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DJ Cleo on Mandoza, Brickz and changing the music game

20 November 2017 - 12:06 By Kyle Zeeman
DJ Cleo opened up about his music and protégés.
DJ Cleo opened up about his music and protégés.
Image: Via DJ Cleo's Instagram

Award-winning producer DJ Cleo has worked with some of the biggest names in South African music in a career that has spanned over a decade and a half, but of all the talent he has nurtured, he wanted to work with Mandoza again.

Mandoza died in September last year, with Cleo joining mourners in paying tribute with his own mix dedicated to the star. Speaking to TshisaLIVE, Cleo revealed that if he could bring one person back to studio to write a hit together it would be Mandoza.

"I wish I could work with Mandoza. He was one of the easiest guys to work with. I liked him. I liked his spirit. I liked his charisma. He liked the finer things in life but was also a kasi boy. He had the right mix of the two and I could relate to that."

One person DJ Cleo did manage to work with again was former protégé Sipho "Brickz" Ndlovu. After a public spat several years ago, the pair reunited for a song last year while Brickz was standing trial in a rape case.

"We have a very close relationship and after the fall out he apologised. We kept in touch, but I was waiting for the rape case to conclude so that we could start working. It was just taking forever," Cleo said.

Brickz was found guilty of rape and sentenced last month to 15 years in prison. Cleo said that the law had taken its course and he could not comment on Brickz' claims that he was innocent.

"It is not my place to say whether or not he is guilty. I think the law has taken its course and highly qualified people handled the matter so, based on that, he has to serve his time and take it like a man," he said.

Cleo's recent collaboration with Brickz was part of the DJ's return to music after a stint as a footballer in 2014. Reflecting on his time away from music, Cleo said he was often told by people in football that he did not belong.

"I wasn't welcomed. I was told; 'you don't belong here', but I was adamant to fight it out and I did that. Eventually, when I secured a contract, I looked at it and realised that I could not survive on that. Not that it was about the money, it was more about fulfilling my dream of becoming a footballer."

Since his return, Cleo has sought to reinvent music distribution by releasing some of his music free to fans on Whatsapp.

"Piracy has killed sales and retailers are closing down. The future is streaming, but even being number one on iTunes means nothing because you can't make big money out of it. I think that music in 2020 is a place where sales are non-existent and everyone is sharing music via social media. That is where the music is. That is why we barely get 50 new artists a year. Artists should be embracing these platforms, but it means there is a loss of income to artists and labels," he said.

The producer has been dubbed the 'beat master' for his ability to shape popular genres in SA music. TshisaLIVE decided to put his skills to the test. We challenged the producer to create a beat using random objects… and he didn’t disappoint.