Interview | Bradley Naicker

We go very deep in this interview as we explore the mind of Bradley Naicker

Interview by Lu Makoboka

MyCityByNight: I remember that evening when we were freestyling at the waiting room balcony and you just kept going for a good 3 minutes. “This man can rap!” I thought to myself. Although at that time you were still known as a graphic designer. What were some of your motivations to begin with music?

Bradley: Ultimately the thirsty for music was always there, from headbanging to Motorhead’s Triple H theme back in the WWF days to sending 30-second voice notes of myself rapping to friends on BBM back in grade 8 to freestyling in front of my peers at varsity. The true motivation came once when I hosted a braai a year ago and we all sat around the fire freestyling, and everything I said hit and resonated with the people there. Knowing that my words held power and seeing it evoke emotions within everyone really solidified a lot for me.

MCBN: Your latest EP had an experimental twist to it with heavy metal influences. That must have divided your audience that’s accustomed to hearing hip-hop from you. So who are you actually making music for?

Bradley: I am making music for the few listeners who are already listening to my music and appreciate the artist I’ve become overall. A black kid could have fallen in love with my rhymes on Track A of a trap anthem and a white kid could love what I did on Track Z of my rock EP. The music is being made for a greater purpose than a “target audience” or to attract numbers. It’s made to showcase versatility, entice emotions and provoke the thoughts of kids who haven’t found themselves and need guidance, along with being the soundtrack to those who actually HAVE found themselves and need that edgy influence.

MCBN: Correct me if I’m wrong, but you started studying graphic designing at Vega, dropped out of college for a while and now you’re at CPUT. There seem to be many artists going through the same struggle with university. Why did you feel that university was getting in the way of your pursuits and how do you deal with it?

Bradley: Before anything else let me say this; if you feel University isn’t for you then you’ve either been forced to believe it is, or you haven’t discovered yourself enough to know what it is you truly want. This is seen largely with kids of colour because we’re shut off from the world until we hit varsity. Obviously with the new generation of millenniums this dilemma won’t arise considering the world is in the palm of their hands whilst they’re still in primary school, due to social media and the exponential growth of technology. Added to that, University was getting in the way of my parent’s pursuits, not my own. I think that’s the first mistake kids of colour make, we’re not really allowed to experience the world due to our parenting, and then thrown into the deep-end (varsity) where our true character and identity is tested. Every parent obviously wants the absolute best for their child and want to invest in their child’s future, but what many do not realise is that their child’s own individual ambition and dreams are the actual investment; not the education. My parents are both educated so it felt only right to be educated too and obtain some qualification, but their vision for my own life collided with I felt I needed to do. Whilst I was at Vega I was already industry-level with my craft, I just needed to study to obtain that qualification that certified this, which was completely false because here I am.

Ultimately you just need to focus on what you want and what you’re capable of doing.

MCBN: I find it incredible that while you were studying, you were making industry standard work with your designs. You made even more waves when you created the cover art for the new IDK, Joey Badass and Russ track. How did that come about? 

Bradley: I befriended a rapper by the name of Jugg Nino, who is based out in the States. Occasionally he links up with IDK and one day he showed him my Instagram profile. IDK came into contact with me directly after that and threw the job my way seeing as it was set to be a big release, and they needed the right art direction on it. Instagram is actually the greatest networking tool society has right now, you just need to know how to use it and you’re set.

MCBN: Many started taking you seriously as a rapper when they witnessed you on Vuzu’s ‘The Hustle’. Even though you didn’t win the competition, what were some of the key lessons you walked away with after your presence on the show?

Bradley: In God’s time, not my own.

MCBN: Your thoughts on what you like, and what you don’t like in the Cape Town Hip Hop scene?

Bradley: What I have grown to love is the competitiveness of each artist. Many may actually dislike my previous statement, however, I think it truly brings out the best in everyone. Everyone is literally bringing their A-game to the table and it’s a beautiful sight until of course, the egos collide and whatnot. I also love that everyone raps, like actually RAPS! From bars to hooks to wordplay, this city literally offers the hardest lyricists in SA without a doubt! One huge dislike from my side would be the fact that if you don’t have the right “connections” or aren’t placed in the correct cliques; your booking probabilities are close to nothing. In my own experience, this is because I came with a hunger for pushing my craft which instilled fear in a lot of the brands out here, but such is life.

MCBN: You’ve accredited your progress to a number of people throughout your journey. Who are some of the people that keep you motivated – that are based within the city?

Bradley: My list for this could be turned into a novel haha. However my girl, Charcy Ponce, my sisters; Devine Volontiya, Ayabonga Dlakiya, Aa’ishah Abrahams, Johara Hartley, Valerie Omari, Kaitlyn DuSart and Dannay Boyd. My brothers Alex Priscu, Aaron Polikoff (Closure), Sikhokele Mphithi (who featured on my track; OZARU), Senzo Mkupa, Mackenzie Kondo, Lukas Hector (my producer), Wanda Donte, Cheslyn Hanekom, Patrick Visser, Joni Blud, Lu Makoboka, Kwaku Boateng, and Georgios Kretsos are but a few of the names I’ve always accredited.

MCBN: You’re very open about the moments when you’re battling with depression on your social sites. One may think there’s no real need to be open about those things on Facebook, but why would you say it’s important to be open about issues such as depression and self-harm?

Bradley: What is the point of me making music and art that people can feel and relate to if I don’t care about the actual people listening to my music? More so how can I verify myself to the “thousands” of listeners individually without actually having face-to-face interaction? Posting about my depression was to actually wake up the youth culture about mental illness, and within my own social circle, it actually worked. 10% would usually ignore my posts, 30% of my following would generally message me to ask if I was okay, yet the remaining 60% would actually message me asking for advice on coping mechanisms and even delve into conversations about their own lives. Kids would phone me at 2 in the morning asking me to talk them out of suicide when they felt like they had no one. Moreover, others who had failed a term or semester would ask for my advice on how to address it because that “fear” was instilled in within them. What’s crazy is there are no local celebrities, icons or “idols” who delve into these issues, let alone a “rapper”. What I loved was so many kids actually used my Facebook to show their parents want I went through, and how I was embodying the exact same thing they felt. I was just a guy who went through hell and back, and somehow still had enough love in my heart to help those who needed it.

MCBN: One of the worst rumours you’ve heard about yourself?

Bradley: All of them, haha.  

MCBN: Travis Scott, Michael Jackson and Kanye West are on your list of inspirations. What is it about them that speaks to you so much? 

Bradley: On the surface, these artists carried the overall embodiment of pure aesthetic, sound & sonic, performance art and everything in-between. However what I truly value about all three is everything they stood for away from the music, specifically Michael Jackson and Kanye West. They were humanitarians who preached loved and unity and did so phenomenally. If you stand for nothing essentially you’ll fall for anything and these icons are prime examples of actually pursuing your dreams, and darkest fantasies regardless of the nay-sayers. I grew up on MJ so that influenced my perception of utilising ALL of your talents to create pure art overall. Furthermore, when high school came, Kanye West was full force on my iPod throughout it all and his confidence, energy, innovator spirit & sonic really pushed me to challenge everything I came to face with. Being someone who went from being bullied in bathroom stalls to performing in front of thousands, I owe it all to my parents, MJ and Ye.

MCBN: What has been your favourite show you’ve performed at so far and why?

Bradley: I actually have two. Last year I got the opportunity to perform at my favourite event in Cape Town – Night Show. I had released ROCKSTAR and it was scheduled to be the debut performance of the track. The energy was uncanny and I even got to perform in a mosh-pit for the first time, seeing as that was only my second gig. Haha.

Second all-time performance thus far was last year at Valley Of Light, attendance was just under 4000. This was monumental for me as this was three weeks after I had reconstruction surgery on my right ACL, which had been torn during a performance earlier in the year. Furthermore knowing I did all of that as an unsigned artist and creative was a huge pat on my shoulder, and kinda made me realise I had the willpower and potential to go forth and conquer my dreams.

MCBN: At the end of 2017, you claimed that you were the most important creative of the year… Can you back that up?

Bradley: As mentioned above I tore my ACL during a performance around May last year. As the year went on and I tackled both varsity, performances, creating a platform for others, pushing my brand beyond music and art, and everything else; I kinda realised that I’m putting a lot more of myself into everything along with literally only having one leg. From appearing on Vuzu’s The Hustle with no music released under my name to being an artist featured on Essie Letterpress’ 2017 Artist Almanac – it was a monumental year to me and ultimately all I cared for was how much I could aid and contribute towards the culture. Everyone is so selfish and are literally only creating content to “blow up”, but no one is willing to open doors for others. Even now in 2018 being appointed to design the cover art for rappers IDK, Russ & Joey Badass. This is a first for any local creative and one that kinda solidifies my stand in the industry. With that, one can share information on what moves to make and how to succeed in pursuing your own passion, and I think that my actual input in informing others is what solidifies the statement above.

MCBN: If you could feature any rapper in a song of yours, who would it be and why? Also, if you could feature any band, who would it be and why them? 

Bradley: My younger brother, Graeme Naicker, just got into music too and he’s at the top of my feature-list. Complete package right there from delivery to flow to wordplay, essentially he’s gonna be the Lil’ Wayne of his generation. He dropped his first track on Christmas Day last year and has already scooped up over 3K plays. We might have something coming out sometime soon so look out for that. A second definite feature would be PatricKxxLee, solely because we were separated at birth. He is the one local artist that I look at on a universal plateau and has become my favourite musician in recent years. We’ve actually chilled once before and I think what truly hit it off for me is that we’re the exact same person.

As for bands, I’d definitely have to say System Of A Down, Nickelback and Metallica – no doubt! Serj Tankian of SOAD has such a riveting cadence and the subject matter from SOAD always hit home.

Moreover, Nickelback was the first rock band that I was put on to when I was younger, and after a lifetime of Metallica, it was the last push I needed to drop my first rock album. So you can only imagine the role these two bands have played.

MCBN: Which quote would you put on a billboard if you had the opportunity to?

Bradley: Culture is The New Currency

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