Entertainment

[Interview] Kay Faith, the ‘Antithesis’ of South African hip-hop


Kay Faith takes us through the creation of her debut album, Antithesis

Written by HYPE Staff, Visuals: Supplied

Kay Faith’s rise in the mid-2010s was through her work as an engineer, having recorded, mixed and mastered songs and projects by the likes of Kwesta, YoungstaCPT and Uno July, among several other artists.

She released her debut EP In Good Faith in 2017, which featured Cape Town artists such as Patty Monroe, YoungstaCPT, Phresh Cliqe, Dope Saint Jude and many others.

Her recently released debut album, Antithesis, is a coherent body of work that features both OGs and youngbloods, all placed strategically in this clinically curated experience. Antithesis impressed our critics, and was named HYPE Album of the Month for July.

We caught up with Kay Faith and quizzed her about the creation of Antithesis, how some songs came together, her future projects and more.

What does the album title mean?

When I released my first project, In Good Faith, someone called me the antithesis of hip-hop in an article. And I quite liked what it sounded like, but I wasn’t sure what it meant. So, I went and googled the word “antithesis” – it’s a figure of speech where you use contrasts to bring your point across. And it also mentions that it’s something or someone that’s the opposite of what you’d expect, and I quite liked that because I felt like it resonated with me – where I’m from, who I am, what I look like and the industry that I’m in. Especially being a woman in hip-hop.

What was the production process for this album? Did you make the beats yourself?

One or two tracks were co-produced with other producers; maybe two or three tracks. But the majority of it is produced by myself in the sense of, yes, some of the tracks I’m the beat maker, some of the tracks I’m the creative lead. I handpicked every artist I featured on the album.

What lessons would you say you took from your previous project and applied on Antithesis?

So, basically, with the first project, the whole idea was to make everything based on me. So, I produced, I recorded, I mixed, I mastered… you know. Whereas the whole idea behind this project was very much to do the opposite. I really wanted to go collaborative on as many levels as I could, which is why I made the call to bring in other engineers, bring in more producers… some tracks, we’ve got songwriters. So, I really wanted to find more collaboration in the music and it’s something I could easily do because I don’t actually feature as the main performer. I’m the producer who hosts other musicians on my tracks.

Sometimes, the more collaboration, the better. Sometimes not. But mostly, it’s for the better. So, I try to make collaboration the drive behind a lot of the tracks that I have on the album.

 

You have Grandmaster Ready D and Uno July on ‘Sugar Water’. Uno July hasn’t been dropping for a while. How did the song come about?

[During a session with Maglera Doe Boy, Espiquet and others] I was playing mostly trap beats because of the calibre of artist who was there. Then, I played the beat that’s the current beat of ‘Sugar Water’, and the mood in the room just changed entirely, because of the genre change almost. And Uno just loved this beat and he started freestyling right then and there in the room, and Maglera really gravitated towards it. And, he said, “Yo, you two, this needs to happen, this needs to become a track.”

So, literally a couple of days after that happened, I sent Uno the beat. I was like, yo, here we go, write something; you have free reign, write whatever; I trust you and I know you’ll come back with something really nice. So, we recorded the track at Milestone Studios, and it was easy.

Uno has done this for so long that his professionalism is always on point. We were in and out of the studio in like two hours. And, when I went home and I edited the vocals after the session, while the chorus was playing, every time I would pretend, almost DJ scratch my head. I actually played the track to YoungstaCPT and I was like, I actually really need someone to scratch the hook for me. And Youngsta was like, “My bru, ask Ready D, you know that homie loves to get involved with music.”

And, whenever I reach out to Ready D, he’s such a legend. I always expect him to be too busy or too whatever. But I forget, he’s one of the nicest, humblest people on earth, and I think I sent him the track on a Sunday evening and the Monday morning he had something for me, or I sent it to him on Saturday and the Sunday he had something for me. So, he sent me back three minutes of him just scratching the chorus, and I actually had to cut out my favourite pieces and paste them onto the song itself.

‘Proudly Capetonian’, which has been out since 2020, was almost a Y?Gen reunion. E-Jay had been locked up. How did that song come about?

Part of this stems from me hearing Pop Smoke for the first time. And I was like, okay, drill is gonna become a thing now. If the Americans are doing it, the whole world is gonna follow very soon, right? And, I mean, you can ask any young producers from Cape Town, we’ve been making grime and drill and that type of stuff for a long time before the whole Pop Smoke wave started. So, I sat down one day, and I had an older version of the ‘Proudly Capetonian’ beat that I had on my machine from a couple of years before. I took it and changed a couple of things – samples get a bit older, so you add new samples, and you add some new drum fills and just breathe a little bit more modern life back into the track.

And I’d recorded E-Jay prior to his disappearing act for a project that he and Tweezy were gonna release. And, on the intro of the E-Jay/Tweezy project, E-Jay literally sings, “Kaapstad in ne kas’lam, Kaapstad, I rep Western Cape.” And that was gonna be the intro on that project for him. And, while I was producing and touching up this drill beat, in my head, I kept singing “Kaapstad in ne kas’lam, Kaapstad, I rep Western Cape.” And I was like, you know, it would be crazy if these vocals fitted on this beat.

And it fitted perfectly – like it was meant to be. It was in key. I had to slightly change it, just so that it could fit the tempo but, in terms of energy, feeling and the tone of his voice, it worked perfectly. Now, this was at a time when E-Jay was still locked up. So, I think I had a studio session with Young and I had this song on me, and I was like, I need to play this for Young, because he and I used to speak a lot and be like, “Hey, dude, when last have you heard from E-Jay? Is he still good? Is he still alright?” So, we used to exchange a lot of stories about him.

And I knew – I was like, I can’t send the song to anyone – I need to play it to Young. And I played it to him, and he was like, “Jo, bra, when last did I hear E-Jay on a beat? That’s crazy.” So, I said to him, I was like, “Look, drill is gonna be the next big think in SA, I’m assuming. Why don’t we start it from Cape Town?” Because, to me, one of the things about Young that makes him unique is his accent, and rapping in the coloured accent. And, with drill, one of the things that stands out about these UK boys who rap on these tracks are these heavy accents, and I thought the coloured accent would be the equivalent of that. And hence me wanting to pop it off from Cape Town first.

We recorded this track at Milestone Studios, and Youngsta – as he always does – came correct. We were in and out of the studio really quickly. His opening line for me is one of the best things: “E-Jay’s in the tronk, but I told him to stop doing dom k*k.” Which is very accurate. That’s kind of the story of him. And, yeah, we laid the song down and immediately I was like, listen, I don’t know when you’re dropping your album, but we need to release this song ASAP. Hence us releasing it so long before the album came out. We dropped a single, then there was a little bit of silence, and then the album. Purely because it had to happen at the time it happened – E-Jay was still locked up, and we shot a music video for it.

My phone rings one day; it’s Youngsta. I answer, and he goes, “Kay, you’re not gonna believe the news I have for you. E-Jay is a free man – he’s coming over.”

So, we actually got the news that he was let out of jail and was coming back to Cape Town, and I actually delayed the music video release, because I was waiting to get him in the music video.

You have Maglera Doe Boy on two songs and he comes up a lot in these stories that you’re telling me. What’s the relationship between the two of you like?

We have a really good relationship. I met him through Uno, back when Uno was doing his 24-hour project at Red Bull Studios. There’s a song on that project called ‘Rap Gods and Bad Broads’ that features Maglera Doe Boy. And that was the first time I ever heard Maglera, and I remember being like, whoa, who is this? And this was a while ago; this was before he started popping off. And Uno was telling me, “This is Khuli’s kid; he’s gonna be the next big thing,” and I remember just being like, I need to reach out to this guy and start a relationship – he’s really dope.

And the whole idea was to create music together. The cool thing is that Maglera is a very open-minded creative, so we can create hits together, but we can also be creatively alternative; we can really push for a super-alternative sound and, with his style of rapping, he can achieve it so easily. So, we have such a good relationship and we’ve worked on a lot of cool tracks together, in terms of both production and engineering. So, yeah, that’s why he was allowed to be the only vocalist featured twice on the album. He was actually gonna be featured a third time, but I was like, no, I can’t do that; I need to keep to my theme as closely as I can.

The project is out now, so what’s next? If you were a rapper, I’d assume you’d want to go on the road and perform the project. What does a producer do after they put out an album?

So, the obvious thing… we’ve got some cool music videos in the pipeline that are coming out for the project. I’m also starting the Antithesis podcast. I’m a big fan of consuming content from other producers but, unfortunately, those are guys in the UK and in the US. Locally, there’s not that much of it. Now, I’m hoping that, by starting the Antithesis podcast, I can create a platform to speak about how the music on my album was created. But then also to start a larger movement of bringing co-creators on board and telling the story of the producer, not just the story of the artist.

And that’s not necessarily just going to be music production. I’ll bring in engineers, I’ll bring in producers, I’ll bring in instrumentalists – all these types of people. So, that’s coming… within a month, we’ll probably be ready to pop that off. Other than that, I’m going to release some video content, basically similar ideas – the making of some of the tracks. Showcasing the process behind how the music was created, breaking down some of the beats… a lot of video content of that type of stuff.

And then, the next project that I’m releasing is already in the pipeline. It’s a little experimental, free project that I’m gonna put out there into the world, either as a SoundCloud project or, I don’t know… the whole idea is I want it to be free because of the experimental nature. And then, yeah, I’ve got some projects coming with some of your favourite rappers, so keep your eyes peeled for that. I don’t wanna say too much just yet, because they’re not done, and I don’t wanna jinx anything.

Stream Antithesis on Apple Music, Spotify and other platforms.

 

 

 

 



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