With hip-hop’s entire obsession with the “finer things in life” – the bling-bling, fancy cars, hot women and stacks of cash notes flying around – these images are what have become synonymous with rap and hip-hop music. It is rather refreshing to see another side to the music – the socially conscious aspect.
Sling Short is one of the emcees that have seen a gap and decided to flip the coin and bring that other side of hip-hop/rap to the industry. Earning the name Papa Slinga Linga, is down to the respect he has been able to ascertain from his days of battle rapping in the streets of Johannesburg. The streets have needed to turn to an elder, who better but a self-made man, who exemplifies social responsibility, enterprise and great work ethic? His tenured dedication to hitting cypher/freestyle spots, development of the craft and embodiment of collaboration has endeared himself to many within the community. This lead to him being featured by artists such as Hymphatic Thabs and the late Robo The Technician (may his soul rest in peace), and regular performances at numerous events across the city.
The man known by day as Tiro Dire was born and raised on the streets of Pimville Zone 5 in Soweto. Sling Short is a founding member of the group Assylum TrRribe and renown as an astute battle emcee with a style that infuses consciousness, with a hard-core lyrical delivery.
Lavatory Records: For those who don’t know you, who is “Slingshort” and what’s the meaning behind the name?
Slingshort: Slingshort is the giant killer as per biblical reference and otherwise obvious a timeless weapon of attack for the purpose of defence. The name was inspired by the story of King David in the bible and his usage of the slingshot to conquer a giant.
I grew up on Jozi hip-hop when it was starting to bear fruit in our CBD. I was that 12-to-14 year old who was getting into the club to hear this music that was not on the radio but was very relevant. I went to Le Club long enough to have a management position by the time the operation shut down.
LR: Tell us all about your musical history and journey thus far?
Sling: In a few simple words, music is my reason for breathing. Being able to live and experience life. To be able to note some of the raps that I do and use that as a cure for pain, a crutch to lean on when life gets hard and a corner to run to when all else around me comes tumbling down. I love this rap music, I love this hip-hop. It gives me strength to hope and be hopeful, and to spread a message of hope to those around me. Hip-hop has helped me to know myself and to deal with life from an enlightened and knowledge-based perspective and for this I am eternally grateful.
LR: Which artists and producers have been the greatest influence for you, in the past and presently?
Sling: Krs-One, Guru, Scarface, Smoothe Tha Hustler, Nas, Jadakiss, Biggie, Pac, Gravediggazzz, Method Man, Obie Trice, Eminem, Crooked I, Mr. Man, Ra Tha Rugged Man, Company Flow, AC Alone, Kool G Rap… Should I Continue, Big L, Immortal Technique. DJ Premier vs Dr. Dre (Best east and best west). No 2 is J Dilla vs HiTechnology, I choose to stop there.
Truthfully speaking Amu, Snazz, Robo, The guy you know as Ben Sharpa (Silo – Captain my Captain) and T from the V, made a huge impact on me while learning about Jozi rap and how it gets done the right way. DJ Bradley and Bionic just brought the best music to the streets; and at the time Dome, Hempza and the specialists as well as Luque from Venda lab were the only producers I could realistically consider as working the right angle as far as establishing a truly ‘kasi sound’ was concerned.
Nowadays, the question “who’s your favourite emcee?”, has become a rather touchy subject and thus I just choose not to comment on anything much apart from that I really appreciate hearing guys that do it from the heart, and from the love, as well as the changes hip-hop has introduced into their lives and how they are now using the hip-hop vehicle to better their lives and those of others.
The game has changed to a certain aspect. I’ve been cooking some stuff with Fulskilla Killa, DJ Venon, DJ Soundman, DJ Zakes, Mr. Andy Finc, DJ Phaka, Aldim Palm (The Farmer) and the legendary Blondie Makhene – well then I say they are the dopest producers in the game right now. Exit, Sledge Lee, Catalust Lawrence, Vikiinduku, PO Box project, Chaka Dolla, Knox Man, Adis Ababa, Rapid, Viral, Missing Link, Naked Eye, Mothipa, The Intellects, Nazi Lezi, Pro, Blak Lez, Nveigh, T from the V, Reason, Amu, Snazz, Robo (rest in peace), Shorty Skillz, His young rebel majesty Thabz, Ben Sharpa and Proverb (The Read Tape is too dope) – rappers are doing branding and marketing campaigns. I don’t mention the Motswako guys because so far they can’t seem to do anything wrong?!?!?!? I give props to each and everyone of them and much love to my KZN peeps. Shout out to Yakeem and everyone in PE and its surrounds. My Cape Town people, someone please get me on a track with Driemanskap asseblief toe. It will be a dream come true.
LR: You’ve always been known to be a “lyrical emcee”, do you think there’s any lyricism in the hip-hop we hear today?
Sling: Lyrics are the backbone of any song in any genre. It’s how you choose to place and relay them in a song that makes the difference. I love playing with words and enjoy hearing it being explored by others, the game has evolved and lyricism is and will always be there. It’s just that in this era of branding and marketing, the lyrics are set according to the campaigns and ulterior motives but it’s still there. It’s just a bit harder to find profound statement rappers, but they are there.
LR: Where do you see the direction of the music industry going, especially with the internet changing the dynamics within the game?
Sling: Oh! I love the new direction. I love the whole “control over our own markets” ability that is being passed on to the artist. The development of technology is a great positive to artists, and them being able to brand and market themselves on a more personal basis with the market. Give music and the internet another year or two and the marriage between the two will leave the world asking why it never moved the product via this medium in the first place. Look out for the changes that are going to take place in this window period and see how forward-thinking artists and record companies are going to change the music world as we know it. Dont believe? Just watch!
LR: Which artists or producers have you worked or shared a stage with?
Sling: I been cooking some stuff with Fulskilla Killa, DJ Venon, DJ Soundman, DJ Zakes, Mr. Andy Finc, DJ Phaka, Aldim Palm (The Farmer) and Blondie Makhene well then I say they are the dopest producers in the game right now. Exit, Slege Lee, Catalust Lawrence, Vikiinduku, PO Box project, Chaka Dolla, Knox Man, Adis Ababa, Rapid, Viral, Missing Link, Naked Eye, Mothipa, The Intellects, Nazi Lezi, Pro, Blak Lez, Nveigh, T from the V, Reason, Amu, Snazz, Robo (rest in peace), Shorty Skillz, His young rebel majesty Thabz, Ben Sharpa and Proverb (The Read Tape is too dope) – rappers are doing branding and marketing campaigns. I don’t mention the Motswako guys because so far they can’t seem to do anything wrong! I give props to each and everyone of them and much love to my KZN peeps. Shout out to Yakeem and everyone in PE and its surrounds. My Cape Town people, someone please get me on a track with Driemanskap asseblief toe. It will be a dream come true.
LR: What has your experience of the South African music industry been like in general? Give us the good and bad of the local industry.
Sling: There is a serious lack of information and platforms that provide it for the artists. The South African musician is not informed of the workings of their industry and this leads to serious injustices being allowed to go unobserved.
Otherwise on the up and up. The South African music industry is fun, challenging and extremely difficult to crack and the audience retention is a very big challenge right now, which I believe once it has been addressed and curbed, a lot of careers can be revived and the current ones can be sustained.
LR: In your opinion, how progressive has the South African hip-hop scene been since the 90s?
Sling: The 2014 Back to the City festival was a clear indication for me as to how far we’ve come and how far we can still go. We went from sweat box Le Club and hardly filling it to its maximum to Mary Fitzgerald Square being unable to sufficiently contain us. I don’t know how else progress is defined but from no category in the SAMA awards ceremony to ‘best male artist’ nominations and accolades (best rapper at a cypher was just that). Now ‘best rapper’ can be ‘best male artist’ with an ‘album of the year’, ‘video of the year’ and ‘song of the year’. It’s so beautiful it’s ready to become ugly and not fade away.
LR: Lavatory Records is a “solutions” for artists’ organisation and not a “record label” in the traditional sense. Do you think there’s potential for such a business to thrive in the current music economy, particularity in regards to management solutions and revenue streaming for artists?
Sling: To re-iterate “There is a serious lack of information and platforms that provide it for the artists, the South African musician is not informed of the workings of their industry and this leads to serious injustices being allowed to go unobserved”. This is a solution for an active and identified problem. No solution is unnecessary.
LR: Are you currently working on any projects or events that people need to look out for in the future?
Sling: My album Nothing To Lose (mix-tape) is finally done and will be available for download soon, just finalising the technological alignments and we on. I’m planning to hook up with Fulskilla Killa and so we can finally release the Yard Of The Spitters and the long-awaited 10 Yards. I will also be hosting hip-hop workshops at the JHB library during the month of June. Teamed up with Vikiinduku, Raven and McZwana and we are collectively working as Nazi Lezi, two singles and videos dropping before year-end. Splash Jam, the hip-hop live show which used to be hosted in Orlando West, is coming back from the second of May. I’m also working on a book and album with the legendary Blondie Makhene. The release of the book should for later this year but it has not been confirmed as yet.
I have got performances lined up over the winter. Those are the Next Move at the Street Hawker Concept Store in Dube, Soweto and BTAB (Bring The Art Back) sessions in Meadowlands, Soweto.
LR: Any special mentions you want to shout out?
Sling: Shout out to Lesedi Shaka Twala – be all you can possibly be.
Lavatory Records appreciates the time taken by Papa Slinga Linga to chat with us. To stay in the loop on what he’s up to, follow him on Twitter: @papa_slinga, and send a request to his artist Facebook account and his personal Facebook account.