The Kiffness: Popularity Is Irrelevant

It is always an honour to merely be associated with Danny-K verified A-list celebrities, but an even bigger one to actually be able to interview them. All jokes aside, I have been wanting to interview The Kiffness since I began my writing career in late 2013 and now I have finally been given a chance. David Scott and I stripped down the jokes and tackled questions surrounding how he started making music, his connection to African influences in his music, his goal with his social media presence, and how he feels about the minor internet storms he’s created in South Africa. You can catch him performing alongside Tresor and Al Bairre this weekend at OneSight Acoustics in Johannesburg.

So, what is it like being an A-list celebrity? Do you speak to Danny K often?

I’ve become pretty good friends with Danny K after he granted me A-list celebrity status. It makes sense since one of the rules of being an A-list celebrity is that you’re only allowed to hang with other A-list celebrities – it was quite a difficult adjustment since most of my old friends were mostly D & E list celebs.

Jokes aside, you’ve grown your name and brand over the past 5 years and have managed to come from the underground of the South African EDM scene to being one of the most popular EDM artists in South Africa. Looking back on this journey, what was it like?

Popularity is irrelevant. If I can just keep making music & creating content that I’m proud of while managing to sustain a living then I consider myself blessed.

Was there any point where you just weren’t getting any traction and felt like maybe you should just quit before you fall prey to being just another washed-up South African artist?

No, I have always believed in myself. My philosophy is that you should always create something that’s true to who you are without any attachment to the outcome or what people think. Generally, if I create something that I enjoy, there will be other people out there that will also enjoy it. You can hear or see when something is contrived.

Speaking of your journey, no-one has really ever spoken about what led you to create music. With that in mind, how did you come about forming The Kiffness brand and what propelled you to do so?

From an early age, I have always had a keen interest in music production. When I was in junior school my brother used to lend me his laptop and I would spend hours making music on eJay and Fruity Loops, and I always knew that this is something I would want to do for a living one day. When I moved to Cape Town in 2010 – I had come from Rhodes University where I was part of 5 different bands playing different instruments, and now suddenly I was in no bands. I decided to make some beats that I could play trumpet and keys over to keep myself playing, and that’s kind of how The Kiffness all started.

Your music has always fused dance elements with more traditional African influences alongside jazz elements. What are some of your influences when approaching the creation of your music?

I try not to listen to other bands too much, otherwise, I tend to start sounding like them in my production. But throughout school and university I was in jazz bands & we played a wide variety of jazz – ranging from Dave Brubeck to Abdullah Ibrahim. I have very fond memories of being in those bands, so I guess those artists have played a big role in the music I make.

I think a lot of local artists get far to stuck into creating music that matches the sound of Western artists that they forget that music with African influences can often be far superior to those Western sounds. What are your thoughts on this reluctance among local artists to create music using African influences?

I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way of making music. Nor do I think African music is necessarily better than Western music and vice versa. I try and always make music that is an authentic representation of who I am, and where I come from. It’s really easy to hear when someone is trying to copy another style – South African rappers trying to sound American is a prime example of that, but if that kind of music speaks to them & they feel it’s a true representation of who they are then who am I to judge?

Besides your music, you have quite a strong social media presence that, unlike most artists, isn’t entirely focused on being all about your music and posting 100s of photos of the crowds to which you play. What led you to decide to make your social media content rather unique and topical?

I reached a point in my career where I started to realise that all the things that I thought were so amazing i.e. having a number 1 song on radio, playing to massive crowds etc.. were not all that they’re cracked up to be when they finally became a reality. I was often left thinking “Is that it?”, and through the feeling of unfulfillment, I began to let go of the superficial things and began to cling to things which were real. Even though I’m a Danny K verified A-list celebrity, I am just a dude, far from perfect – but someone who seeks truth not only through my music, but with my thoughts, my ideas, my dank memes (which may appear silly on the surface, but more often than not they have deeper meaning if you scratch beneath the surface).

Your social media presence goes hand-in-hand with your brand, yet some would argue that your posting of topical memes is a sign of your supposed irrelevance to the local scene. Do you have a response to this?

There could be some merit in that if I wasn’t doing anything on the scene, but the proof is in the pudding – we’re headlining shows regularly and our latest single is currently doing really well so I’d hate to break it to the haters, but these allegations hold no ground. That being said, I can totally see how haters will make that assumption about me – my online content is not everyone’s cup of tea, but my audience is steadily growing. In turn, my content will inevitably reach more haters, and I can understand how frustrating it must be if I keep popping up on a hater’s timeline against his/her will. The more success you achieve, the more hate you will receive. It’s inescapable. I’d even put it to you that when I receive hate, I get amped because I see it as a sign that I’m doing something right. I love my haters.

One of your recent posts regarding white privilege caused quite a stir particularly with the social circles of university students. A lot of white students, especially those at Stellenbosch University, were quite offended by the notion and even went as far as using the format of that meme to create their own meme to mock you. What are your thoughts on this?

There are some people that I actually wish to offend because by offending someone who is racist you are forcing them to think about something that they’ve never been forced to think about before.

Why do you think white students, and other age demographics, get so offended when people point out white privilege and try to define it in an easy to understand fashion?

It takes a certain level of introspection to understand what having privilege means. It can be a very uncomfortable process but a very necessary one if this country is ever going to find peace. The problem is that not everyone is going to want to change because true democracy is going to feel like oppression to those who are used to privilege.

You had another post which delivered some scathing criticism of the South Africa music industry with particular reference to the radio industry. Since the 90% local regulations – many stations have changed the way they approach broadcasting music. Have your opinions regarding the local industry changed since then?

The video was made to point out that when stations play South African songs that sound American, they are reinforcing the idea that America is the standard that we need to aspire to – which is absolute nonsense. Since the 90% quota, I was optimistic that maybe South African artists would feel less pressure to make music that sounds American. But if anything, now that it’s easier to get your stuff onto radio I’ve noticed there has been some really bad music seeping through the cracks, which was inevitable given the sudden jump. Hopefully, the standard of music slowly improves and / or the SABC gets rid of Hlaudi for good so we can make radio great again.

What do you think is the biggest thing that needs to change in the industry in order for it to grow and become better?

More people need to come to The Kiffness shows, and when they are at that show they need to buy all our music & merchandise. I rate that’s a good start.

Finally, it has been nearly three years since you released album. Please tell me we can expect a new one in the near future?

We’ve been releasing singles consistently throughout the year. “Evergreen” & “You Say You Love Me” have done really well this year, and we have a new single with Josh Wantie called “Love Go Cold” coming out at the beginning of November. This song is very different to any other single we’ve put out – it’s the first single that has dark and sombre tone to it, but we’re really proud of it and can’t wait to see what people think. Hopefully we’ll have an album in 2017, but we definitely don’t want to rush it.


1 Comment

  1. Marsha

    October 26, 2016 at 6:22 pm

    Thank you David for expressing so much enlightenment at such a young age. I am a friend of your mother’s and well understand that her son would have such high awareness. Love your creativity.

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