Kommanda Obbs forms part of the true-school breed of emcees currently flying the flag high for hip-hop in Lesotho. His is a brand – a ‘sub-genre‘ as he calls it – of hip-hop known as Ts’epe. I caught up with him while he was on a break of a mini-tour for his debut offering entitled ‘Ts’epe‘ (he had performed alongside Maleh at the Morija Arts and Cultural Festival the previous day, and was going to share the stage with Mo’ Molemi that very night).
Congratulations on a brilliant album. Are you happy of the way it turned out?
Thanks man. Yeah, I’m kind of happy.
The album took longer than expected, what caused the delay?
I don’t know bra, you know these things don’t always go according to plan, but for me it has been a learning experience. It took longer because we wanted a certain sound, so we were not going to release the album until we got what we wanted.
What type of sound were you going for?
We were just trying to come up with hard-hitting lyrics and some hard-hitting beats – like the name says, Ts’epe [Note to reader: ts'epe is Sesotho for 'steel']. Hardcore hip-hop, which is what I grew up listening to, so that’s what I was trying to bring to the people, but obviously [also] fusing it with my culture.
Are there things on the album that you would’ve loved to spend more time on?
Er, I mean yeah, but those were really [the] cherry on top. I feel the album was done a long time ago, but I was polishing it so that it had an extra shine. I was working with perfectionists, so I also became one during the process.
Who did you work closely with on the project?
It just so happens that I’m with my team right now: my manger and producer. We’re actually going to a show in Bloemfontein, finishing up the first block of the promotional tour. Er, I worked with M(uzi)k of The Molakosh on production, he’s the head producer of the album. Other featured producers are Phil the Kritik (on Mahlaba-phieo), Wabby G (on Semate), and others.
Tell us a bit more about Ts’epe as a genre
It’s a sub-genre of hip-hop. I mean, hip-hop is foundational, but we still have sub-genres which come in and blend here and there…but it’s still hip-hop at the end of the day.
How do you differentiate yourself from other artists who rap in Sesotho?
I think there is a difference between rapping in Sesotho and representing Sesotho. That’s what sets us apart; I represent Sesotho, I don’t just rap in it.
What keeps you going in music?
Yo, ordinary people, home people, village people…the privilidge of walking in the mountains and exploring the ‘Mountain Kingdom‘. Meeting humble people, people who are really still humbled by nature and all that. Real people basically, who are very less materialistic because [of not] being exposed to too many things.