South African Hip Hop is one genre that’s often disregarded because of the belief that there isn’t a huge following behind it as a movement. As a result local Hip Hop artists and enthusiasts have had the challenge of having to establish their own platforms and put themselves on. However, it’s no doubt that we’re in an era where (artist) independence is a blessing in disguise.
Griffin Gamede is one of the prime examples of what such independence can embody. Griffin is not just an emcee/rapper who’s found some success from independent album sales he’s also the founder and owner of an online entertainment magazine called ZA Live Magazine. Much like his name, Griffins were mythical creatures that were known to guard sacred treasures; and as fate would have it, it turns out that Griffin also knows a thing or two about finances.
We spoke to Griffin – also spelt as Gryphon – about his career, the origins and ambitions of ZALive Extras magazine, his single Love Your Life, his future plans and so much more.
Lavatory Records: Who is Griffin Gamede and is that your real name?
Griffin Gamede: Griffin is an independent rap artist from Tembisa; and yes, Griffin is my real name. I was named after my grandfather. The name originates from Greek mythology. A “Griffin” is a mythological creature which is half eagle, half lion, and is also spelt “Gryphon”, which is the spelling I use as my alias even though it’s really not.
I’m currently working on my solo debut EP titled No Myth, which is set to drop mid-to-late 2016, under award-winning Tembisan indie label, “7th Wave Records”. I have currently released my 1st single titled Niyadlala which was produced by UPE beat competition winner Casper, also from 1632 (that’s Tembisa for all those who aren’t catching on).
LR: When and why did you decide to pursue music?
GG: I fell in love with hip-hop at a very tender age and made an appearance on Y-FM’s rap-activity jam 1st when in primary school doing grade 7 in 1997. I started rapping with a crew called Skeptics with whom we won Y-FM’s rap activity jam MC’s of the month in 2001. I also took MC of the month as a solo artist on the same show in 2002.
I had also appeared on Lee & Sanza’s show on Y-FM, did jingles for the Fresh & Thato as well as Pabi Moloi’s breakfast show. I then appeared on Siz & Scoop “The Full Clip” and featured on the full-clip mixtape vol.1. In 1999 I was a contestant and won 1st place on SABC1’s Jam Alley.
Before forming a duo with R-Senic called Diverse, I was a member of the SA Gospel Crown Award winning gospel hip-hop group Last Days Fam, formerly known as Last Days Clan. In 2006 Diverse independently released an album titled “Diverse-City”, which sold out like hot-cakes. We were the opening act for Proverb’s 3rd studio album, Write Of Passage at the Pretoria State Theatre Capellos. We also performed at numerous venues around the country and shared the stage with the likes of Skwattah Camp, Gang Of Instrumental’s, Prokid, Psyfo, HHP and MXO… just to name a few.
LR: Which artists did you like while growing up?
GG: My biggest influences when I started writing my own lyrics in primary school were mainly Eminem and Talib Kweli. Eminem’s style helped me craft my flow and Kweli’s style influenced my content a lot.
LR: When Billboard released its “Top 10 Best Rappers of all time” list late last year (2015), what were your thoughts? Did you agree/ disagree with the list?
GG: Well my initial thought was “who decides on this list & what are the actual criteria”? I mean how can you not have Tupac up in that list like really? I believe that these lists are compiled by individuals who don’t really understand RAP, which is an acronym for Rhythm And Poetry; and Tupac was one of the best rappers to ever grace the earth who perfectly managed tp put rhythm into poetry. So much so his works are even studied as works of poetry in America along with your William Shakespeare’s and them…so I don’t agree with that list at all.
LR: You are the brains behind the online magazine, ZA Live Magazine. How did that come about?
GG: The idea for starting a magazine was actually brought by my fellow colleague Makgatho “MK” Rathete who was running a page on Facebook and wanted to turn that into a full-on entertainment magazine. She and I then linked up via her page where I offered my knowledge to help us start the mag as I have done media studies; and have the know-how in that field even though my day job has nothing to do with media, as I’m in the financial industry. The daily grind for now is what puts food on the table until the magazine and my music become lucrative. We then got together a team, came up with the name and logo…and the rest is history.
LR: What would you like to see ZA Live Magazine achieve, short-term and long-term?
GG: Our short-term goal is to get the magazine to be a household name such as other larger commercial publications, and long-term is to reach the level of major magazines without compromising our mission…which is to create a platform for the underdog. The magazine is an entertainment and lifestyle magazine that tries to unearth uncovered talent and put it out there through the mag.
LR: You released the “Love Your Life” single for International AIDS Day. How does that song resonate with your reality as to the impact of the pandemic?
GG: Due to social ills and economic problems clouding and questioning our humanity one has to step up and voice the message of self-belonging and respect through the art of urban hip-hop. Love your Life raises awareness on the issue of HIV/AIDS, especially to the youth who tend to ignore the ever growing killer disease. The song was actually recorded and released on the “Diverse-City” EP, then titled “Gift Of Life”. The EP did pretty well on the streets at the time considering local hip-hop was still being frowned upon. I really believe me writing this song was a blessing to bless others in some way or another. Hence I’ve remade the song to rejuvenate and make it more relevant and appreciable to everyone, whether they listen to hip-hop or not.
LR: What’s on the cards for the future for Griffin and ZA Live Magazine, in terms of events or projects?
GG: Plans for the future for “Gryphon” as an artist is to make a “come-back” to the game with a bang…lol! I had been out of the scene for quite a while and felt the need that I can still contribute quite a lot in the game considering the rappers you hear on radio lately, it’s as if content and relevance doesn’t matter anymore. It’s now all about the beat and nursery rhyme hooks so I’m back to help remedy that. I’m not saying I’m gonna change the scene single-handedly but there are still a few real rappers out there and I just wanna add to the number of those real soldiers. So the plan there is to push my music on radio and different gigs as much as possible…all independently.
The plans for ZA Live Magazine are to take the digital media industry with a bang…also independently.
LR: Any shout outs you’d like to mention?
GG: A S/O (shout out) to ikas’lam 1632 and all my fellow Mambicans! A shout out to all 1632 hustlers on the grind…keep keeping on! Another S/O to all those who kept asking me for more music and pushed me to get back in Stu! And last but not least…a shout out to my pillar of strength, my confidant, my best friend, my inspiration and the love of my life, Portia Ndabandaba and a final S/O YOU reading and supporting the hustle!
Get in touch with Gryphon on Facebook, Twitter: @Gryphon1632, on SoundCloud and e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Also don’t forget to checkout his single in commemoration International Aids Day entitled, Love Your Life. Also be sure to check out ZA LIVE Magazine website and their Facebook Page