KO Talks Streetwear, Sneakers and his Music

Ntokozo Mdluli better known as KO sits down with us exclusively to share his thoughts on streetwear, culture, sneakers and music, as his new track drops.

1. How did you get into making music?

KO: How I got into the music industry was purely hard-work, it’s something that I have been working towards my whole life, kind of all the way from Mpumalanga. You know, back in the day, the only way you could have access to the industry was to come up to the big city, obviously Joburg, and I couldn't leave home and tell my friends, I'm going to go to pursue music. The only way I could was to tell them I'm coming up here to pursue higher education. When I got up here, I linked up with some friends at Varsity, who happened to know a couple of people in the industry. We recorded some demos, sent it to them, and those people introduced us to some folks at a record label and that’s how we got signed. Eventually I ended up being a solo artist with my own record label.

2. Where does your inspiration for making music come from?

KO: From making music. It comes from just observing what happens in and around my environment. The stories and tales of day to day happenings in the hood, in the suburbs. I see myself as a narrator for the streets, for what’s happening around me. Sometimes it could be my own personal story and other times it’s other people’s stories told from my perspective, so it's just like making a movie. Those are my strengths, and the sources of my inspiration.

KO Hip Hop Artist

3. You just released the brand new single 'Supa Dupa' can you tell us a bit about your inspiration for this track and the meaning behind it?

KO: The creative process when I work on songs or on an album is that there's always a premise and a theme that is derived from a personal experience or someone else's experience but it's always based on real life happenings.

The meaning behind the track that I just released “Supa Dupa” is that basically right now, that’s how I feel right. I feel like the talent that God gave me is my superpower.

I am immersed in a space where my position as an artist and as a player in the game and the scene is always in question because you know there are people that are trying to overthrow me, to topple me, but there's always a new artist coming into the game. There's always people with agendas testing you to see if you have run of gas already. They want to see if you still continue running maintain your position.

The record itself is inspired by things like that, and trials and tribulations and also confidently saying that like whatever happens from this point on you can't touch me. I'm not on No Man's time. I am on God's time. I will do what I need to do at a time God deems permissible. That's the premise of the entire record and just being confident and just expressing how I feel. My mindset on song, I talk about feeling really good inside. And that's exactly what's going on inside of me, my heart is in a good place. And I felt like I needed to tell that story through a good song.

Download the track here

4. Tell us a bit about your style? What kicks are on rotation at the moment?

KO: My style is derived from a lot of hip hop, but I juxtapose that with a lot of kasi swag, where you'll see me wearing colourful skinny jeans with ASICSTIGERS, or you'll see me in shorts, happysocks and GEL SAGA’S or GEL-LYTE III’s. It just depends on the mood I’m in. I can even take it all the way to a formal look where I can throw a pair of KAYANO’S. You know what I mean? So that's where my style is. It's a mixture of different moods and how I feel on the inside.

5. What was your favourite sneaker memory as a kid?

KO: My parents could never afford anything like the luxury sneakers. I ended up having to settle for whatever knock off we could get. When I really started embracing hip hop I wanted Timberlands. My parents couldn't afford those so we ended up getting knock-off’s. Just being in Hip Hop intensified my passion for sneakers plus the fact that I grew up unable to afford any. Now I'm in a position where I can provide for myself. My closet right now is looking really crazy, you know dreams come true.

KO Rapper

6. ASICSTIGER is your brand partner, can you tell us why you love the brand?

KO: It’s the brand that I resonate with. We teamed up at a time where I felt like I was ready. I didn't want to team up with a brand that was only going to give me shoes or give me apparel.

ASICSTIGER approached me as a brand that’s willing to allow me to contribute to it in the sense that we can create content together. Hopefully go all the way down to creating my own sneaker, apparel or both. The opportunity to partner up was great for both parties because I have a clothing range myself. I’d like to see a collaboration between my apparel brand and ASICSTIGER in the future. They were unique versus other brands in how they embraced me. Brands especially towards African public figures don't really see us as formidable. We don’t have that leverage to negotiate for those kinds of opportunities. 

7. Regarding your fashion line Skhanda Republic, what does the line represent?

KO: Skhanda Republic or Skhanda World represents an attitude, a kasi attitude with a touch of urban outlook. It’s built on patriotism. When you wear my brand it's more like you putting on your armour. Skhanda Republic is my pseudonym that I gave to my country which is South Africa, so when you wear my brand you are literally waving the flag. You are someone who’s likeminded to me. You don't necessarily have to be a fan of my music. But you can appreciate the garments and what they stand for because it speaks for you and beyond what K.O stands for. I look at it as my identity. Anyone who adorns the brand, they are pretty much just putting out the same message. 

8. What can we expect from KO in 2019?

KO: More music, more bold music and so many more bold moves. I'm not gonna hold back when you know my tongue. I'm just going to speak freely and express my views on certain things that have to do with like status quo or even political conversations. I want to make sure that I'm visible in that space because I see myself not only as “another artist”. I also want to be able to shape the narrative of where we going as a society, and I can influence it in a positive way, with more than just music. I want to be able to do that well. And I want to encourage other artists and fellow public figures to do the same thing.

 Images shot by Don Kat Seles

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