Respected ‘The Hustle’ rapper joins with top producers for upcoming album

19 February 2016 - 15:15 By Azizzar Mosupi

“Jesus, plus minus everything” is the motto that local hip hop newcomer, Big Star Johnson, lives by.

Big Star Johnson
Big Star Johnson
Image: Supplied

The 24-year-old believes in the necessity of spiritual guidance so much, that he tattooed the saying on his arm - so we know it’s real. 

“Talent doesn’t ensure success” is the other motivational message that drives him.

Born Tumelo Rakumako, the 2015 Vuzu The Hustle competition winner says the music bug bit him early on in life but, out of respect for his mother, he put his dream on pause and pursued traditional education first.

“My mom, she’s like my angel in my life,” he says with adoration and pride. “She teaches English - so that’s where the words come from - but as a teacher, she’s a very straight-forward, by-the-book type of person,” he says.

“Talking about dreams as a kid, with your mom as a teacher, she’s just trying to tell you about education… so, when I told her I wanted to pursue a career in music, she raised an eyebrow out of concern. But deep down, I think she knew I had the talent.”

On the other hand, his father, whom he warmly refers to as “the homey”, is a steel manufacturing entrepreneur and has always “had his back” about embarking on a music career because, he says, his father is a dreamer as well.

Rakumako put his mom at ease by pursuing tertiary education and thereafter, slowly took steps towards his ultimate goal by teaching children in his neighbourhood how to play various instruments.

“I play a couple of instruments – bass [guitar], drums, piano – so I was teaching a couple of kids in my hood aged from about 7 to 18 and that’s sort of how I was getting by for my bread and butter. I wasn’t charging much - it was R50 for an hour - and that was my life.”

When asked how that payment per hour differs now, the humble yet charismatic rapper lets out a mischievous laugh and simply says “now we’re doing a whole lot better”.

Take a listen below to hear Big Star Johnson’s thoughts on the local hip hop industry right now, and where he thinks he will fit in.

The Get It musician credits his mother’s support of him for his success in the competition and industry so far, as it was only after he received her blessing that things started to really happen.

“The second she accepted it, doors started to open - The Hustle came about next week…. I feel like my stars were aligned and the heavens opened.”

He describes the experience of being in the competition as one of the coolest ever. “Everybody there gets you [because] they’re like you. They’ve got the same hunger, the same passion, the same desire as you. [Initially] I didn’t take The Hustle as a competition seriously until I met up with the other rappers and it hit me that I was in a real competition with other dope rappers,” he recalls.

“It was great time to grow and learn,” he says. “You learn other people’s struggles, their victories, and we helped each other – you know, iron sharpens iron.”

One of the biggest adjustments for the musician, who generally keeps to a small circle of friends, was the exposure to masses of people through the show and, especially, its social media reach. “Seeing the responses on social media; I never expected that - to get so much support…”, he comments.

Life after the show has been good to the East Rand-raised artist. He says he’s been performing extensively and putting in work on his debut album, which is due sometime in winter.

The album, whose title is not yet known, boasts renowned producers such as pH, Instro, Sketchy Bongo and 37mph among others.

On Monday, the Vth Season artist released his sophomore single My Year featuring Aewon Wolf, produced by Sketchy Bongo. “2015 was a phenomenal breakthrough year for me, but 2016 is MY YEAR”, he says.

This year, outside of releasing his album, he hopes to travel to Italy and New York amongst other destinations, as he has never been outside of South Africa.

When the lyricist isn’t making music - sans heavy expletives, as a result of his mother telling him to strive to expand his vocabulary - he can be found binging on episodes of television series, Suits, where Harvey Spector is his favourite character. He also boasts of having an “excellent” footballing ability as well as being a romantic, which is “deeply enshrined” within his personality.