Rapper K.O is one of Mzansi’s biggest stars, but he has admitted to feeling lonely at the top, especially following the untimely deaths of his industry peers AKA and Riky Rick.
Born Ntokozo Mdluli, the Sete hit-maker further added in an interview with Sowetan that he missed the drive and thrill he would get when the late hip hop and cultural juggernauts released new work.
The 43-year-old musician said they motivated him to up the ante – comparing their exhilarating music rivalry to that of soccer titans Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
“You know, the people you actually compete with are the reason why you go a little bit harder because they keep raising the bar but in the same breath, you’re not aware that you’re positioning yourself to be great or elevated as an artist.
“Whenever AKA would drop something, I’d be like, ‘Man, how do I come up with something stronger?’ Kiernan [AKA’s birth name] would always keep you on your toes. So, when such starts diminishing, whether by an unfortunate passing of a rapper or rapper’s tenacity to keep going, it makes it hard for one to keep the bar high.”
K.O first stepped into the industry as a member of rap group Teargas in 2005, later getting more success as a solo act in 2014. His highly acclaimed debut album Skhanda Republic yielded smash hit Cara Cara.
In 2022, he experienced a resurgence with the release of Sete, featuring Blxckie and Young Stunna. K.O admitted that SA hip hop was missing something but maintained that he was grateful to still be relevant after all these years.
“I’m still glad that I’m putting out quality music that still puts me at the top of the charts with songs like Sete gaining multi-platinum status, even though I’ve been in the game for almost 20 years,” he said. “It is also a blessing to see these young acts doing their things as well.”
K.O hopes the legacy he leaves behind is to be remembered as one of SA’s biggest contributors to music, fashion and culture.
“It has been a joyous ride, however, being at the frontline of receiving criticism wasn’t easy, it took a lot to grow a thick skin,” he laughed.
“But I’m glad that with my journey, I was able to help open doors to other younger artists who needed a way in. Yes, I can’t save the whole world but being able to use my blessings to shine the light onto others means a lot to me. At least, I can point at my lineage and see my contribution.
“I also hope that they can use me as an example to get there quicker. For them to be able to study my failures and work out how to avoid it, that way, it’ll be easier for them to succeed.”