Photographed by The Seppis

It should come as no surprise that a rapper is well spoken, but YoungstaCPT has a particular way with words. He pivots perfectly between poignant statements and laugh-out-loud jokes. Reclining on the couch between shots at his Spree shoot for this interview, he grabs a bowl of grapes, cracking a Greek God joke with perfect comic timing. If you haven’t already heard of Cape Town’s finest lyrical genius, give YoungstaCPT a Google. His sound is real. Raw. Gritty. With tracks as catchy as his, there’s no doubt he’ll have you singing along to the likes of Yasis in no time.

Youngsta’s journey into the hip-hop world started with small experiential moments. Through constant observation of his surroundings, he was inspired by artforms seen in everyday life: Visual stimulation like graffiti-sprayed walls sparked his creativity. An ordinary train ride for him meant time to observe street culture. Before long, his music and lyrics became his medium of choice.

Winning the SA hip-hop award for Lyricist of the Year in 2017 has, amongst others, been one of the highlights of his career. He’s addressing socio-economic issues and telling stories that would otherwise have remained untold. “The initial purpose of hip-hop, since it’s inception, was to highlight the disadvantages of the underpriveledged. Hip-hop is not a rich man’s genre of music – it never started off as that. It was music made by the people from the ghettos who spoke about current affairs.”

Raised in Cape Town, YoungstaCPT writes about his experiences growing up as both participant and viewer. He is mindful of not being too subjective, still acting as a voice for those who have lived a different reality to his own. While he aims to bring about awareness and change through his music, ultimately this is a career, and with that, he recognises the importance of maintaining balance. “People don’t always want to hear sad stories, so I mix it up with club tracks or party anthems like Weskaap or We Go Bos.”

Aware that his lyrics have a huge impact on listeners, YoungstaCPT acknowledges the social responsibility that goes with. As an artist, he speaks for and to the Y?Gen. It’s a term he coined, referring to the Y-Generation – those born between 1988 and 2010, who he says is a generation of ‘firsts’. The first to actively question why?‘ Why the need to go work? Why the need to study?’ “This kind of questioning led to us choosing our own path and has birthed the kinds of creatives we have today.”

He considers himself fortunate to be a hip-hop artist in South Africa today. “We’re unique in that we’re still a young industry. It affords us the opportunity to learn from the mistakes made by the international community and allows us to choose our own direction. In a world where the rap game is overly saturated, people are keen to hear what the rest of the world has to offer. We can rap in slang – we’re not forced to follow the status quo.”

On his personal style, YoungstaCPT credits his mother for steering him into fashion. She would encourage mixing street and chic, he says, and to this day he goes to her for an opinion regarding fashion – and she’d give it honestly.

YoungstaCPT says his sense of style individuality is uniquely Cape Town. “Unlike our Joburg counterparts, Capetonians are not too phased about following the latest trends. We’ll be wearing Vince Carters from 1998 or Kruger Rands as earrings, but at the end of the day those are our traditions and we’re not about to break it for anyone. Skepta or Timbaland can bring back trends like Nike tracksuits but the ouens in Cape Town never stopped wearing it.”

His sneaker obsession stemmed from childhood. He grew up in parts of Cape Town where individuality was best expressed with sneakers. “It had to be neat, it had to be tidy”. His favourite pair of all time is the Jordan 13: “The first pair I’d personally attained – I bought them second hand for R200.”

To promote his debut album dropping later this year, a tour of local schools and campuses is kicking off imminently. “I’m not coming to schools to preach, but rather to encourage and convey a positive message in a way that speaks to the students. Back when I was at school, there was no local guy killing the rap game. For that moment, I’m a role model.”

Previously dropping track after track in the form of mixtapes, YoungstaCPT’s album is highly anticipated and sure to fuel many a playlist. “I don’t wanna give too much away. I can tell you that there’s definitely gonna be many many anthems.”

SHOP THE SHOOT

Production: Melissa van der Scholtz 
Brand manager: Giselle Esau
Stylist: Lerato Nkosi
Grooming: Algria Ferreira
The Thread editor: Daniël Geldenhuys