K.O. Talks New Music, Mental Health, Fitness and His Latest Venture

by | Feb 23, 2024 | Entertainment

Ntokozo “K.O” Mdluli, hailing from Soweto, Johannesburg, emerged onto the music scene with a passion for rap deeply rooted in the influence of Hip-Hop legends. His journey began with the formation of the group “Teargas,” leaving an indelible mark on South African music through four seminal albums. Rising to prominence, K.O. embarked on collaborations with iconic artists like AKA and L-Tido.

In 2013, K.O. founded the renowned entertainment powerhouse “Cashtime Life,” propelling his solo career with the chart-topping sensation “Caracara.” This groundbreaking track not only reshaped the landscape of South African hip-hop but also made history by surpassing one million views on YouTube, a first for the genre. His debut album, “Skhanda Republic,” soared to the top of RSA charts, garnering acclaim and three SA Music Awards, leading him on a global tour spanning Africa, the UK, and the US.

K.O (Feat KiD X) – Caracara

READ MORE: Kat Sinivisan on Mastering Grooming, Fitness, Mental Wellness and Hosting

With his sophomore release, “SR2,” K.O delved deeper into his artistry, unveiling a more introspective narrative that resonated with audiences worldwide. Collaborations with luminaries like Black Coffee, Shekhinah, and Runtown further showcased his versatility and reach. Subsequent releases, including “PTY UNLTD” and “SR3,” continued to captivate audiences, earning accolades and featuring collaborations with the likes of Wizkid, DJ Maphorisa, and Sarkodie.

Throughout his illustrious career, K.O’s lyrical prowess, infused with a compelling charisma, has remained a constant, effortlessly adapting to evolving musical trends. Ahead of his performance at Stella Artois -The Soirée, we had the privilege of catching up with the rap maestro to discuss his musical influences, latest single, Y.O.U, reflections on industry peers, mental well-being, fitness regimen, and aspirations for the future.

MH: Congratulations on the release of your latest single, “Y.O.U”! Could you share with us the inspiration behind the song and its significance to you personally?

K.O: Yeah, the inspiration came from diving into some South African music archives, you know, those golden oldies by legends like Bra Hugh Masekela, Jabu Khanyile, Mbongeni Ngema, Caiphus Semenya, you know, all those legends. I just enjoyed how, you know, some of those people, even like the late Robbie Malinga. Their simple yet impactful compositions and confident vocal deliveries resonated with me. I wanted to channel that energy, you know, bring back that tradition of leading a group into song. “Y.O.U” is like a nod to that era, but with my twist.

In “Y.O.U,” you express unwavering devotion. How do you navigate the balance between your personal life and your career, especially in an industry known for its demanding schedules?

Well, I keep the two separate but equally important. When I’m with my partner, I make sure to be present, you know, not just physically but emotionally too. It’s not about showering her with gifts, but about being there as a pillar of strength. And when it comes to my career, I give it my all, staying committed and genuine. My music reflects my life experiences, so it’s like a mirror of who I am.

This month marks the anniversary of the passing of AKA and Riky Rick, both influential figures in the South African music scene. How have their legacies influenced your artistic journey and the music you create today?

Losing such incredible talents like AKA, Riky Rick, Mandoza, HHP and PRO hit hard. They were more than just fellow artists; they were cheerleaders, always rooting for me. I draw a lot of inspiration from their music and their unwavering support. Their absence is felt, but their music lives on, continuing to inspire us all.

Mental health is an important topic, especially within the entertainment industry. How do you prioritise your mental well-being amidst the pressures of fame and creativity?

I think it’s one of the biggest triggers these days, social pressure, particularly from social media and the internet. We are so close to other people’s lives that we juxtapose our own to these personalities that we see online. Unfortunately, it can compromise our mental health or cause it to flare up because we’re essentially comparing our lives to others, ingesting all those negative views about ourselves. For me, I think it comes with maturity and age. I’ve learned to block out the noise. If you’re doing great, I salute you. 

If I need to send you a message or congratulate you in the comments, that’s as far as it goes. But I’m not going to sit there and stalk your entire life, trying to see what you did for the day, what car you just bought, or what shoes you’re wearing. I don’t care about stuff like that because it ends up leading down a dark rabbit hole, and you start comparing yourself through and through.

READ MORE: 5 Ways To Keep Calm When Life Gets Hectic

 So, I focus on my life and just being grateful. Yes, I might not have the most compared to the next guy, but I still have a lot to be grateful for based on my journey. So I look inward a lot, which helps me maintain my sanity. Because I compare my current self to where I come from and recognise the difference between the two, I’m like, “Wow, I came from the trenches and the mud, and look where I am today.” So, there’s a lot to be grateful for, and I use that as motivation to dream even bigger, knowing that if God can pull me from the trenches to where I am today, He can help me transition to even higher levels of success. That’s how I try to navigate mental health. 

Oh, and one last thing: I don’t read the comments. I know it sounds like I’m not someone who engages on social media, but unfortunately, you can receive a thousand comments of positivity, and then just one idiot pops up and says some of the nastiest stuff, shifting your entire mood. As a result, I try not to indulge, period, and it has brought me a lot of peace as well.

Your career has seen numerous successes, but it also comes with its challenges. How do you maintain resilience and motivation in the face of setbacks or criticism?

My journey hasn’t been smooth sailing, but each challenge has made me stronger. I always keep my eyes on the prize, knowing that tough times are just part of the journey. I live for those extreme positives and know that every storm eventually passes.

K.O, Image: Supplied

Can you take us through your fitness routine and how you balance it with your busy schedule? How does maintaining physical health contribute to your overall well-being and creativity?

I’m not the biggest gym enthusiast or anything like that, but given my frequent stage performances every other weekend, maintaining a certain level of fitness is essential. I find jogging helps with stamina, crucial for recording, breath control, and sustaining high energy on stage for extended periods. Despite the challenges of being on the road, where junk food is often the norm, I make an effort to uphold some level of dietary discipline. I try to hit the gym at least three times a week, mainly for maintenance. I’ve even built a gym at home to compensate for missed sessions. Interestingly, I often find inspiration for songwriting while working out. The rush of dopamine and adrenaline helps overcome any mental blocks or writer’s block I may encounter. So, hitting the gym becomes more than just exercise; it’s a creative outlet that keeps me motivated and focused.

READ MORE: 3 Dynamic Warmup Exercises You Should Do Before Every Workout

With the music industry constantly evolving, what can fans expect from you in terms of new music or upcoming projects? Can you give us any insights into what you’re currently working on?

As far as this year is concerned, it’s one of the most significant for me as a solo artist. For instance, my debut solo albums, Skhanda Republic and Karakara, were released 10 years ago. So, I’m planning to put together a special commemorative concert this year, marking the 10th anniversary. Outside of that, we’ve kicked off the year with ‘Y.O.U.,’ the new single, and there’s a whole body of work on the way. I’m busy putting the finishing touches on it, and people can expect some great features.

One of the songs to watch out for is probably the last verse AKA recorded; it’ll be on this upcoming project. I felt it needed to come out at the right time because fans have been calling for it for quite a while, but I didn’t want to rush it under pressure. I believe it’s a timeless record that people will enjoy. So, the album is coming out, and I’m also focusing on the entrepreneurial side of things.

Recently, I was fortunate enough to open my first store, SWAVE, in Rosebank on 9 Keys Avenue. Please come out and support us. It’s the start of a new journey, and as the year progresses, we might expand into a mall or open another outlet in a different region. That’s how my 2024 is looking for now. I’m also enjoying the fashion space, particularly the apparel side. We had an amazing fashion show for my brand, Skhanda World, at the end of last year, and we’re planning another one for the new range dropping over the next two months. Then, there’ll be another fashion show towards the end of the year. We’re trying to diversify as much as possible. 

Stream his latest single, Y.O.U here.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This