He won several awards at the SA Hip Hop Awards and will be a marvel to watch this year as he reveals more of his music talent.
The first time I heard his song Roll Up I thought it was an international artist until I heard parts “Krapa fasa baba lets”.
It was instant love. Even my 10-year-old daughter knows it’s her old toppie’s song.
It was imperative that I speak to the boy behind the hit that won him several awards at the SA Hip Hop Awards in December last year.
Though he goes by the name Emtee but his real name is Mthembeni Mdevu. The 23-year-old is originally from Matatiele in the Eastern Cape, but grew up in Central Western Jabavu, Soweto.
Emtee is the first-born child of Lumkile and Patricia Mdevu. He has two siblings: brother Luthando and sister Phiwe.
His childhood was not so great. He was raised in a poor family, he says.
“Fortunately it seemed normal to me because it was the only life I knew. I was comfortable with the circumstances. Music cured me, so I always knew where I would end up,” he says.
He says what made things easy for him was that his parents supported his dream and ambition of being a musician even though they had doubts at some point.
“My parents were supporting me at first but when things were not looking up for me they suggested I stop and go look for a job. Instead I kept on going to the studio and not going home for weeks because I was working on my tape. Now they are cool. They call and support me all the time,” he says.
He says the lyrical bug hit him at the tender age of nine while attending primary school in the hustle and bustle of Yeoville in Joburg in 2001.
Emtee felt no need to further his studies after completing his basic eduction. “I was never a bright kid in school so I did not want to waste my time with varsity. I am gifted with other things like rapping,” he says proudly.
Asked who influenced him to rap he says artist including Snoop Dogg, Msawawa, Bill Bauer and Lil Romeo played a role in how he modelled his career.
The signs of his musical genius appeared stronger when he sang choral music at Barnato High School where he participated in other musical activities, including being a choir conductor.
This earned him awards in many provincial competitions.
Today, he is not only dominant in hip-hop circles, but also dabbles in producing and does voice-overs. He also plays the marimba and brags that he is the best player in the country.
The hip-hop Song of the Year winner’s single was produced by Ruff. They also released a full album called Avery named after his seven-month-old son which is now in stores.
“I was and still am in love with the mother of my child. I am young yes but in my culture I am a man. For the fact that I have a child at this age and taking good care of my child is a mystery. Age is just a number I guess,” he says.
He says he would like to collaborate with international rappers such as Future and Survey Ress.
His number one local rapper is Pro whom he claims to know and can sing along to all his songs since he grew up listening to him.
“I think he is the Jay Z of South African hip-hop,” he says.