On how Griselda Blanco killed the Skhanda Queen and her upcoming album 'Victory'
Originally hailing from Benoni; Nomuzi Mabena, better known as rapper Moozlie, began her career as an emcee, hosting events and dance competitions alongside DJ Capital, and DJ Speedsta. A presenter search led to her becoming a host on MTV Base, and eventually signing a record deal. She launched her own record label Nomuzi Mabena Music in 2016 in order to gain ownership over her sound. At Red Bull Studios in Cape Town to work on her debut album; we chatted to her about the music she grew with, discovering hip-hop, writing 'Versus', starting her own label, still being called Skhanda Queen and her new album.
Did you have a musical childhood and when did you discover hip-hop?
I wouldn’t be able to tell you the exact moment that I discovered hip-hop, because when you’re a kid, especially if you don’t know that you have dreams of doing it one day, you really get to experience music for what it is, it’s music.
My first memory of this is rap and I can do it was when some boy in my Grade 3 class told me that I don’t know all the words to Eminem’s “Cleanin’ Out My Closet” and I was like “I’m gonna show you!” and I rapped it word for word. That was the first time I was like “okay, this is rap. This is hip-hop. This is dope”.
Can you tell me a bit about the headspace you were in while writing your debut ‘Versus’ and what it was like writing for the first time?
It was really crazy because I’d just left my last record label. I think you could say it was a “bad boy breakup” and I was just in that headspace of “I’m gonna show these people. I’m going to show them that I don’t need anybody and that I can do this.” I you have that energy nothing will go right. So for a very long time it just wasn’t happening. At that point I was telling myself I was working on an album because I just left the label, I’m gonna drop an album and show them. But that didn’t end up working out, so I just decided to stop the car and just get out, explore, see what’s happening out there. So I went into plenty different studios, plenty different people and in the process I just learnt different things and I picked up different things from different people.
A lot of the time when you’re working on a project you wanna have a clear beginning and an end and where you’re going and what you wanna do with it, but for me, I didn’t know and that was okay. I was going through a lot of things. Everyone goes through it. You go through a lot of internal conflicts as an artist especially. So I just express all those conflicts I was going through in the music and the different studios I was in and all the songs were different but it sounded like a project to me.
What were your reasons for starting your own label rather than go through other labels?
If you ask me there isn’t really anything that a record label can do for me that I can’t do for myself. I think obviously it was a little bit easier because I already had a brand, I already had a following; there’s a lot of things that a record label would have had to do for me that I’d already done myself.
Just as a female, ownership is so important. It’s a lot of hard work right now but at the end of the day we need to be the generation that does something. Tira and Oskido they need other people to take the reigns and take it to the next level. I think a lot of young artists, we want instant satisfaction instead of delayed gratification. So I’ve decided to take the long way, very difficult, but it’s working out. At the end of the day, I’m the boss. All the cheques come straight to me, I ain’t gotta ask nobody. It’s very empowering.
You’re referred to as the ‘Skhanda Queen’. Is that a label you embrace or something you’ve moved beyond?
Skhanda Queen is dead. She’s fokken dead. It was a time, a period, a mood and now I’m done with that. I’m on to the next level. It’s kind of like a personality. The name is Moozlie, that’s who I am, there was that personality but she’s dead. My new personality Griselda Blanco killed Skhanda Queen. It happened in my head, I saw it literally happening. Now I’m more on that Griselda Blanco, mob mentality. Just trying to be a fierce businesswoman, not taking no for an answer.
You’re working on your new album. What’s the concept driving it?
The album is gonna be called ‘Victory’ and it’s the project after ‘Versus’. I think I’ve been through a lot in my life and I really need to celebrate the fact that I’ve gotten as far as I have. Because so often in life you’re so busy doing stuff that you don’t even realise how far you’ve gone. It’s just about celebrating the fact that I’ve overcome so much, that I am who I am right now, that I’m independent, that I’m free.
We haven’t really decided what we’re going to do with the features. YoungstaCPT was here and that’s a definite. He’s on the album, it’s done. There’s so many different people. We live in a really exciting time. We’re gonna figure what I’m gonna do but there’s so many people, not only in South Africa but across Africa as well. We wanna explore and not put ourselves in a box. I think the mixtape worked so well because it happened so organically. So as much as we have the concept and we know what sound and what vibe we wanna go for, we’re not gonna stop the universe from doing its thing.
What else does 2018 hold?
Right now I’m doing the campus tour, which has been so much fun. Dope artists. Uncle Partytime, Una Rams, Rudeboyz, Moonchild (I’d really like to work with her too), so that’s really fun. I always do a birthday tour which is really cool. But for me right now all of my energy is sending me to getting the music right. AKA always says if you take care of the music, the music will take care of you. So I know once the music is done, everything will fall into place. I really want to explore the fashion side of things. Everyone kinda knows me as this chick that dresses so well and has so much swag but I’ve never really put my name on anything that people can go out there and purchase. So gonna be working with a couple of people, sunglasses, clothing and shoes. All the things that I love very much.
What’s one thing you want people to take from your music?
I think if my music can just leave people feeling like anything is possible, that’s cool. Even if it’s a love song. If you can hear a song and go like “it’s so incredible that this girl can go from twerking on a stage and making noise on the microphone to making real music” and if it inspires you to also go out there and do your thing I think that would be great. But if you ain’t fuckin’ with it, I ain’t fuckin’ with you so that’s fine!
Catch Moozlie at Red Bull Campus Tour and Red Bull Music Festival.
Words by Themba Kriger.