. The four-track project was a major success overseas peaking at #179 in Ukraine’s top 200 Afrobeats chart on Apple Music.
This came as a huge surprise to Aygee who never imagined his music would get traction in the Ukraine and European markets. “I was confused! Silas, one of my producers, told me that a lot of African musicians are popular in Ukraine. I would really love to go overseas and perform there. It’s one of my dreams. Hopefully, one day I will get an opportunity,” says Aygee.
Since then, he has released a single called Butterfly Effect, which is his most honest and personal record to date. The song is about him feeling insecure when things have slowed down in his career. When he wasn’t reaching previous numbers or getting the same gigs amid the Pandemic, it impacted a lot of people emotionally and mentally, including him.
“I was going through a lot as an artist and personally, so I think Butterfly Effect was one of those songs where I try to address the story of how I was feeling at the time. My previous release was doing massive numbers and getting more recognition. I felt like 2020 was better for me musically and in 2021, I was going through a stage where I felt I was doing things wrong. I decided to record the song and it just evolved from there”, the Johannesburg-based muso confesses.
After releasing that loose single, Aygee plans to go in a different direction with the current project that he’s working on. He hopes to release it next year and reveals that in this EP, he’s embraced collaborating with more artists. Talking more about his plans without trying to reveal too much, Aygee says, “I‘ve worked with a lot of people from songwriters to vocalists. I was on my own in the first project but right now, I want to feature more people. This project will have a wider reach and I hope people will like it.” We have no doubt they will.
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Words | Lee Nxumalo Lethabo Nxumalo
Editor | Nikki Temkin @NikkiTemkin
Images | @Justbeingmally