This year, rapper K.O lost the last two rappers left at his record label, Skhanda World out of the five he had signed. A few weeks ago, rappers Loki and Roiii announced they left to pursue their solo careers.
NO MORE ARTISTS LEFT
Real name Ntokozo Mdluli, K.O. confirmed to ZiMoja that there are no artists left at his stable. "As it stands, I am the only arts left,' he said. "We had gotten into a partnership with Universal Musi Group (UMG) as a joint venture. They were fronting 50% of everything that had to do with the business, and they wanted to see results but unfortunately, some of the music and stuff that came out was not yielding the results that both anticipated,' he said. He, UMG, and the artists decided to part ways amicably. "We felt maybe the artists would do well at another label. We didn't want to hold anyone back from thriving elsewhere and that is what happened.' K.O. says his partnership with UMG is still there however, the lineup of artists he had did not match the vision. "They were not bringing the investment. So, Just Bheki, MaE, MrX, and Loki, Roiii were the last ones to leave.' He also felt with his new business ventures he would not be as present as he would like to be.
This is not the first time K.O. has had to let go of artists and start afresh. A few years ago, he signed the likes of Nomuzi Mabena, Kid X, and MaE, under Cashtime Life, but they also left the label. He explained that when he started the label, he wanted to create a platform that would help him and other young artists to get their dreams. "Although plenty of people warned me against embarking on that journey, my selfless and holistic business approach was meant to sustain Teargas after all of its success." He partly blames himself for the artists leaving his label. "I usually sign artists because I like them, based on my preference, and believe that I can convince everyone to like them too or that I can actually get them to greater heights,' he said. "In most cases, we do well, but then when it comes to me contributing to the music and they refuse to take my advice or a certain direction, then I feel like I am dictating.' But K.O. says he understands its business. "It's not personal. It's all business and requires results and if things don't work out, we move on to the next thing.' K.O said he is now investing in himself and his other business ventures.
But he will not wallow in the money lost from signing artists. "I can't sit there and complain about time and money wasted, it's business. You need to be frugal with money and make wise decisions. Despite some of the efforts, the financial knock and PR aspect was not good,' he said. "But it was all about opening doors for people. Even if that artist who left became the biggest thing, I was the spark, and it will make me proud. That feeling is bigger than the money in my pockets. So, for the culture, I have no regrets.'
NEW BUSINESS VENTURES
Two months ago, K.O. embarked on another new business venture and opened his store SWave in Rosebank, Johannesburg. K.O. added that running a store is no childs play. "Fashion has always been dear to my heart, and I got into it through my own brand Skhanda World, and my collaboration with Studio 88. I was just easing my way into one day having my own space, like this.' Including himself, K.O. has eight employees. "It feels good to be creating employment and feeding families.' At the end of March, he will be releasing a winter clothing range and soon after a children's range.
Last year, he was nominated for seven categories at the Metro FM Awards which were held in his hometown of Mpumalanga, and he did not win a single one. But he is still bitter as he believes it was an honour to lose to his late friend AKA who was assassinated in February 2022 outside a Durban restaurant. "I changed my life from a kid from Mpumalanga who couldn't speak for himself and didn't come from a rich home to the big city with a dream. Today I don't only have a nice house, decent cars, and clothing line, and record-breaking singles like Sete, and Caracara, but I'm busy almost every weekend. When I see people screaming my songs, it's better than getting some random awards.'
On Friday, he dropped his Afro-pop-inspired single titled You which is far from his usual style. "On Valentine's Day we will then drop the music video,' he says. He is expecting some people to love the new sound and others to hate it. "There are gonna be two schools; some will completely hate it because they were expecting me to just rap, rap, rap and I am doing nothing of the sort. They and others will love it and will get the vision. It's almost me channeling my inner Robbie Malinga, Mbongeni Ngema, and Hugh Masekela singing, but in an urban and cool way. You'd expect older people to sing. I am expecting a lot of criticism,' he laughed. "I know a lot of people will hate it. I trust my genius. It's not seasonal and nothing trendy but will remain for a long time. It's Aro-Pop, it's authentically South African, and doesn't sound forced."