A Moment With… mUnetsi
Battle rapper mUnetsi is considered by many to be one of the best of his generation. His cypher skills and top-of-the-dome freestyle skills are legendary.
He just recently released the video for his track Ghetto Slogan which we featured here. Only a fortnight ago, mUnetsi scooped a Victor Award gong for Song of the Year, for his collaboration with Mudiwa; and he is up for another gong with a nomination at the Zimbabwe Hip Hop Awards next week.
He also had that moment with Stunner.
We caught up with mU and this is what he had to say
What is your full name?
Anthony Munetsi Matambanadzo
What do you like to call yourself and why?
mUnetsi, spelt with a capital ‘U’ for unstoppable. My Shona (Zimbabwean native tongue) name has so much history and meaning. It was first given to revolutionary fighters during the colonial era and meant ‘The Problem’. I was born Tendai – meaning be grateful – then they changed my name after a month or so. The story – as my mum tells it – is that I was “half dead” when I was born or just after I was born then they took me to a prophetess. After some prayers, I was healed and well; and the prophetess insisted they change my name. I guess it adds up to me not supposed to be on earth but I’m alive to be ‘The Problem’?
What is the most ridiculous nickname you have ever had?
Kimosabi ha-ha. I must have adopted it from the Lone Ranger. I think that’s what he used to call Tonto, his sidekick. It just sounded cool at that time.
It was during the era of Blackfoot Tribe, Trickz and Gamez. Back then your name had to make the first impression before the sonic aspect did. It’s weird how Hollywood reinforces racial stereotypes which we blindly ingest to reassert an inculcated inferiority we assume later to be our natural space in the cosmos – pun intended! *laughs*.
But I was also called C4 during my high school years at Oriel Boys High School. It’s a name one of my classmate from then, Henry Makiwa of The Peoples Hub – my publicists – still calls me by.
Which side of the bed do you sleep on?
Any side don. I’m from the gutter. Understand there was a point I had no choice to pick which side to sleep on because I was either sleeping on the floor or sharing the bed with four other cousins. When I finally got a bed I liked the side farthest from the wall but the only problem was I used to fall so I was like ‘I guess I can’t have my chimodho and eat it huh?’
Are you left-handed or right-handed?
Both I guess. If I wrote rhymes I’d use my right hand. Alas I almost can’t write rhymes but I use the right hand a lot. On the other hand – pun intended! – my brain is hardwired not to be able to hold a mug in my right hand. So I drink tea using the left hand. It’s also my priority one scratching hand. I used the right for, ehem, any other duties.
What is your favourite instrument?
It would have to be a set of instruments. They make better sense that way, like what’s a drum kick without the accompanying baseline to fall on the peaks of the drum’s low frequencies? If I had to single out one I’d say the piano. I used to have a tape of classical music. Some Mozart, Bach and ‘em when I was a kid, that I got from this old white lady. I learnt how to rap using the piano parts on, say, Mozart’s Piano Concerto 22. It just calms my nerves so you can imagine when I first saw an Alicia Keys video. She had to be the coolest chic on earth. In my past life I wished I was John Legend I guess.
What is the first song you fell in love with?
Sorry I know you said one but it didn’t happen that way for me. I had these two songs at the same time and I could rap them verbatim. Vanilla Ice – Ice Ice Baby and MC Hammer’s Can’t Touch This. I was spazzing on the karaoke, man. I was the coolest kid in the ghetto because I could spit these when my contemporaries could barely string an English sentence. I learnt to enunciate this way and it was the first time I had a boost of esteem off the strength of lyrics alone. I remember looking at Pepe Kale like ‘yo, big boy messing up that Hammer pants swag yo’. Ha-ha, word.
Best concert you have ever been to?
Oh bruva oh bruva, it has to be Lost Boys 1998. Zimhop (the Zimbabwean hip hop society) was there. Kataklyzm, Blackfoot, my big bro Beggoten Sun, Zubz, Trickz and Gamez and the crazy thing is we got to perform. Hip hop wasn’t even big in Zimbabwe yet. It was a club of the privileged few. (Mr.) Cheeks was in his prime then. It was the equivalent of Rick Ross coming to Zim. Your favourite rappers were groupies that night I won’t lie. First concert I went to ever, guess that explains why.
Of the songs you have written which one is your favourite?
I’m a Cancer so I’m a perfectionist. I haven’t made my favourite joint yet. I’m the type to make a track and shelve it the next day because I won’t believe in it. I love Ghetto Slogan due to how I created it. I was at a neighbourhood funeral and they were playing drums. I started rhyming over the drums and I felt it was crazy. Two days later I went to Shed Studios where the mighty Marc Blaze was. I told him I had these congas in my head and hand claps over the congas. He came up with crazy 808s, like 30 minutes later I was in the booth I had the ‘Ndonzi mUnetsi, netsi’ chant in my head. I did my verse. Biko was there he laid his and we banged those tweeters. I always knew it was special but Zimbabwe never got to appreciate the creativity, originality and ingenuity. Kazz – from my new international label Boomslang Records – heard it and he wanted to shoot that thing so bad I had to go into the lab again, for the remix. I didn’t even tell the engineer I didn’t have the other verses. While he was mixing the first verse I was making the second up in my head by the time he pressed record I laid it out in one take. Then when he was mixing the second I was on the third. I did that remix in one hour and it was sounding crazy.
How do you deal with groupies?
I’ve never had that problem. I just assumed I’m a largely unattractive fella till I realised it had more to do with the vibe I give off. I don’t rap about alcohol or drugs because I’ve never smoked or drank. I’m as sober as a button. I guess their reaction would be ‘ok he never invited me to shake my derrière (Lol, who says derriere mU?). I never sought out to be famous. Fame never intrigued me, I see myself as the regular Zimbabwean so if someone rolls up to tell me they love the music I’m just plain grateful.
Where is Zimbabwean rap music going?
At last year’s Shoko Festival someone asked me why they thought the music wasn’t growing. I said they needed to free the airwaves and a handful of my peers agreed. The local audience is being exposed to more than they were before now. Kwaito was dominant in S.A now A.K.A is at the forefront. Same thing will happen if the same variables are added into our local equation. You had corporations like Smirnoff sponsoring hip hop / rap in S.A. They used to think hip hop was for snobs but repetitive suggestion always alters the general perception. We also laid the foundation for the greater masses by doing albums in vernacular when it was shunned upon. Now everyone wants that one hot local vernac track on the album and they look for whoever is hot in vernac at the moment. We saw that vision though before all this. Hip hop is a worldwide franchise now and for it to work there are standards you’re supposed to keep for the brand’s sake and for it to be credible to the masses. Cats need to stop putting sungura artists on Hip Hop rosters when international acts come. I mean you only see local ragga acts when Capleton comes. We have people at the forefront of local hip hop / rap who don’t know what the culture is and making a shamble of it just because they are better funded or whatever. This needs to stop for rap to be where it needs. I also read an article about the Samora border written by this young girl Marian. It’s pathetic to say the least what’s going on and I think rap is stopping rap from growing. There’s a lot of exciting new talent on the scene that are putting in work. Unfortunately you have the bad bunch that desecrates the foundations that were laid for them and disrespect the architects. We need a sense of history to have a legit movement. What’s music without the business though right? We need to get marketing geniuses like Elton Bryce podiums to package Zimbabwean rap to the world.
Where is your music going?
It’s becoming more and more authentic. I’m trying less and less to sound hip hop than to sound like myself. If I can’t create something new I’ll quit because as revolutionaries we’re in this to set trends and not follow them. I’d reveal my plans but in war a good general never reveals his true battle plans. To surmise, there’s a blueprint mapped out that I’m following to a tee.
What do you want to be remembered for?
I’d like to be remembered for an eternal legacy. We are born to leave our marks on this earth and if we can’t do that this world will imprint its mark on us for the rest of our lives. Singers come and go but things like Scholarship programmes remain for generations to come. I’d have failed myself if I thought Bentleys and yachts were the goal. Not to say there’s anything wrong in acquiring but they are Blessings and not the objective. It’s nobler to be remembered for the lives you’ve changed than the number of shows you had. We’re Blessed to bless. Psalms 82:6 says, ‘you are gods’. God Creates, God is Love. I’d like to be remembered as a god.