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Meet Awa Khiwe: The Vernacular-Bars Spitting Rap Queen

Profiles & Interviews

Meet Awa Khiwe: The Vernacular-Bars Spitting Rap Queen

I always include African spirituality in my songs, because it is the heart of our culture. I believe my ancestors guide and protect me.

Awa Khiwe AWA must be on some fighter jet pilot vibes, she just dropped a bomb with her new single. Lalela if you are a rap fan and you are not listening to ‘ngeke bengimele’ by AWA what are you doing with your life. Trust me if this is not on your top ten most played songs, your playlist sucks. Termed the rap goddess, the female Ndebele MC. Intombi yase Nkayi emnyama cwaka, the tooth gap queen. Pretty like Lupita, this brown skin mama oozes freshness. She spits bars heavier than uranium, for real ngeke bam’ mele. African Women Arise (AWA), she is not just a phoenix rising from the ashes, she is the whole fire. After a two year sabbatical, she killing it. I mean who unchained AWA, she is a beast behind the mic. Ubhonga baqhuqhe, give her, her respect. For someone who claims to be a simple village girl who decided to go for it, she shut the whole building down. This young lady surely is standing on the shoulders of ten thousand ancestors. Those clicks left my tongue in a spasm, I stan Queen. She is the humblest, most bubbly human being I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. Yet there is a vibe that still lets you know she will not be contained. I was a fan before this interview, now I am a whole air conditioning unit. Proudly a Matebeleland North girl, venture a bit into the world of Miss AWA.

Phiwie; Hey mama so first thing is first. Ngeke bengimele is a popping tune. What inspired the song?

AWA: Ngeke bengimele is a song I recorded to announce my comeback in rap music. I haven’t been releasing any music for two years and I wanted to mark my territory. I wanted to inspire women to be confident and to take up space and own their thrones. I also addressed misogyny in the rap industry, because people say, “I rap good for a girl,” I don’t believe people should play the gender card. That is why I say, “bazibiza amaKing besirephela inyongo,” most men think they own hip hop. By virtue of being a man they lead and women should only get a piece of the pie,

Phiwie: Between sinqandamathe and ngeke bangimele, which was your favourite to pen down and record?

AWA: I enjoyed writing ngeke bangimele more than sinqandamathe. Ngeke bangimele has some controversial lyrics. Especially the part where I rap about umbobobo. Which is a form of sexual witchcraft. Most people thought it was funny and loved the punchline. The song has a spiritual side as well, on the part where I said “ngacatshwa ngagezwa ngazalwa ngembethe ngatshiselwa imphepho” I was talking about our culture. The spiritual rituals that are done when a baby is born. This is how a child is protected and blessed at birth. I always include African spirituality in my songs, because it is the heart of our culture. I believe my ancestors guide and protect me. So I honour them in my music as well. Both songs are packed with Ndebele clicks, but I love the delivery on ngeke bengimele. I went all out and the love and support from the people is amazing.

Phiwie: Your collabo with MsiziKay and Mzoe7 was fire, you were spitting heavy bars. Who next can we look forward to you working with?

AWA: I am currently working on a lot of collaborations and I will be dropping names soon, it’s a surprise.

Phiwie: What was it like working with the Ghanaian Stallion?

AWA: Working with Ghanaian Stallion is amazing, he understands me, even though he does not understand my language. The language barrier limits us here and there. It has however helped me to learn to make music that can be enjoyed by people who don’t understand Ndebele.

Phiwie: Why do you always wear traditional attire or have an ethnic feel to all your outfits?

I always wear traditional Ndebele outfits because I love them. They are so beautiful, and I enjoy sharing our language and culture with people around the world. Africans should tell their stories, and earn from their story telling.

Phiwie: Do you have an alter ego/ egos?

AWA: I do think AWA the rapper and Awakhiwe are like Clarke Kent and Superman. I may brag and roar in the booth, but I am friendly and sweet in person. We are both confident though, but AWA inspired me to be the Queen  I have always wanted to be my whole life.

Phiwie:  If you could rap with anyone of your choice, who would it be?

AWA: If I could rap with absolutely anyone it would be Zakwe. He is my role model.

Phiwie: How was it growing up in Makokoba, how different did it feel when you moved to Germany?

AWA: I grew up in Nkayi and I went to Makokoba during the holidays. I was exposed to both an urban ghetto and rural life. This affected my rural – urban hip hop sound. Moving to Germany was bittersweet, it unlocked many doors for me. I am exposed to a different world but I face a lot of challenges and I miss home but I visit as much as I can.

 Phiwie: Could you describe your ideal partner ?

AWA: I am taking a break from umjolo the dating. The qualities though of an ideal partner are good vibes, good jokes, someone who is obsessed with me, emotionally intelligent, supportive and ambitious . I am a hopeless romantic and I expect the same from my partner.

Phiwie: What is your idea of a romantic evening?

AWA: A perfect romantic evening for me would be a picnic at a river, I love food, music and watching the sunset.

Phiwie: How would your friends describe you?

AWA: My best friends King Queen Nonsie and Emildah Buys always describe me as bubbly, sweet, selfless and funny. They say I am loyal, loving and supportive. Asazi!

Phiwie: What is your average day like?

AWA: I spend most of my time indoors with my cat, because we are on lockdown. I am using this time to read, write and work on my music. I have many projects that I am working on. I am using this lockdown period to plan and organise everything.

Phiwie: What are your pet peeves?

AWA: Rude cashiers, people who abruptly stop walking in the middle of the side walk. Also people who misspell  Ndebele words.

Phiwie: What is your weirdest fear?

AWA: My fear is being in a situation where I cannot create freely, I hate being boxed. Unfortunately when artists reach greater heights it takes away their creative freedom. They start living up to the standards of record labels, or people’s expectations. It is a sad life and it is my worst nightmare, that and failure.

Phiwie: What useless talent do you have?

AWA: I do not have a useless talent. I am a good actress, choreographer and scriptwriter. This will help me with my music videos. The film industry is my second love.

Phiwie: Please tell me about the group GRRL and how it has shaped you?

AWA: I enjoyed being part of GRRL, an all -female band, whose members are from all parts of the world. It has helped me to learn about the different parts of music and to leave my comfort zone and accommodate others. Making music in different languages is amazing, but the best part is traveling around the world with these amazing, fierce and talented ladies.

Phiwie: How has Cal Vin’s death impacted you?

AWA: Cal Vin’s death still feels like a nightmare. His legacy will live on for generations to come, but Ndebele rap will never be the same without him. It is very hard for all of us.

Phiwie: Lastly, this is not a question. Please leave a word for your fans and upcoming female rappers.   

AWA: I love and appreciate everyone who supports me so much. Everyone who buys my music, follows my work, all the  likes, shares and comments mean the world to me. Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu, ngiyabonga lingadinwa lakusasa zihlobo.

My advice to female rappers is that they should never allow anyone to make them feel like they don’t belong to hip hop. It is a concrete jungle out here and we should roar the loudest. Don’t hold back and don’t let anyone box you Queen.

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