Born Baiphethi Rakodu some twenty something odd years ago, Rak.0 is one of those artists one can only hope won’t be lost to the folds and crevices of Botswana’s entertainment scene because his is a unique sound.
He doesn’t sound like anything but… well, himself, which perhaps makes the title of his offering Yaanong Yo Ke Mang?That more impactful. Yo Ke Mang? is a solid introduction to his sound and the workings of his mind, and while his music is clearly influenced by modern day Trap music, traditional Setswana music and a combination of House and Kwaito, they come together in such a way that none of his tracks sound like rip offs of any specific sound/song, as is wont to happen in music lately.
“It’s honestly me trying out trap with a twist,” he shares when we speak about the EP. “There’s a whole lot of Setswana hooks and flows that incorporate both English and Setswana. It’s me making Botswana look cool, my first attempt, and me learning how to trap in Setswana”.
Lyrically he weaves tales of triumph and treachery in the Gaborone streets, using wordplay peppered with Setswana idioms and adages that seemingly gel into whatever message he’s trying to get across - whether it’s about love, betrayal or just having a good time with the homies.
“When I was a kid my older sister, she was 10 years older than me, listened to a lot of R&B, so it was constantly Beyonce or Brandy playing at home. I woke up to that. When I was around 13 though my brother came home from Varsity and was going through a phase when he wanted to be a rapper. He set up a mini studio at home and he’d constantly ask me to record him so that was my first real introduction to the music making process”.
“So you were better than him and ruined his life?” I ask, because who doesn’t love a good sibling rivalry plot line?
“Nah, nah. He’s good, he eventually let the dream slide, of his own doing, and is now a happy father of two with a great job. He’s great,” he assures me.
The dream, however, stayed with Rak.0. Over the years he met and signed with Bang! Gae and went on to grace the likes of Swaziland’s Hypnotik stage with his label mates, who he says are more like his brothers than anything.
“In the beginning I just wanted to rap. I would rap on any beat just to flex my lyrical muscle but as I grew I became more comfortable and stopped trying to out-rap everyone. My focus turned more to making sure I could translate whatever melodies I had in my head onto the songs. Music making is an expansive process and as an artist you should always know the in’s and out’s of what you’re doing - how it gets mixed, mastered - the various aspects of its production and how it gets to being where you want it to be. You need to know your craft.”
Ever wary of boxing in his creativity though, the next thing he says he wants to do is… You guessed it, start an apparel line. “Cliche, I know,” he says bashfully. “I just feel like clothing and visuals go hand in hand and so I’d like to translate my appreciation of Botswana across various platforms. I wanna do all I can to big it up through my creativity. So that would be a great dream to accomplish”.